Ward 3 is in the center of Minneapolis, incorporating roughly half of Downtown and the river neighborhoods of Northeast. The Northeaster connected with incumbent Steve Fletcher, Merv Moorhead and Mike Rainville. Hope Hennessy did not respond to our questions.
Why do you want to run for City Council?
Fletcher: I love Minneapolis, and it’s an honor to serve. Municipal government is an exciting place to make a tangible difference and improve people’s lives.
Moorhead: Frustration and hope. I, like so many others, have been very frustrated with the lack of representation that the residents of Ward 3 have been receiving from Steve Fletcher. He has refused to listen to the residents of the ward with respect to his position on public safety and takes his marching orders from special interest groups. He is ill-prepared to help businesses in the ward recover from the economic impact of COVID and does not listen to their concerns. I do have hope that the Third Ward and the City of Minneapolis have a bright future ahead, but a change in leadership is necessary to reach our potential. We need a representative who will work with the Mayor and Chief Arradondo to develop plans to reduce the impact of soaring crime and will work with small businesses to help fuel their recovery. I believe that I have the skills necessary to bring about that positive change.
Rainville: Our city is in crisis. The violence is preventing the growth we need to fund opportunities for our disadvantaged citizens. The voices of the Third Ward voters are not being listened to by the current council member. I feel I have the proven leadership skills, and proven track record of success in our neighborhoods to begin the healing process, and to listen to everyone whether or not they agree with me.
What is the most pressing problem in your ward?
Fletcher: Public safety, both safety from crime and safety from an unjust system of policing. We must create a new approach that works better to solve and prevent crime, and that treats all residents and visitors with respect and fairness.
Moorhead: The increase of violent crime has had a significant impact on all residents of the Third Ward. This issue impacts the quality of life for all residents and their ability to live their best life. It has a negative economic impact on both big and small businesses that are currently open in the city and those that are thinking about investing in the city. Finally, it also impacts the tax base which would potentially lead to higher taxes on individual homeowners and renters.
Rainville: Residents in the Third Ward are not being listened to, whether it is regarding public safety, violence, affordable housing, services for the unsheltered, and more. Our community has not made progress in the last four years.
How do you balance the needs of Downtown and Northeast?
Fletcher: Downtown and Northeast (and Marcy) are inextricably linked, and I work to both lift up what’s special about each part of the Ward, and find policy approaches that serve the whole ward.
Moorhead: They have very different needs and fall under two different precincts. Northeast has experienced four consecutive years of increases in violent crime that requires a very different approach. We need to apply particular focus on those hotspot areas that are experiencing the most significant increases in violent crime and invest time in working with residents and business owners to get to the root causes of the issues. We should not have to choose between the needs of one part of the city versus another and I will represent the entire Third ward.
Rainville: A strong downtown contributes to the livability of the neighborhoods, generating taxes to ease the burden of our taxes, and providing jobs and entertainment and recreation opportunities. Voters in both Downtown and Northeast tell me they don’t feel safe walking in their neighborhoods.
Please provide a list of specific actions you would propose/initiate to reform the Minneapolis Police Department.
Fletcher: If voters approve Question 2, I’ll prioritize ending pretextual traffic stops, restricting “less-lethal” weapons, and strengthening civilian oversight.
Moorhead: 1. Conduct a staffing study to understand how many officers a city the size of Minneapolis should have to address the rise in violent crime. 2. Work with the Mayor and Chief to initiate community-based policing and enhance the co-responder program for mental health, addiction and homelessness calls. 3. Fully staff the substations on University and 2nd Street to support the community policing model. 4. Invest in training for MPD with a focus on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias training. 5. Provide incentives for officers to live in the City of Minneapolis, particularly new officers. 6. Seek ways to address the challenges with arbitration that ties the hands of the Mayor and Chief with respect to police accountability.
Rainville: It starts with who we are hiring. We must make more effort to have a more diverse, and gender-balanced police department, focusing on hiring from within our community. We must increase our de-escalation and implicit bias training to improve policing. There needs to be a return to community oriented policing such as the Police Activities League and beat cops. Dinkytown, Central Avenue, and East Hennepin Avenue were all safer communities when they had beat cops. It is also imperative to address the underlying issues of crime such as housing insecurity, lack of economic opportunity, and issues of addiction and mental health.
How will you address the increase in violence in NE and the rest of the city?
Fletcher: By building a new Department of Public Safety to address mental health, overdoses, homelessness calls without police, and focus police on violent crime.
Moorhead: I will work with the Mayor and Chief to increase the MPD presence during high crime hours. Increase the coordination with UMPD to improve overall coverage.
Rainville: Short term, ensure adequate for 911 responders and investigators. Long term, we must address the lack of opportunity and shortage of affordable housing.
How long do you intend to remain in public office? Not just in the current position you are running for, but for future runs for other positions as well?
Fletcher: I plan to serve two or three terms and return to the private sector. I have no ambitions to any other elected office.
Moorhead: I will serve my term and then evaluate running again based on my performance. I have no desire beyond the Third Ward city council position.
Rainville: I have no ambitions for any office outside of the Third Ward city council seat. I plan to consult my family when it is time for re-election, and make sure I make the best choice for me and my family.
What would you say to developers who propose luxury condominiums that would displace existing low-density housing?
Fletcher: In general, I support adding more housing. I encourage every developer to include affordable units in their buildings, and we passed inclusionary zoning to make that a requirement.
Moorhead: The city of Minneapolis needs more investment in both rental units and homes (single family or condominiums). I would prefer to see luxury condominiums built on property that is not currently developed or does not displace current low density housing. The city needs to maintain a solid stock of single family or multi-family units in order to keep them affordable for all economic demographics in the city.
Rainville: I will do everything I can to work with these developers to include affordable, and deeply affordable housing among their high end housing. The tax revenue the city receives from market rate housing can help finance more affordable and deeply affordable housing.
Are property tax increases inevitable?
Fletcher: No! Raising the levy is more or less inevitable because of inflation, but when our property tax base goes up faster than the levy, tax rates go down.
Moorhead: It doesn’t have to be inevitable. Rising property taxes have a disproportionate impact on those that are on fixed incomes, especially the elderly, which could eventually force them from their homes. It also trickles down to the rental community since landlords will pass the increases along in the form of higher rent. It is imperative that the city develops a plan to help businesses, both large and small, recover from the combination of public safety concerns and COVID. This will ease the need to increase residential property taxes.
Rainville: The rate of tax increases is unsustainable, and is forcing out low income and senior residents who can no longer afford those taxes. The drop of tax revenue from losing businesses downtown has led to homeowners and renters paying more in property taxes. Downtown was responsible for 40% of all property tax revenue, and 100% of entertainment tax revenue.
Are you satisfied with the current state of street maintenance (street surfaces, lighting, snow removal, etc.)
Fletcher: We’re now requiring lighting improvements be included as part of all street reconstructions. I am an advocate for city snow removal on more pedestrian thoroughfares.
Moorhead: The team of people responsible for street maintenance work their tails off, especially during the winter months. There is an opportunity to improve lighting in specific areas of the city which is both beneficial to quality of life and public safety. The removal of snow from sidewalks is incredibly important and can be improved upon. This improvement would help seniors and those with disabilities who are very challenged by snow and ice.
Rainville: I believe Public Works has done a great job with the limited resources they are provided. I look forward to holding citizen forums to understand how we can do snow removal better.
How would you handle quality-of-life issues, like noise, parking infractions, empty lots, abandoned buildings?
Fletcher: My office routinely connects constituents with appropriate staff to resolve quality-of-life issues, and pursues policy fixes where we see opportunities to improve city processes.
Moorhead: Increase the team of people responsible for enforcement and ensure that the cost of infractions is truly a deterrent. Recurring infractions should increase penalties.
Rainville: It is vital to enforce current rules on quality of life issues. These issues do not always require an armed officer to intervene.
Do you see the need to make changes to the city charter? What might those changes be?
Fletcher: I’m voting: No on Question 1, because we don’t need to consolidate power in a single city-wide leader. Yes on Question 2, because a new Department of Public Safety can improve everyone’s sense of safety in our city. Yes on Question 3, to empower the city to enact rent stabilization.
Moorhead: I am supportive of Amendment #1 which is aimed at improving the effectiveness of city government. I do not support Amendment #2 which is the “public safety” amendment. This amendment will lead to defunding MPD and is without a plan. I do not support amendment #3 (rent control).
Rainville: I support question 1 for a more accountable and transparent city government. This will prevent the mayor and city council from arguing rather than creating solutions. I understand the need to change how policing is done in Minneapolis, but question 2 has no clear plan and has not involved residents in any part of the city.