Campaign Notebook: Orchestra lockout, minimum wage and affordable housing take center stage.
An unlikely group of former politicians — two of whom are running for mayor — suggested Friday that the Minnesota Orchestra lockout could be ended by tapping outside funds, possibly from the Minnesota Vikings or Minneapolis City Council.
Former Gov. Arne Carlson joined Dan Cohen — a 1960s rival on the City Council — and former council President Jackie Cherryhomes at a news conference outside Orchestra Hall to call for more government-led action to help end the lockout.
Carlson advocated bringing together a “broad group of leaders” to examine ways to close the $6 million gap identified between orchestra revenues and expenditures. Cohen called on the council and mayor to provide “whatever is needed” in operating funds to allow the orchestra to continue performing. Asked whether he was calling for a “bailout” of the orchestra, Cohen said the answer was “yes” after comparing it to the much higher sums being proposed for stadiums and streetcars. He later clarified that it was an “investment, not a bailout.”
Cherryhomes said the state needs more long-term support for the arts.
Mellowing over the years
Carlson and Cohen served together on the City Council in the 1960s. Their relationship at the time is perhaps best characterized by an article from that year, headlined “Cohen, Carlson trade insults on rights issue,” which described how they “exchanged epithets” and engaged in a “shouting match” after a hearing over civil rights measures.
They laughed upon seeing the article on Friday afternoon. “When we were younger, we were strong rivals,” Carlson said. “And the truth is we had more ambition than judgment.”
Should Minneapolis impose its own minimum wage?
That question drew a variety of answers Thursday night from candidates vying to replace outgoing Council Member Gary Schiff in south Minneapolis.
Minneapolis businesses currently abide by state and federal minimum wages, but several cities across the country have passed minimum wages higher than their state’s. The legality in Minnesota is unclear — Schiff said Friday it is not possible for the city to pass its own minimum wage.
Ty Moore, a Green Party-endorsed “Socialist Alternative” running for Schiff’s seat, has advocated raising Minneapolis’ minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing that he favors taxing larger businesses to subsidize those smaller businesses that cannot afford to pay it.
Alondra Cano, the DFL-endorsed candidate, said people should rally and lobby the state for a higher minimum wage. She was unsure whether Minneapolis had the power to go it alone. Charles Curtis, running under the banner of “Politics With Principle,” said the intent of statewide and federal minimum wages is to “create fairness between jurisdictions,” ensuring major companies do not simply move to nearby municipalities to escape local wage regulations.
Abdi Abdulle, a DFLer, said many businesses could not afford to hire youth for $15 an hour. He said he could support a $10 minimum wage.
How would the mayoral candidates use the city’s affordable housing trust fund to help develop the 50,000 affordable units needed in the region by 2020? Contenders who fielded the question at a forum this week affirmed their support for more low-cost housing, but diverged on the details.
Cam Winton said that while the fund has an important role, “the well is dry” when it comes to government dollars, and he wants to work more with the private sector, including charities and faith-based organizations. Don Samuels and Betsy Hodges called for more affordable housing along transit corridors, and Stephanie Woodruff said the fund would be her No. 1 priority to help families get back on their feet and build the tax base.