Students, candidates talk Dinkytown

Eight mayoral hopefuls expressed support for development in Dinkytown.

Alexi Gusso

Eight mayoral frontrunners were cautiously supportive of development in Dinkytown at their first forum on campus Tuesday.

The candidates generally agreed that the development in Dinkytown is a step in the right direction, but all said that safe and affordable student housing is a necessity.

Three student organizations invited candidates Mark Andrew, Jackie Cherryhomes, Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels, Cam Winton, Stephanie Woodruff, Bob Fine and Doug Mann to participate in the event at Coffman Union’s theater.

Nearly every candidate said they supported the Opus group’s controversial 140-unit apartment complex that displaced House of Hanson and other local businesses, which is under construction now.

Mayoral candidate and current city councilwoman Hodges said she supports a balance of historic buildings and “mom and pop shops” in the area.

Andrew said it’s important for the neighborhood to have more input on upcoming projects.

All of the candidates agreed that the future development in the area should be met with more consideration and sensitivity.

Chemical engineering senior Mepuka Kessy said he was “disappointed” in the discussion about development because the candidates failed to mention that “Dinkytown is the U’s town.”

“All this new luxury student housing seems inconsistent with students’ best interests,” Kessy said.

As a small business owner herself, mayoral candidate Woodruff said she “feels for small businesses that may be displaced,” but she supports the development in Dinkytown.

Cherryhomes said she supported the project but she would be hesitant about supporting the next big proposal for Dinkytown.

On the heels of the Opus project’s approval, prolific area developer Doran Companies proposed a new six-story building on the same block. CEO Kelly Doran brought plans for a 70-unit apartment complex to the City Planning Commission last month, but he has said the project could also become a hotel.

Mayoral candidates also discussed ways to improve the city’s transit system Tuesday. They disagreed on the streetcar plan, which a city council committee passed Tuesday. The full council will vote on the issue next week.

Winton said he likes the idea of the streetcar plan, but the city “simply can’t afford them.”

Samuels, a current City Councilman who worked on the project, said streetcars are “dependable” and will attract more businesses and citizens to the city.

The transportation issue caused the most disagreement between the candidates — all but Winton are running on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor ticket and agreed on most of the forum’s topics.

The forum also included student-submitted questions. One student asked how the candidates plan to address increasing crime rates in the University’s area.

Woodruff, Hodges and Cherryhomes said they would like to expand the collaboration between the city and University police departments.

The Minnesota Student Association and the University chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group partnered with the Augsburg Day Student Government to host the forum.

MSA member Gabe Madson said the groups held the event to help students familiarize themselves with mayoral candidates before the election Nov. 5.

“A lot of students are at the University for the first time this year, and they’ll be here for four years,” Madson said. “It’s important for them to have a voice about who will be governing them at the city level.”

The groups decided which of the 35 mayoral candidates to invite to the event based on who had the most “likes” on Facebook, said MSA president Mike Schmit.

“We wanted to make this as relevant as we can to students while being nonpartisan,” Schmit said. “We figured that social media is where students really connect with the world around them, especially when it comes to politics.”

Matthew Schirber, a senior at Augsburg College, said he plans to list Hodges for his first choice and the event helped him decide on his second and third choices on Minneapolis’ instant runoff ballot.

Environmental sciences sophomore Keisa Helgerson said she was most interested in hearing the candidates’ stances on housing, garbage disposal and education.

“I wanted … an opportunity to learn about the candidates without actually doing my own research,” Helgerson said. “I have a couple that I really like and a couple that I really dislike.”