Expectations high as local wards change leadership

Kevin McCahill

After the money’s been spent, the race run and the champagne drank, the time has come for the University neighborhoods’ new City Council representatives to start working.

Ward 2 and Ward 3 have new faces this year and neighborhood leaders, as well as residents, are eager to see what they have to offer as crime and resident dissatisfaction are on the rise.

In the Nov. 8 general election, Cam Gordon edged out Cara Letofsky, winning 51 percent of the votes in the Ward 2 election. Diane Hofstede’s victory in Ward 3 was far easier, as she glided past Green Party candidate Aaron Neumann with 71 percent of the vote.

Gordon replaces Paul Zerby, who retired after his expired term.

A 1977 University alumnus, Gordon is a former teacher who said he plans to involve students more in government.

“There are lots of opportunities and lots of challenges,” he said. “(Ward 2) is incredibly diverse and I’d like to help build bridges among the groups.”

Among the topics of interest around the University is the use of the industrial land between the Southeast Como and Prospect Park neighborhoods, an area being considered for an on-campus Gophers stadium. According to Gordon, the land could also be used for a light rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as a possible business district.

“There is a lot of development potential,” Gordon said. “But how are we going to make sure that fits the needs of the neighborhood?”

Gordon is working to create a rental housing summit in March with the Minnesota Student Association, Southeast Como officials and Ward 3’s Hofstede. The summit emanates from concerns about absentee landlords and rental prices.

Hofstede will be stepping into a newly created ward, an area including Marcy-Holmes and northeast Minneapolis. A former teacher who attended graduate school at the University, Hofstede said her sights are set on getting more students involved in government.?

“I think that students have a great deal of energy, and I do think they have some creative ideas,” she said. “I hope they will be engaged and involved in issues that we have.”

Joe Ring, president of Prospect Park and East River Road Improvement Association, echoed some of Hofstede’s sentiments when speaking about Gordon’s role as City Council member.

“He said he would listen to the voice of (the) community,” Ring said. “It’s not what he thinks; it’s what his constituents think. If he listens to them, everything will be fine.”

With the increase in crime and theft around campus, Gordon said, he intends to work with Minneapolis and University police to keep students protected.

“Students don’t think to turn to city and police in certain matters,” he said. “But we need to start building partnerships to help to prevent these crimes and stop them.”

Some students agreed.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Justin Scheibel said he would like to see more done to prevent robberies in the area.

Kinesiology junior Ryan Marty said crime has been a problem near his house in Marcy-Holmes and wanted to see more streetlights.

Gordon said he wants to implement plans to increase affordable housing, focus on policing and improve public transit.

Hofstede said she will focus on similar issues, from housing livability to crime and public safety as well as maintaining an environmentally friendly University.

She also points to the high cost of education that can be draining for students.

“I think education is something everyone should be able to afford,” she said.

Melissa Bean, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said she is looking forward to working with Hofstede.

She said the new alignment of Ward 3 is a positive for Marcy-Holmes. The neighborhood used to be split into pieces of three wards but now will be represented by one.