Today we conclude our endorsements for Minneapolis City Council with the two wards representing the city’s southern corners. All of our endorsements can be viewed at startribune.com/opinion.
The unexpected retirement in June of Sandra Colvin Roy after four terms representing the city’s southeast corner enlarged what was already a lively City Council contest. Colvin Roy had drawn two serious opponents, the Green Party’s Chris Lautenschlager and DFLer Andrew Johnson. Johnson’s supporters blocked Colvin Roy’s endorsement at the April 27 DFL convention.
Her exit brought one of her supporters into the race — Ben Gisselman, a 37-year-old attorney and small-business owner. This newspaper admired Colvin Roy’s low-key diligence in striving to keep property taxes affordable, city services strong and business opportunities plentiful in her middle-class ward. Gisselman gets our nod in the ward’s five-way race because he shares those sensible priorities.
Like Colvin Roy, Gisselman is a moderate DFLer who says he would resist tax and spending increases for things other than core services. He says he would be an advocate for efficiency and quality in city services, including those governed by the city’s independent school and parks boards.
That’s not to say that Gisselman and Colvin Roy agree on everything. They differ on the issue that propelled Johnson and Lautenschlager into the race — redirecting proceeds from an existing city sales tax for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Gisselman said he would have voted against the 2012 deal that Colvin Roy supported, largely because it denied city voters a chance to decide the matter via a referendum.
But unlike Lautenschlager, who said he would look for ways to disrupt the stadium deal if elected, Gisselman, Johnson and a fourth candidate, independent Charlie Casserly, said they would respect the city’s signed contracts with the Vikings and other parties to the stadium deal. (The race’s fifth candidate, 1960s-era alderman Dick Franson, at age 84 making his 27th bid for elective office, did not respond to our invitation for screening.)
Johnson, 29, a self-employed information technology specialist, and Lautenschlager, 38, a geographer and communications professional, are both running vigorous campaigns on the strength of considerable neighborhood involvement. Casserly, 52, a consultant who manages volunteers at the Aquatennial and other events sponsored by the Minneapolis Downtown Council, came to the race late; he ran unsuccessfully in the 13th Ward in 1999.
Johnson and Lautenschlager both show considerable potential. But each staked out positions that give us pause. For example, both support the pursuit of a city government venture in the electrical utility business — a notion we consider risky and ill-conceived.
One aspect of Gisselman’s record gave us pause, too. He ran up extensive business and personal debts between 2006 and 2009, and was the subject of court orders to pay a total of $55,000 to his creditors. All but $17,000 of that debt has been repaid as specified in a negotiated schedule, he told the Star Tribune Editorial Board. To his credit, he declined to seek bankruptcy protection, opting to pay the full amount owed. The episode taught him a painful lesson about financial prudence and personal responsibility, he says.
He’s asking voters in the 12th Ward to trust that he has learned those lessons well enough to apply them to the city’s budget. Given the alternatives, we think voters should take that chance.
Voters in the city’s southwest corner have it good — and not just because of the area’s storybook lakes and charm. They also have three outstanding candidates vying to succeed Betsy Hodges, who is leaving the City Council after two terms to run for mayor. No matter the winner, the ward and city stand to be served well by the new council member from the 13th.
Narrowly, on the strength of his deep familiarity with city finances, we prefer Matt Perry over Linea Palmisano and Missy Durant. Perry, 53, a computer science professional and small-business owner, has an impressive record of civic involvement that includes service on a number of neighborhood and citywide boards and commissions, including the city’s far-ranging Capital Long Range Improvement Committee. He could quickly grasp the city’s levers of power and would know what to do with them.
Palmisano, 37, develops products and policies for seniors within UnitedHealth Group. She bested Perry for DFL endorsement last spring, and has run hard since on a progressive platform and promise of collaborative leadership. Win or lose this fall, she’s an up-and-comer whose name we hope to see on future ballots.
While Perry and Palmisano are both DFLers and would approach most issues similarly, we appreciate Perry’s opposition to city ownership of an electrical utility and his outspoken resistance to higher property taxes.
Durant, 51, is a human-resources consultant who came to Minnesota 13 years ago to take a senior director position at Best Buy. She’s been handicapped in this race by her late entry and a shorter résumé of civic involvement. But her business savvy and attention to decisionmaking processes would be welcome on the City Council. We hope she stays involved in city governance.
Also on the ballot are independent Bob Reuer and libertarian David Regan. They did not respond to our invitation for screening.