Minneapolis mayoral candidates traded barbs on issues from public safety to the citywide $15 minimum wage at a forum organized by the downtown business community Thursday, with much of the criticism directed at Mayor Betsy Hodges, who reiterated what she's accomplished since being elected in 2013.
"I have not jumped to the head of the parade and pretended I've been leading it the whole time," she said.
Hodges is facing challenges from Council Member Jacob Frey, DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Tom Hoch and Aswar Rahman, among others. About 100 members of the local business community attended the forum, filling a conference room at the downtown Radisson Blu hotel.
Moderator Tom Hauser, a political reporter for KSTP-TV, kicked off the hourlong forum with a question about public safety and crime downtown — an issue that's become central to the race. As with other topics, including affordable housing and the bid for Amazon's new headquarters, candidates largely agreed on fundamentals but differed on specifics.
Hodges outlined the work she's done to boost public safety, including $650,000 in her 2018 budget for downtown nighttime traffic enforcement. Frey said he wants Minneapolis residents to know their police officers. Dehn reiterated his position that not all officers should carry guns all the time, and Hoch and Levy-Pounds talked about preventing downtown crime by providing resources to people who congregate there because they have nowhere else to go. Only Rahman said city spending on public safety needs to prioritize hiring officers.
The lengthiest part of the forum focused on the citywide $15 minimum wage, a controversial topic in the room full of business owners.
Hodges and Frey went back and forth about the lead-up to the passage of the ordinance this summer. Hodges said business owners feel Frey lied to them about his support for a tip credit. Frey countered that the mayor only started supporting the wage increase on the eve of her re-election campaign.
Hodges "did some political gymnastics, dropped a smoke bomb and then left the conversation for pretty much the rest of the time," Frey said.
Other candidates mostly avoided direct attacks, instead directing criticism at city leadership generally — until, during a question about the dearth of affordable housing in the city, Hodges said, "There are a number of men running for mayor who are running on things I'm already doing or have already proposed."
Hoch, the former deputy executive director of the Minneapolis Public Housing authority, shot back.
"Let me just say that I have been in the affordable housing business for 20 years," he said. "It's too late. You should've been doing this years ago."
Election Day is Nov. 7.