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Open council seat brings five candidates to forum

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: September 22, 2013 - 1:57 PM

Pictured: Abdi Abdulle, Charles Curtis, Alondra Cano, Ty Moore and Pat Fleetham

It was a chilly morning for an outdoor political forum Saturday, but five candidates seeking to replace Council Member Gary Schiff endured the cold at the Midtown Farmers Market to discuss crime, sustainability and housing issues. 

Schiff -- one of the council's most vocal and visible members -- gave up his seat for an unsuccessful mayoral bid, leaving one of the city's most diverse wards up for grabs. The two leading contenders to succeed him in Ward 9 (right) are Ty Moore, a Green Party-endorsed activist running on the Socialist Alternative ticket, and Alondra Cano, a DFL-endorsed communications specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools.

The other candidates at Saturday's forum were attorney Charles Curtis -- running under the banner of Politics with Principle -- DFLer Patrick Fleetham, who works in home furnishings, and Abdi Abdulle.

Moore had the most vocal supporters in the crowd at the forum, which was moderated by the League of Women Voters. Here are the answers to several questions that shed some light between the candidates:

Responding to a question about crime and the shooting of Terrence Franklin:

Fleetham said there is cultural racism on the police force that needs to be addressed. "I don’t believe the current chief is doing it, at least openly." He noted that there have been armed robberies and prostitution stings recently on Lake Street. Advocated more police on bicycles patrolling Lake Street. 

Moore advocated for an elected Civilian Review Board to have disciplinary power over police (that oversight process was modified last year). He said that America jails more citizens than any peacetime society in the world, and a majority of prisoners are "black or brown." "There is a deep deep problem with the way law enforcement and the criminal injustice system functions in this society and this city.”

Cano wants to revamp the civilian review over police, but also reinstate a requirement that police live in Minneapolis. "I want to go back to that system. I think that’s about community building and that’s about accountability.” 

Curtis supports residency requirements and strengthening civilian police review. Noted that he is a former prosecutor and believes most police are good, hard-working people. 

Abdulle explained that he wants to find "a solution to the gap between the city, the police, and the community members." 

How can we hold Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy accountable for the concessions they made in response to the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign?

Fleetham wants more detailed explanations of the concessions that were made. Believes there is too much negotiation behind closed doors. "We need to have our hands strengthened in negotiations and relations with them by the Legislature."

Moore believes we should not extend the contracts for more than two years so that discussions can continue around municipalization of the city's utilities. "I think we need to continue to fight to put the idea of municipal energy on the [ballot]." He said it is the only way to hold the companies accountable.

Cano said her existing relationships at City Hall will enable her to get the votes necessary to "keep energy companies accountable and keep their word on how they will continue to preserve the earth and people like us that live on it." Wants more multi-lingual education efforts to ensure people are better informed about the debate.

Curtis does not support municipalizing the city's utilities. "I think City Hall has a hard enough time filling potholes on 14th and 15th Avenues. And they should really focus on helping our neighborhoods… and not running a multi-billion dollar energy consortium.” 

Abdulle said we cannot let the energy companies "off the hook," but adds that "Xcel Energy is a great company, I believe. And they provide a lot of support for a lot of neighborhoods and a lot of communities."

On what to do about the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, the county trash burner:

Moore and Fleetham took the strongest stances against HERC. Moore said the city should "move to shut down HERC." Fleetham said he did not support burning more waste at the facility. Other candidates were less concrete, but supported a variety of efforts to reduce overall waste. 

On the Vikings stadium: 

All candidates generally opposed the Vikings stadium deal and most agreed that it should have been put to a public vote -- as outlined in the city charter. Two of the most forceful comments:

"Our essential services in this city have been cut again and again and again, and yet somehow we find money for the Minnesota Vikings stadium. It is outrageous," Curtis said. Moore questioned how it is "that there is such widespread opposition in our city to this kind of corporate welfare project, and yet we have a city council that continually passes corporate welfare projects?" 

On how to ensure people have a place to live and are not mistreated by landlords (accused slumlord Spiros Zorbalas owned many properties in Ward 9):

Fleetham believes more inspection and enforcement is necessary. He wants to see more interpreters to aid with community education and encourage the use of 311 to report violations. Believes more affordable housing is needed.

Moore asserted that bedbug, asbestos, lead and other problems are the result of landlords "putting their bottom line above the needs and the health of our families and our communities." Said more robust enforcement is necessary. Also wants more investment in affordable housing through rent control and urban planning models that prioritize low-income living. 

Cano said the city should rethink housing and that we cannot "build these boxed homes where people live in compartments." Wants to examine creative ways to bring together police, regulatory services and neighborhoods in targeting problem properties.

Curtis said it is necessary to fully fund essential services and housing inspections so existing regulations can be enforced and the city can build a record against problem landlords. 

Abdulle said citizens need to be a part of the solution. Noted that housing is a problem for many minority groups and some buildings have no space for children. 

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