Voter guide: Minneapolis mayoral candidates on how they’d address the city’s top issues

They answer how they’d tackle housing, public safety, climate change and the local economy — plus their opinions on the 3 questions on the ballot.

headshots of six Minneapolis mayoral candidates
Clockwise from top left: Minneapolis mayoral candidates AJ Awed, Clint Conner, Jacob Frey, Jerrell Perry, Sheila Nezhad and Kate Knuth.
Courtesy photos

More than a dozen candidates are challenging incumbent Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey as he runs for a second term this fall. The results of this race could determine the city’s direction on its most pressing issues of public safety, the affordable housing shortage, city finances and responding to climate change.

MPR News asked all those running for mayor in Minneapolis to explain how they’d approach these issues if elected, writing 300 words or fewer for each question. We also asked their stances on the three ballot questions that are also in front of Minneapolis voters.

Minneapolis uses ranked choice voting to elect its mayor. Here, we explain what you should know about how that works.

This guide includes answers from those who’ve responded so far — listed alphabetically by last name. We’ll keep this updated as we hear back from more candidates.

Early voting is already underway, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Click on a candidate to jump to their section:


AJ Awed, DFL

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Minneapolis mayoral candidate AJ Awed.
Courtesy photo

AJ Awed is a court mediator at the Hennepin County District Court, executive director of the Cedar-Riverside Community Council and a board member for Community Mediation and Restorative Services.

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If you are selected by voters to lead the city of Minneapolis for the next four years, how will you address the affordable housing shortage?

Housing should be viewed as a fundamental human right, not a commodity that some cannot access or afford. There are more renters than homeowners in this city — and right now one of the most pressing needs facing everyone in Minneapolis is housing.

Addressing the affordability issue will require bold policies — and additional funding — capable of ensuring affordable, neighborhood housing for all. The city must lead and support actions and efforts that provide for more public housing, rent control, unique developments and special support for post-pandemic needs.

Our city can create more affordable housing — and pay for it — with a new tax on upscale apartment renters (like myself). This tax increase of 1-2 percent would apply to renters who earn 100 percent or more of the state’s area median income. (This year, that income would be close to $105,000.) This tax would exclude renters who use any type of affordable housing program like Section 8 and would only translate to an extra $10-$20 per month per luxury apartment renter.

I believe everyone in Minneapolis deserves a space to call “home.” That’s why I believe we need a strong rent stabilization policy in Minneapolis too. The city can — and must — do more. We are not far from a future where your average blue-collar worker making $33K a year will find it hard to find an affordable apartment for themselves and their child. According to many economists, to remain affordable, housing costs must only be about 30 percent of a person’s income.

I believe a universal rent control or stabilization ordinance that is properly funded and implemented in Minneapolis would allow us to protect renters from displacement, help renters strengthen their communities by allowing them to stay in their neighborhoods, stabilize our community schools by minimizing student relocation and prevent increased homelessness.

How will you address public safety in Minneapolis amid rising crime and distrust of law enforcement?

Law enforcement in Minneapolis must be founded in a comprehensive public safety approach — not a public health approach — and it must offer a form of law enforcement with policing services carried out by armed, licensed peace officers. The current patrol and investigations bureaus services must carry on — and actively recruit and be properly funded for a city our size.

We must find a new balance in what it can mean to secure public safety. There is an opportunity for change and refocusing the priorities. There are cities both in the United States and abroad that have found safer sustainable options that provide non-violent and police alternatives that work alongside or instead of the police. They are the “koban” model of policing we see in Japan where officers are present in local neighborhood business centers and streets and the “cahoots” model of community-based public safety to provide mental health first response for crises involving mental illness, homelessness and addiction that was started in Eugene, Ore.

Having more unarmed officers/alternative policing programs that are fully funded to be able to respond to minor emergencies, give directions and otherwise interact with residents on a more intimate basis than would be the case for police services — and could be responsible for homelessness, addiction, mental health and neighborhood safety response.

I believe in establishing a citizens assembly to bring the people of Minneapolis together to recommend a new model of public safety — and have their voices heard. In order to create change where everyone can feel comfortable, we need a transparent and open process, not one decided by the elites behind closed doors.

I am the only candidate who has policies and a platform in place to uphold the statement that I will maintain the Minneapolis Police Department. I am committed to increasing the public safety budget so more funding can be provided for the hiring and better training of socially conscious police officers, mental health services and counselors to work alongside the police.

What will you do to address the impacts of climate change on Minneapolis residents?

The greatest environmental challenge facing Minneapolis is climate change and is one that our city simply cannot afford to ignore. We must continue our ambitious goals as a city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with an emphasis on protecting those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis but are most impacted by it — our BIPOC, immigrant and low-income communities.

For decades, the city’s urban planning decisions have sacrificed the health of residents in the name of industry and economic profit, resulting in disproportionately high rates of asthma, cancer, birth defects and cardiovascular disease. We must take swift action to reverse the health inequities that have come as a result of these policy decisions — and do our part to stop the global climate crisis.

I will commit the city to charting a new course using Green New Deal approaches. I will implement zero waste strategies, invest in storm-water infrastructure and plant more trees throughout our neighborhoods — and along our streets.

As mayor, I will invest in green job training and certification for workers to provide long-term career paths in the new green economy, work with Metro Transit to ensure the existing fleet of hybrid-electric busses, advocate for a clean energy grid — deploying solar, wind and hydro options where possible, push for reductions in building energy emissions and put social and racial justice at the center of the city’s climate work and make sure everyone has the skills to participate in the green economy.

As mayor, how will you manage the city’s finances during the pandemic-induced economic downturn?

The City of Minneapolis has been allocated a total of $271 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — $102 million of which has already been allocated but not distributed, obligated or spent.

There are already funds for us to help businesses — but not necessarily agreement. The mayor would like to allocate $119 million for "revenue replacement" for the 2022 budget to offset the $129 million in revenue decline for the city in 2020. And who knows what the City Council will do.

But we need to engage our small businesses directly and bring them together so we can listen to what they say will help. I've had some of my most energized conversations with small business leaders in the city, as I ask them how things are going for them. It's a struggle for so many restaurants and small shops in the skyways and all over the city.

As mayor, I would call multiple business roundtables to get out and publicly listen and hear from business owners directly. What do they need? What are their concerns? And yes, we must help all businesses where we can as a city — but we must put an additional lens on providing real support for our BIPOC small businesses and arts organizations.

What other issue is a top priority for you?

I believe that one of the most important roles of the city of Minneapolis is to provide accessible and affordable education.

The Minneapolis Board of Education — and not the city — is responsible for selecting the superintendent as well as overseeing the district's budget, curriculum, personnel and facilities, but yes, there is a role for the city.

We can do so much, but the thing that immediately came to mind was that we can ensure our residents better know the rich history of the land our city is on, and we as a city can better honor our Indigenous neighbors’ history and language by sharing it throughout the city (while also insisting on more funding for housing and addiction resources).

We can ensure our public transportation systems are better designed with schools in mind, helping us all ensure every student can get to their school safely and in a timely manner no matter where their school is in the city.

We must invest in real neighborhood community centers and health clinics to help with addiction support, health care and community outreach and improvement to the long-term health of the city. And we must better support the funding of our amazing Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board to ensure our youth can enjoy more of the activities and learning they offer.

Ballot question No. 1: Powers of the mayor and City Council

Yes

Ballot question No. 2: A new public safety department

No

Ballot question No. 3: The City Council’s ability to create rent control policies

Yes

Listen (above) or read Awed’s recent conversation with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. This is one of five MPR News interviews with Minneapolis mayoral candidates on Minnesota Now. We'll add more to this guide throughout the week.

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Clint Conner, DFL

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Clint Conner is running for mayor of Minneapolis.
Courtesy photo

Clint Conner is a lawyer focused on intellectual property litigation and a former engineer.

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If you are selected by voters to lead the city of Minneapolis for the next four years, how will you address the affordable housing shortage?

As mayor, I commit to providing stable, affordable and livable housing for Minneapolis. Housing is a human right, and the home is the foundation for everything. Through my pro bono legal work representing low-income Minneapolis tenants and homeowners, I have seen firsthand the unacceptable circumstances many Minneapolitans find themselves in.

Together, we will:

  • Expand affordable housing offerings for those who need it most.

  • Increase homeownership, particularly for Black Minneapolitans, 80 percent of whom are renters and pay way too much of their income to rent. Explore expanding community land trusts. Ownership incentivizes commitment to community.

  • Create more housing like the Avivo Village, an indoor community of secure “tiny houses,” to shelter individuals experiencing homelessness and provide wrap-around mental health, drug and job counseling to help people get back on their feet.

  • Work with state government, Hennepin County and area cities to explore establishing a voucher system supplemental to the federal Section 8 program that would provide flexible affordable housing options.

  • Create a task force of industry representatives and experts to develop a framework to ensure developers provide enough truly affordable units in new construction.

  • Hold developers’ feet to the fire on promises for affordable housing.

  • Push to revise the 2040 plan to include adequate affordable housing mandates.

  • Bolster our city inspection program so it has the resources to be more proactive.

  • Advocate for an equitable, sustainable policy that balances the investments landlords have made in their properties with the need for renters to have stable, fair rent prices.

  • Push to create a low-income housing public defender office that supplements and works in coordination with existing housing-focused legal aid organizations to ensure that every low-income Minneapolis tenant has the right to an attorney in eviction cases.

  • Establish an easily accessible “one-stop-shop” (online and in-person) resource for Minneapolis tenants.

How will you address public safety in Minneapolis amid rising crime and distrust of law enforcement?

As mayor, I commit to creating safe streets. Public safety is my number one issue, especially when it comes to children. We need a multi-prong approach to keeping our city safe. That approach includes getting more good police officers on the street — officers who are dedicated to the city, have the right training and support and have strong ties with the communities they serve. It also includes deep, structural changes that require the input of the communities most affected by violence.

My plans include:

  • Reset the narrative about our good police by sharing their stories with the public so our officers know their service is appreciated and our community understands their sacrifice and dedication to safety.

  • Identify and promote the best civil servants — those who believe in the beauty of multiculturalism and our city — and create an environment in which they thrive.

  • Work with Chief Arradondo and the Minneapolis Police Department community to find creative ways to incentivize and recruit candidates who embody the values we share.

  • Focus on building an unprecedented level of community-centered programs and relationships.

  • Change our approach to policing from an offensive mentality to a proactive, service-based mentality while building new community-centered programs.

  • Involve mental health and other professionals trained in de-escalation in all appropriate situations.

  • Mandate regular counseling for all officers to remove stigma and maintain health and readiness of our department.

  • Bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the community regarding police operations and short- and long-term plans.

  • Bring detrimental practices and mindsets to light so they can be addressed, using data analysis to track results, identify weaknesses and propose holistic solutions.

What will you do to address the impacts of climate change on Minneapolis residents?

I was an engineer before I became a lawyer, and I am committed to science. In Minnesota, warming temperatures and drought conditions affect our ability to grow the crops that feed the world. Scientists' predictions for climate change are being borne out faster than anyone expected, and we need to address these problems immediately. We need to develop an action plan that accounts for existing and future technologies.

I will convene experts in climate change and technology and work with mayors of climate-leading cities and industry leaders to identify clear areas for improvement.

What works in leading cities could work here:

  • Investing in renewable energy for all buildings

  • Transitioning our public transportation fleet so it is powered by clean energy (electric, hydrogen)

  • Investing in renewable energy while divesting from fossil fuels

  • Installing solar panels and green spaces on public buildings

  • Planting trees throughout the city that will absorb carbon, purify air, provide shade, block wind, create beauty

I will push for creative ways to shift to complete reliance on solar, geothermal and biomass-fired technologies.

As the city of lakes, we need to protect our water quality. We should consider banning lawn chemicals that pollute our lakes while investing in rain gardens that absorb excess water during storms.

For companies who violate environmental practices, they should be penalized with fines and sanctions until they fix the issues and comply with regulations.

I will use my knowledge and industry contacts to bring green jobs here. More specifically, I want to incentivize companies to build facilities in Minneapolis that make green technology and bring jobs to Minneapolis’ disadvantaged communities. This endeavor would create jobs, move our country toward clean energy and bring opportunity to our most vulnerable communities.

As mayor, how will you manage the city’s finances during the pandemic-induced economic downturn?

We should do a better job of investigating opportunities for cutting expenses. We should examine which parts of our departments are producing results and which are not. We should determine to what extent we are needlessly enforcing redundant and overlapping policies that amount to roadblocks to progress. I would look to save money by identifying areas where we can cut unnecessary expenses.

Based on my many discussions with small business leaders in the community, the city is often more like a barrier to progress than a facilitator of growth. I think city administration should be a facilitator for small businesses, and city staff should operate with the mindset of doing everything the city can to facilitate small business growth, particularly in difficult times like these. I would look closely at how we can change city operations to focus on propelling businesses.

My priorities for city spending would be public safety, affordable and livable housing and a small business boom. 

I would avoid increasing Minneapolis taxes at all costs. This would involve aggressively seeking funding help at the county, state and federal levels and forming coalitions with other city mayors, as necessary, to increase our influence in requesting funding. I would bring leaders of industry, finance and government together to find creative ways to finance initiatives, such as through public-private partnerships, low-interest loans and win-win incentives. I would call on our Fortune 500 companies to step up and contribute significantly to a new day for Minneapolis.

What other issue is a top priority for you?

I commit to creating a small business boom. Small businesses are critically important to our city. And our minority and immigrant communities facilitate cultural interconnectedness. 

If I am elected mayor, together we will:

  • Directly invest funds from emergency relief resources into our small businesses with an eye toward shared prosperity across the business community.

  • Push to create one or more new public-private partnerships to provide low-interest loans to help small, community-based businesses recover from COVID-19 and thrive.

  • Determine the extent to which we can reduce or eliminate regulations that stand in the way of small business success.

  • Work with small business leaders to ensure that city staff are properly trained regarding all aspects of running a small business in the city and the issues our small businesses face.

  • Empower city staff to partner with entrepreneurs to create a “small business first” framework that enables businesses to reach their objectives.

  • Create a “one-stop-shop” that provides all of the tools and resources to start and maintain a business in Minneapolis.

  • Use my engineering experience and international business connections to promote our city as the ideal setting for investment and business start-up.

  • Establish a task force of leaders from big business, small business and Minneapolis schools to develop cutting-edge holistic education, training and recruiting programs that will prepare our kids for the jobs of the future and employ them right here in the jewel of the north.

Another top priority of mine is public schools. I have attended nine different public schools in my life, from kindergarten through law school, and am a huge advocate for public schools. With bold leadership, we can create a public school system that will set an example for other cities to follow.

Ballot question No. 1: Powers of the mayor and City Council

Yes

Ballot question No. 2: A new public safety department

No

Ballot question No. 3: The City Council’s ability to create rent control policies

 Yes

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Jacob Frey, DFL (incumbent)

the mayor poses for a headshot
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is running for reelection.
Courtesy photo

Jacob Frey was a member of the Minneapolis City Council representing Ward 3 beginning in 2013 until elected mayor in 2017. Prior, he was an employment and civil rights attorney.

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If you are selected by voters to lead the city of Minneapolis for the next four years, how will you address the affordable housing shortage?

Housing is a right. Everyone deserves a safe place to call home — a necessary foundation from which they can rise. A housing first model is essential to making progress on so many challenges our city is facing. When our administration took office, Minneapolis had lost 10,000 units of affordable housing over the prior 10 years and had no clear action plan for redressing the intentional segregation promoted by more than a century of our city’s housing policies. We have taken action, investing more than three times the previous record in affordable housing (with a focus on deeply affordable) more, on a per capita basis, than almost any city in the entire country and were able to achieve seven times the previous annual average of deeply affordable, low-income housing. Is it enough? No. We must work regionally to truly combat housing instability throughout our city and state.

My administration started the program Stable Homes Stable Schools, which has provided housing for over 3,000 Minneapolis Public School students and 900 families facing homelessness or severe housing instability. The program was such a success it has received awards and is now an ongoing mainstay in the Minneapolis budget.

This past year, we responded quickly to the economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic by providing emergency rental assistance to struggling neighbors, opening three new homeless shelters, including culturally sensitive and specific shelters for our Native American community and working with Hennepin County to provide harm reduction in the most severe circumstances. We launched More Representation Minneapolis, which provides legal assistance to countless residents facing eviction.

When I took office as mayor we took clear action around housing. Those actions have, in many cases, led the country and have given thousands of Minneapolis residents perhaps the most important foundation of all: home.

How will you address public safety in Minneapolis amid rising crime and distrust of law enforcement?

I support a both-and approach to public safety. This means deep structural change to our police department, culture shift, safety beyond policing and adequate staffing of police.

Not every 911 call requires a response from an armed officer. Our administration has allocated $2.5 million of ongoing funding to the Office of Violence Prevention to create the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative, where trusted community members work together on neighborhood teams to serve as outreach workers. We can utilize mental health responders, social workers, etc. to match a unique skill set to unique circumstances experienced on the ground.

We have authored a litany of changes including implementing strict standards for body-worn camera compliance (raising compliance from 55 percent to 95 percent), banning warrior-style training both on-and-off duty, banning no-knock warrants for all but exigent circumstances, overhauling the use of force policy to be as strict as possible under state law, incorporating de-escalation requirements, enhanced training and a host of other policy changes.

Right now, Minneapolis has the fewest police officers per capita of any major city that I am aware of. We have fewer than half the number of officers as similar sized metropolitan centers such as Milwaukee and Cleveland. I support, and have funded at record levels, investments in redressing systemic inequities which are a root cause of crime. We also have an obligation to address these issues right now because crime is an accelerator of these same inequities. And so I do support properly staffing a police department with officers that are able to respond to difficult and dangerous situations that communities experience in our city.

Whereas other candidates have shifted and morphed their position depending on the audience they are talking to, my position has remained steady and honest: I have never supported defunding or abolishing the police.

What will you do to address the impacts of climate change on Minneapolis residents?

Climate change is the issue of our generation. While we have made substantial progress. We must go further. Current data and historical trends align in indicating that those who are already underserved, especially our communities of color, will bear a disproportionate share of these negative effects.

The work is underway, and we must accelerate it. We’ve outlined goals of getting to 100 percent clean, renewable electricity in our city enterprise by 2023 and citywide by 2030. We’ve adopted a social cost of carbon in our 2022 budget proposal so that the impact to our climate is reflected in our city budgetary decisions. We assigned fees per pound of pollution produced resulting in a reduction in tens of millions of pounds of carbon, and we’ve doubled down on our resiliency work, providing funding so that nearly 900 businesses can make greener choices while saving money. And we established the Rebuild Resilient program so that as Minneapolis emerges from the events of the last couple years, we make our planet a priority.

Still, we can’t stop there. In the years ahead, our city’s fleet will transition to electric vehicles, and I will double down on my work as a member of the Climate Mayors. We will double down to bring better and more sustainable public transit improvements to our city. And finally, we will go even further to incentivize, and where possible require, sustainable energy sources, reduce greenhouse gases and consumption. Our planet depends on it.

As mayor, how will you manage the city’s finances during the pandemic-induced economic downturn?

My administration made the hard choices to help the city weather an enduring budget crisis brought by the pandemic. We set clear priorities of helping those who are struggling most, reigniting our economy and small businesses and maintaining financial stability through the most turbulent times Minneapolis has ever faced. Because of our steady approach, the city is primed to rebound, but we must continue on this deliberate path.

We won’t rebound by taxing our most vulnerable residents out of their homes and local businesses. While property taxes are a critical source, accounting for about 50 percent of revenue, they are also regressive, disproportionately affecting seniors and our lowest earners. The city’s other revenues are supported by sales and entertainment tax, parking fees, development fees and other sources, many of which have been depleted by the pandemic. And so my administration has been strategic, utilizing federal aid to help those in the clutches of a pandemic or economic downturn. We replenished city deficits that could have spiraled out of control, and we prepared Minneapolis to emerge from the pandemic as a continuing center of culture and commerce.

We can’t do it alone. Minneapolis provides around 3.5 times more revenue to the state than we receive. While I support a regional approach, Minneapolis deserves its fair share of services and aid.

Weathering a global pandemic and economic downturn hasn’t been easy, but our holistic approach to taxation — including numerous revised budgets to account for the realities of 2020 — is getting us through.

What other issue is a top priority for you?

Police accountability, specifically reforming the arbitration system at the state level.

Right now, when the chief or I discipline or terminate an officer for misconduct, our decision is overturned about 50 percent of the time due to state-mandated arbitration. That does not even include the times when we would like to fire an officer, but our legal team says there is no way that it would be upheld. If you are going to hold chiefs and mayors accountable for the police (as I believe we should), you need to give them the tools to immediately fire bad officers and have the decisions stick. That's why I'm advocating to change the law so that instances of egregious use of force or lying on a formal document do not result in a second chance where officers are returned to the department to continue violating trust.

This highlights the complexity of true police reform. There is no magic wand fix, and you can’t achieve police accountability through a hashtag. You have to do the hard work, collaborate on a multi-jurisdictional basis and be specific about the changes that we need to see in our system.

Ballot question No. 1: Powers of the mayor and City Council

Yes

Ballot question No. 2: A new public safety department

No

Ballot question No. 3: The City Council’s ability to create rent control policies

 Yes

Listen (above) or read Frey’s recent conversation with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. This is one of five MPR News interviews with Minneapolis mayoral candidates on Minnesota Now. We'll add more to this guide throughout the week.

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Kate Knuth, DFL

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Minneapolis mayoral candidate Kate Knuth.
Courtesy photo

Kate Knuth is a former legislator in Minnesota’s House of Representatives. She represented a portion of the Twin Cities area from 2007 to 2013. She also directed a leadership program at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for the Environment and worked as Minneapolis’ chief resilience officer.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

If you are selected by voters to lead the city of Minneapolis for the next four years, how will you address the affordable housing shortage?

Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to call home as the foundation of safety. Yet a stable place to call home is becoming out of reach for so many people in Minneapolis. More than half our city’s residents are renters, especially young people and people of color. This makes Minneapolis a vibrant, welcoming place. Yet 44 percent of renters are cost-burdened, leaving people in unsafe or precarious housing situations

City government has a role in spurring/prioritizing development of more housing, more affordable housing and deeply affordable housing that works from people with different needs and levels of income. Minneapolis has a severe shortage of subsidized and Section 8 housing. City government can invest in affordable housing at 30 percent AMI and increase access to government-subsidized housing. I support using a public housing levy to maintain current public housing units and add more. To combat gentrification, I will work with community organizations in areas that are potentially most highly impacted. I will increase city focus on homeownership on the northside to reduce unacceptable racial disparities in homeownership and help stabilize a community where too many single-family homes are owned by large corporations who treat housing as a commodity rather than a foundation of stability.

The American Recovery Plan gives Minneapolis a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest big in deeply affordable housing. I will make housing — and the economic security associated with it — a priority for these dollars. The city has a role in putting in more renter protections so that exorbitant price hikes and discriminatory practices in our rental markets do not continue to displace renters and make our city unaffordable. We should advance evidence-based eviction-prevention models to support people and families before they are in crisis and also increase city-funded tenant protection services and eviction defense funds.

How will you address public safety in Minneapolis amid rising crime and distrust of law enforcement?

The murder of George Floyd and unrest that followed made Minneapolis the epicenter of a racial justice and public safety reckoning. Residents are demanding a public safety system founded on one key value. Every person — regardless of race, gender, age, income, ability or zip code — should be safe in our city. Voters are rightly asking for this vision and a concrete path toward it. I will bring both to the mayor’s office.

I’ve heard the desire for concrete plans, which is why I connected with dozens of community and policy leaders to develop my plan to build community safety and transform policing Full Public Safety Plan — (mplsforkate.com). My holistic approach includes significant investment in economic security, violence prevention, communities and young people.

Let me be clear, my public safety vision includes police. We need to ask police to do less so they can focus more on what we need them to do — responding to, investigating and actually solving violent crime. My vision also includes radical transparency and accountability for policing and police misconduct.

Mayor Frey’s inability to lead effectively throughout this time of crisis has left us more divided and less safe. By asking us to maintain the status quo, he is asking us to take a less safe path forward. It’s irresponsible.

I believe that funding only 7.8 million for the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) is not enough. We need to set the office up for success with the funding to staff up and execute their work confidently and effectively. We cannot invest pennies in comparison to the police department. I commit to an annual $20 million budget for the OVP to develop effective programming. I am also committed to funding the same funded staffing level for police (which will involve hiring more officers given how many have left in recent months) as we build trust in a more holistic approach.

What will you do to address the impacts of climate change on Minneapolis residents?

We need an unabashed climate justice champion in the mayor’s office. While Minneapolis has done good work on climate change, it’s not enough. Our mayor has not led. He did not mention climate change in his inaugural address. He has failed to use our Clean Energy Partnership effectively. Our city’s climate action plan was last updated in 2013.

I’ve spent my career leading on climate. As a parent who kept my daughter inside because of bad air last summer, I know climate change is a health and safety issue. Our water infrastructure is not climate-ready. As mayor, I will make Minneapolis a national leader on climate change. Minneapolis is more than ready. I will update the city’s climate action plan in my first year, increasing our ambition to align with what science demands.

I will use the tools of the mayor’s office to deliver on the ambition of our city’s transportation action plan. We will put environmental justice at the center, reducing pollution in neighborhoods overburdened by unhealthy air. We will create our city’s first climate resilience plan, while actively undoing the racial injustice in our city’s geography that makes redlined neighborhoods 10 degrees hotter than non-redlined neighborhoods on hot days.

I’ll also mobilize public and private sector resources to go block by block to weatherize, insulate and electrify homes and businesses rather than asking individual property owners to figure it out themselves. I’ll prioritize creating economic opportunity for communities of color through good-paying climate jobs and clean energy ownership.

As mayor, how will you manage the city’s finances during the pandemic-induced economic downturn?

In moving through the pandemic, Minneapolis residents, businesses and governments are going through tectonic shifts in the nature of work and our economy. The pandemic has resulted in lower fees collected and potential declines in downtown property values, which could have an impact on home property taxes. I am paying attention to these budget challenges.

At the same time, we as a city are receiving potentially transformative investments from the federal government. My priorities for investing this money align with what I have heard from residents. We need to invest in public safety, including economic security as the foundation of safety. That’s why my holistic public safety plan includes housing and economic security as key investments for federal money. I will increase funding for our Office of Violence Prevention to $20 million and focus on young people and effective community safety approaches. In making all of these investments, I will center the need to undo unacceptable racial disparities in wealth, health and income.

As a former state representative who served on both the finance and tax committees, I know our city budget relies on state funding. I will be an effective advocate for the truth that a successful Minnesota economy depends on a successful Minneapolis, and that includes state investment in our city.

What other issue is a top priority for you?

What I hear from city residents is that more than concern about any single issue in our city, people are desperate for competent leadership in city hall. Each of us can remember the fear and anxiety we felt in the days following the murder of George Floyd, when our city felt out of control and rudderless, without steady mayoral leadership to help us find our way through.

In the months since, the absence of mayoral leadership is palpable. We’ve seen increased division and an inability to make real progress.

Still, we are in a potentially transformative moment. We are reckoning with racial injustice, moving through a pandemic, confronting the climate crisis, all while our democracy is more precarious than ever.

This campaign has made me more certain Minneapolis has what it takes to meet this moment. Yes, the divides in our city are real. But underneath them is something we deeply share. We love this city, and we are more than willing to do what it takes to make it better.

As your mayor, my promise to you is that I will do the job with courage. And I will ask every person in the city to step forward into the joyful, hard work of building our city with this same courage. I am committed to real change and have the skill and experience in government to deliver on it. I know we are ready to bring about our best days in Minneapolis. Let’s do it together.

Ballot question No. 1: Powers of the mayor and City Council

No

Ballot question no. 2: A new public safety department

Yes

Ballot question no. 3: The City Council’s ability to create rent control policies

 Yes

Listen (above) or read Knuth’s recent conversation with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. This is one of five MPR News interviews with Minneapolis mayoral candidates on Minnesota Now. We'll add more to this guide throughout the week.

Jump back to the top.


Sheila Nezhad, DFL

a woman poses for a photo
Sheila Nezhad is running for mayor of Minneapolis.
Courtesy photo

Sheila Nezhad is a community organizer, works at Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio and at Reclaim the Block as a policy organizer.

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If you are selected by voters to lead the city of Minneapolis for the next four years, how will you address the affordable housing shortage?

Solving our housing crisis must include more public housing, rent control, shared decision-making power and harm reduction, not evictions. I am a lifelong renter. I know what it’s like to have to leave your home because you can no longer afford rent. As mayor, a key part of my work would be making sure that the Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department is led by advocates for housing justice who will build solutions collaboratively alongside renters, working-class people and housing insecure neighbors in our city.

I have done mutual aid work with people living at encampments. For working-class people, losing a job or a rent hike can move you from being housed to homeless overnight. Many people I’ve spoken with chose to stay in encampments over shelters for many reasons — personal safety, pets or being able to keep their property. We must pursue a housing first model where unsheltered residents are placed in stable housing. I will prioritize harm reduction services to make sure we are setting people up for success to get into stable housing. 

If we believe housing is a human right, we need to build and price housing for working-class people, including expanding public housing for the 17,000 families on the waiting list for public housing. Our housing crisis has gotten worse, not better, in the last four years. I will champion housing that is truly affordable (30 percent area median income), rather than the current trend of gentrification that creates huge profits for wealthy developers at the expense of working class communities. I support rent control as a starting point to decommodify housing. I support fully funded renter protections, including putting resources for a renter protection board in my budget and a general increase in renter protections with groups that provide services to renters regarding their rights.

How will you address public safety in Minneapolis amid rising crime and distrust of law enforcement?

Public safety is my area of expertise. As mayor I am going to invest the most in safety. In my role with Reclaim the Block, I helped lead the People’s Budget, which helped create the Office of Violence Prevention and our first mental health responder program. As a member of the Twin Cities LGBTQ community, I have seen police harass and harm my queer family many times. I believe the way we get to safety in Minneapolis is by funding our communities, which means more resources for housing, youth programming, public spaces and education. We need to put more money into developing alternatives like non-police mental health responders, community-wide de-escalation, conflict resolution and first aid skill-building so when help is needed, we have ways of providing help that doesn’t use guns or cages. I will also push for stronger accountability for police, including an end to qualified immunity and a federation contract that doesn’t protect violent police.

I fully support question two for a new Department of Public Safety, in fact I helped write it. When I am mayor, I will keep 911 and 311 dispatch systems and maintain 888 public safety staff to fit our safety needs, including mental health workers, harm reduction providers, youth outreach workers, gun violence prevention specialists and survivor-led, survivor-designed services for those who have experienced sexual and domestic violence. To ensure that the new department meets everyone’s needs, I will create a census-style community engagement program where we knock on every door in Minneapolis to learn what safety means to you! We will use those comprehensive results to develop neighborhood safety strategies based in racial justice. We must take bold steps toward justice and safety. We owe it to George Floyd, Dolal Idd, Jamar Clark and the countless others harmed by the Minneapolis Police Department. This is our opportunity to lead Minneapolis, and I’m ready to take those bold steps alongside you.

What will you do to address the impacts of climate change on Minneapolis residents?

I will be a mayor who leads us from climate catastrophe to community resilience. I am ready to stand up against heavy industry polluters and corporations who are harming our health. As mayor, I will support community-led projects like the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm, create green jobs and will start a city-wide municipal sidewalk shoveling program. I will also push to increase healthy food access through expanded urban agriculture, use the 2024 energy negotiations to invest in clean energy, not pipelines; and build the resilience and the care economy so we’re ready when extreme weather events hurt our communities.

We cannot get to climate justice without racial justice. The communities that are experiencing the worst racial inequities and systemic violence are the same ones experiencing environmental injustice, especially North Minneapolis and Phillips. It’s easier to build climate justice solutions that include racial justice when people of color and most impacted residents get to design and lead these programs. If I were mayor today, I would stand alongside the organizers of the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm project. In fact, I believe it should be used as a model for how we develop community-centered green economic projects.

I will also support expanding transit access through changes to our built environment and municipal shoveling to make walking, rolling and busing in the winter easier. Finally, I know that many people, including myself at times, avoid using buses, light rail or bike lanes because of street harassment. Therefore, part of my work to make sure that everyone can use transit is supporting community programming that teaches healthy masculinity and working with the school board to include it in high school curriculum, as well as working with driver’s ed to make sure that when young people learn how to drive, they learn how to drive in a way that keeps bikers, pedestrians and transit users safe in all ways.

As mayor, how will you manage the city’s finances during the pandemic-induced economic downturn?

I work as a community organizer who focuses on the analysis of the Minneapolis city budget in regard to safety. My motto is “From the streets to the spreadsheets!” Establishing public safety is critical to the recovery of our local economy. The widespread human rights abuses conducted by the MPD after their murder of George Floyd led to economic losses for our small businesses and the loss of business coming into Minneapolis, including organizations that would have otherwise considered Minneapolis for large event or conference business in the upcoming years. That’s why my expertise in racial justice-driven public safety is critical to establishing our city’s economic vitality.

In regard to taxes, currently low- and middle-income homeowners are being hit the hardest with property taxes, while wealthier residents are paying a much smaller portion of their income. In my job, I analyze the city budget to see what we’re spending money on and how it helps or hurts the most vulnerable in our city. Through my work I know that we have enough resources, but we need to spend them better. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated problems in our city from years of unchecked racial inequality and exploitation of low-wage workers and our health care. We must use our resources to address the root causes of violence and harm by investing in housing, youth programming and solutions to the opioid crisis as the scale those programs need to be successful. We currently allocate $2.1 million on Stable Homes Stable Schools to help homeless youth but spend $3.1 million on the canine unit alone. In post-pandemic Minneapolis, we also need to provide support for business cooperatives.

I believe we should move to zero-base budgeting and bi-annual budget cycles, which will help city staff spend more time implementing programming and give residents more time to get involved in the budget process alongside participatory budgeting. As mayor, I will treat the city budget as a moral document, investing in life-affirming institutions and public safety.  

What other issue is a top priority for you?

My work is guided by three core values: we deserve to thrive, not just survive; justice and safety are intertwined; and power comes from the people, and policy should too. As a community organizer, I know that no initiative, no matter how sensible or strategic, will succeed if the community isn’t bought in. I am proud to be the only mayoral candidate who includes participatory budgeting in my platform! My administration will focus on creating more access to City Hall and opportunities for communities to shape the policies that affect their lives — especially Black, brown and Indigenous community members. In addition to participatory budgeting, I would like to regularly hold people’s assemblies where all people would be welcomed to speak about issues affecting them and we craft the collective solutions needed for our communities to thrive. These would be held outside of City Hall to make them more accessible to folks of all backgrounds.

Finally, it’s time for reparations in Minneapolis. Our city was built on stolen land with stolen labor, and it’s time for justice, healing and repair. As mayor, I would champion the establishment of a Black-led reparations commission, similar to the work being done in St Paul. I would propose Minneapolis make reparations for victims of police violence, following the example of the Illinois Reparations for Police Torture Victims Act. I will work with our Indigenous community to explore land back policies in the city and Indigenous-led restoration work. Finally, I will push for long-term pathways to wealth-building for BIPOC communities to close the racial economic and homeownership gaps in Minneapolis.

Ballot question No. 1: Powers of the mayor and City Council

No

Ballot question No. 2: A new public safety department

Yes

Ballot question No. 3: The City Council’s ability to create rent control policies

Yes

Listen (above) or read Nezhad’s recent conversation with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. This is one of five MPR News interviews with Minneapolis mayoral candidates on Minnesota Now. We'll add more to this guide throughout the week.

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Jerrell Perry

A man wearing a baseball cap.
Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jerrell Perry
Courtesy photo

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If you are selected by voters to lead the city of Minneapolis for the next four years, how will you address the affordable housing shortage?

We will use a housing first initiative and get all of our brothers and sisters off of the streets and onto their feet through stable housing with wraparound social services. We will make affordable housing income-based and run by the city of Minneapolis. What’s affordable to you may not be affordable to me. What’s affordable to me may not be affordable to you. Rental amounts have to be capped at 30 percent of individualized income, that way every single person in the city of Minneapolis will be able to afford stable and dignified housing regardless of income. Instead of giving millions of dollars to private developers and line their pockets, these properties will be owned by the city, and that way, revenue from rental payments will be recycled to produce and maintain more affordable housing. 

How will you address public safety in Minneapolis amid rising crime and distrust of law enforcement?

First and foremost we have had several children shot and killed in the city of Minneapolis. We will work to negotiate a cease-fire and create a resolution that clearly states what it will take to not only create but maintain peace within our city. While videos are being released of Minneapolis police officers talking about being “out hunting people” and saying “f--- these people,” we have to have a system of transparency and accountability in this process. These videos have been in the possession of the mayor and the chief of police for the last 16 months, and they have chosen not to act on them or speak publicly about them. We will make sure that all body cameras are immediately available to Minneapolis taxpayers at their request. We advocate for liability insurance requirements as well as residency incentives By cutting the salary for a police officer in half and doubling it for residents of Minneapolis, will also make sure that all remaining police officer complaint files are emptied for public review and hold officers accountable so that we can begin to rebuild public trust and confidence in the Minneapolis police department and the criminal justice system within the city of Minneapolis.

What will you do to address the impacts of climate change on Minneapolis residents?

According to experts, the main cause of CO2 emissions in the city of Minneapolis is the vehicles that we drive. We are currently working on a partnership with Toyota to bring their Toyota Mirai to the city of Minneapolis. The Mirai is hydrogen-powered and emits zero CO2 emissions, which have been linked to some of the highest rates in the country of asthma in children, specifically Black children in north Minneapolis. Toyota has agreed to give all new owners in the city of Minneapolis three years’ worth of free fuel. Manufacturing these vehicles here can create thousands of living wage union jobs for Minneapolis residents specifically on the north side. Two hundred years ago, people thought talks of airplanes were crazy, and yet we have hundreds of flights a day that fly in our sky — on top of the fact they are already doing hydrogen-powered in Florida. We can do this here in Minneapolis as well and create a climate-friendly future for all of our children.

As mayor, how will you manage the city’s finances during the pandemic-induced economic downturn?

Not only the pandemic, but also the civil unrest that resulted from our current mayor’s decision-making process, caused hundreds of businesses to close down temporarily if not permanently. So many buildings have turned into piles of rubble, specifically in the area that I and my family reside in south Minneapolis off of Lake and Hiawatha. We drive down Lake Street and literally see piles of rubble where buildings used to stand which have taken away the lives and livelihoods of so many people including family-owned businesses that were built on generations of blood sweat and tears sometimes even death. We must do everything in our power to create and provide the resources for businesses to be reconciled to the state they were in pre-pandemic and pre-civil unrest. Many of these Minneapolitans have earned this, and the city should be more than willing to stand with them to provide this.

What other issue is a top priority for you?

Racial justice and racial reconciliation. My family home has recently been defaced saying that “A [racial slur] will never be my mayor.” Many people know the plight of the Black Minneapolitans, and they know that I will fight to secure justice in all areas — referring to education with a reported half of Minneapolis Public School students reading below grade level; youth and young adult outreach with programs like Step Up being under funded; housing and homeownership; small business reconciliation and ownership as well as climate justice. As much as some people say they want to see all of those things, their actions have showed much different. We have to come to a place where we can bring all Minneapolis residents together and fight for a brighter future that includes all of us.

Ballot question No. 1: Powers of the mayor and City Council

No

Ballot question No. 2: A new public safety department

Yes

Ballot question No. 3: The City Council’s ability to create rent control policies

Yes

This guide was originally published on Oct. 14.

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