Minneapolis mayoral candidates woo public housing voters

Candidates for mayor of Minneapolis held a forum at a Minneapolis Public Housing Authority highrise in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday, October 24, sponsored by the Minneapolis Highrise Representative Council, a citywide resident organization. The panelists addressed funding for public housing, public safety, transportation and other audience concerns. Once rolling, candidate Al Flowers pointed out how some candidates slated to attend weren’t in attendance, such as Jacob Frey and Aswar Rahman.

Mpls. Mayoral candidates highrise forum (Jonika Stowes/MSR News)

In 1982, mayoral candidate Raymond Dehn received a pardon from the State of Minnesota for his criminal activity. Dehn proudly announced that he has been a resident of North Minneapolis since 2000 and that his run for mayor is to do something about the chaos in the city.

“The disparities that we have in our city are real,” Dehn said. “They are all around us, and it’s something we need to stop talking about and do something about. So, I’m running for mayor to do something about these disparities…in our city.”

Flowers said, “I’ve been an activist for many years, fighting social justice, freedom justice and equality for everyone. [I] owned a childcare business for seven years at Sabathani. In 2009, I jumped into politics.”

He said that he has been on KMOJ radio talking about social justice problems, education, economic justice, affordable housing. “I stepped off the radio because I’m concerned about crime and gun violence. We have to get a fix on it, and I think politics gets in the way of us fixing it.

“Sometimes we try to fix it with individuals instead of building collaborations to fix it,” Flowers said, imploring the audience to stop the killings. “If you don’t know how to do it, you have to work with the people who know how to do it and suffer the political consequences.”

He also addressed public safety for the elderly and children. “I’ve been working on making sure people can get jobs and go back to school to get their high school education, so they can continue to move on. Once we get education and get economics, we can start to create wealth, and that’s dealing with housing and making it affordable.”

Mayor Betsy Hodges said, “When I ran four years ago the conversation was about where is the city going and are we making sure that everybody has an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the growth and prosperity in Minneapolis.

“My three points then were making sure the basics [were] right, sure budgets [were] structurally balanced, water coming out of the tap, sure the streets [were] getting plowed, doing the basics right. I talked about growth; we want more people to live in Minneapolis.

“When I started as mayor there were about 395,000 people; now we’re at 420,000 and climbing. There’s a lot we have to do to think about that growth, how are we attracting people to the city, how do we make sure the city stays applicable to everybody.

“Explicitly I talked about racial equity,” said the mayor, “that the city of Minneapolis has the biggest gaps between White people and people of color than any other city in the country, and that if that isn’t right and people of color aren’t part of building the city of the future, taking the jobs of the future then we do not have a future.”

Hodges then went on to talk about the accomplishments in Minneapolis over the past four years in the raising of minimum wage to $15 and a plan for rebuilding the city over the next 20 years, keeping in mind the disabled and pedestrians.

Candidate Tom Hoch said, “Many of you know me as the theatre guy down the street on Hennepin Avenue saving and operating the Pantages and State Theatres, a Minneapolis public school teacher [who] put himself through law school, a deputy executive director for Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, which was one of the most rewarding and fascinating jobs I’ve ever done.

“We did big things for all of the people who live in public housing. We were among the first in the country to have senior-specific housing where seniors could get better services, allowing them to live for longer periods of time independently in their homes across the city. We got Congress to change that…because we were advocating for the needs of public housing residents.

“We were able to bring $100 million to the City of Minneapolis when Sharon Sayles Belton and I went to Washington and negotiated some of the vestiges of race discrimination, and the product of that effort and funding is today’s Heritage Park in North Minneapolis.

Hoch continued, “We brought people together to forge a solution that serves the best interest for everyone. You can count on me, as the mayor of Minneapolis, to be an advocate for public housing and the needs of residents.

“I was the first candidate to identify the unmet capital improvement needs of $130 million, which will grow to $500 million if we don’t get a handle on it right. These buildings are homes to people, and we need to make sure we continue to preserve them and continue to make sure they are a vital part of our community.”

Candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds pointed out her background as a civil rights attorney who has spent years “standing up for people whose voices aren’t typically heard.

“I was born in Jackson, Mississippi and raised in South Central Los Angeles where I lived in a poor neighborhood of mostly African Americans and Latinos. I saw people struggle on a regular basis, including my own family, so at nine years old I decided I wanted to become an attorney so that I could change things.”

Levy-Pounds said, “I’ve spent 14 years teaching law, 13 of those years at St. Thomas University as a full professor of law with tenure. At St. Thomas, I ran a civil rights legal clinic where I went to the legislature, given the chance to draft bills that impacted the quality of life for people of color.

“So, here we are with a higher population in Minneapolis, but we have an affordable housing crisis that impacts 17,000 people on a waiting list who can’t afford market rate housing. We need to make affordable housing a priority, make sure people have access to jobs that pay a living wage, that their children can go to schools that provide a decent quality of education.

“In order for this to happen, we need a paradigm shift,” Levy-Pounds said. “We need a leader who is going to speak truth to power, who will stand up to the powers that be to make the changes that are necessary.”

The candidates spoke for an hour on affordable housing issues, neighborhood safety, transportation and accessibility for the disabled, and how they as candidates would fix these issues if elected.

On Tuesday, November 7, election polls will be open to elect local level office holders.


Jonika Stowes welcomes reader responses to jstowes@spokesman-recorder.com.