Minneapolis' controversial 2040 comprehensive plan isn't on the Nov. 2 ballot, but reaction to the plan and debate over how the city can bolster affordable housing are still hotly contested in south Minneapolis elections.
City Council Members Jeremy Schroeder, Andrew Johnson and Linea Palmisano represent the southernmost wards in the city and face competition from a total of 10 challengers with varied views on housing and police reform, among other key issues.
The 2040 plan aims to create a more densely populated, transit-friendly city, loosening restrictions on the construction of multiunit buildings and requiring developers to include affordable units in new, large apartment buildings, among other changes. Minneapolis also became the first city in the nation to end single-family zoning, opening the door for more duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas previously reserved for single-family homes.
In 2019, the City Council approved a new policy called inclusionary zoning, part of the 2040 plan, requiring apartment developers of 20 units or more to include affordable housing, donate land to the city or pay a fee.
In the 11th Ward, which includes Lake Nokomis and Diamond Lake, Schroeder is defending his record on affordable housing and his accessibility. He was elected in 2017 partly on the promise to be more accessible than his predecessor, and now some of his challengers are using the same argument against him.
"There's been a lot of acting without listening," said Emily Koski, 43, who lives in the Page neighborhood and is the daughter of former City Council Member and Mayor Al Hofstede. Koski added that she would create a committee of residents to weigh in on next steps of the 2040 plan. "They were left out of a lot of the conversations or ignored. They did not feel that their thoughts around the 2040 plan were being considered."
Schroeder, 46, who lives in the Diamond Lake neighborhood, counters that he's been accessible, sending out a weekly newsletter and responding to thousands of calls. He touts his work over nearly two decades in nonprofits, including one focused on affordable housing. The 2040 plan is a framework, he said, but it will be up to individual projects to boost affordable housing.
On the City Council, he co-authored the inclusionary zoning policy and has co-authored a draft for a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which could give renters the first right of purchase on a building if it's for sale, with help from the city to organize and file loan applications.
"People see it as common sense," he said. "Why wouldn't someone that's living in a rental home, if it comes up for sale, want the opportunity to purchase it? They still would have to meet the seller's price."
The Minneapolis DFL didn't endorse a candidate in the race, but Koski earned 54% of the delegates, blocking the endorsement of Schroeder, who received 45%. Koski, who works at a marketing consulting firm, has also raised the most money of any candidate in the race, according to campaign finance records.
She's opposed to TOPA and rent control, and concerned about the 2040 plan shifting single-family homes to triplexes.
Kurt Michael Anderson, 68, an attorney who lives in the Tangletown neighborhood, agreed the plan missed the mark of achieving racial equity or affordable housing and he supports raising subsidies for mortgages. "A lot of those renters are aspiring homeowners and homeownership is what keeps the city stable, what gives people a long-term stake," he said.
Dillon Gherna, 33, who works for the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, is a renter in the Windom neighborhood who lived out of his car when he first moved to the city. He's critical of Schroeder for not being accessible, turning down an invitation to a neighborhood forum in 2019 to discuss crime. "We have to be willing to take the heat from our bosses: our constituents," he said.
Albert Ross, 38, who runs a construction company and lives in Windom, said the city should do more to increase down-payment assistance for people of color and help seniors, though he is against rent control. "It's just too much overreach of the government taking over the private sector," Ross said.
Schroeder is also the only candidate in the 11th Ward race supporting the ballot question to replace the Police Department with a public safety agency.
12th and 13th wards
In the 12th and 13th wards, the Minneapolis DFL endorsed incumbents Johnson and Palmisano.
In the 12th Ward, which spans neighborhoods by Lake Hiawatha, Minnehaha Park and the Mississippi River, Johnson, 37, a former systems engineer who was elected in 2013 and lives in the Howe neighborhood, is defending the 2040 plan, saying that he brought forward more amendments to it than any other council member, "so I worked hard to make it better." He added that he's helped increase new affordable housing in the ward. He supports the policing measure, though he said he doesn't support defunding police.
His two challengers — Nancy Ford, 63, a small-business owner in the Ericsson neighborhood, and David Rosenfeld, 59, a retail worker who lives in Howe — oppose the policing amendment and criticize the 2040 plan.
In southwest Minneapolis, Palmisano, 45, a former product development manager from the Linden Hills neighborhood, faces four challengers in the 13th Ward: Kati Medford, Mike Norton, Bob Reuer and Ken Salway.
Palmisano cast the lone vote against the 2040 plan and said the council had the right goals but the wrong plan. She opposes TOPA, saying that it would take an "immense amount of internal infrastructure" and added that new housing tools shouldn't conflict with existing programs. First elected in 2013, Palmisano said she's a "tested and trusted voice," even if it means standing alone on an issue.
Norton, 37, a small-business owner in Lynnhurst who has raised the most money of the challengers, is critical of Palmisano's "pace of change" and vote against the 2040 plan. He supports TOPA and wants to see single-room occupancy expanded. He also supports the policing measure, unlike Palmisano.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141