Hartwig focuses on neighborhoods

by Sam Kean

Editor’s note: This profile is part of The Minnesota Daily’s ongoing coverage of Minneapolis’ mayoral candidates.

The way Minneapolis mayoral candidate John Hartwig sees it, the real Twin Cities are two versions of Minneapolis. He recently took a trip to two adjacent neighborhoods.

“It was three miles, but it might as well have been 300 years,” Hartwig said of the differences between one revitalized and one deteriorating neighborhood.

As a real estate broker, he views property revitalization as crucial to improving the city – especially in regard to stamping out crime and unaffordable housing.

“If people had a stake in the neighborhood, crime would go down and ownership would go up,” he said. In his experience, Hartwig said, a lack of community pride can lead to crime, which causes people to abandon neighborhoods and allows affordable housing to deteriorate.

And communities, not downtown, need the city’s resources, he added.

The city has a Neighborhood Revitalization Program, and Hartwig said he would examine it because the program has not done its job.

The program allows each Minneapolis neighborhood to establish its own improvement goals, and NRP officials said their program has been a spectacular success throughout its 10 years, earning praise from outside review agencies for its works.

The group did acknowledge some neighborhoods have been more successful at revitalization than others.

A Republican, Hartwig decided to run this fall as an independent. Regardless of his party’s name, he said change would benefit the state because the same party has run the state for 60 years.

If he wins, however, Hartwig said he won’t keep mayoral authority to himself. He proposes adding a “co-mayor” and delegating duties according to each person’s strengths.

The co-mayor position would not be elected; instead, Hartwig would add him or her to his staff. They would divide the mayor’s salary in two and split a 16-hour day.

“Let’s try something different,” said Hartwig about why he wants to adopt a co-mayor and change tradition. He said he felt the current system is not working, and the mayor might be spread too thin. Therefore, a change might be needed for Minneapolis.

But when Hartwig presented the idea to a three-person meeting of independent mayoral hopefuls, fellow candidate Tim Connolly said he thought the addition would not be helpful.

In a city with what some consider a weak mayoral system, Connolly said the mayor’s position needs to be strengthened, not split further.

Besides property improvements, Hartwig said community pride in downtrodden neighborhoods can also improve by shifting focus from negative deeds to everyday heroics.

He cited negative media focus on high-profile black Minnesotans such as former University basketball coaches Clem Haskins and Cheryl Littlejohn and former City Council Member Brian Herron, as evidence of negative media focus.

He did not question their guilt but instead proposed promoting role models within minority communities to provide hope.

Such grassroots efforts to build people up are the basis of his ideas.

“(Minneapolis residents) are a thousand percent better than we think we are and ten thousand percent better than anybody else thinks we are,” he said.