Veteran Franson pledges strong leadership as mayor

by Shira Kantor

Editor’s note: This is the third of The Minnesota Daily’s profiles on each of Minneapolis’ mayoral candidates.

The voice mail message at Dick Franson’s campaign office begins with the sunny proclamation: “Life is beautiful.”

At 72, the retired army 1st sergeant has done much in his lifetime, including spending several years in government service. Most recently, he’s added a bid for Minneapolis mayor to his list.

Franson has run for several offices since his first political stint as Minneapolis alderman in 1963. He said he wants to become the “first legitimate combat Vietnam veteran” to hold the office, adding that he thinks strong leadership will carry him to the mayorship.

Franson labeled current Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton as “nice,” but decried her efforts as minimal. He said he would be more visible and more involved in community activities than his “sort of docile” opponents.

Working from a political agenda he has been solidifying for nearly 40 years, Franson has several ideas for improving the city.

“I’ve always been a front-runner of affordable housing,” Franson said.

Franson proposed building 1,000 units of senior housing, as well as 500 units of low-rise homes in Minneapolis. He said he “would jaw-bone the federal government to give us the funds” for the projects.

Should he be elected, Franson has offered half of his mayoral salary to those at or below the poverty level until the unemployment rate drops below 2 percent.

Franson also said he would seek enabling legislation to build a casino downtown, saying the revenue accrued could be used for improving K-12 education and affordable housing programs.

“This would be really a boondoggle,” Franson said. “It would create about 1,000 new jobs downtown.”

He also favors granting restaurants licenses for six video poker machines in each establishment.

Crime in inner city areas, Franson said, has him highly concerned for the safety of citizens and police officers. He said he would like to see a greater police presence in Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Franson also proposed employing the National Guard to oversee high-crime areas in the summertime, as well as personally visiting those areas at night to determine the best way to deal with the problem.

“I expect to hire 200 more police officers and go back to two-man squad cars,” Franson said.

Franson criticized former Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser for reducing police patrol from two-officer to one-officer patrol cars in the ’70s, saying it was a “basically a disaster.”

“We need to protect our police officers, so two-man squad cars are mandatory for a core city like Minneapolis,” Franson said.

Fraser said the decision was in response to a recommendation from the police department and the fact that officers worked just as often paired as they did solo. The type of patrolling and the time of day police were out determined the number of officers per car.

“I think (Franson) ought to try to find some current issues,” Fraser said, adding he is “not among those who take his candidacy seriously.”

But Franson believes his credentials speak for themselves.

“I’ve always been a leader,” he said. “I put 24 years in the military and fought in two wars.”

“I’m the only one who’s got a B.A. degree in public administration, with a minor in Middle East studies,” Franson said.

He said he will put his degree to work as he supports – among other initiatives – veteran rights, a more efficient health care plan and tougher drug laws.

Franson is running as a member of the DFL party. Primary elections are Sept. 11, with the general election Nov. 6.


Shira Kantor welcomes comments at
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