Landlord McGaughey seeks reformed, open city government

Adam Fink

The view from William McGaughey’s northeast Minneapolis front porch is bleak: a deteriorated street, signs of construction and few people. McGaughey would rather have a view encompassing all of the city’s streets – possibly from the mayor’s office.

McGaughey, 60, a Detroit native who has lived in the Twin Cities for the past 35 years and in Minneapolis for the past 12, said he wants to tinker with city administration and that the time is ripe for a mayoral bid.

“This city is not very well
governed; (the officials) don’t have the best interests of the citizens at heart,” McGaughey said.

He cited both the improvement of public safety in low-income neighborhoods and opening city inspections to public viewing as important issues, but McGaughey, a north Minneapolis landlord, said his main interest lies with preserving affordable housing.

“The problem is that the city is continuing to demolish buildings and then sit on vacant lots,” he said. “There are ways of going about (solving the affordable housing crisis) without going to the taxpayers for more money.”

McGaughey, also an author and accountant, said he is wary, too, of the amount of secrecy involved when government officials contest city inspections.

“My big proposal is to end secrecy in the city government,” he said. “We don’t really know what our government officials do because it’s so secret.”

He disputes the city administration’s tendency to associate crime with a certain property rather than the individual perpetrators.

McGaughey, who claims his properties offer “below-average rent,” has had a turbulent relationship with city inspectors.

He said that six years ago, city officials attempted to shut down his rental units, citing problems with drug dealing on the properties. The City Council wanted the units cleared out and left vacant for six months.

He fought the request, saying many of the tenants were helping him remedy the problem.

Ultimately, McGaughey retained control of his properties but said the experience left him disenchanted. “Who in his right mind would want to invest in Minneapolis rental property? No wonder there’s a housing shortage,” he said.

Marlo Elex, a tenant of McGaughey’s, said her landlord provides quality housing for the price.

“He keeps the place pretty much up to par,” she said.

McGaughey currently sits on the executive committee of the Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee, an organization of approximately 500 landlords.

The group has actively engaged one community by giving “crack tours” to publicize the lack of police presence in the Phillips neighborhood. On MPRAC’s weekly television show, committee members also voice concerns about city intervention in property matters.

McGaughey, who is running as an independent candidate, decided to run after MPRAC’s founder, Charlie Disney, pulled himself out of the race. McGaughey said he considered running four years ago but deferred to Barbara Carlson.

Although he did caucus with the Reform Party this year, it did not endorse him.

McGaughey said he blames the mayor for the city’s current housing woes.

“(Mayor Sharon) Sayles Belton is part of the process, and if she goes, we will be on our way to solving these problems,” he said.

He said Sayles Belton ignores landlord issues. He cited as an example her attendance at one of MPRAC’s meetings. McGaughey said Sayles Belton was silent, failing to address concerns despite promises from her representatives that she would.

Sayles Belton could not be reached for comment.

Elex said the city could benefit from a McGaughey mayor.

“He would do a good job, but with a little bit of help,” she said. “He sometimes takes awhile getting to the point.”

“I’ve been given the City Hall shuffle, and it’s time to appeal to the voters to the extent that we are able to,” McGaughey said.