Mayoral candidates discuss community development at forum

With a focus on building the community, the two prospective Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Minneapolis mayoral candidates met in a forum Saturday.

Mayor R.T. Rybak and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin addressed questions from a crowd of approximately 100 people at the Minneapolis Urban League under the moderation of the Minnesota Progressive Caucus.

The event was not a debate, but “an opportunity to have a more-thoughtful, in-depth conversation with the people who would be mayor,” moderator Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Rybak said he expressed pride at his first-term accomplishments and his ability to stay under budget.

“I’ve shown it’s possible to have five straight balanced budgets with a progressive agenda,” he said.

Rybak said he plans to keep focusing on the four key issues from his first term: affordable housing, entry-level job creation, transportation and bridging the gap between the police and the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The policies are targeted at Minneapolis’ poorer communities, especially predominantly immigrant neighborhoods.

“It’s important for us to never waver in standing up for the people in these communities,” he said.

Rybak put particular emphasis on availability of low-income housing.

“Housing is about changing people’s lives,” he said.

He said he is more open to a Minnesota Twins stadium than one for the Minnesota Vikings, though he would not ask Minneapolis residents to carry the load. In either case, he said, it is his lowest priority.

McLaughlin contrasted himself with Rybak.

“I want to talk about what it means to be a true progressive,” he said.

McLaughlin said his experience in the State Legislature would serve him well as mayor.

“The most-important relationship Minneapolis has is with the state government,” he said. “A lot of this is about relationships – you need to know the folks over there.”

He noted his role in the Hiawatha light rail line but called it merely the first step.

“What we need is a revolution in transit,” he said.