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Mayoral candidates meet again at forum

Posted by: Maya Rao under Politics and government Updated: April 4, 2013 - 1:04 PM
Seven Minneapolis mayoral candidates convened at Solomon’s Porch yesterday for the second forum of the campaign, speaking politely about their differences as they tried to woo voters to consider them not just as their first pick but as their second and third, too.
Political newcomers Jim Thomas, a special education teacher, and Cam Winton, an attorney, joined Council Members Betsy Hodges, Gary Schiff, and Don Samuels, and former Council President Jackie Cherryhomes and former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew.
Here are some of the highlights:
Some candidates said they would continue running even if they did not win the DFL endorsement in June. The November election will be the city’s first major test of ranked choice voting, and candidates will not compete in a primary.
“We chose ranked choice voting for a reason,” said Samuels. “We can rank the contestants and eliminate them ourselves. And so I think if I make a good showing, the people deserve to make that choice.”
Thomas said he didn’t think his chances of getting endorsed “are real good at this point” because he joined the race late, but he that he would continue running.
Winton, a Republican, is running as an independent and isn’t seeking the endorsement of any party.
Schiff, however, said he would abide by the DFL endorsement, supporting the endorsed candidate because "we are a stronger party when we stand together."
The other candidates hedged their answers a bit more. Hodges said she would know once “the field is set and candidates have agreed,” while Andrew said he would probably support the endorsement process but needed to hear “unanimity from all the candidates that we are all singing off the same sheet of music.”
Cherryhomes said she wants an endorsement, though she anticipates the DFL will probably not endorse a candidate. She said if someone else wins it, she would see what happens, but would probably support that person.
Candidates also offered diverging views on whether they supported increasing the garbage burned at the Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center, an issue the county is pushing with opposition from city leaders.   
Winton, Hodges, and Schiff opposed boosting the amount of garbage burned. Hodges said the city should redouble its efforts to recycle, Winton said an environmental impact study should have been done, and Schiff said he would sponsor an initiative to reduce waste if elected mayor.
Cherryhomes said she supported Hennepin County’s plan and noted that Minneapolis has already increased its recycling. “The fact of the matter is, everybody knows you’ve got stuff that you can’t get rid of, and it’s got to go somewhere,” she said.
Andrew also sided with the county, describing the energy recovery center as the biggest and most successful alternative energy project in the state’s history and saying it falls below “well, way, way below” state and federal levels for toxicity.
Samuels said the burner was “proven to burn garbage clean” called for an objective analysis of the fumes coming out of the facility, rather than making decisions based on fear and political expediency.
Thomas said another burner that could handle additional waste should be built somewhere else in the county, away from Minneapolis.
Candidates offered their views on another often-discussed problem in Minneapolis: how would they address the Twin Cities’ highest-in-the-nation disparity between African-American and white unemployment?
Hodges said she wants to grow jobs around transportation and create incentives for employers to put jobs where they’re most needed.
Cherryhomes said the city must ensure people are trained for work that is available and come up with a strategy for creating jobs.
Andrew said his first priority would be to add jobs to North Minneapolis and attract a light manufacturing company to set up there and “get us a jump start” of several hundred jobs. Then the city should focus on job training, he said.
Winton said he would streamline the process of starting a business in Minneapolis, shortening the period to get city approval to three weeks.
Samuels said nothing will change until the city starts holding everyone accountable. Minneapolis must hold people accountable on minority hiring, whether for the new Vikings stadium or city departments, according to Samuels.
Schiff said he wants to invest in early childhood education, quality healthcare, and access to the Head Start program that promotes children’s readiness for school. He criticized the $1 billion slated for the new stadium, saying that money could have instead gone toward those programs.
Thomas also echoed the need for more incentives for employers to hire people underrepresented in the workforce.

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