A small assembly of students – mostly of the College Democrats at the University – listened on campus to Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton’s campaign pitch Thursday evening. And then they challenged it.
Sayles Belton spent almost an hour describing her accomplishments as Minneapolis mayor during the past eight years and her 10-year stint as a City Council member before that. Not allowing her to simply tout her record – or even some of the plans she outlined – students pressed Sayles Belton for detailed information on education, constituent services and safe, affordable housing.
Questioned on the quality and inspections rules of near-campus housing, Sayles Belton explained her stance on active surveillance and property upkeep.
“I don’t believe we ought to have a complaint-based system,” she said. “I believe we have to have a housing maintenance code that’s enforced.”
In her speech at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Sayles Belton also stressed the need to strengthen Minneapolis’ civic infrastructure.
Crime, poverty, education and unemployment were on Sayles Belton’s list of issues that she will address if re-elected.
Per capita, Minneapolis has more poverty-stricken residents than any other city, Sayles Belton said. And, she said, “it should trouble you as much as it troubles me.”
The mayor said Minneapolis historically has treated the symptoms of poverty rather than the cause and called for the city to “deal with the bottom line.”
“None of the (city’s) wards are going to be strong, healthy and viable unless you deal with these issues that are at our very core,” Sayles Belton said.
She also said she wants to work on the things that “add flavor” to the city, including renaming Third Avenue South the “Avenue of the Arts,” to celebrate the diversity of the city.
Andy Pomroy, co-chair of College Democrats, said the group meets roughly once per week to get students involved in the voting process.
“A lot of students aren’t familiar with local politics,” he said.