City Council Vice President Linea Palmisano and her opponents Kate Mortenson, Zach Metzger, and Bob Carney participated in a Ward 13 City Council candidate forum on September 6 hosted by the League of Women Voters.
At the forum, a moderator asked candidates about the federal consent decree and legal settlements with the City, their positions on rent control, the East Phillips Roof Depot, funding neighborhood organizations, funding climate change work, balancing wards and city interests, the greatest challenges for the city, the role of young people in making decisions, and the 2040 Plan.
The candidates set themselves apart in their opening statements.
Palmisano positioned herself as the one person that people can rely on due to her experience and desire to keep working for her constituents. “My work here is not done,” Palmisano said. “Experience matters, relationships matter, and hard work matters.”
Kate Mortenson, a “17-year neighbor in Lynnhurst,” immediately focused on Palmisano’s tenure in office. Over the summer Mortenson voters, “is this the best we can do?” referring to Palmisano’s time in office. “We expect more,” Mortenson said.
Metzger, a “fourth-generation resident” of Ward 13, who would be the first person of color elected to Ward 13, said he wants to “be the change that so many people have asked for.” Metzger also criticized the City directly, referring to it as “negligent” over the past few years.
Carney, who is running as a Republican, said that if he wins he would not take the oath of office and would allow Palmisano to continue as the Council member for Ward 13.
This election is a rank-choice election, which means voters get to rank three candidates for City Council in their specific ward.
The forum’s question about public safety focused on the federal consent decree and Minnesota Department of Human Rights legal settlement. The forum moderator, Lonni Skrentner, asked the candidates what the City Council should do to support the compliance of the consent decrees.
Palmisano and Metzger’s answers focused on how many monitors should be involved in the City’s compliance with the consent decrees. Mayor Jacob Frey has said he wants one independent monitor to cover both consent decrees, which Palmisano agrees with. Metzger argued there should be two monitors, one for each consent decree.
“It is of foremost importance that we are not going in two different directions,” Palmisano said. “We need to have one monitor.”
Mortenson said she wants to “lean in fully” to the Behavioral Crisis Response team. “That is one of the things the Department of Justice has asked us to do,” Mortenson said.
Carney answered the question by talking about the behavior happening between the police and those they’ve pulled over or detained. "And we need everybody to understand, including through education in our schools, that when police tell you to do something, you have to do it," Carney said, without addressing the consent decrees.
When asked about their positions on regulating rent, all of the candidates said they were against rent control.
Mortenson said it wasn't an effective policy, citing a Pew study showing Minneapolis rent has only increased by 1% since it relaxed its zoning laws through the 2040 Plan, which a judge struck down temporarily.
“My focus has always been on data-driven policy-making,” Palmisano said. “I will not support a policy that has proven to worsen the very problems it’s trying to solve.”
Metzger took a broader look at the issue by framing affordable housing as a systemic issue that goes beyond one policy and needs to be looked at holistically. “I know that rent control is not a solution,” Metzger said. “Rent control can stop the growth of a city.”
Carney pitched an idea of “road towns,” which he said was an 100-year-old idea to build affordable housing along major roads because of the cheap land price.
“We need to make it more possible for people to both live on road right-of-ways throughout the Twin Cities in affordable housing that is constructed along the ‘road town’ idea and for them to be able to commute to the core cites using bus transportation,” Carney said. “We need to ask why we have a situation where we are concentrating our low-income people in areas where it’s so expensive to live.”
Carney and Metzger both bantered during their answers. Carney, often referencing when he will give his seat over to Palmisano on a presumption he wins the 2023 race, and Metzger commenting on Carney’s answers.
“His last statement might be the first time I agreed with a Republican in modern times,” Metzger said as he prepared to speak next. The audience chuckled. That light-hearted tone was struck numerous times during the forum. Skrentner said at one point she was having “steep difficulty” keeping a straight face as the moderator. Roughly 150 people attended the forum, held in a conference room at Mount OIivet Lutheran Church.
The one obvious bit of political tension stemmed from Mortenson’s attempts to point out flaws in Palmisano’s tenure as a councilmember.
When the moderator asked about how councilmembers can support neighborhoods and their welfare, using the East Phillips Roof Depot as an example, Mortenson referenced Palmisano’s January vote on the building.
"It really hurt my heart to learn that our representative on City Council took a vote to tear down the Roof Depot which is what a historically traumatized community said, ‘please do not do that,’” Mortenson said.
Shortly after, Mortenson took advantage of a question about neighborhood organization funding to point out Palmisano’s role in assessing that very funding.
“In 2015, the incumbent began asking questions about neighborhood associations, from the perspective of being on the audit committee. And those questions weren’t only about the finances but the purpose,” Mortenson said.
Speaking prior to Mortenson, Palmisano explained that one of her top budget requests for 2024 was to add an additional $5,000 to neighborhood organizations’ base funding.
“I think we need to increase the base funding to the point where all the neighborhood associations have a certain amount of staff support and thrive,” Palmisano said. Base funding for neighborhood organizations is currently at $10,000. 2024’s budget will raise the base funding to $15,000.
Metzger established himself as further politically left than any of the candidates by referencing his Black Panther family member and his time protesting the Stillwater prison conditions. His answers were also reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Listen to Black people. Listen to Indigenous people," Metzger said, in reference to the Roof Depot land. "All you have to do is listen."
As Metzger, Mortenson, and Carney showed voters who they were and how they’d govern, Palmisano relied on her previous work on council and her familiarity with voters.
“You know me,” Palmisano said in her closing remarks.
The Ward 13 candidate forum is available to watch in full on YouTube. The League of Women Voters is hosting candidate forums in nearly all of the wards for the 2023 City Council race through October. For more information about the 2023 election, visit our voter guide with MinnPost.