KFAI Radio Interview

On October 19th, KFAI radio (90.3 FM) aired a news story on the First Ward Council race. Four of the five competitors were interviewed, and those interviews were edited into individual segments. Here's mine:

Northeaster Candidate Questionnaire

As I was out doorknocking Monday and Tuesday afternoon, I saw the latest Northeaster being delivered. In case your copy didn’t make it all the way to your front steps (or got too wet to read), here are my answers to the Northeaster’s candidate questionnaire:


I came up through the NRP system. I was recruited onto my neighborhood Board and served two terms as President. From grassroots outreach to working with City officials on neighborhood projects, I’ve done everything a volunteer can do to address community concerns.

I was the first volunteer for the Northeast Citizen Patrol. I’ve put in thousands of hours across every Northeast neighborhood making a stand against crime. I’ve heard the worries of people our entrenched political system overlooks.

I’ve been a Northeaster for 18 years, after being raised in southwest. I know how the rest of the city sees us.


Taxes keep going up while services are being cut. City Hall puts pet projects ahead of streets, cops and firefighters. I say, “Basics First!”

Riverside Ribbon Cutting

Yesterday afternoon I attended the opening ceremony for the Riverside Powerplant’s conversion from coal to natural gas. It was awesome to hear the President of the Marshall Terrace neighborhood association commend Xcel for their cooperation and partnership. Too often, neighborhood groups face big corporations as enemies. The Riverside Plant is proof that this attitude is not necessary. Businesses and even the heaviest of industry can be partners and neighbors with residents. This is an essential point to keep in mind as we work to improve Central Avenue. Certainly, the difficulties will be smaller in Shoreham Yards.

I don’t live in Marshall Terrace, so I did not understand the costs the plant imposed on the neighborhood. When I first heard about the conversion, it seemed silly. The USA has so much coal, and we keep hearing about dwindling supplies of oil and gas. Minneapolis needs electric power, and it appeared to make more sense to generate that power with a more reliable and cheaper fuel. I felt for the neighbors, but whatever the costs, they had been part of the bargain all property owners assumed when buying next to a coal powerplant.

I have learned. Natural gas is relatively abundant and can be delivered at reasonable cost. The coal soot problem was a genuine health issue, not just an inconvenience. And the conversion included a small up-rating of the plant’s capacity, so we get more electricity. It’s a triple-win situation.

Business Day at City Hall

Last Friday, September 29th, was Business Day at City Hall. This was a gathering organized by the City of Lakes Chamber of Commerce aimed at developing an open and constructive dialog between the business community and City officials. I was the only candidate from my Ward—and perhaps the only non-incumbent City Council candidate—who thought hearing from business interests was important.

It was a worthwhile event. The day began with a short talk by Mayor Rybak. R.T. listed many benefits the city has offered to businesses in recent years. But he never mentioned the costs. And many of the things Rybak highlighted—like commute rail—benefit suburbanites much more than Minneapolis residents. We make it as easy as possible for outlanders to come work in tall buildings owned by other outlanders. It seemed like R.T. saw Minneapolis as a destination, not a home.

After the Mayor, we heard a report about taxes from the Chamber. Businesses pay 33% of all property taxes collected by the City, while homeowners pay 44%. Minneapolis taxes are the highest in the Metro area. In addition, business fees have risen over 11% in the last four years. The Chamber did credit City Hall for keeping spending down.

Land Banks Can Empower Neighborhood Development

One of my campaign principles is Responsibility. A responsible government is humble and leaves more power to the people than it takes for itself.

This principle leads to two policy priorities: Neighborhoods should drive development; and, community organizations that help the city work better should be encouraged and rewarded.

These aren’t just wishes. I have been part of trying to make this happen along Central Avenue. My neighborhood (Audubon Park) realized that if we keep looking at developers as enemies, nothing will improve. So we held a couple of Developer Roundtables—open discussions where we asked developers about the problems they face and how a neighborhood group might help them build something awesome.


League of Women Voters 2009 Voter Guide

The League of Women Voters offered all candidates the opportunity to answer a few questions for an online Voter Guide. There’s no direct access to the First Ward races, but it’s pretty easy to find them. Go here and enter your ZIP code to get started.

To save you a few clicks, here’s what I had to say:

1.  Relevant Experience:

Two terms as Audubon Neighborhood President, and two terms as Treasurer. Ten years on our neighborhood Board. Currently Land Use Committee Chair. Participant in many community planning initiatives. Led survey of Latino housing needs. Served on the City’s Community Engagement Task Force. Founding volunteer of Northeast Citizen Patrol.

2.  Education:

B.S. in Economics from the U of M. Graduate of De La Salle High School. Attended Kenny for elementary and Anthony for junior high. Neighborhood organizer and financial training through NRP. Completed coursework to become a life coach. As an entrepreneur, I have learned many things they don’t teach in schools.

5.  What issues do you think the city will be facing in the next 4 years?

Our city is facing a huge loss of revenue. City Hall is on an unsustainable fiscal path. The City Council cannot keep spending as it has without imposing more tax hikes that will drive more people out their homes and businesses. Another wave of home foreclosures looms.

Zoning Business Out

Today I attended a networking event held by the Northeast Chamber of Commerce. I was the only candidate there. My goals were to hear the concerns of our business community and to build awareness of my campaign.

Their top concern was taxes. Our businesses have trouble growing and surviving when City Hall takes so much from both them and their customers.

This problem was documented in a recent StarTribune story:

When Minneapolis hardware store owner Jim Welna got the chance to buy a building in the next block on Franklin Avenue and quadruple his floor space, he sat down to run the numbers.

They didn't add up -- in large part because of the property tax he'd have to pay. He figured that he would have to budget nearly $140 from each day's proceeds just to pay that $50,000 annual bill.

"I couldn't see a business model that would allow me to factor those taxes in and keep prices affordable," said Welna, who is chairman of the Seward Civic and Commerce Association.

Another concern, perhaps not appreciated by a candidate without my community development experience, was zoning. City Hall’s current zoning policy makes it expensive for a successful business to grow in place. Many times zoning allows no growth at all.

Is “Nordeast” a Good Brand?

I think “Nordeast” is not the best name for our part of town. It has become a term of endearment for many of us, but to outsiders, it is a put down.

The term comes from our Eastern European immigrant heritage and how those non-native speakers pronounced the “Northeast”. The people of Northeast are seen as a little slow-witted and maybe a bit too close-knit to kin and tradtition. “Nordeast” reinforces our place as a backwater part of the City, as a municipal afterthought.

Department of Walking

Minneapolis is adopting a Pedestrian Master Plan. Elements of this plan aim to improve the function of Core Services: sidewalks and crosswalks. At that level, although not a critical priority, such an effort fits within responsible government.

The Plan, however, aims for more than infrastructure improvements:

Objective 1.1: Complete the Sidewalk Network (see also 5.2, 7.2)
1.1.2 Investigate funding sources and legal mechanisms to fill sidewalk gaps.

This is plannerspeak for raising taxes and developing costly legal mandates to achieve plan goals. I oppose more taxes in most cases, including this one. Passing laws that compel property owners to provide public amenities is worse than honestly and openly raising taxes.

Objective 4.4: Provide Street Furniture Appropriate for Pedestrian Needs (see also 5.3)
4.4.3 Continue to implement the Art in Public Spaces program.

Public art is not a need. It is a luxury. It is certainly not a Core Service.

Those who want to install art should pay for it themselves, including all costs for incorporating their wishes into the provision of Core Services. Given that a Public Art program has been adopted over my objection, I require Northeast receive its equitable share of art funding. The presence of the Northeast Arts District suggests there are opportunities for our part of town to enjoy more public art for our fair level of subsidy.


A Candidate for the Rest of Us

Do you think our city government needs to grow up? Are you tired of them spending your money chasing rainbows instead of providing competent core services?

Government’s job is:

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