City councilman reflects on first year

Ward 3 councilman Jacob Frey first took office in January and has started to tackle many issues in Minneapolis.

Ethan Nelson

Jacob Frey has always put his left foot in front of his right.

The Ward 3 City Councilman began running in high school, continued during his time at the College of William and Mary and eventually competed with the U.S. national men’s running team.

In his biggest race, he unseated a longtime City Council incumbent in the 2013 election. After a busy first year in office marked by a surge in development and loosened liquor laws, Frey said he hopes to continue his work next year.

“People think the pace of government is incredibly slow,” the longtime runner said. “It’s anything but.”

Frey represents the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood and Dinkytown at City Hall. He said he wants University of Minnesota students to feel at home in the city, specifically by pushing for more affordable housing and creating “highways” from graduation to jobs downtown.

Frey’s ward is defined by its high population density and recent boom in housing development. Frey said he supports high-density and affordable housing, noting that preserving historic buildings and creating highly populated areas are not mutually
exclusive.

Frey cited Riverton, an upcoming Dinkytown student housing co-op, as the type of development he’d like to see more of in the area. Riverton, set to open next fall, is the first development Frey oversaw from conception to groundbreaking.

Though Frey is in his first year, one expert said he seems to have his eye set on higher offices.

Larry Jacobs, an expert on local government and the director of the University’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said Frey is seen as an ambitious person.

“He seems to be aiming for something grander than the City Council,” he said.

This year’s largely freshman council has yet to achieve a “signature accomplishment,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs cited ordinances like the ban on Styrofoam takeout containers as an example of the smaller issues the council has decided to tackle.

“I don’t see breakthroughs; I see effort,” he said.

Seven of the city’s 13 council members, including Frey, won their seats last year.

“It helps energize the council a little,” said Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who has been in office since 2006.

Gordon said he supported Frey’s work to require earplugs in concert halls and to allow ride-sharing businesses, like Uber and Lyft, in the city.

And Gordon has enjoyed “showing the ropes” to the new council members, he said.

Council President Barb Johnson said many of the new council members look to the incumbents for guidance.

And Frey, she said, wants to see tangible results rather than go through the motions.

“He wants to see things happen,” Johnson said.

Since he joined the council, Frey said he has learned the difference between talk and action. It’s easy to create a task force or pass a resolution, he said, but actual change takes more work.

Frey’s predecessor in Ward 3, Diane Hofstede, had served on the council since 2005 before he ousted her last year.

“He’s been graceful in replacing a longtime incumbent,” Johnson said, adding that Frey wants to communicate with the residents of his ward.

“He answers the phone himself,” said Zack Farley, Frey’s policy aide. “He wants to engage and be involved.”