New faces join City Council

Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender and Andrew Johnson will join four other City Council newcomers.

From the left: Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender and Andrew Johnson

Courtesy of candidate campaign websites

From the left: Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender and Andrew Johnson

Jessica Lee

Following the 2013 city election, the Minnesota Daily will be running a two-week series that profiles new City Council members.

Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender and Andrew Johnson were chosen by voters last week to represent wards 9, 10 and 12, respectively, and will serve on the council beginning in January.

 

LISA BENDER

Ward 10 incumbent Meg Tuthill ran for re-election against three challengers to represent a ward that covers southwest Minneapolis, including the Lyndale and East Calhoun neighborhoods.

Tuthill, who has represented the ward since 2006, lost her seat to former San Francisco city planner Lisa Bender, who won by nearly 2,000 votes.

Bender raised nearly $53,000 in campaign contributions, almost $3,000 more than what Tuthill reported. Bender spent nearly $38,000 during her campaign.

Bender is a University of Minnesota alumna and received a master’s degree in city planning from the University of California-Berkeley.

Before serving as a city planner for San Francisco, she worked for nonprofit organizations in New York City as a transportation advocate, and in 2009 she moved to Minnesota to work for the health and transportation departments.

What are the biggest issues facing Ward 10 that you plan on addressing?

One is transportation. Folks in Ward 10 want to see a balance of transportation options, including transit, biking and walking, so those are high priorities for me.

Development is a big issue in Ward 10 — and balancing new growth citywide with preserving the neighborhoods in Ward 10.

Environmental protection is an important priority as well as social equity.

What will you work on first?

There are some pressing issues coming forward, including southwest light rail and other transit projects that go through Ward 10, like the Nicollet Avenue streetcar. I think some of those big transportation projects will be first coming forward.

In the long term, I’m really excited to work on the city’s Comprehensive Plan update and make sure that our zoning code really reflects the goals and values, you know, that are articulated in our long-range plan. I think right now there is a big disconnect in how our zoning code works compared with what our plans say.

What do you think constituents are most concerned about?

There are a lot of renters in Ward 10. The ward as a whole is 70 percent rental. Our renters are concerned about finding an affordable place to rent in the city and a lack of rental options.

Homeowners are similarly concerned about raising property taxes and the affordability of staying in their homes, especially our senior citizens. The affordability of housing and property taxes is an issue for renters and homeowners alike in Ward 10.

Transportation is a huge issue. A lot of people choose to live in the neighborhoods of Ward 10 because they prefer not to drive or they’re not able to drive. It’s a place where making sure it’s safe and convenient to walk, bicycle and take transit — that’s a high priority.

People want to make sure we’re getting the most out of development [so] that when new projects come in, we’re adding people to our community and those projects also contribute to our neighborhoods.

Anything else to add?

I’m really excited to work with the returning incumbents as well as the very diverse newcomers to the council. I think that we’re going to be able to work together to address bigger citywide issues that are really facing Minneapolis. … I think a lot of us as newcomers come from a generation that is choosing where to live based on not just job opportunities but also a quality of life, and that will influence how we think about economic development, how we think about building our transportation system, how we think about our role supporting the schools and all of these things that contribute to how we compete against other regions for the top talent and where people choose to live.

 

ANDREW JOHNSON

Andrew Johnson will replace outgoing incumbent Sandy Colvin Roy to represent Ward 12, which encompasses southeast Minneapolis neighborhoods, including Hiawatha and Minnehaha.

Johnson defeated his closest opponent, Ben Gisselman, by nearly 3,000 votes.

Throughout his campaign, Johnson was able to raise almost $27,000 — nearly $19,000 more than Gisselman. Johnson spent a little more than $24,000.

Johnson received an associate’s degree from Normandale Community College and pursued a political science degree from the University of Minnesota without completion.

He spent eight years working for Target Corporate, serving various roles, and spent three terms on the Longfellow Community Council.

What are the issues you plan on addressing?

One is education. There is an independent [Minneapolis] school board, and it’s very important to acknowledge that. … I respect the independent nature of the school board, so when I look at learning, or education, I look at it holistically, especially what happens outside of the classroom, so things like creating apprenticeships, both in the summer and after school for youth, is a huge priority for me. … I also see, for instance, with the achievement gap, a lot of that is really systematic of underlying issues within the community — whether that’s food and social justice issues and economic opportunities for families and even issues of crime and safety. Those are areas where the City Council can have a role in resolving the achievement gap.

Besides education, I ran on small business, and that’s an issue very near and dear to my heart. I have actively worked to bring businesses into our ward and will continue to have that role on the City Council. … In fact, one of the restrictions that they put on urban agriculture is unconstitutional. I brought it forward; I worked with Cam Gordon’s office and some of the local urban farmers. They conferred with a city attorney and agreed, so that’s no longer enforceable, so it’s going to lead to better food choices and better economic opportunities across the city.

What are the biggest issues facing the Ward?

One of the biggest issues for the ward is that there are many young families right now that are weighing whether they stay in the city or whether they go out to the suburbs. It is a huge opportunity that we do not want to miss, because when families plant their roots deep, they’re more engaged, they’re more involved in the communities and we have kids growing up and going to the schools and more diversity in population, and it is overall a much better situation for everybody.

We want families growing up here. We want children growing up here, and we have to do something about this to make sure folks are making that decision to stay in Minneapolis.

What do you think constituents are most concerned about?

This education issue is obviously a concern. People are always concerned about the core things, such as crime and safety and making sure we have good response times with our police and making sure we are taking care of our roads.

People were concerned about very localized issues, such as airport noise. … People are interested in the new ideas that I bring to the table.

Anything else to add?

I think it’s important to have a diversity of perspective, and I’m very, very, very excited to work with all of these other amazing people who won their races, and we’re really going to see some great work happening in the city.

 

ALONDRA CANO

Alondra Cano was listed with five other candidates to represent the ward covering parts of southeast Minneapolis. Gary Schiff, who did not seek re-election, had represented the ward since 2001.

Cano won with 1,987 votes, and her closest rival, Ty Moore, trailed by nearly 230 votes. She raised $29,470 and spent nearly $22,700.

Cano is a University of Minnesota alumna who worked as an aide in outgoing Ward 6 City Councilman Robert Lilligren’s office.

Why did you decide to run for the position?

When I worked for council member Robert Lilligren, I got to see firsthand how someone with my background in community organizing and in representing communities of color or diverse communities could really have an impact on bringing more awareness to City Council about the best way to serve our communities. Also, just being aware of the demographic changes of our city.

What do you think constituents are most concerned about?

There were a lot of concerns about making sure our neighborhoods are safe neighborhoods for our families to be and grow up in, and that’s a shared concern by many ethnicities, not just one particular group. … Certainly looking at ways that would improve livability through public safety initiatives.

What are some of the issues facing the ward that you plan on addressing?

We’re looking to make sure we’re providing living-wage jobs for people in our neighborhoods and we’re uplifting the voices of young people in our communities and engaging them early on in programs like STEP-UP and other programs available in the Minnesota Department of Health.

We’re also promoting affordable housing and making sure that families are able to stay here — that they’re able to call this place home and not get kicked out when there’s new improvements done to the neighborhood.

Certainly looking at ways that we can improve and support small businesses, because that’s connected to providing jobs and that’s connected to increasing foot traffic in our neighborhoods, and that will help us establish more presence in terms of community policing.

We also have a lot of folks who are interested in sustainability efforts. Things like urban agriculture and finding a permanent home for the Midtown Farmer’s Market … Looking at ways we can improve biking and walking amenities in our ward so that there’s less smog or pollution in the air.

Thirdly, education. That was a big initiative that a lot of people in our ward are interested in.

 

Alexi Gusso contributed to this report.