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The Mayor appears at MPRAC Meeting

A milestone was passed on Wednesday evening, June 14, 2000, when Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and top city officials in the areas of police and regulatory services (Inspections) appeared at the monthly meeting of Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee. Contrary to some expectations, the meeting took place in an environment of civility and good will although a frank discussion of long-standing issues between landlords and city government took place.

In response to my opening remarks, the mayor acknowledged that landlords had been vilified in Minneapolis and that this practice needed to end. She was reluctant to spend time discussing past grievances, looking instead to the future. That was her response, for instance, when Charlie Disney brought up the city’s past role in tearing down units of affordable housing.

The mayor promised to look into a situation raised by Steve Meldahl concerning a house in north Minneapolis which tenants had trashed. On the other hand, she did not respond positively to my suggestion that elected officials’ contacts with city inspectors be a matter of public record. She later responded to a suggestion that large MCDA expenditures be posted on the Internet by saying that she had recently discussed with city department heads how they might share more information to the public.

When she brought up her own contribution in cleaning up a once-troubled neighborhood in the 3100 block of 4th Avenue South, a landlord who had owned property in that area, Brad Rickertsen, countered with his recollections of that situation which were quite different.

Perhaps the mayor’s weakest response came in answer to Bob Anderson’s question where the city’s criminals and other housing undesirables ought to live. Sayles Belton kept arguing that there should be a procedure for UD’s to be expunged from applicants’ records. Perhaps she did not understand that Bob was talking about the truly dangerous and disruptive types of tenants, not those who may have made occasional mistakes in the past.

At the end of the hour, Minnesota Tenants Union executive director, Kirk Hill, made a powerful statement condemning the city’s gentrification efforts. The mayor responded by restating her commitment to affordable housing. She also pledged to keep the lines of communication open to landlords, saying that she would make a written response to some of the points brought up in the evening’s discussion.

The mayor excused herself at 9:05 p.m. but did stick around for another 15 minutes or so to chat with individuals at the meeting. The group gave her a big round of applause in appreciation for her willingness to appear at the meeting.

 

P.S. A member of MPRAC did meet with the mayor's aide, Pierre Willett. They had a thorough discussion of issues on a list. Mr. Willett promised to pass the proposals through the city bureaucracy for comment. MPRAC checked periodically to see if any conclusions had been reached. This went on for months. No changes in city policy seemed to be forthcoming. Then, when the mayor announced her reelection plans in the spring of 2001, her main issue in the housing area was a proposal to expunge the records of certain tenants with Unlawful Detainers (which would make it more difficult for landlords to learn the background of persons applying for apartments.) The landlords felt they had been had.

In May, 2001, Charlie Disney, leader of the group, announced his candidacy for mayor. His purpose was to use the mayoral campaign as a platform to air the landlords' concerns. Soon after announcing his candidacy, Disney suffered a heart attack and dropped out of the mayoral race. Bill McGaughey then filed for mayor. Because of other personal obligations, his campaign was brief. In the primary election held on September 11, 2001, McGaughey received 143 votes - good for twelfth place in a field of twenty-two. Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton was defeated in the general election. R.T. Rybak became the next mayor.

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