MPR’s Gary Eichten interviews the leading candidates for mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak, DFL candidate; and Mark Stenglein, Independent candidate. Issues discussed are housing crisis, environment, city budget, property taxes, and police.
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(00:00:00) With news from Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Greta Cunningham Census Bureau figure show. Minnesota has the nation's highest employment rate for the disabled and estimated sixty seven percent of Minnesota's disabled population is employed. The Nationwide rate is 52% an increasing number of disabled workers are getting new work opportunities at a wider variety of firms, including many medical and high-tech companies several agricultural organizations. And City officials are looking into the construction of an ethanol plant in Crookston, Minnesota barley councils. Marv's Utz. Says the group has hired a Denver company to study the proposed plans feasibility. (00:00:36) We have completed that study all the economics look good that it would work in Crookston (00:00:41) that says more studies are needed before the group tries to lobby for funding at the state capital crews in Grand Forks continue to remove debris after last Wednesday's storm that packed winds up to 100 miles an hour a city. Spokesman says workers have made 1100 trips to the landfill so far and hauled more than 1,500 tons of Three Sturgis Motorcycle. Rally crowds were down this year and so was crime as of Saturday night the South Dakota Highway Patrol said 25 Vehicles had been confiscated and 418 people have been arrested for driving while drunk or on drugs the rally ended yesterday South Dakota firefighters were out again over the weekend putting out forest fires in the southern Black Hills. They were caused by lightning about ten fires were reported the forecast for Minnesota today calls for Sunshine State why with high temperatures ranging from 70 in the north east to near 80 5 in the west right now in Thief River Falls, it's sunny and 61 International Falls report sunshine and 66. It's sunny and Ely and 63 sunny and Winona and 68 and in the Twin Cities partial Sunshine with a temperature of 69 degrees. That's a news update. I'm Greta (00:01:48) Cunningham. Thanks Greta 6 minutes now past (00:01:51) 11:00. (00:01:58) And good morning. Welcome to midday on Minnesota Public (00:02:00) Radio. I'm Gary eichten. Glad you could join us. (00:02:03) Well less than a month from today voters in Minneapolis will decide who they want to be the mayor of Minneapolis for the next four years or more accurately which two people they want to be mayor Minneapolis voters this year get to choose from among 21 candidates who have paid their $20 filing fee to get on the ballot for the September 11th primary the two candidates who get the most votes next month move on to the general election in November the other 19 will be eliminated from the race today on. Midday. We're going to talk with the four candidates who appear to have the best chance to finish in the top two next month later this hour we'll be talking with in a pan County Commissioner Mark staying line and over the noon hour. We'll be talking with City councilmember Lisa McDonald and incumbent mayor Sharon Sales Belton, but to begin we've been joined by dfl candidate for mayor RT Rybak. Mr. Ryback has never held elective office, but he has been very active in neighborhood Affairs for years. He was a founder of the anti airport noise group Roar RT Rybak is an internet consultant. He formerly worked for the downtown Council and also as a reporter for the Star Tribune and he was the publisher of the Twin Cities reader RT Rybak. Thanks for coming in today. It's great to be here Gary. Now. What do you see as the one or two big issues in the (00:03:19) campaign? Well, I'd have to say that the biggest issue for the next mayor of Minneapolis is trying to do much much more with much much less. We have a series of growing issues in Minneapolis. First and foremost, of course is our housing crisis where we have a severe shortage of affordable housing and we also have an increasing problem with older people who are getting priced out of the neighborhoods they built but we also have many other problems certainly delivering basic Services, certainly our environment continuing to grow our economy. I could go on the problem. Of course, is that while all these problems continue to mount our ability to All of them becomes more and more difficult because there has been serious Financial mismanagement of this city. We just found out that we've lost the AAA Bond rating that Minneapolis has had for 39 years. That's a historic problem. And I think signals mismanagement, Mississippi the legislature also really took a whack at Minneapolis in this last session. So really the big problem the next mayor has is how do you address all of these growing issues with far fewer resources now, I'm the only candidate who was a part of creating that mess but I also think I'm in the best position to solve it because I come to the table with very different skills. I'm a community leader who's mobilized hundreds of citizens. I'm a business leader who knows knows how to bring business to town who's also been the only one in this race who this experience that serious budgeting issues which we face in this city. I'm a person who's build coalitions all my life. And so what I'll be is a very different kind of Mayor not somebody who's going to sit at City Hall not somebody who will be invisible not somebody who's going to be spend their time down there fighting or holding. Needless press conferences. What I am is someone who can mobilize the entire community and that's what we need. Not just in City Hall. (00:04:59) Do you think it's going to be necessary to raise property taxes in Minneapolis, especially given the changes in state property tax laws. (00:05:06) Absolutely not. I think it's a huge mistake for both the mayor and the council member McDonald's be talking about raising property taxes when for the past eight years City Hall has been on a huge spending spree on some of these large development projects and has not undertaken the comprehensive review of the way we deliver services in the way. We staff our city now we have not taken a hard look at that and I don't feel it's fair to go back out to taxpayers and ask for more money, you know, we have this Habit in Minneapolis of continuing to say that our taxpayers have a big heart. So let's keep going back to them are are the citizens of Minneapolis love our schools. And we pass the school referendum. We love our libraries. We passed the library referendum, but now is they come back out and ask for more and more tax increases? I think the very first Thing that the citizens of Minneapolis should demand especially considering the rising taxes. People are paying the first thing we should demand is are we getting the efficiency at a government? And that's why I want to bring in my private sector experience to return some of that efficiency back to (00:06:05) government. Can you give us an idea? I miss Tribeca one one thing for example that sticks out in your mind where you think really the city could save a fair amount of money to help address. These other needs (00:06:16) absolutely one good example, we now have two different ways of developing communities in our city. We have the neighborhood revitalization program, which is has been around for 10 years has delivered significant amount of development in our communities. We also have the Minneapolis Community Development agency, which is the city's development arm. These two organizations have duplicating services in many different ways. And in fact, sometimes run counter to each other now in the last budget the mayor just said, well, we're going to have to cut both a little bit and I think that cripples both organizations. What we really need to do is to make a choice and I'm saying we should make A choice we should say that the neighborhood revitalization program. We call it. The NRP in Minneapolis is a fundamental fundamental Improvement on the way. We deliver Services put more money to that unless to the Minneapolis Community Development Agency close it down not close it down, but certainly scale it way back and put as many of these resources as we can into this Innovative community-based development arm that we have (00:07:16) recent poll in the Star Tribune back in June indicated that something like 70% of the people surveyed said, they thought the city was really moving in the right direction up substantially just in the last three four years. Does that say to you that the residents of Minneapolis are hungry for big changes? (00:07:34) Well, I think we're very optimistic people and as a person who's grown up in Minneapolis on my life and love my city. I believe this city has many good things going and I think when people answer polls like that they say that but what's also become clear is that as I go door-to-door and I've met hundreds and hundreds of people out (00:07:52) there. (00:07:52) Because I'm running this Grassroots campaign. I've been more in touch with with people and certainly any of the other candidates and I can tell you this city is hungry for a new kind of leadership. So I'd say we're a city that overall feels confident about Minneapolis, but certainly recognizes it's absolutely time for a change and much more Dynamic leadership. And that's what I offer a (00:08:10) lot of talk in the city about the subsidies that the city provided to build the Target store downtown put up. The the development of Blocky was where those good decisions by the city. (00:08:24) No, I think they were poor decisions by the city and I say that I think with some with some Authority at you mentioned at the top that I've been a community leader, which I have been but I've also been a person with deep experience in development. I was a development reporter for the Star Tribune for many years. That was the development director of the downtown Council of Minneapolis. I was in private development got my real estate license have understand what it's like to put the numbers together on these big projects and I would say in both of those projects. We had a couple fundamental mistakes the Store was one that I think was massively over subsidized. And again, I can say that with some Authority because when I was at the downtown Council, I was the guy who originally went to Target and made the pitch that they should come in and make a private investment in the city and over two years. I worked hard to convince them to make that decision. I'm proud of that the subsidy level on that project was excessive. I believe also with the blocky project. I mean what I would have done had I been in that position would have not built either the Target or the block EU project put the Target store in the ward space and City Centre and on blocky put the public (00:09:24) library (00:09:25) instead of moving the Shubert Theater from that block. I would have left it there. So we take all that money. We spent moving it and put it into the Schubert. So in other words, we have these two blocks City Centre revitalized the Target store the library integrated with a Shubert Theater Great learning space in a performance space together. That's what we can do with vision. Well, unfortunately we can't do that now because that's out of the box, but I'd love to push that decision when we're thinking about the new library to possibly put it on the Block where the Hennepin center for the Art's is right. Now think out of the box much more get much more Innovative with this when I was at the downtown Council. I helped bring big businesses to town but also smaller businesses like Chez bananas restaurant or Baxter books or I helped bring the farmers market to Nicollet Mall. These are the ways you build a community saving historic buildings protecting artists in our downtown. I don't want another downtown filled with with chain stores. You see in every other City. The point of it is for us to get confident in our unique indigenous qualities in Minneapolis. That's the city I grew up in an Innovative city a city that led that's the kind of vision. I want to bring back to Minneapolis. (00:10:28) The Brian Heron case brought to brought to the headlines a word that we seldom associate with politics in the state of Minnesota namely corruption. Do you think city government is corrupt in Minneapolis? (00:10:46) I do not think city government is corrupted Minneapolis. I do feel that this situation was an absolute outrage. Regardless of our personal feelings in this in this case. This was a massive bribery situation that that should scandalize us. You know II have to always think about these things in terms of something outside of City Hall and I think about my mom who was a widow running a corner store in town and she didn't have to worry about politicians coming in and shaking her down for a payoff or a campaign contribution or anything else and I think we are badly shaken by this news because we've worked on the assumption that Minneapolis is a clean City. I think now we have to take extra steps to make sure that we're that we're going overboard and in in protecting that and for instance one thing that I believe we should do is completely open up our campaign contributions. Do you know at a Minneapolis people out in the community Business Leaders and others can make contributions to city council members and the mayor for three years in a row and those names are never released. Now, let's open up those books Let's get a much more open system. That's what I'm coming in with the city is is aye sir. My not corrupt but it is very much in need of opening its doors has become far too stale and I'm coming in as the only Outsider in this race is the one person who can truly open City Hall back up again to the (00:12:03) people. You think if those campaign Finance changes that you're suggesting were in place would they reveal hanky-panky undue influence being bought by people who are making contributions to City (00:12:18) officials. I make no judgment on what will be fine found. I think we should we should find out open it up and let's see it but more important I think back to being a reporter sitting in the back of those rooms day after day after day covering those big development projects that go through City Hall watching the lobbyists motion motion the councilmember out into the and seeing that Bond dealer come in. We don't know what's behind all that we should now there may be nothing behind it, but I've got to tell you this. Anybody has a right to give to a politician a politician has a right to take the money, but you have the right to know. Why don't we open up these books? I'm not sure what they'll find all I mean, all I think we need to do is to say that in a city that's prided itself on a reputation for being clean. Let's make sure that everything is above board (00:13:03) housing. What would you do about that? Lord knows there's been lots of talk about the need for more affordable housing in Minneapolis. You think there is a big role for the city in that area and if so, what would you do about (00:13:17) it? There's a major role for the city to play because clearly housing is is our number one issue, but we have to really look at this differently again going back to the fact that I bring different skills to the table someone who understands government but also stands the private sector one of the things I want to bring to bring to this table is to begin to recognize that the city cannot solve all of this with its checkbook alone. The city must recognize is the number one priority, but we also need to do a number of things to leverage private. Back in the city growing up. My stepfather was a guy who had an apartment building in Chicago and Franklin private guy providing affordable housing there used to be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people like that in this city, but the tax reform act the crack epidemic chased people like this out of the business and that's one of the major reasons why we see these boarded-up buildings. So part of my housing strategy along with putting more City money on the table is to begin to say that we have to take a very dramatic look at the inspections and Zoning issues that go up before entrepreneurs wanting to reopen those boarded-up buildings. Let's make it as easy as possible to do that, New Jersey and Maryland have both done great jobs with that easing zoning codes so we can reopen these buildings quicker. I also believe we should look at Target the property tax incentives to to inspire people to reopen buildings. I also believe the legislature in the council members and the County Commissioners should have been at the legislature during the last session to ask the legislature legislature to Target some of that property tax the gave to apartment owners, you know right now they Last session of the legislature gave an across-the-board tax cut to anybody owning apartment property probably overdue but I would not have been there saying it should go to all apartment owners the person providing the $2,000 a month apartment in Eden Prairie should not be getting the same break as the person who we really need to provide affordable housing not only in the City of Minneapolis, but all over this state affordable housing is a Statewide issue and we don't have to always solve it with government money. Our tax policy can be part of that our policies to encourage private investment can be part of it. And again, I've been a salesperson for this city for a lot of years and I can go out there and re-stimulate that new group of entrepreneurs who want to come in and have affordable property including diversifying that with this great diverse population. We have (00:15:30) police community relations. Do you think some work needs to be done to improve those (00:15:38) relations? I certainly do the city is safer now than it than it than it was in a lot of that credit goes to People like the the neighbors had met out in the Jordan neighborhood where we were sitting on the porch and every night. They hear gunfire every night and if you think about this and so they've organized block block patrols. So from 10:00 to 1:00 a.m. They walk around the block that's extraordinary work that they're doing they deserve credit when crime goes down but the city needs needs to do a couple things. Number one. The city police department needs to do as much as possible to fully deliver and community-based policing our community relations with the police department are in good shape and certain neighborhoods. But the poorer you get the more diverse the neighborhood you get the worse. The relations are with the police department and that should be extremely disturbing to us, especially across racial lines. So when I sit with the police chief for the first time, I'm the only one in the race who hasn't had a chance to work with the police chief. I believe the number one issue I'm going to put on the table is the idea of healing community relations in the communities most impacted because what seems to happen in a society like ours is we can't Safe by just picking up the phone calling 9-1-1 and assuming the cops are going to get there. We can only be safe if there's this real tight link between that person out on the street and in the end in their home the police coming the prosecutors that's working in some neighborhoods. But the ones where it's not working are the ones where it I think is the biggest problem. (00:17:02) Would you reappoint Robert Olson as police chief (00:17:06) day one first meeting with him all articulate the value is I just said and said, those are the standards. I'm going to judge you on within the next year. (00:17:14) There was a letter to the editor one of the papers today Minneapolis Star Tribune. I assume saying who's the education mayor in this race now admittedly the mayor doesn't run the schools in the City of Minneapolis, but the letter writer was arguing that schools are such an essential part of the fabric of the city that the mayor whoever he or she is has to get involved in the school system. (00:17:38) The mayor has to get involved and I have been I was active in that. I was one of the first Volunteers in the first school. Minneapolis, I've been very active with groups like the youth trust where I helped bring businesses into schools help create curriculum and that right in the schools and others one of the things that's important is that everybody in this city needs to get involved. Not just the mayor. So one of the things that I think of Mayor can do is to Rally people around those around those issues now a couple of the things that I think we can do that are most important from the from the mayor's office are two number one reinforce the fact that schools don't operate in isolation. It's about Community. It's about family and really one of the things that the mayor can do is to weave the schools together with the fabric of the community the parks the social services and others. It doesn't mean the city always steps up to the plate with the dollars but a mayor who bring skills to the table like I have which are out in the community the business community and in the political Community that's really at the core weaving these together. We also I think an in develop some Innovative programs where we're going directly into our schools and working for instance when I've talked about is the third of our City's Workforce is going to be retiring in the next. 8 and we also have a Dropout issue in our schools. We also are delivering services to an increasingly diverse population. Let's take these three diverse issues. Let's put them together and let's create a real program in our schools where we have internships with some of our potential kids. We're going to drop out expose them to jobs in the police department the inspections department and others. So a few years down the road when the Somali entrepreneur walks into City Hall to open up a new business. There's somebody behind the counter who may look like them or the African-American teenager is pulled over in a neighborhood. Maybe that cop that stops them as someone who grew up in their neighborhood to and the issues of racial profiling become less acute. These are a few of the things that a mayor can do not in isolation, but the mayor is the one person in Minneapolis who can step back and pull all of these disparate elements together and pull them together. I'm running against three three people who all have good skills. That's I could make a case for all of them, but the difference between them and me is a I'm not Created the mess but be more important. I have these unique skills to bring these coalition's together. And that's what we need in Minneapolis to do much more with much less (00:19:52) sports teams and sports stadiums. Always a hot subject to do you think any public money should be used in a Minneapolis city public money should be used to retain the twins in the (00:20:05) Vikings. I've been at twins fan all my life. I love the Twins and love the idea of going to an outdoor baseball game, but we have some extraordinary needs in this in the city right now. So no, I do not believe the city should be putting public money into the stadium. I can say a couple things though. Number one the last session of the legislature began talking about the city needing to put forward an infrastructure investment, which ever City had this Stadium Minneapolis has a site ready that's cleared that has significant infrastructure. We already have thousands of parking ramps in close Skyway connected to this potential site and I'll use every ounce of the salesmanship that I've used on behalf of the city before to The case of the stadium belongs in Minneapolis, but with precious public resources, I have to say a couple things the number one issue in my book for Downtown Minneapolis is to have a great new Central Public Library. That's terribly important for this community. The number one issue for parks in this city is the fact that we have under invested in our parks and our Playing Fields. I'm a coach. I've coached several hundred kids and baseball soccer and others are kids are playing playing on deteriorating baseball fields that can compete with Suburban fields are soccer players are playing on fields that have drainage grades in the middle of them or somebody can break their ankle so mayor has to make choices and my choice is going to be with the kids in the (00:21:23) Parks airport noise. You certainly have spent a lot of time working on that issue. Should the what should the city do if anything to to move the issue of airport noise along either in terms of making sure that more homes are insulated or shutting down the airport or whatever. What do you where do you see that (00:21:43) going? Well, For one the the mayor of Minneapolis has to be with the citizens of Minneapolis on their side not just at election time, but all the time. I'm the only person in this race who stood up on that issue when every everybody else in this political establishment gave up on it. We mobilized hundreds of people around this. It's doing a couple things it's one limiting the pollution. It's to creating a new dialogue about this issue stop for a second pretend you're not in Minneapolis and for not pretend there's not an environmental issue. We still have to talk about this airport because the airport is running out of room. So from the the business part of me says we've got to create a place that way to open up additional capacity two years ago. I started talking about the idea of moving cargo to to Saint Cloud a Passenger Terminal at Rochester. Unfortunately, the mayor signed a resolution that allowed cargo to expand at the current airport. So that makes it makes it tougher. But number one is divert traffic that way number two is to work with the federal officials on creating environmental standards on both noise and toxins. I've already done that work as a private citizen. Wish I had the mayor or the council the council members fighting with me, but we've had to do it alone. I'll do that work as the mayor I also believe we need to collect as much environmental data as possible to begin to take legal action if we need to but we also need the state to deal with land banking for that airport. There are a series of issues that need to come together. But the one issue that people know is I'm the only person in this race who was there when that had to happen who will be there when you need somebody to fight for us and that's a critical issue because we shouldn't have to wonder whether the mayor of Minneapolis one of the city council member of the County Commission or whatever cares about whether these neighborhoods are being (00:23:21) trashed. What do you see as the future for the city the population loss that the City of Minneapolis had experience for so many decades that seems to have stabilized now population of stabilized. But do you see the city moving more and more toward a basically to enclaves a place where very wealthy people can live in very nice town homes? On those in the rest and the other half the city pretty poor really or do you see a different (00:23:50) Vision? I don't see that that happening but I don't see that happening because there's so much great work going on in neighborhoods to preserve are extraordinarily strong middle class neighborhoods. The number one issue that the city needs to do to protect that is to get a handle on taxes. They are spiraling out of control the mayor and the city council haven't been able to come up with a budget that does that now that seems like a small issue but when you look at issues like this taxing people out of the neighborhoods, they built we need to recognize that that we can't take this for granted anymore. I was lucky enough to grow up in a middle-class section of Minneapolis or one of the few American cities that really has vast tracts of middle-class neighborhoods. I will protect them from these tax increases from issues like airport noise from it these other issues and I think really be a person who comes out of those neighborhoods and stands up for (00:24:37) him in general. Are you satisfied with the way the city looks (00:24:41) Well, I think the city looks very good in some respects because there have been generations of people who've been stewards of our environment and and our city and over the past few years. There's a deeply disturbing increasing garbage in this city deterioration of the upkeep of many of our basic amenities and no I'm not at all satisfied with the way it looks it looks good. It should look great. I was born in a city that looked great. I want to die in a city that looked great (00:25:08) very briefly probably an unfair question. But if you couldn't vote for yourself care to tell us who you might vote for in the September (00:25:15) primary. Wow, that is a good question. I'm not sure we'll go with that. There are a whole bunch of great candidates all up and down the line. They're about 20 of them. And yeah, you know, I don't know if I can answer that one right at the top. Luckily. I don't have to when I'm planning to vote for RT Rybak. I want to give you a minute to make a pitch to the voters. If you would please great. Well sure. Well, as I said at the beginning, I think the next mayor is going to have to do much more with much less and we're going to have to do things very differently bringing many many more people along. I've have some unique skills that I bring to the table on this. I'm the one candidate in this race who wasn't part of creating this mess at City Hall, but I'm also the one candidate who can bring these unique skills to the table. I'm an experienced manager at a time when we need significant fiscal discipline. I'm an expert in development both downtown and and neighborhoods when we've been hemorrhaging money on Mega developments. I've been a community activist who's mobilized hundreds of people out in this town right at a time when we have so much energy out in our neighborhoods. We're in the middle of the greatest surge of Moment in the history of Minneapolis. It has never happened like this before tremendous things going on every night in this city. Now I can't do it alone, but I don't have to because there are so many of us out in the neighborhoods doing the doing the work. I think Minneapolis is ready for a change and I'm ready for (00:26:36) this job. Thanks for coming in today and good luck to you our guest this first half hour dfl candidate for mayor of Minneapolis RT Rybak. By the way, if you tuned in late and missed the beginning of the interview will be re broadcasting that interview at 92 night quick break now, and then we'll be back with Canada interview with candidate Mark sting line. (00:27:00) Ever wondered what (00:27:01) people would do for you if you were staying in the presidential (00:27:03) suite or a five-star property and we do whatever we can with whatever I guess want. For example, we have a guest that came all the time to the Bungalows and he wanted his own lap pool. So we built him a pool. (00:27:14) I'm David brancaccio. That dream was the rest of the business news later on Marketplace from PRI. Lesson 4 Marketplace weeknights at 6:30 here on Minnesota Public Radio, by the way, welcome to all new members who recently joined Minnesota Public Radio. We appreciate your support news headlines. Now, here's got a Cunningham (00:27:34) Greta. Thanks Gary and good morning. President Bush talked midis policy as he played a round of golf today near his Texas ranch Bush says both Israel and the Palestinians have shown a willingness to end the Bloodshed but he says each side could do more for says the Israelis have sometimes shown restraint with the Palestinians, but sometimes they haven't and he says he believes the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could do more to convince the people on the streets to stop these acts of terrorism there says, his administration has been engaged in the Middle East ever since he was sworn in more wildfires are breaking out in the western us high winds and dry lightning have sparked at least 40 new fires in Oregon blazes are burning in National Forest land along the crest of the Cascade Mountains the process of granting possible sainthood for Mother. Teresa is moving ahead quickly. The Vatican says it will take up her case this week after the Calcutta archdiocese to year formal investigation ends. The Archdiocese has sent the Vatican information on the supposedly miraculous cure granted through Mother Teresa's intercession confirmation of a miracle is required for beatification Mother Teresa died in 1997. Pope John Paul, the second wave the customary five-year waiting period to begin the beatification process in Regional news members of Minnesota's largest state employees union plan to demonstrate outside the Vikings training camp at Minnesota State University Mankato today, the informational demonstration is designed to draw attention to the possibility of a strike by state employees in September contract talks between ask me Council 6 and the state began last February and broke down August 1st, after a state mediator declared an impasse rank-and-file ask me members will vote on the state's last offer beginning August 27th. Sick Council 6 represents nearly 19,000 state workers the forecast for Minnesota today. Those are mostly sunny skies Statewide with high temperatures ranging from 70 in the north east to near 80 5 in the Northwest right now in Thief River Falls. It's sunny and 64 Ely report sunshine and 64. It's sunny in International Falls and 66 sunny and Winona and 70 degrees. And in the Twin Cities partly sunny skies with a temperature of 70 degrees Gary. That's a look at the latest (00:29:43) news. Thanks Greta 26 minutes now before twelve and this is midday coming to you on Minnesota Public Radio today. We're talking with the four candidates for mayor of Minneapolis who are thought to have the best chance of surviving next month's primary election in all 21 candidates will appear on the September 11th, nonpartisan primary ballot, the two candidates who get the most votes in September will advance to the November general election during the past half hour. We spoke with dfl or RT Rybak over the noon hour. We'll be talking with City councilmember Lisa McDonald and incumbent mayor Sharon Sales Belton, but this half hour, we've been joined by Hennepin County Commissioner Mark staying line. Mr. Sang. Line who is running as an independent was first elected to the County Board in 1996 and he was re-elected last year mark staying aligned. Thank you for coming in today. Well, good morning Gary. It's great being here. What do you see as the one or two big issues in this campaign? Well, it's the it's actually what I've been calling the the lack of City Focus to get back on course services with the city is really really supposed to do it. You know, we organized an America is cities to provide common infrastructure and protection for our citizens and it's been very apparent to me sitting on the County Board. You know, my District covers Northeast Minneapolis covers the bulk of the north side from Hennepin on up to Weber Parkway. And then I go out into the suburbs Golden Valley employment the course of third a Plymouth and I've seen over my tenure on the County Board that Minneapolis is it's getting away from it what it's supposed to do with that means when I say getting away from that. I mean common infrastructure cleaning the streets fixing the streets both above and below plowing the streets in the wintertime. And in terms of protection, you know, there's there's 60 square miles in this city Gary and for some reason about 10 square 10 to 15 square miles tend to be off-limits because the neighborhoods are dangerous and they're not well kept and a secondary is a secondly I really want to emphasize the fact that this fiscal we have to get our fiscal house in order. You know, II came out of a background. I was I was I came into public life at age 40 from the private sector and I'm an accountant by trade and I understand how important it is not to have such a huge debt level. It just absolutely hampers everything just think your own personal budget at home when you go apply for a loan. The first thing the Banco say is how much do you owe on your car how much you owe on credit cards same thing with a business. I've worked in businesses where the debt level was so high when people when you hear the term death service, well, that's a fancy word for how much it's paying each month in interest to pay for that debt level. The city's debt level has gotten Historically High proportions and it's wrong. We're leaving to our children a city that's just over its head in debt and every month that debt service has to be paid. We have to get our fiscal house in order to Gary that's imperative. So how would you do that? And at the time the same time spiff up the city services that you say are slipping? Well, you know and it's interesting because people refer to my agenda is an austere agenda. It's not going to be austere by no means by no means is I'm going to reprioritize what we're spending right now. The city has gotten itself into so many Shadow social services that quite honestly at the county and the state perform the we can pull out of some of the a lot of those things and free up some money and redirect and refocus money, you know, there's the the subsidies given out to the various organizations have got to be stopped. Can you give us an idea of like well, what are some of the initiatives that the Since the county has a health department and the city has a health department. Now, they'll say well gee but we're getting Federal pass-throughs to the city and that's absolutely correct. But a contract it's certainly could certainly be established with the county to transfer those responsibilities and in writing say that of those federal dollars coming. This amount has to be spent in the city. The County's best equipped to do those things scary. Not the city the county delivers Social Services the city doesn't training and employment. We have a division over there that does just that why burden the city with that also rely on the county and up in county is a wealthy County. We have a wealthy tax base and it's a it's a phenomenal resource right across the street. No one knows better than I what that County can perform and I'm going to spend money in the city. I'm going to spend money and lowering that debt load parameter spend money. I'm gonna spend money and fixing our streets. I'm going to spend money on fixing the sewer systems and eye protection. That's where I'm going to spend money on is if we do that we open up housing opportunities Gary. We open them up in the inner city where people are afraid to live now. I have you know, I represent some pretty challenged areas in my district is a county commissioner. There are areas where their houses that were boarded five years ago when I ran and they're still boarded up today because people don't want to go in there make the investment because Area is unkept that's just plain wrong those children that live in those neighborhoods Gary they deserve a clean Street and and you know, when people say well gee the part of City I live in is pretty clean. Well, you know drive your car to 26 in Bloomington and stop and get out and walk around drive your car to 26 and knocks and walk around stop it and get out of the car and lingered there. It's not those streets are filthy. Absolutely filthy as mayor. What would you do to make those areas of the city cleaner and safer? I'm glad I would first of all I would initiate you know, right now we sweep the city twice a year. We need to get back to sweeping at once a month. We get back to sweeping at once a month. We need to go into those inner city areas and give you know, give a concerted effort to keep them clean. I was out walking with a group of Mo month and a half ago group called Mad Dads and they go out and they you know, they they reach out to young men in the streets and we're out in South Minneapolis, and then I looked at the leader and I said boys sure. Certainly is messy here. Was there just some type of Affair or something. He said oh, no, he said, you know something commissioner I've gotten used to it. Well, I just I just wanted to cry and I looked across at these children and that the gutters in the streets of look like the state fair about date an you know, how that works the garbage cans overflowing and so how often do they empty the garbage cans. He said wow, not not often enough, obviously because that one's been overflowing for almost a week. Now. I'm not going to stand for that Gary. I'm going to put resources into going into those inner cities and cleaning them up because you know what that does it gives the people there a sense of spirit lets them know that the city cares for them. Let's another city government is doing something for them because again core Services is what cities are supposed to do. They're supposed to provide infrastructure and protection and do that under a sound fiscal budget. It may not sound as glitzy is moving theaters around town, but quite honestly if we do that everything flows everything flows from cleaning up the city and maintaining its infrastructure because then Private investment will come what about police community relations certainly a key element in trying to make the city safer and a more livable place. Does that is that an area? That's more work needs to be done. You know, I think there is I think that the trust level and the morale and the police department is at a low and it's really comes right from the top it always comes from the top because it starts from the top and flows down, you know, the the police department they feel that their that they really never backed up all the way. They're asked to police one way one year and then kind of question how they do it the next year. Any other police are our public relations agents. They're out there in the neighborhoods and their their meeting people and the one thing that I've always said I do not want to see a police officer driving through a neighborhood with mirrored sunglasses on and his gloves on and not looking and waving at people they've got to take those sunglasses off and they gotta gotta stop. We got to engage the people. I was at a convenience store not too long ago. And is that obviously toward the end of Shift of a police officer and he was buying some things and there's a young child looking up at him and the child was in awe and the police officer. He was probably tired. I know he was but he kind of walked right by that young child and I grab missing officer. If you just took a second to say hi to that little guy. Oh, it just made a world of difference. That's the kind of stuff that we need to do. That's the kind of stuff you like all the talk about racial profiling has a basis. In fact, is that something that the that the mayor ought to be concerned about the next mayor definitely and you know racial profiling is wrong. There's no two ways about it. But, you know the current the current leadership has not taken a good stand on that. They can only ask for a policy and all of a sudden one was drummed up like like you'd order a pizza and that's wrong at the community was never consulted and the police department was never consulted and furthermore, you know, when they come up with a policy now as of July 31st, they stopped keeping data. They stop recording data. And police stops. Well, I've learned believe me. I've learned throughout my life and especially on the County Board that the observed changes his behavior based on the Observer, you know collecting data was okay and the rank-and-file didn't mind because it proved they could prove that we're not stopping based on race. They could make a proof and you know something if people are stopping and doing and Performing racial profiling those people have to be weeded out of the department and dealt with immediately thank mayor sting line would reappoint police chief Olson. Well, I would have people have asked me that and based on his reappointment, you know police chief Olson. I have worked with him on the criminal justice Coordinating Committee and he's done a fine job personally. I like to get local talent. I'd like to have somebody that's from the area. I always I always you know police chief Olson has came from outside of our metropolitan area and I think we've got good officers and that shows trust in her department when we read when we promote from within I think that's very, Very important. So you know, it depends I again I'd like to see somebody locally in that job. Somebody who's group was from Minneapolis families who from our area the Brian Heron incident certainly got lots of attention headlines introduced the word corruption into discussions of Minneapolis city government. You think the city government is corrupt know the city governments not corrupt and it went and a won't be corrupt and shouldn't be corrupt in the the incidents behind Brian Heron is very sad. It's a very bad Mark. It's a very bad mark on our city and and you know, unfortunately the way it was handled was was bad too because you know, we we had our leader tell us all how clean city government was and then proceeded to appoint a close personal political Ally to investigate that and that was wrong absolutely wrong and you know, the sad thing about this whole Brian Heron indictment is first of all, we have to get away from this Turn the Page mentality that well, that's we got to forget about that. It was a serious thing. It was a Federal indictment on extortion. You know, he was taking money from from a from a business owner and in returns for favors with regards to inspections. Again, that's part of our Public Safety. We rely on inspections to make sure the food is good. Make sure the buildings are sound and our inspectors are good people and that the saddest part of it is that the good employees of Minneapolis. It gets a bad mark on them. We have good building inspectors. We rely on those building inspectors and building owners rely on the building inspectors to give them advice your business relies on inspectors to help them not to be in conflict and not to be clearly not shaking them down for God's sakes. You think more that's going on that we don't know about yet. Well the FBI certainly thinks more of that's going on because it's every every day. It seems that their broadening their investigation to to include more and more areas of the city. There was a poll that the Star Tribune conducted in June which found that 70% of those people surveyed Minneapolis had basically the city is moving in the right direction. It doesn't seem like there's a hue and cry a foot for big changes in the way the city operates. Well, you know in that poll was taken before we had before we had what's going on downtown right now in terms of an FBI investigation throughout City Hall and that poll also few things that was interesting about the pole at also stated that people two-thirds of the people of Minneapolis are afraid to walk within a mile of their home. Now. That's unacceptable. I live in Northeast Minneapolis and I live in kind of a challenge neighborhood, but I've kind of conducted my own poll to and a lot of people agree with that, you know, I was I was at a neighborhood meeting in there talking about restoring a theater and I asked the question. Well, you know, this is a great idea movie theater. So how many of you would go to a 9:00 p.m. Showing And feel comfortable walking home at 11:30 after the after the showing none of them. Well, that's unacceptable. That's absolutely unacceptable. But how do you make the city safer? So that people would feel what would you increase the size of the police department? Well, we know civically do you have a specifically I mean as we're sitting here right now Gary there are 40 police cars over a public works that have been paid for or being paid for on a lease payment every month. They've been sitting there for at least two months. The complement of police officers is down by 30 down by 30 that that's people on the street people on the street in the neighborhoods. Absolutely unacceptable. They're sitting over in public works apparently because there's some bracket or some silly thing missing. Well, we'll come on. Let's coordinate that almost sounds like a defense department snafu. That's number one. You get the patrols out in the streets and you start talking about this culture of protection this culture of taking care of each other being out there. I mean, you know, when we get back to that poll now that that pole when everybody said was everything was moving in the right direction. Well, that was before we Lies at the city the realization that the city debt level is exceeded alarming levels to I mean people are starting to realize that well, wait a minute when we get a bond rating that slips down. You know what that means as well as anybody Debt Service, like I explained early is how much money it takes to pay off just the interest on the debt level when the bond rating gets degraded you're paying more for the same the same service the same product paying more for that debt not getting a new fire truck out of that deal. We're not getting new police cars out of that deal. You know, I wouldn't be interesting to see what that pole would read today. Would you have supported the the use of Fairly substantial City subsidies for the Target store downtown in the blocky development? Again, we have to look at the bonded debt level and they tax districts these the especially directed tax districts Tif financing, you know, there is a level that government can play a role in there clearly is a level Brownfield Redevelopment, but when you've got a corporation that's making great prophets and great strides that level gets diminished, you know, II come out of the business environment Gary and and every successful negotiation each party walks away saying, you know, I got a pretty good deal there. I think it could have done better at this area could have done better over here, but overall I got an okay to both parties say that unfortunately in the Target deal, I think target walked out of the saying wow, we going to done better than that man. We got everything we asked for because there's not a culture downtown of saying no because none of them have really been out in a real business environment. You've got 13 council members will do anything they'll do anything to bring those developments here could grief the last eight years. We've never been Our society has never been richer. Why would you have to give a company like Target 60 million dollars to build a building downtown now supporters of that subsidy would argue that if the city wants to compete with the Suburban areas where the land is there's plenty of land available and it's that the city has to take the extra step to be able to compete I can see that if the kids the city has been plagued with petroleum sites the city over the years, you know that the stewards and they didn't realize what they were doing, but they would be burying tires and various parts of the city and in Northeast Minneapolis. There's a lot of industrial sites up there throughout neighborhoods part of my district that I represent is bastard Creek over in North many north side of Minneapolis now were 394 comes in by Bryn Mawr. That was I mean basic rig itself was submerged and there's recycling plants are there was a warden oil which was it now a closed down oil recycling center. Well 50 years ago. Actually that was Leading Edge to recycle oil, but guess what a lot of it went into the ground people didn't realize the danger people didn't realize the toxics then that's where City. That's what fine and that's what Tif financing and help subsidy help has to come in to reclaim those lands where else nothing else would happen. It's the but for test again, but for this it won't happen that's for subsidies coming. That's what we call upon the whole tax base to take a piece of land and bring it back property taxes. Do they need to be increased in the city, especially in light of the changes at the state level in state property taxes and Development Fund seem to have taken a pretty big hit. They've taken a huge hit and the one key ingredient we can do to keep housing affordable in this city is key property taxes low, we do that by watching our spending we cannot go in and grab that difference at the state of me that was epic property tax reform. They came down. Well now the citizens of Minneapolis are going to get some tax relief that helps keep housing affordable because remember Gary Housing is a Continuum from the very poorest person to a more wealthy person and all along that Continuum. It's affected by property taxes. If an apartment owner gets a tax break they're going to be able to keep those rents stable, which is going to allow a person to come out of way at the one end come out of a shelter. Perhaps go into an entry-level apartment then all of a sudden they can move up and move up but we've got to keep the monthly payments low because monthly payment interest and taxes are what comprise that taxes are. The first role government can do to keep housing affordable. So hold down the good grevious. How can I go to a senior citizen and and and say well gee, you know, thank you for living here for 52 years. Here's your property tax increase because we need more affordable housing. I'm not going to do that is the role of the city in a larger. What is the role of the In terms of affordable housing other than holding taxes down. Is there is there something the city should be doing? Of course there isn't it goes right back to that message. We've got to open up those neighborhoods that up until now are there still are dirty, they're unsafe and the perception of livability is not there always and just last week. I came across a young career woman who rents an apartment down by Lake Harriet. She works downtown with the pays an enormous amount of money sot for that kind of money. You could buy a house up in the near North Side. She looked at me like I would just landed from Mars to I would never live there as well. Why not because it's not safe this gun fire up there all the time and it's filthy while the right there. I mean again a Continuum get that young person into a home and to home ownership, but won't live in that like I say 10 to 15 square miles sports stadiums and sports teams should the city's be using any of its public money to try to hang onto the twins or Vikings, you know, Gary that's a that's a great question and you know, the one of the First things I would do as mayor as mayor staying light as I would call Red McCombs and I would call Carl pole at and call for a meeting with those two not their lieutenants not their surgeons to figure out a way to keep professional sports in Minneapolis. They should be in Minneapolis Minneapolis has the right place on the County Board. I let a private-public task force investigating a way to privately financed a ballpark definitely professional sports need to stay in Minneapolis. It adds to the quality of life. It adds to the community building and to lose that would be sad the city's role. I'll maintain the infrastructure around it. I'll keep it safe. I'll keep it clean and I'll make sure that the tax base around it is strong. Hmm. They might say we need the public money. All the other cities are giving us public money. We simply cannot compete in an environment where we're supposed to do this privately and everybody else gets the public assistance again professional sports, Minneapolis. The Major League City in this in this region Minneapolis needs to keep them here, but it's gonna have to be a Statewide resource and the city tax base cannot afford that we heard earlier from mr. Rybak very supportive of the neighborhood revitalization program the NRP program. Are you similarly bullish on that? And that effort? Well, what I would like to see is the the Community Development agency and the NRP learn what we gain from the last 10 years of NRP get the best programs that got the dollars to the homeowners to the landlord's without filtering it through a bureaucratic process. We don't need more bureaucratic process. We need to get those development dollars to the people to increase the values of their homes to increase the apartment stock. That's how we increase housing. We have to increase the supply of housing. So I would I would I would Envision merging in RP + MC D A together to be a more streamlined more efficient organization. Ourselves belt and has suggested in her budget message that both the McD and the right neighborhood programs their budgets need to be scaled back because of the financial cutbacks and problems right now. The just stated the state of Minnesota made that decision for mayor Sharon cells Belton quite honestly, and she's trying to to capture that to try to mitigate that a little bit by putting it on the backs of the taxpayers with you know, an 8% property tax increase and extra HRA Levi. I mean we have to recast that MCD a before we start spending more money and fueling it with more fuel. The engine has to be retuned. You just don't pour more fuel down that engine by no means that's the wrong way to go. I mean if that budget passes none of us want to be the mayor next year. Do you think the mayor's office should be strengthened? We always hear about the weak mayor system in Minneapolis. It's of us Gary. It's not a week method the mayor system in Minneapolis is the mayor system in Minneapolis is very similar to the one that Hubert Humphrey. Operated under a weak mayor system does not mean you have to have a weak mayor for crying out loud the you know, everybody talks about this bully pulpit, you know, we just need a leadership and vision for a city to bring you know that the mayor's the cheerleader for the city. The mayor is a fighter for the city and the mayor's the mourner for the city to but in order to do that, you've got to show up. Your leadership is showing up taking charge and doing the right thing. Non Minneapolis residents any reason they should care about this election a hundred percent not Minneapolis resident should care because everybody cares when when I used to I used to work over in Kuwait and Africa and the Middle East, you know, you'd say you're from Minneapolis that meant something people over there don't realize or Edina is a albeit Edina is a wonderful City, but Minneapolis is the regional City Minneapolis is the it's the home of the Guthrie. It's the Major League Sports Center Minneapolis is the commercial center for this region. Not just the state this region. The entire metro area is very concerned and is very concerned about this race and very concerned about the leadership in Minneapolis. Do you think the future of the city looks pretty good the population loss has been stabilized after decades and decades but it seems like in some respects (00:53:31) you have very wealthy (00:53:32) people in the city and a lot of poor people. Well, you know, and it's and it's kind of interesting because it's fascinating, you know, when I go down to the public service level at the county We see people from all over the world. It wasn't like that. You know, the Minnesota experience is changing when I used to work over in the Middle East at see that at Gatwick airport right seated at Heathrow. We're seeing it here now, you'll the people coming to Minneapolis are coming here is is immigrants in the coming year to start that new life and we see all sorts of dress. We see all sorts of styles and all sorts of languages the reality is and we're seeing this at the county and so is the Minneapolis School District seeing this the reality is a person can be living in Somalia on Friday and registering the child in a Minneapolis public school on Monday. That's how fast these things are moving and we have to be we have to we have to be proactive and do that to grab that. It's a wonderful opportunity Carrie Marx tangle and I want to give you a minute to give your pitch here before we wrap up. Well, thank you Gary. I just you know, this has been a wonderful wonderful half hour and and you know, I'm the only one in this race that comes as a true independent. I don't have ties to the gang of insiders. I tend to call it that has been leading the city. We need someone that can go In there, we need somebody that has a new set of eyes on city government. Somebody that has a business finance background. I have a degree in business finance and have a master's degree in International Management. I'm the best suited person to be to lead our city with the Creative Vision in to the 21st century Hennepin County Commissioner. Mark sting line who is running for mayor of Minneapolis. The primary is September 11th. And today we're talking with the four leading candidates for mayor of Minneapolis. We earlier this hour spoke with rt Rybak. Mr. Staying line joined us this half hour over the noon hour Lisa McDonald Insurance Sales Belton and just a reminder. If you have to leave us if you miss part of these conversations will be broadcasting this program rebroadcasting it from 9:00 to 11:00 (00:55:28) tonight. The call went out from Moscow in August (00:55:31) 1941. But when you put Batali (00:55:34) prominent Soviet Jews appealed to the west to help their Nation fight the Nazis, but their success was also their undoing I'm Lisa Mullins, He nine years after they were executed by Stalin. We hear the story of the Jewish anti-fascist committee that and today's news coming up on the next edition of the world. (00:55:53) That's at seven o'clock here on Minnesota Public (00:55:56) Radio. (00:55:59) Well, once again, we're going to break for some news headlines. And when we come back, we'll continue our conversations with two more the candidates for mayor of Minneapolis. So do stay tuned (00:56:10) on Mondays All Things Considered will tour the University of Minnesota's quirky collection of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia that story and the rest of the news on Mondays All Things Considered weekdays at 3:00 on Minnesota Public Radio. (00:56:25) You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. We have a clear sky 70 degrees at Kinder wfm 91.1 Minneapolis. And st. Paul Sunshine through the afternoon with a high in the mid-70s about 75 degrees partly cloudy tonight with an overnight low in the low to mid-50s tomorrow a little bit warmer, but very pleasant partly cloudy tomorrow High 80 to 85.