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Ward 13 candidate forum 2.0

The candidates for the City Council seat in the 13th Ward of Minneapolis on stage at the Washburn High School October 3rd, 2013.
The candidates for the City Council seat in the 13th Ward of Minneapolis on stage at the Washburn High School October 3rd, 2013.
John Watne

The race for the City Council seat in the 13th Ward is down to its final month. With five candidates officially in the race to take over Betsy Hodges’ seat on the Council each day counts before the election in November. This also means more forums in which each of the candidates can state their case before their fellow residents. Examiner readers following this race may recall the first candidate forum that occurred in April at the Washburn Library. A similar event took place on the evening of Thursday, October 3rd at the Washburn High School auditorium (site of the Ward 13 DFL convention). This time there were four candidates present, including recent addition Bob Reuer. This forum was sponsored by the Southwest Journal and the League of Women Voters Minneapolis.

Before the questioning began Jean Massey of Fair Vote Minnesota spoke about the ranked choice voting the city will be using for the upcoming election. She stated her organization’s preference for “raising the threshold” for candidates to get on the ballot in Minneapolis, mentioning the fact that there are over thirty candidates on the mayoral ballot this year. The candidates were each given a few minutes for opening statements, time they used to reiterate their histories and endorsements. For more in-depth information on candidates Linea Palmisano, Matt Perry and Missy Durant please see your Examiner’s main page and look for the “Ward 13” tagged stories. The only candidate who has not been profiled by your reporter, Bob Reuer, stated that he had lived in the 13th Ward for over fifty years and that his main issue was halting the rise of taxes in the city. Mr. Reuer said he was self-employed and that if elected he hopes to direct city revenue away from downtown and toward the 13th Ward.

The first question of the evening asked what experiences set each person apart from the other candidates. Ms. Palmisano said it was her “private sector experience” working for both IBM and United Health Group and also touted her many years of community activism. Mr. Reuer said it was his experience working with city permits and also said he was a “good listener.” Mr. Perry cited his many years working with “city boards and commissions” but also spoke of his “twenty-five years as a businessperson” and noted that he had been “working with all seven neighborhoods in the last ten years.” Ms. Durant spoke about her experience working with “HR in US stores for Best Buy,” saying she was “used to making complex decisions.” She also said she had been “active in the community and businesses.”

The second question was rather complex: How do the candidates balance the city’s goal of density with respect for neighborhood character and citizen concerns? Ms. Durant said the city should ensure “density around transit nodes” and cited the recent Linden Hills Small Area Plan as a positive step. Ms. Palmisano stressed the need to whittle down projects to “what we can say yes to - then it’s about how.” She also mentioned the need for rental and other types of housing in the ward. Mr. Reuer compared the area to Hiawatha Avenue, saying he wasn’t sure the neighborhood wants that, and said his question was “how far do we go and who’s going to pay for it?” Mr. Perry equated density with growth and spoke of his work to change how surface parking lots are taxed. He also talked about “changing zoning codes” for “accessory units” of housing.

The third question asked about each candidate’s experience dealing with the city budget. Mr. Reuer, who initially thought the question was about “city buses,” said he did not have any experience with the city budget. Mr. Perry cited his work with the city’s Long Range Capital Improvement Committee. Ms. Palmisano said she had “worked with Public Works to get a budget for existing road projects” and also cited the work of NRP funds in the local neighborhoods. Ms. Durant said the 400-page city budget was “complex” but said it was a simple matter of expenses vs. revenue. She also cited her work overseeing a “payroll budget of $10 million.”

The next question asked about what the candidates would do to mitigate the risk to Minneapolis residents of the failure of the Vikings stadium funding. Ms. Durant said she “agree(s) with Betsy Hodges,” who voted against the stadium, but also that “the deal’s done” and that the city needs to honor the original plan. Ms. Palmisano also said she “wouldn’t have voted for the Vikings stadium” and that she does not like the city using general fund money to pay for it, but that it needed to make the best out of the situation. Mr. Reuer said the city needed to find “solutions so we’re not going to be picking up the bill.” He said he favored a “downtown casino” to fund additional revenue. Mr. Perry was also not a supporter of the stadium but said the city needed to “work to make the best possible public benefit.”

The following question provoked some of the biggest disagreement of the night. It asked whether or not the candidates would pay for increased police and fire staffing. Mr. Perry said he was “not sure we need it.” Mr. Reuer said the city “should increase” funding. Ms. Palmisano said she was “supportive” of more funding and said she would work to ensure “prompt response time” and “adequate staffing” for each department. Ms. Durant spoke of the need for a “succession plan” for retiring officers, but said also that these decisions must be made in the context of the entire city budget.

The next question dealt with the issue of the Southwest Light Rail route. Mr. Reuer said he did not like the idea, proposed by the Met Council, of tunneling under the Kennilworth Trail. Mr. Perry spoke of his opposition to co-location of the light rail and freight rail tracks and said did not like what the Met Council was doing. Ms Durant said the city and the suburbs “need each other” and therefore need this light rail project. Ms. Palmisano said she was “opposed to co-location” and said she thought the city would only have four total lines.

The next question was about the upcoming city charter amendments on the election ballot (according to the Southwest Journal’s coverage of this event “one amendment would redraft charter provisions for brevity and plain language; the other would rewrite provisions in plain language related to the sale of liquor and wine”). Ms. Palmisano said she was supportive and that the language provision was a “good housekeeping measure.” Ms. Durant said she supported the amendments. Mr. Perry said he was “familiar with one and not the other,” but said he thought a “plain language charter” was a good idea. Mr. Reuer said he was not familiar with either amendment.

The final question of the evening was short and to the point: What are the most pressing issues in Ward 13? Mr. Perry said property tax increase, airplane noise, housing teardowns, and public education. Ms. Palmisano said property taxes, education, safety, and the environment. Mr. Reuer said taxes, flood insurance, the police department, and the school system. Ms. Durant said it was important for issues to cross the ward borders and that the city needs “thirteen City Council leaders and one mayor.”

The candidates were then given thirty seconds more to either follow up one of their previous answers or speak about one of the other candidates. Mr. Perry spoke of his goal to have people all over the city do well, not just those residents of the 13th Ward. Ms. Palmisano cited her endorsement by the DFL African American caucus and stated that “what’s good for North Minneapolis is good for all of Minneapolis.” Mr. Reuer said he “agreed one-hundred percent” with Ms. Durant on the notion that the issues should be city-wide and not just those of the individual wards. Ms. Durant simply stated “I think I’m good.”

The candidates were each given another few minutes to give a closing statement. Mr. Reuer said this was an “experience I’m not going to forget.” Mr. Perry spoke of his family’s history of public service in the state of New York. Ms. Durant brought up a story she also told to your Examiner about a neighbor outside Sebastian Joe’s ice cream shop. Ms. Palmisano stated “I live my values and I keep my promises.”

There are a total of five candidates running for the City Council seat in the 13th Ward in Minneapolis. Candidate Donald Regan was not in attendance for this event. For more information about the race in the 13th Ward, stay tuned to your loyal Examiner.

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