Minneapolis council candidates gather for debate

Seth Woehrle

Between aisles lined with crystal plates, ships in bottles and picture frames, City Council candidates for Minneapolis’ 2nd Ward gathered to answer questions and discuss politics with local residents at Schneider Drug in Prospect Park.

The store regularly hosts political discussions. Council member and DFL-endorsed candidate Joan Campbell and her opponents, independent candidate Paul Zerby and Green Party candidate Cam Gordon, fielded questions Thursday about topics from affordable housing to snow emergency schedules.

The evening marked the first Ward 2 debate featuring all three candidates.

The discussion was marked by Zerby’s attacks on the incumbent Campbell, who won the DFL endorsement in March.

Zerby, a Democrat, opted to run for the seat without the endorsement.

He claimed Campbell was out of touch with her constituency and failed to seek the approval of neighborhood groups before going ahead with projects.

He also attacked her decisions on controversial issues such as tax increment financing, Block E development downtown and the Hard Times Cafe’s legal bout with the city.

“It seems to me like a clear case of government failing to recognize its own flaws and trampling on the rights of others,” Zerby said of the city’s attempt to shut the cafe down.

Gordon took a less aggressive tone on current city government, and criticized Campbell’s leadership indirectly.

“Priorities have been a little bit turned around when we don’t have money for basic resources but we push up people’s property values to get more taxes,” Gordon said.

The discussion turned toward problems with racial profiling, the Minneapolis police CODEFOR computer system and institutionalized racism.

“I think we ought to name racism when we see it,” Campbell said. “I’ve received some gasps on the council floor when I do.”

Zerby took the offensive on many of the issues, and Campbell spent much of her time responding to his questions.

The City Council and mayoral elections are in November.