Minneapolis council race in this ward—home to some of the city’s richest and poorest—is up for grabs
In January Lisa Goodman, currently representing Ward 7, announced that she would not run for reelection. The City Council seat, which represents Kenwood, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, Lowry Hill, Bryn Mawr, and Loring Park as well as the south and western parts of downtown Minneapolis, is wide open after her 24-year tenure.
The ward is home to many buildings integral to the city’s livelihood, including the Minneapolis Convention Center, City Hall, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, the Minneapolis Central Library, and the Hennepin County Government Center.
There are three candidates vying for the open seat. They include environmental advocate and Minneapolis native Katie Cashman; real estate broker Scott Graham; and airline worker, local public servant, and former MSR contributor Kenneth Foxworth.
Given the diversity in Ward 7, the candidates met for two debates over the past month, both sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The first debate took place at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis in Loring Park on September 28. The second debate took place at the Lake of the Isles church on October 12.
Throughout the debates, the candidates have established their positions on key issues and honed their campaign messaging.
Cashman touts her experience working internationally, particularly for the United Nations, on environmental and transportation issues. Graham, who is endorsed by Lisa Goodman, has extensive experience with DFL politics. And Foxworth, who appears to be laser-focused on a narrow view of safety, is the only Black candidate in the running for Ward 7.
On public safety, homelessness and drugs
Violent crime is decreasing in Ward 7. Homicide, assault and robbery have decreased compared to this time last year. However, crimes such as burglary, breaking and entering, property destruction, motor vehicle theft, sex offenses and firearms violations are up.
All three candidates believe the city needs to hire more police, but only Cashman discussed how they can do so. “We need to expand hiring pathways,” said Cashman. “The city [needs] to implement the thirty-by-thirty decree that we signed, which is to have 30 percent of our police force be women by the year 2030.”
Graham also believes the city needs to invest in behavioral crisis responders, in part because 30 percent of 911 calls reportedly do not need a police response.
Candidates also expressed their views on where the Third Precinct should be located, even though no part of the Third Precinct boundaries is in Ward 7. (The Third Precinct includes neighborhoods east of I-35W and south of I-94.) Both Cashman and Graham agree the Third Precinct should be built at the 2600 Minnehaha site.
Graham thinks the Third Precinct should also have a community center “so kids who are coming to the community center [can] be around cops and cops could interface with kids,” said Graham. “And we could start to enforce the notion that police are your friends.”
Foxworth did not mention where the Third Precinct should be located, but he believes the police station should also have a police academy “because they can see exactly who is in the community that they’re gonna serve,” said Foxworth.
Candidates acknowledged how the presence of legal drugs such as marijuana and alcohol, as well as illegal drug use such as fentanyl, is affecting people. Foxworth believes the city should levy a liquor tax to concentrate on safety. Graham says the city is building new housing units for the unhoused, complete with therapy and drug addiction treatment, and wants to find federal funding to continue supporting this work.
Cashman, who comes from a social work family and lives next to a halfway house, believes all city agencies need to work with one another instead of blaming each other. All the candidates support a ban on marijuana smoking in public places such as parks.
On affordable housing and rent control
Although Ward 7 includes some of the highest-valued homes, it also has one of the highest shares of renters compared to the rest of the city. Eight-two percent of homes in Ward 7 are occupied by renters.
Affordability is top of mind for renters, with some of them pushing for rent control, where rent rates can rise at a predetermined cap. Some advocates also do not want to be vetted by a government agency for affordable housing, perhaps because of time constraints, the long waitlist for housing vouchers, and the reluctance of some landlords to accept them.
Both Cashman and Graham oppose rent control, with both saying it can impact how much housing can be built and Cashman saying it is expensive to implement. Cashman believes the city is better off enforcing its renter ordinance. “We have many strong renter protections that are not being enforced, [such as] security deposit limits and discrimination laws,” said Cashman.
Meanwhile, the city plans to increase the number of homes that can be built through what are called comprehensive plans, which Minneapolis completed in 2018. Such plans, which require cities to plan 30 years out, are required by state law. The plans are developed in response to the Metropolitan Council using census data to create transportation, housing, water and open space plans for the entire region. The planning process runs on an eight-year cycle and repeats with every census count.
The Minneapolis comprehensive plan is controversial because some mistakenly believe it prohibits the building of single-family housing. Rather, it allows more than one housing unit to be built on a parcel of property that would only allow for one housing unit before 2018.
Nevertheless, some environmentalists successfully sued the city to force them to conduct an environmental impact report. Planners and advocates are working on changes in state law next session to exempt these plans from environmental review, saying they are aspirational documents.
Both Foxworth and Graham think the 2040 plan should change. “I’m pleased that we have a chance to think about it again. It didn’t take into account neighborhood character,” said Graham, adding that the Met Council believes fewer people will move to Minneapolis by 2040.
“They need to keep those single houses together,” added Foxworth as he rattled off a list of failed high-rise public housing projects and the desire to keep everyone safe, not just single women-headed households with children, veterans, senior citizens and the unhoused.
On supporting small businesses
Small businesses have struggled because of the pandemic. A survey conducted by the U.S. Census found two in three Minnesota businesses were negatively affected, particularly with supply chain and staffing challenges.
Graham doesn’t think the city should remove parking from Hennepin Avenue as the city rebuilds it next year. Cashman is shocked that businesses are not receiving local support from the city. “The city invested $1.2 million in transit planning and zero in small business support,” said Cashman, who wants to subsidize business owners’ first month’s rent and to provide parking facilities not exclusive to any one business. Foxworth believes small businesses don’t want to open on Nicollet Mall because of crime.
On communicating with Ward 7 residents and youth
All candidates support the city funding neighborhood associations, organizations where people get together to lobby for issues important to their neighborhood. “You got to be in a position to make sure that you can stand up and do one thing and one thing only—fight back,” said Foxworth.
Additionally, Foxworth believes we need to help develop the city’s youth. Graham and Cashman believe they need to be included in the decision-making process. Cashman, who turned 30 in September, believes she is the best to lead on this issue.
On climate change
Climate change has contributed to extreme temperature changes over the last several decades. Locally, the Twin Cities saw several days this summer where Canadian wildfire smoke blanketed our skies.
Foxworth does not know how to address climate change aside from shutting down the downtown Minneapolis incinerator. “I’m not in a position where I wanna be telling you something that I don’t know, and what I can do at this time,” said Foxworth.
Cashman, who has experience working on programs addressing climate change, wants to get money the federal government is distributing through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to address climate change. She also wants to hold Centerpoint Energy accountable for not installing new gas lines, as well as to have Xcel Energy build out electric vehicle charging stations around the city.
Graham wants to get apartment building owners to allow their tenants to weatherize and insulate their apartments, as well as to participate in organics recycling, where food and anything that touches it goes to a facility to be turned into soil.
On rideshare working conditions
Uber and Lyft drivers lobbied the state and the city to pass sweeping worker protections and overhaul pay scales. Both the governor and the mayor vetoed the measure, instead deferring to a governor-convened committee to develop provisions for the legislature to consider this coming session.
Foxworth agrees with the vetoes, asserting that the drivers were not comfortable with the bills. (In fact, rideshare drivers lobbied hard, celebrated the bills’ passage and were upset when both the mayor and the governor vetoed it). Foxworth also believed the ordinances did not address some questions. Graham agrees with the veto, but believes the ordinances were rushed and unnecessary.
Cashman does not think the ordinance should have been vetoed. “Uber and Lyft drivers are making pennies on the dollar to what the corporate owners of Uber and Lyft and Silicon Valley are making,” said Cashman. “I think it’s really important to support workers.”
On what is working well
Cashman appreciates the sense of optimism and that a lot of people in Minneapolis care about sustainability.
Both Cashman and Graham agree the city’s arts scene is strong. Graham thinks the city needs to focus on bringing people back downtown.
Foxworth did not answer the question. Instead, he rattled off a litany of grievances, which included council members never returning his calls, the Twins losing in the playoffs, and the lack of money for parks and recreation facilities.