Tom Hoch, the founder and longtime head of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, said Tuesday he will run for mayor of Minneapolis, promising to transform a city that he says has lost its mojo.
Speaking to a crowd just shy of 100 in the foyer of the State Theatre, Hoch said the city’s leaders are reactive, “playing small ball” and failing to raise the city’s national profile, attract businesses or plan for the day that one of downtown’s large employers leaves town or cuts thousands of jobs.
“We’ve had big ideas before,” Hoch said. “But where is the ambition of the leaders of our city today? The reality is that cities either move forward or backward. Today, other cities are moving faster, smarter and with greater ambition. Minneapolis has to get back to moving forward.”
Hoch, who stepped down as chairman of the Minneapolis Downtown Council earlier this year, joins a mayoral race that includes Mayor Betsy Hodges, civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Pounds, Council Member Jacob Frey, DFL state Rep. Raymond Dehn and filmmaker Aswar Rahman. The election is in November.
Hoch took shots at two of his opponents — Hodges and Frey — in his announcement speech.
“You won’t find me lounging in a sports suite at taxpayer expense,” Hoch said, referring to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority’s use of luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium. Hodges and Frey were among the local officials who were guests in the suites.
“You won’t find me raising money to run for one office and then switching those funds to a campaign to run for a different one,” he said, referring to Frey.
Frey, who has said he was working when he was in the stadium suite, said he welcomed Hoch to the race.
“I think he’s a good addition to a field collectively seeking results over rhetoric,” Frey said.
The Hodges campaign declined to comment.
Hoch grew up in Minneapolis, the fifth of 11 children, and graduated from Washburn High School. He has been a schoolteacher, a lawyer and worked for both the Minneapolis Community Development Agency and Minneapolis Public Housing Authority before starting his work with the Historic Theatre Group in 1996.
Flanked by the former head of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Cora McCorvey; Hot Indian Foods owner Amol Dixit; children; grandchildren, and his husband Mark Addicks, Hoch criticized candidates such as Frey who “are running for the next office before they succeeded in the current one,” and insisted that his political ambition ends at City Hall.
“I don’t view the job of mayor as a stepping stone,” Hoch said. “I want to be your full-time, visible, engaged mayor, leading from the front, 24/7.”
McCorvey said she believes quality affordable housing is a basic right, and vouched for Hoch.
“I know through my work with Tom that he shares my commitment to this bedrock principle,” she said.
Hoch has been one of several downtown leaders sounding the alarm about crime — and the perception of it — in downtown Minneapolis, especially along Hennepin Avenue and at bar close in the Warehouse District.
But he also decried the high arrest rates for people of color, particularly for minor infractions like marijuana possession, and said he will fight all discrimination in the city.
“We need all of our citizens moving toward prosperity, not just some,” Hoch said. “I want to put the progress back in progressive and that’s why I want to be your mayor.”