Minneapolis mayoral candidate Gary Schiff readily agreed to be interviewed about his candidacy. Right now, there is a lot of competition for the DFL endorsement, but Councilman Schiff clearly demonstrated that he knows precisely what would be required of him in this position. It's so early that his campaign headquarters aren't set up yet as the solicitations for office furniture goes out to his early supporters on his Facebook page. In spite of this, councilman Schiff graciously granted an interview request and took 20 minutes to answer questions about his campaign.
What after all does a Mayor do for the city? When it comes to politics, sometimes it's about how you could or should be doing business without forgetting you are a community. Gary Schiff came to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota, and as he proudly stated, "I am a product of public schools and my mother was a school teacher."
Councilman Schiff has been a success on the city council for 12 years. When asked about the deficit to deficit budget, he replied, "When I first arrived on the city council 12 years ago, we lost our AAA Bond rating. We've just had our bond rating restored so now we should invest in our people at the same time we invest in our infrastructure."
So what did that mean exactly? How did he perceive that could be done?
"We have equity gaps. We also have a problem with outdated codes. For example, when we have codes on the books that prevent people from doing business, it's time to take a look at our codes. There were some people that wanted to establish a microbrewery in Minneapolis and the only way a person could do so was if they also established a restaurant. How does that help a small business owner, I mean, that's a lot of overhead. Originally, the purpose of the code was tied to the prohibition era, but that is just one example of a change that we made. Today there are seven microbreweries in Minneapolis. Just think, now you can have a bottle of beer that has on its label, 'Bottled in Minneapolis.'" In a age when there seems to be so much frustration, his satisfaction is apparent.
North Minneapolis was once quite different. Main street shops and corner stores were once common, but not even the old neighborhood Burger King is still open. What are the ways to restore main street? Do the city codes favor the big box stores over small business? How do Minneapolis as a city close those equity gaps and really provide opportunity?
"We have a storm," he began, "a double pronged storm that is an economic crisis and a foreclosure crisis. One way we can help our residents is to ensure that more jobs get to our locals. We spend 80 million dollars annually on infrastructure bids. Those contracts aren't going to local businesses. Well, even if those bids were from out of town, we ought to be able to require that at least 25 percent of those jobs come to local residents. I mean that's a start."
Another area that was of concern to the candidate was public safety. In particular was the need to bridge the gap between the county, city and quite possibly the school board. It's no secret that during violent episodes within the city, Minneapolis had been given the moniker of "Murderapolis." What is causing a lot of concern is the uptick in juvenile violence, specifically, homicides. "I see the need for the city to have prevention programs in place throughout the city," Schiff said.
What was Minneapolis doing regarding urban sustainability and alternative energy programs? Gary Schiff responded, "I authored the city sustainability program. It reduced city utility bills, we have more efficient lighting, reduced fuel costs on police vehicles and improved our water conservation."
The mayoral candidate is going to hit the neighborhoods and his staff is coordinating a listening tour. He's interested in hearing the public's ideas on what the needs of the local communities are. The self professed union supporter has already secured the endorsement of the Minneapolis Fire Department's union. It's still early in this campaign, but if he stays approachable, that might make the city take notice.