Even though it’s spring, we’re already thinking elections at My Broadsheet. We wanted to find out more about the people running for City Council in our local wards. All candidates seeking endorsement were invited to participate in our Q&A. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for the candidates! For a complete list of Q&As from My Broadsheet and other organizations, see our 2013 Elections page.
- For people who aren’t familiar with you, will you please introduce yourself in two-to-three sentences?
- In one to two sentences, why do you believe you are the best candidate for the job?
- What are the top two issues you see in your ward, and how do you plan to address them?
- What are the top two issues facing Minneapolis, and what do you think the solution is?
- Should the Hennepin County incinerator (HERC) be allowed to burn additional garbage? What do you think is the solution for the HERC’s request to expand and how does that weigh against pollution and air quality issues in Minneapolis?
- Do you believe that bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be expanded in the city? If so, how do you plan to support continued development?
- Do you support expanding transit service by adding rapid bus routes?
- Should Minneapolis Animal Care & Control be reformed to follow a no-kill shelter model?
1. For people who aren’t familiar with you, will you please introduce yourself in two-to-three sentences?
I was born and raised in Minneapolis and have lived in or near the second ward since 1977 in Cedar-Riverside, Longfellow and Seward where I currently live with my wife and our 4 youngest children. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education and subsequently completed graduate work in early childhood development and Montessori education and have worked as a child care provider, teacher, performer, community organizer, editor and writer. After years of involvement in my community, including serving on the Seward Neighborhood Group board and on the citywide Neighborhood Revitalization Program Policy board, it has been my honor to serve the people of the Second Ward as City Council Member since 2006 as the Council’s sole Green Party member.
2. In one to two sentences, why do you believe you are the best candidate for the job?
I know this community well, and in my time in office so far I think that I have demonstrated that I have the skills, values, determination and creativity to serve the city and Second Ward residents well. I think I have helped make significant progress on policies to make Minneapolis greener, more just, less violent and more democratic, and I feel well prepared to take on the challenges that await us, focusing not only on our immediate problems but also on the future we want for ourselves, our children and for generations to come.
3. What are the top two issues you see in your ward, and how do you plan to address them?
There are, of course, more than two top issues that we need to focus on in the years ahead but, since you have asked, here are a couple critically important issues that I would like to highlight as demanding special attention over the next four years.
I. Preserving what is best about our Ward while supporting and guiding growth and development.
I believe that in the years ahead there is great potential for growth and development in the Second Ward. I expect, and hope, to see growth in the area both in terms of more people coming to live here and more buildings being built here for housing as well as for commercial and industrial uses. In some areas, like near the University campus, this growth has already been dramatic. With the Central Corridor Light Rail Line opening next year, the continued success of the Midtown Greenway, the nearby Hiawatha Line and the revitalization of Lake Street, we will need to get better at anticipating as well as attracting housing and business development and helping guide and support the kinds of development that will best serve the present and future needs of the area. We will need to accommodate growth while preserving what we most value about our neighborhoods and ensuring that we maximize the community benefits. We will also have to continue to balance the needs and interests of the diverse stakeholders in the Second Ward, where sometimes the expansion needs and plans of a well-liked business, institution, or much needed housing project must be thoughtfully balanced with the needs and concerns of current residents and businesses.
To do this successfully we will need to have a clear and understood community-wide vision for what we want the Ward and neighborhoods to be like in 5, 10 and even 20 years. This vision, hopefully incorporated in and consistent with the City’s master plan, will then inform a set of shared values and goals. These in turn can drive more detailed planning efforts, many of which are already in place or are being developed. Finally, we will then need to employ targeted, inclusive and community-based approaches to individual projects with an eye on present and future community benefits.
Key to these efforts will be healthy neighborhood organizations with stable funding where actively involved residents can engage with community-oriented city planning staff. In the years ahead the City needs to do more to support and clarify the role of our neighborhood organizations and we will need a more responsive City government that understands the needs and hopes of the people and empowers everyone — homeowners, renters, workers, students, neighborhood groups, businesses, developers, government officials and institutions — to plan and work together to create the kind of neighborhoods and city we want for our future. It will also be important that we support our community-based businesses and neighborhood-supported development while also working effectively with our state and metropolitan-area partners to make the most of our regional planning efforts and future public investments.
If we can work together in this way it will do a great deal to ensure that we have a community where everyone has decent housing, meaningful educational and employment opportunities, rich cultural experiences and a safe, healthy environment within which to enjoy our lives and raise our families.
II. Maintaining, improving and taking full advantage of our public assets in and around Ward 2.
As we see more growth and development, pressure on both our natural and human made public assets will be enormous. Maintaining, supporting and improving them will also be key to the our quality of life now and in the future.
Our natural assets include the air, soil, water, and water bodies. Paramount among these, for our Ward, is the Mississippi River. One of the most important things we need to for the river is to prevent the spread and introduction of aquatic invasive species and, specifically, do more now to address the threat of Asian Carp. In Minneapolis there are only two places where this invasive species can be stopped: the Ford Dam and the Saint Anthony Dam. The clearest action that falls within the City’s purview is to close the City-controlled Upper Harbor Terminal, to reduce the number of lockages through the dams. We also must do more to promote best practices in landscaping and maintenance as well as in managing our stormwater to prevent unwanted nutrients and chemicals from entering the river and other water bodies. The City has done a lot to reduce stormwater runoff but, especially since the loss of ash trees will negatively impact stormwater quantity and quality, we must do more.
In the years ahead we will also need to address the loss of these trees due to the devastation of Emerald Ash Borer. The best estimate I have heard from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Forestry Department is that there are approximately 200,000 ash trees in Minneapolis. Almost all of these trees will die within the decade. We must aggressively plant and care for new trees, replacing ash trees on boulevards and helping residents plant more trees on private property. I have supported the CityTrees program for years, and support the recent actions to target parts of town with less tree canopy. My office is also working with the Longfellow Community Council on a neighborhood-level program to get property owners to plant trees on private property.
In addition to attending to the natural environment we also need to do our best at maintaining, operating and enhancing the human made infrastructure and other public assets that we have in our ward. Indeed, the Second Ward is home to some of the most cherished park land and parkways along the Mississippi. In addition to the parks along the river, the new Ward 2 is home to at least 7 city parks (and more small tot lots and playgrounds), 5 public schools, one public library and the largest campus of our state university system. The critical resources and connections that these provide to residents, as well as workers and visitors, cannot be overstated. These are civic treasures that provide vital educational, recreational, employment, youth development, cultural and community building opportunities.
In order to reap the full potential benefits of these civic investments, it will be important that various government jurisdictions, institutions, neighborhood, business and community groups work together to support what we have, raise expectations about what they can become and work to reach those expectations. As a City Council member I will continue to work closely with the community and with the parks and schools to support the facilities and programs that are provided at them. I will also work to assist efforts to re-use and renovate buildings that have gone unused or underutilized too long. I will continue to actively support the University District Alliance that brings together the city, the state university, neighborhood organizations and business association nearest to campus, to support each other and I will work to forge new partnerships to help strengthen the public, civic assets in the ward.
The ward is also home to some of the most significant public works infrastructure in the city, with at least nine bridges that span the river, a new light rail line, the Midtown Greenway and a number of commercial corridors that cross through the ward. As Council Member I will work to make sure that we are making the investments we need to maintain, renovate and improve our infrastructure as needed. Some roads in the ward are in dire need of reconstruction (like 8th St. SE) and some, like those north of University in Prospect Park, have yet to be built in the first place. I am excited about the new Minnehaha Ave, perhaps with a protected bikeway, a new “Green 4th Street” near the Prospect Park LRT Station, a new 4th and 15th (Riverside Extension) on the West Bank, and improved bike connections to University from downtown, including completion of the bike tunnel under the 35W bridge. Perhaps the most critical improvement I will be pushing for in the next four years is the major renovation of the 10th Avenue Bridge which requires significant work to ensure its safe usage into the future. Other improvements I will push for in the years ahead include completion of the Grand Rounds in Southeast Minneapolis, and, a perhaps more distant project, further efforts to re-purpose the railroad bridge over the river near 29th to extend the Greenway to East River Road.
4. What are the top two issues facing Minneapolis, and what do you think the solution is?
I. Fighting climate change and improving our environment.
I believe that future generations will judge those of us alive today on our response to what may well be the greatest environmental challenge our species has ever faced: climate change. It is time for Minneapolis to lead in curbing climate change and be a model environmental sustainability— for green building practices, local self-reliance, better transit, and pedestrian-, bicycle- and transit-friendly development, for preservation of our natural resources, waste reduction, using clean energy options and for healthy air, soil, and water.
The City must pass a strong Climate Action Plan, and take its implementation very seriously. We must get more control over our energy use through our utility franchise agreements and/or by forming a municipal energy utility. We must increase the energy efficiency of our buildings (potentially through a Green Building Code) and the percentage of our energy we get from renewable sources. One of the key ways that we can decrease our impact on the climate and local air pollution is to transition away from single-occupancy auto trips to more ecologically sound forms of transportation. This includes mass transit of all kinds: heavy rail, light rail, streetcars, arterial BRT, enhanced bus, and improving standard bus service. It also includes making it easier for all types of people to bike or walk to commute and meet their daily needs. These changes will have multiple co-benefits, from increasing public health by reducing obesity to increasing social interactions that build community cohesion and safety. The City should be helping to drive more transit investments, supporting funding initiatives like the Transit for a Stronger Economy legislation, and pushing our own priorities for transit betterments like enhanced bus and streetcars. We must clarify and set a model Complete Streets Policy and continue to invest in infrastructure and programming to encourage more people to walk and bike, including innovative ideas like cycle tracks, car-free greenways, and bike boulevards.
II. Eliminating economic disparities and improving racial equity in Minneapolis.
If the city does not work fairly and well for everyone it is not working well. Right now there are significant disparities in health, wealth and employment depending on one’s racial background.
Over two years ago the Washington D.C. based Economic Policy Institute issued a report, “Uneven Pain,” that identified the Twin Cities as the worst metropolitan area in the nation in terms of the unemployment disparities between whites and blacks. Blacks are 3 times as likely to be unemployed in Minneapolis as whites. The City’s own disparity study came to similar conclusions.
This is an issue I have focused on in recent years and I believe there is potential to make significant progress in the next few years. To tackle this tenacious long term problem the city must first fully implement the strategies called out in the Equity in Employment Resolution I co-authored that passed in 2012 and those contained in the Racial Equity Employment Report I helped draft. Through the resolution the Council took an important first step when we formally acknowledged that institutional racism is a serious problem that must be solved, and resolved to more fully consider racial equity in City policies and practices. It called on the City to lead by example and create a “Racial Equity Toolkit” to inform city decisions and insure that we are not perpetuating institutional racism through our own policies, procedures and spending decisions. I believe that unless City government itself can demonstrate a sincere commitment to work to end racism within the City as an institution, it will lack credibility to engage with, and the ability to influence, the broader community on race issues. Conversely, by demonstrating how a large government institution can openly, responsibly and effectively address this issue with commitment and concrete actions, the City can be a leader for other public as well as private institutions.
In the next four years I will continue to work on this issue and push the city to implement the recommendations of the Minneapolis Racial Equity Employment Report of May 7, 2012, for the city to:
- Develop and implement an effective Racial Equity Assessment Toolkit to inform City budget, personnel, procurement, policy and program decisions, including: the annual budget approval process, hiring, retention, employee training, promotion, contracting and purchasing.
- Improve the use of Workforce Hiring Agreements to make high minority contracting and hiring goals part of more development projects.
- Identify, change and/or eliminate City policies, ordinances and practices that promote and contribute to racial economic disparities.
- Strengthen existing City plans, ordinances and programs to prevent discrimination and promote diversity.
- Ensure that City contracting and procurement procedures create equitable opportunities for all businesses.
- Improve the diversity of our City Advisory Boards and Commissions.
- Continue to measure and report on racial employment disparities through the Results Minneapolis process and include Native American and African American community members in the regular Results Minneapolis Employment Gaps conferences.
- Support state and federal legislation that would create new jobs and eliminate barriers to jobs that exist.
- Support workforce development programs that train and support the hiring of more Minneapolis residents in need of job training and placement and focus programs and services on closing racial economic disparities.
- Support efforts by businesses to hire, retain and promote more African Americans and Native Americans and collaborate more intentionally with private, public and nonprofit partners to close racial employment disparities in the metropolitan region.
- Recognize area businesses that demonstrate commitment to reducing disparities by actively hiring and retaining diverse candidates, and/or participating with other stakeholders in community efforts to address disparities.
- Encourage businesses to collaborate with social service providers to provide job training and employment opportunities based on demonstrated workforce needs and to continue on-going conversations to sustain their efforts to hire and retain a diverse workforce.
- Support programming that assists minority business owners or would-be entrepreneurs and expand access to start-up capital.
- Work with our private and public partners to direct new development to areas of the city with the highest unemployment with goals to have new jobs go to residents who live in those areas.
Because this is a regional, as well as Minneapolis, problem, I will also continue to engage in metropolitan-wide, multi-jurisdictional public, private and nonprofit collaborative efforts, like the Ramsey County initiated Everybody In effort, to address the problem of racial economic disparities on a regional level.
5. Should the Hennepin County incinerator (HERC) be allowed to burn additional garbage? What do you think is the solution for the HERC’s request to expand and how does that weigh against pollution and air quality issues in Minneapolis?
When this came to the Planning Commission over 3 years ago they denied the application. The County then appealed that decision and this has been stuck at the city council committee level ever since. Because this is a matter before a Council Committee I serve on right now, I am obligated to withhold final judgment until all the information is in. Still, I want to be clear, at this point I am generally supportive of the Planning Commission’s decision and oppose any increase in burning. This matter did come to the Zoning and Planning Committee earlier this year and it was clear then that we had the authority to deny the appeal. I favored this position in part because of the long delay, but also, more importantly, because the evidence supports the findings of the Planning Commission that increasing the capacity of the garbage burner could be detrimental to public health, safety, comfort or general welfare, that it could be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the vicinity and, in all probability, could impede the normal or orderly development and improvement of surrounding property for uses permitted in the district. Additionally, this use is not consistent with some policies of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Despite my opposition, the committee supported a continued postponement until after the review is complete which may be in as soon as May 2013 or as late and April of 2014. If and when new information is presented as part of that process I will certainly consider it carefully before taking another vote and will be careful to base my vote on the information in the public record. At this point, however, I am very concerned about the long term health concerns related to the burner. It is worth noting that under the current practices, even as Minneapolitans reduce waste, increase composting and recycle more, the amount of waste burned at the downtown facility will not change because the county continues to bring waste in from other cities including St. Louis Park and Minnetonka.
One thing this issue makes clear is that it is time for us to set the goal to become a “no waste” or “zero waste” city and develop a long term strategy to get there. Minneapolis residents and businesses generate a lot of waste that could be prevented. That waste is burned in the downtown garbage burner, or landfilled outside the city. We must immediately start reducing the amount of waste generated, recycle everything we possibly can, move our organic (food and other biodegradable) waste into a composting stream that turns it back into soil and stop packaging and using things made with non-compostable and non-recyclable materials. For a next step, the City should play a more active role in limiting or banning unnecessary packaging, like single-use plastic bags. Our new single-sort recycling system and the commercial recycling mandate that I authored are helping to increase the recycling rate, but we must do even more. The time has come for the City to make the decision to separately collect organic waste to get it out of HERC and into the soil. We should be pushing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to finish their new composting facility rules, and when they’re finished we should follow suit by allowing small composting businesses in our city.
6. Do you believe that bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be expanded in the city? If so, how do you plan to support continued development?
Yes. As I said before, one of the key ways that we can decrease our impact on climate change and local air pollution is to transition away from single-occupancy auto trips to more ecologically sound forms of transportation. It is great that we now have bicycle and pedestrian plans and effective advisory committees. We need to increase our investments to make it more possible for people to use biking and walking to meet their transportation needs. One next step we need to take is articulating a model Complete Streets Policy. I also believe that we need to start evaluating all our streets and intersections with pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motorized vehicles, in mind. We should follow the lead of the recent Walkability study conducted in relation to the Central Corridor Light Rail line by the District Council Collaborative. Such a study could help identify those areas (and there are many) where sidewalks are needed but nonexistent or inadequate. It also may be time for us to re-evaluate how sidewalk installation, repair and maintenance are paid for.
Throughout our city it is clear that more and more people want to walk and bike to get where they need to go, but for many it feels unsafe and is too difficult or impossible because the infrastructure in not in place. Innovative ideas like cycle tracks, car-free greenways, and bike boulevards could help address this concern. While we are on track to meet the target on the number of miles of bikeways, we are not meeting our bicycling mode share or bike count goals. I believe that we should shift our focus from on-street bike lanes to higher-quality cycle track and greenway facilities. The greatest jump in the Minneapolis bike mode share came after the opening of the Midtown Greenway, and I do not think that was a coincidence. To truly move the dial on bike mode share, we need to build facilities that work well for all types of people: parents with children, elderly people, folks carrying groceries. This is how European cities achieved 30% bike mode shares, and how our peer cities in the US continue to increase their mode share as ours has stagnated.
I am very supportive of the recommendation to build 30 miles of protected bikeways that I expect to see included in the final draft of the upcoming Climate Action Plan. Protected bikeways are not only about comfort and convenience – they are also about safety. The “safety in numbers” effect is real. A major predictor of the safety of any individual bicyclist is how many other bicyclists there are. By inviting more people to make more trips by bike, we increase the safety of all bicyclists. I believe that protected bikeways can and must be designed in a way that increases safety, which means paying careful attention to intersections and using innovative treatments such as bike phases at signalized intersections, colored conflict zones through intersections, and raised speed tables at minor intersections.
What we need moving forward is a clear, well thought-out plan for a comprehensive network of protected bikeways throughout the city and connected to bikeways, paths and lanes in the region. These, when combined with a good system of bike routes and lanes in all City neighborhoods and a seamless connection to bike-friendly rail and bus transportation options, will yield the most powerful benefit to the people who live, work and visit in Minneapolis.
As that plan gets developed, and even before it is finished, I am also supportive of moving forward with high quality, state-of-the-art, protected bikeways when the opportunity presents itself (because of planned reconstructions) along corridors that will likely be part the planned network. I believe that this is the case for both Minnehaha Avenue and Washington Avenue, and might be soon for University Avenue. I think the time has come to have a high-quality example of a state-of-the-art cycle track in Minneapolis
7. Do you support expanding transit service by adding rapid bus routes?
Yes, I believe that there is an important role for improved and enhanced bus service including express routes and bus rapid transit (BRT) routes. At this point I am somewhat apprehensive about BRT because we have yet to see a full and successful BRT route in Minneapolis. The Cedar BRT line is set to open soon but many people are still unsure about what a BRT line could or should look like. I have just started learning about what bus rapid transit means in different parts of the country.
One line in Minneapolis that is similar to BRT is the U of MN Connector line that runs between the two campuses. One of the keys here, and in other parts of the country, is a physical advantage, like a dedicated and separated lane or road that allows the bus to avoid traffic congestion and move at a dependable speed. For BRT to be successful in the Metro area I think that not only will there have to be such an advantage that allows the bus to avoid traffic delays but there will also have to be enhancements at stations, with better shelters, pre-pay machines (like we currently have on our LRT lines), and real-time information on when the next bus will arrive with digital schedules (like those found downtown on Marquette and 2nd). My fear is that we will get something called Bus Rapid Transit, but it will fail to have the convenience, reliable speed and added amenities needed to be successful and boost ridership.
It would help enormously if the Metropolitan Council were able to have an adequate and reliable funding source, like the dedicated half-cent sales tax proposed by the Transit for a Stronger Economy coalition, in order to fully incorporate a state-of-the-art BRT system into our transit options. If it could do so it would be a great compliment to the LRT, express and local routes that now serve our communities.
In addition to BRT, I think we need other transit improvements in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities metro area. We need to finish our LRT network, including the Southwest and Bottineau corridors. We need BRT on our highways. We need to build the streetcar network that the City has identified. We need enhanced bus routes on our busiest transit corridors and to undo the cuts to our standard bus network, increasing hours of service and frequency. Our metro area has fallen behind our competitor regions, and we need to catch up.
8. Should Minneapolis Animal Care and Control be reformed to follow a no-kill shelter model?
First I want to acknowledge that Animal Care and Control has improved enormously in the past 10 – 20 years and recently has made great strides working with other animal rescue groups and reducing the number of animals that are killed at its facility. I am very supportive of moving our facility in the direction of the no-kill model, but, unfortunately, I think we have a long way to go in this area. What we need for the short term is more accurate and public reporting, agreed-to short and long-term goals, productive solutions and collaborative working relationships aimed at increasing and improving live release rates in Minneapolis.
Currently I am focusing on an effort that might be a good step to reducing the number of feral cats in the City and, in doing so, help reduce the number of cats the city kills. I am proposing some policy and ordinance changes that would allow Trap Neuter Return (TNR) programs to operate in Minneapolis. Allowing TNR programs offers us a potentially effective and affordable way to address the out-of-control growth of the populations of wild cats that spread disease, kill birds and other wildlife, create offensive smells, damage property and disturb residents. In this approach cats are trapped, taken to a vet to be vaccinated and sterilized and then returned to a feral cat colony caretaker. The ordinance changes I am proposing, however, will not take any current tool away from Animal Control staff. They will still have the authority to kill a stray cat after it has been held for the necessary time (5 days), has been checked for Identification to return it to an owner and has been an assessed to determine if it is suitable for adoption, but, in the long run it could significantly reduce the number of feral cats which can be very difficult to find suitable homes for. I believe that a Trap Neuter (vaccinate) and Return program is one example of a promising step we can take to move us closer to being a city where we no longer kill the abandoned or unwanted domestic animals.
If we are to move to a no-kill model in Minneapolis we will also need to have strong and effective partnerships with a network of safe and humane nongovernment animal rescue and shelter providers, broad based community buy in and responsible pet ownership city-wide.