McDonald announces bid to replace ‘weak mayor’

Sam Kean

 

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

Lisa McDonald celebrated her 46th birthday at city hall Thursday by becoming the eighth person to announce her candidacy for mayor of Minneapolis.

In front of 25 attendees, McDonald outlined proposals and described financial constraints facing the city.

Minneapolis’ 10th Ward, which includes Uptown, Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, first elected McDonald in 1993, but she will not seek another term this fall.

As mayor, McDonald would propose overhauling the Minneapolis Community Development Agency and combining it with the Minneapolis Planning Department. Currently, the MCDA has semi-autonomous status, which McDonald said distorts its intended role as a city planning tool. In addition, she said saving the Neighborhood Restoration Project is a priority in light of recent legislative cuts.

McDonald also criticized current Minneapolis mayor and fellow DFLer Sharon Sayles Belton, who will seek another term. McDonald said she felt the city did a poor job planning for changes in state tax rates, including how such alterations would impact programs like MCDA and NRP.

“The financial impact of this session’s tax proposals was barely on the radar screen in Minneapolis,” she said. “Minneapolis has set its foundation on a financial house of cards.”

As a counter-example, she claimed St. Paul has done a better job the last few years of planning for tax restructures.

A representative for Sayles Belton said McDonald’s comments were “disingenuous,” since McDonald sits on the council that helps determine the city’s direction.

Later, McDonald also criticized Sayles Belton for not using the full power of the bully pulpit.

When asked why she would leave the City Council to run for what many consider a weak mayoral position, McDonald responded, “We don’t have a weak mayoral system – we have a weak mayor.”

The mayor appoints certain department heads, McDonald noted, but more importantly, she said, the mayor should wield power more aggressively by setting the tone and agenda for the city and becoming more active in representing Minneapolis.

But Sayles Belton’s representative noted Minneapolis received “more local government aid than we expected” from the Legislature and said the mayor has set the course in addresses to the city.

Fellow council member Joan Campbell has served with McDonald since 1993 and noted McDonald’s strength in urban planning. Campbell said she generally votes more liberally than McDonald, who refers to herself as “moderate Democrat.”

Campbell disagreed with the ideas McDonald proposed Thursday. The MCDA and planning department have different priorities, Campbell said, and she would not support integrating MCDA into the government because its semi-private status provides alternate funding sources.

And while Campbell acknowledged the mayor’s ability to set the tone for Minneapolis and its nearly $1 billion budget, Campbell said the position is relatively weak.

So far, McDonald has $150,000 to spend on the campaign and plans to raise and spend $300,000 more.

 

Sam Kean encourages comments at [email protected]