Stenglein launches ‘back to the basics’ mayoral bid

Shira Kantor

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

Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein officially announced his run for Minneapolis mayor at his late great-grandfather’s home Monday.

Announcing his candidacy in front of City Hall just didn’t feel right, he said. His great-grandfather’s home from over 100 years ago, on the other hand, represented longevity.

“He was one of the very first (Minneapolis) police officers,” Stenglein said. “That really shows a commitment to the city.”

A commitment to the city is exactly what Stenglein said he has to offer.

Running as an independent, the 45-year-old will focus his attention on cleaning the city and creating a feeling of safety for all Minneapolis residents.

“If we just got back to the basics of cleaning (the city) and protecting it and fixing the infrastructure, a lot of the problems would go away,” he said.

“My inner-city neighborhoods on the north side? They’re dirty,” Stenglein added. “And there’s no reason why those little children have to live in that.”

In his four years as a county commissioner for District 2, Stenglein said he has dealt with city issues and learned the importance of attention to detail.

But fellow county Commissioner Mary Tambornino, who represents Hennepin County’s 6th District, said she’s not sure how acting as a county commissioner will translate into being the mayor of a major city.

“This is a policy-making, decision-making position,” Tambornino said. “And the city of Minneapolis has a weak mayor system. The two are oppositional.”

But Stenglein disagreed.

“Just because we have a weak mayor system doesn’t mean you have to have a weak mayor,” he said.

To prove it, he’s outlined a few ideas to improve city living.

Affordable housing, he said, is an issue that can be resolved through upkeep of the city’s neighborhoods.

“There’s housing in those undesirable neighborhoods,” Stenglein said. “It’s affordable, but people won’t live there because they’re afraid of them, because they’re unkempt.”

Stenglein said funding for housing projects should come from the Metropolitan Council and the state and federal governments.

“I just can’t expect to tax the existing taxpayers in this 60 square miles we call Minneapolis, because there’s not enough tax base there to do it,” he said.

Stenglein said he won’t consider the possibility that funds for affordable housing projects will not materialize at the hands of his proposed sources.

“It has to,” he said. “There are 12 legislators living in this town. We have to unite them and get them to help us.”

Stenglein also said he wants to restore power to Minneapolis’ unheard citizens.

“Over the last 30 years there has been a lot of appointed bureaucratic burden,” Stenglein said. “Managers that have never picked up a piece of garbage are managing parts of the city’s sanitation department.”

He said he wants to hold public meetings to give voice to such unheard constituents.

Stenglein added the city has gotten involved in too many projects outside of its domain, which, Stenglein said involves simply protecting Minneapolis’ basic infrastructural needs.

Rather than wasting both county and city resources, he wants to hold individual counties accountable for the social service initiatives.

“There’s some overlapping in terms of some social service programs,” he said. “I’ll be the first to say, ‘Hey, we don’t need to do that, that county can do that.'”

Stenglein was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1996 and again in 2000. He currently serves as the board’s vice chairman.

He also serves as the chairman of various committees, including the Capital Investment and Budget Operations Committee, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program Policy Board.

He said his experience has equipped him well for the position of mayor.

“When I came to this job I was absolutely brand new to elected service. This has been a very, very educational experience, these last four years,” he said.

Stenglein joins five other candidates in the attempt to unseat current Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. Other contenders include City Council Member Lisa McDonald, Charlie Disney, R.T. Rybak, Dick Franson and Mark Koscielski.

A nonpartisan primary election is scheduled for Sept. 11, followed by the Nov. 6 general election.


Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]