Voter’s Guide 2005

;Check out where the candidates for the Nov. 8 St. Paul and Minneapolis city elections stand on the issues.

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Minneapolis Mayor St. Paul Mayor Ward 2 Ward 3

The race for Minneapolis mayor’s office
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he is not a career politician but has proved his capability to run the city of Minneapolis during his first term. But his opponent, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, said that in tough times, Minneapolis needs someone with experience, not an amateur.

Peter McLaughlin runs on experience in public service
By Cati Vanden Breul

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said he has devoted his life to public service.

Now he’s challenging Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak for his job Nov. 8.

McLaughlin, originally from Pennsylvania, was an undergraduate at Princeton University and completed his graduate work at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

His first job out of undergraduate school was with The Urban Coalition of Minneapolis as the research and operations director.

“I got an opportunity to work with the African-American, Latino, and low-income communities of the city, and work to improve their neighborhoods,” McLaughlin said.

He also got involved with the Powderhorn Residents Group, a nonprofit housing development corporation, and worked on establishing more affordable housing in Minneapolis.

He became a Minnesota state representative in 1985, and served for six years. He has been the commissioner of Hennepin County since 1991.

McLaughlin said his experience is what differentiates him from Rybak.

“It’s all about leadership and coalition building,” he said. “It’s more than just good intentions; there’s a difference between intention and results.”

He cited his work in the state Legislature as an example of his ability to pass legislation.

During his term as a state representative, he was the author of the first state parental-leave law in the country. The law allows new mothers or fathers a period of unpaid leave from work at the birth or adoption of a child.

He also secured $27 million in job funding as a freshman in the House minority.

“Securing anything as a freshman in the minority is rare,” McLaughlin said.

As mayor, he said, he would like to make Minneapolis the “economic and intellectual center of prosperity for the region and the state.”

The way to do that is focus on education and public safety, and make sure residents are engaged in the life of the city, McLaughlin said.

Public safety is his first priority, he said.

“If you don’t maintain a basic level of public safety all other things are compromised,” he said.

The current mayor has not done that, McLaughlin said, and blamed the increase in violent crime on Rybak. He said he would work to diversify the police force and put more officers into communities.

He also said he would offer more support to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program than Rybak has.

“It goes beyond press conferences and photo ops to actually make things happen for the community,” he said.

Both McLaughlin and Rybak have said maintaining a presence on the University campus is important to them.

“You gotta show up and find forums and events to work with students,” McLaughlin said.

He said he would make internship options available to students because he benefited from them while in college.

R.T. Rybak says he wants to build on first term’s success
By Cati Vanden Breul

R.T. Rybak knew when he was 13 he wanted to be mayor of Minneapolis.

His dream came true when he was elected mayor in his first run for public office in 2001.

Now that he’s up for re-election against Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, he said he wants a chance to finish the reforms he started during the past four years.

Rybak grew up in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, where his father owned a drugstore.

As a child he saw the difference between the “haves and have-nots” of the city, and he said closing the gap between the two groups is one of his goals as mayor.

Before running for office, Rybak was a journalist and businessman. He was publisher of the Twin Cities Reader, a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune and launcher of Q Monthly, a local gay and lesbian newspaper.

He also worked as the development director for the Minneapolis Downtown Council to attract small businesses, including the farmers market, to Nicollet Mall.

He decided to run for office four years ago to bring a progressive perspective to City Hall, he said.

“I’m not a career politician; I’m more of an activist,” Rybak said.

He said it was time for a new face in city politics.

“I wanted to step forward and bring new voices to the table because there was a small group of old-guard politicians shutting out members of the community,” Rybak said.

He ran a grassroots campaign without accepting money from lobbyists or special interest groups, he said.

“Residents should know you are working on their behalf and not for someone you are going to hit up for a check at a fundraiser,” Rybak said.

During his first term, Rybak said, he has worked to better the environment, tackle poverty and add color to Minneapolis.

He cited some accomplishments, such as the planned conversion of the Riverside Coal Plant to natural gas and his creation of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which increased funding for low-income housing by more than $10 million.

He said he kept affordable housing a top priority despite cuts from the state and a budget deficit when he took office.

He also founded the only urban cross-country ski race in North America in Minneapolis and created Minneapolis MOSAIC, a two-month showcase of the diversity in the city through art.

If re-elected, Rybak said, he would work toward bringing universal high-speed Internet access to the city and provide Minneapolis high school students with financial support to get them through college.

“City politics is fulfilling because you can touch the vision of where the city of Minneapolis is going,” Rybak said.

During a new term, Rybak said, he would increase his presence on campus and be active with University students.

“I want to be a very visible presence on campus and engage students more in the activities of the city,” Rybak said.

He said he would help students champion their causes and go to anti-war protests with them to oppose the Iraq war.

Running for the head job in St. Paul
The mayoral race in St. Paul has drawn national attention. St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly has received criticism from Democrats for his endorsement of President George W. Bush last year. Former City Council member Chris Coleman, Kelly’s opponent, used that to his advantage when getting nearly double Kelly’s vote total to come out on top in September’s primary.

Randy Kelly touts first-term triumphs as St. Paul mayor
By Than Tibbetts

St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly is seeking a second term in his hometown.

He may have been the runner-up in the Sept. 13 primary, but Kelly said he thinks the race isn’t an uphill battle.

“We’re very optimistic about getting our voters out in the general election. Many of them stayed home because they didn’t think the primary was that important,” he said. “I’ve been in this business a long time, and we know how to win elections.”

Kelly is well-versed in his list of accomplishments as mayor, from his Housing 5000 initiative – a plan to create 5,000 new housing units in St. Paul – to a bioscience corridor where a new biotechnology lab was opened in October.

For the most part, Kelly stays on message and avoids referencing his opponent’s campaign in much detail, except when the issue of his 2004 endorsement of President George W. Bush comes up.

The endorsement caused a stir in thoroughly Democratic St. Paul, though Kelly has stood firm, saying he thought it was in the best interests of the city in the long term.

“Quite honestly, I’m disappointed in my opponent’s efforts behind this issue because essentially what he’s doing is he’s hiding behind it,” Kelly said. “He’s not laid out a comprehensive vision for the city of St. Paul nor how he will pay for all the promises and programs that he has been suggesting over the last six months.”

Instead of seeing the endorsement as a distinction of policy, Kelly said it was indicative of his ability to work across party lines for the good of the city.

And you have to be able to, he said, in a country with a Republican president, House and Senate and a state with a Republican governor.

Kelly, who graduated from the University with a degree in U.S. history, also touts his years of experience in politics. Kelly was a state representative for 16 years before heading to the state Senate for 11 years.

Kelly spoke of his work to transform downtown St. Paul into a destination as well as a home for more residents.

His office has been aggressive in pursuing a ballpark for the Minnesota Twins, competing for the major investment against neighboring Minneapolis. He said his office is trying to increase entertainment venues along the Mississippi River.

Kelly said that by the beginning of next year, the population of the downtown area will have doubled. His program of taking old, obsolete office buildings and encouraging developers to create condominiums and lofts will play a vital part in the resurgence of downtown, he said.

But with the increased population comes additional problems.

St. Paul has also seen its share of increased gang activity and certain types of crimes. Kelly said he would like to add 100 additional police officers in St. Paul over the next five years.

“Downtown St. Paul is being transformed as we speak,” he said.

Chris Coleman says he has long-term vision for St. Paul
By Than Tibbetts

Former St. Paul City Council member Chris Coleman’s campaign believes it has the momentum to beat incumbent Mayor Randy Kelly.

Coleman’s strong showing in the Sept. 13 primary election, in which he beat Kelly by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, added to the sense that voters in the city are ready for change, Coleman said.

“It’s very clear that we have a strong, progressive Democratic tradition in the city of St. Paul, and I think it doesn’t bode well for the mayor,” he said. “Kelly almost didn’t make it through the primary.”

Born and raised in St. Paul, Coleman said he would bring a long-term vision to the mayor’s office, a characteristic he said he shares with Massachusetts Democrat and former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, who recently stopped in St. Paul to endorse Coleman, a University alumnus.

Kerry understands the importance of federal and local government partnerships, Coleman said, and that Kerry has a vision for what government can be instead of what it shouldn’t be.

Although “vision” is a broad term, Coleman was able to elucidate some of his core values that distinguish him from what he said was a mayor’s office that is out of touch with its populace.

Coleman said he would tackle environmental issues in the city, something he learned about while serving on the City Council.

Crime is another area in which Coleman said he could improve the city. Although overall crime in the city has fallen during Kelly’s term, violent crime has increased, he said.

Coleman’s campaign was the target of a Kelly speech in which the mayor sought to explain his endorsement of President George W. Bush for the 2004 election. In the speech, the mayor asked voters not to head to the polls in anger.

Coleman said both points resonate unfairly with his campaign.

“I think that that’s kind of an insult to people, to say that the only reason they would vote against him is because they’re angry,” he said. “I think people just fundamentally disagree with his policies.”

Although Kelly maintains his Democratic status, Coleman charges that Kelly has a conservative agenda in line with the likes of Karl Rove.

Many of the issues talked about on both sides of the campaign have taken a decidedly more regional or national slant, with high-profile endorsements and visions for St. Paul extending beyond the city limits.

But in the end, what happens within the city matters most to its residents, and St. Paul’s downtown has long struggled to regain a vibrancy slowly sapped by the expansion of suburbia.

Coleman said he will focus on small businesses to bring the vitality back to downtown. He cited his role in bringing what is now the McNally Smith College of Music to downtown St. Paul while serving on the City Council as proof of his ability to bring people and businesses into the area.

In the end, Coleman said, he hopes he can be a uniter and not a divider.

“We need to work harder, work smarter and more cooperatively together to get where we need to go,” he said.

Representing the U area in Minneapolis
Minneapolis Ward 2 Green Party candidate Cam Gordon is running for City Council again after coming in a close second to Paul Zerby in 2001. His DFL opponent, Cara Letofsky, who shares similar experiences working with Minneapolis neighborhood organizations, said her party label will help her be more effective than Gordon in city government.

Cam Gordon says the city wants dramatic progress
By Cati Vanden Breul

Cam Gordon was 108 votes shy in 2001 of winning a spot on the Minneapolis City Council.

This year the Green Party candidate hopes to do better and defeat DFL opponent Cara Letofsky for the Minneapolis Ward 2 City Council seat.

Gordon – a University alumnus – was one of the founding members of the Green Party in Minnesota.

“I was very interested in their values and pillars for a more multiparty democracy in Minnesota and in the country,” Gordon said.

He was the first Green Party candidate to run for office in Minnesota when he challenged state Rep. Lee Greenfield in 1996 and won 24 percent of the vote.

“If I double the percentage every time, I’ll be sure to win this time,” Gordon said.

Gordon graduated from the University with a major in English and a speech communication minor.

After that, he taught at a Montessori school and became a music teacher.

“I’ve always had a love of music and always loved playing music with kids,” Gordon said.

He and his wife converted the downstairs unit of their duplex into a preschool child care program.

In addition to his work with children, Gordon was also active in the community, especially within neighborhood organizations.

He was the chairman of the Seward Neighborhood Revitalization Programs Implementation Oversight Committee for six years and served on the Minneapolis Center for Neighborhoods board of directors for four years.

But by 2001, Gordon said, his focus had changed to city government.

“I’m very interested in making the government work better and empowering people so they can be connected to the city,” he said.

He said it’s an exciting time to be involved in city politics because Minneapolis is ready for change.

“I think I have a great opportunity to really move things forward,” Gordon said. “At this time in the life of Minneapolis, I think people have a lot of interest in seeing some dramatic progress made.”

Diversifying the Minneapolis police force is one of Gordon’s goals, he said.

“The police force should better represent the diversity of the city of Minneapolis, so we can address crime problems and problems of lacking mutual respect,” Gordon said.

He said he’d also like to see Minneapolis become a leader in energy conservation.

“Environmental sustainability is really important. We are clearly running out of fossil fuels, so we need to figure out how to prepare for the future,” he said.

To come up with solutions to the city’s problems, Gordon said, he would encourage Minneapolis residents to get involved and would do all he can to facilitate participation.

“The more people that get involved, the more viewpoints that are on the table, the more information and education we can get about what’s going on, the better results we can get,” Gordon said.

Cara Letofsky runs for office on a career of organizing
By Cati Vanden Breul

When Minneapolis City Council candidate Cara Letofsky was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she marched on the state Capitol to protest apartheid in South Africa.

At the time, college students around the country were organizing to get their universities to forego economic ties with the African country.

But Letofsky’s university had already done that. So she and other students set their sights on Wisconsin’s Capitol and won the battle when the state divested from South Africa.

“I was really moved by the power of people working together, and I knew then I wanted to be involved in organizing for my career,” she said.

Letofsky is running for City Council in the 2nd Ward as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate against Green Party opponent Cam Gordon. She says her campaign is centered on three main ideas – affordable housing, investment in neighborhoods and more community-orientated policing.

Letofsky was born and raised in Minneapolis and returned to the city in 1993 to work with the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. She joined the political organization Progressive Minnesota soon after.

As a community activist, she led the fight for livable wages in Minneapolis and St. Paul during the mid-1990s to ensure Twin Cities’ residents could afford to live in the area. She organized a broad coalition of community members who convinced the cities to adopt a livable wage standard.

Because of the coalition’s efforts, when the cities give business subsidies to companies, they must commit to paying employees a livable wage, usually defined as a salary equal to 110 percent of the federal poverty level.

Later, Letofsky started working to better Minneapolis neighborhoods as the director of the Stevens Square and Lyndale neighborhood organizations.

“I really enjoy working within the community and bringing people together to identify issues we want to work on in conjunction, and figure out how we can make it happen,” Letofsky said.

In Stevens Square, she started a program that aims to resolve crime within the community, often by creating dialogue between offender and victim.

“It empowers the community to have a role in addressing crime in their own neighborhoods,” Letofsky said.

Although she and Gordon share similar viewpoints, Letofsky said her experience working within the bureaucracy of the city and getting things done distinguishes her from her opponent.

She cited her founding of the City of Lakes Community Land Trust Organization, which provides home ownership opportunities to low-income families. The families then pledge to sell the home to another low-income family.

“It’s a good example of Ö where there’s clearly a problem,” Letofsky said, “and I work with community members to help solve it.”

She also said her DFL endorsement would help her be more effective than Gordon.

“In Minneapolis, we need to work in partnership with a lot of other entities to be able to build the kind of city we want, and my party affiliation won’t get in the way of being able to do that,” she said.

The race to lead Minneapolis’ Ward 3
The Ward 3 City Council race, similar to the one in Ward 2, pits a DFLer against a Green Party candidate. DFL-endorsed Diane Hofstede is running against Green Party-endorsed Aaron Neumann. Although Hofstede won nearly two-thirds of the votes in September’s primary, Neumann said his campaign was successful because of his efforts to connect with residents.

Aaron Neumann builds on leadership in neighborhoods
By Emma Carew

Aaron Neumann may look younger than the average City Council candidate, but don’t be fooled. He is a man with a plan.

Neumann, a member of the Green Party, is running against Diane Hofstede for City Council in Minneapolis Ward 3. Ward 3 encompasses the north side, northeast and southeast Minneapolis.

Tom Taylor, who ran for state representative last year, suggested Neumann run for office, campaign treasurer Noelle DeHarpporte said.

Neumann has studied at Cornell College and Minneapolis Community Technical College in a variety of liberal arts disciplines, and received a degree in massage therapy from Centerpoint.

“The summer after my first year of college, I worked for the Sierra Club,” Neumann said. “That kind of opened my eyes to a lot.”

He said that when he was younger, getting a college degree seemed like a “big deal.” But, at 29, he said he realizes “life education is amazing; it’s about who you’re being.”

In the past 10 years, Neumann has worked with several groups and organizations geared toward political movements, such as social justice and environmental issues.

“In every neighborhood I’ve lived in, I’ve been involved at the neighborhood board level,” Neumann said.

“I believe that we must build a legacy for future generations,” he said. “One of a peaceful city and one that’s clean and green.”

Neumann listed effective government, healthy environment, safe communities and arts advocacy as his main issues.

“It’s time to think globally and act locally,” he said.

Neumann said he is in favor of converting to an instant runoff election to allow more candidates to have a chance.

He also said he strongly believes that in order to best serve Minneapolis, there needs to be a more diverse police force, and one that includes more people who live in the Minneapolis area.

“Folks on the north side have called the (Minneapolis Police Department) an ‘occupying force,’ ” Neumann said. “When I heard that, I was like, Damn, that’s harsh.”

He said he wants Minneapolis to be an international city, a destination, he said. Great cities consistently have a strong art scene and great transportation, he said.

“We need to think outside the transportation box,” he said.

Neumann favors bike paths connecting the University with northeast Minneapolis, as well as more environmentally friendly transit options.

“I want my grandchildren to be able to swim in the Mississippi river, in the city,” Neumann said, “to be able to swim, to fish and eat the fish.”

One of the things Neumann said he wants to implement is an office of sustainable development to oversee topics such as recycling, storm water runoff, trash and work with the Green Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to community revitalization through sustainable enterprise.

James Everett, Neumann’s campaign manager and the founder of the Subzero Collective, said he thinks it would be a “tragedy” if students didn’t come out to support Neumann.

“He’s got it,” Everett said.

Diane Hofstede, a member of the DFL, represents the machine, he said, and Neumann represents the new voice of the new Ward 3.

The City Council seat isn’t just a rung on the ladder for Neumann, said campaign data coordinator and University alumnus Eric Gilbertson.

“If he got elected, that would be what he’d be there for,” he said.

Diane Hofstede runs on 20 years working in Ward 3
By Nikki Wee

University alumna Diane Hofstede has always been drawn to leadership roles.

In college, she was head of her residence hall. She has served as a captain for the John Kerry campaign, currently acts as vice chairwoman of her neighborhood association and serves as a board member of the Minneapolis Public Library Board. Now she’s running for City Council.

“Wherever she goes, she’s drawn to these leadership roles,” said Tony Hofstede, her husband of 34 years. “Her enthusiasm is not a dying thing.”

Diane Hofstede is a leader with common sense and is able to get to the root of the problem, he said.

She has 20 years of experience working in Ward 3, and is bold and willing to take a risk by taking the tough stands, he said.

Her boldness showed when she led a referendum for a new public library in 2000, he said. While other board officers said no, Hofstede put together a team and won the referendum by a landslide, getting the city of Minneapolis a new library along with improvements to all community libraries, he said.

“When she’s committed to something, she perseveres,” Tony Hofstede said.

Diane Hofstede is also a person of good character, has a tremendous sense of humor and is a great conversationalist and listener, her husband said.

He recalled how she always approached people standing alone at social events in high school and college.

“She always went up to them and made them feel more comfortable,” he said.

Diane Hofstede believes students would relate with many of her issues, including public safety, transportation, the environment and improving the safety of housing near campus, her husband said.

Diane Hofstede has been endorsed by several organizations, including the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, a grassroots organization dedicated to increasing women’s participation in politics.

Candidates get elected through a strategic process that begins with a questionaire, said Erin Moline, a caucus staff member.

The organization endorses candidates who best reflect the organization’s core issues of reproductive freedom, women’s equal rights, gender equity and child and elderly care.

“Our issues very much relate to college students,” Moline said, referring to issues such as birth control and sex education classes.

Minneapolis should be a city that proudly stands for workers’ rights, fairness and equality for all citizens, Diane Hofstede said.

“She’ll be excellent for students at the University,” Tony Hofstede said. “She’s someone who wants to listen, who cares and who has been where they are. She’s excited about the possibility of working with them.”

Tony Hofstede said his wife is committed to her city and ward.

“She’s a true leader; she really believes in what she’s doing.”