Southwest Voices visited Rep. Frank Hornstein at his office less than a week after he announced he was retiring from the seat he has held since 2002. We had 15 quick minutes to talk before he had to attend a press conference for the Minnesota Reproductive Freedom Caucus. On the short walk across to the State Capitol building, Hornstein was stopped numerous times by people congratulating him on his retirement.

Rep. Frank Hornstein stops to talk with Sen. Kelly Morrison, one of the many people who congratulated him on his retirement on his way to a press conference on Feb. 21.

Southwest Voices:  How do you feel since you've announced that you're leaving office?

Rep. Frank Hornstein: Mixed. I really love this place. I love public service. I like my colleagues a lot. It's definitely with mixed emotions that I leave.

SWV: Do you have plans for what’s coming next?

FH: We've got a grandchild on the way. There are a few projects that I've been putting off for a while. Some writing projects, actually. I think it'll be a good chance to continue to work on a lot of the issues that I've been involved with, but in a different capacity: environment, transportation, human and civil rights.

SWV: I know that you have gotten really involved in the Met Council. Is that something that you're gonna continue?

FH: We need to continue to build the political capacity here at the legislature for substantial changes. We had a task force that, by and large, did make recommendations, but I think there's still some reticence among some legislators to what approach to take. Myself and Senator Dibble supported an elected Met Council, but that's not a universal idea that's been embraced. So we did a great job on this task force, but I think we still as a legislature don't have consensus on how to proceed.

I think that there's renewed interest in this issue. Now it's been put on the radar because of this task force, because of the problems with Southwest [light rail extension]. But it's a big issue to act on,and there's just not a lot of legislators that track and follow the Met Council. This is going to be a process for sure.

SWV: Looking over your 22 years as a representative, what's the piece of legislation that you're super proud of?

FH: It was last year. The big historic, transformative transportation bill. One of the reasons that I'm ready to move on is that it was something that myself and Senator Dibble have talked about for 20 years. Twenty years and we finally accomplished it. You have no idea how good that feels. When I look back, that was really the crowning achievement.

There's other bills that I've worked on that have been really important. Increasing the recycling and composting goals for the region, elevating organics composting on the waste management hierarchy. We passed both initiatives I had on safe driving. There are a number of them, but the two top ones were the ban on texting while driving and the hands-free cell phone bill. The hands-free bill was very difficult to pass. That took several years to do.

We had a transportation bill in 2008, that kind of got us started on funding roads and bridges and public transit. The 2023 bill took that a lot farther. And so between those two bills, I think there's a lot of jobs created, a lot of roads and bridges fixed, a lot of transit systems that are funded. It really feels like we made a big difference that way.

SWV: When you think about  Southwest Minneapolis, what are we going to see in the next 10 years that comes from the 2023 bill?

FH: They're going to see the addition of better bus service, or certainly the Met Council has resources for better bus service. More frequent service, better shelters. Ongoing support for the two bus rapid transit lines. The E Line, which we funded in 2021, and the B Line that's going to go down Lake Street. Those are funded but we want to continue this on Lyndale, on Nicollet. I think this is really the transportation mode of the future, the most exciting and people love it. Even during COVID, those arterial bus rapid transit systems, they did okay. Ridership dipped, but not as much as the commuter lines and other things.

The local bus system is back. And in terms of ridership, I don't drive so many days, I see what's going on. And oftentimes, Route 6 going up Hennepin in rush hour, it's standing room only. Route 17 can be standing only. Every successful metropolitan area has a successful transit system.And of course, bike and pedestrian safety, hugely important. And we funded that in the bill too.

The view of the Minnesota State Capitol from Rep. Frank Hornstein’s office.

SWV: Do you have a favorite walk or bike in Southwest Minneapolis?

FH: Any lake, whether it's Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet. I really like to walk and bike around those lakes. We are very lucky to have a park system that we do. Which reminds me, we passed the park dedication fee. And I was very excited that the Park [& Rec] Board recently named it the Dibble-Hornstein Park Dedication Fee. So, I have a source of revenue named after me. What could be better? We funded a lot of things through that. So if there's a new development, they have to pay a fee to the Park Board, because [the parks] are an amenity. I mean, people move into certain places because there are parks nearby.

Editor’s note: Southwest Voices has reported on the fee. Whittier’s Clinton Field Park is getting a futsal and bike polo court through the now-named Dibble-Hornstein Park Dedication Fees.

SWV: If you could take a magic wand and fix any issue in Minneapolis right now. What would it be?

FH: I think that really making sure that we address the growing disparities between our more affluent areas and areas that are struggling financially. Just the growing income gap. And that we see and address people's basic needs of  housing and particularly housing the homeless, providing schools the resources that they need, mental health services.  I just see this growing disparity that exists. And I've talked a lot about climate change. I've talked about protecting our fragile democracy. A fair economy. These are things that I've championed over the years.

SWV: When Katie Jones announced that she was running for your seat, she answered some questions for us. And she said that you have long been a champion for women and BIPOC people to become leaders themselves. Could you talk a little bit about your history doing that?

FH: So my background is in community organizing. People think community organizing is organizing protests and rabble rousers. It is some of that, but it's really at its core about leadership development. And so one of the things I feel so great about is in 2019 we had a group of high school students, many of them from Southwest [High School] that wrote a Green New Deal. We wrote that bill together, but they actually wrote it. I gave them staff and in-house research. And we've had a lot of interns come through here. It's just been a real highlight to work with younger people.

Rep. Frank Hornstein, back right, attends the Feb. 21 Minnesota Reproductive Freedom Caucus press conference as a caucus member.

SWV: But why the dedication to women and the BIPOC communities?

FH: Well, I think any person who is interested in taking on leadership and learning about how government and civic involvement works is somebody I want to work with. We organized voter registration assemblies at Southwest High School. Those are primarily a real diverse group of people. Students attended those and we got voters registered. So, you know, things like that are really exciting and I’m proud of the work that we've done.

SWV:  Is there anything else you wanted to share with people?

FH: So much appreciation for the constituents. The level of civic engagement in Southwest Minneapolis and the areas I currently represent, including parts of it downtown And Uptown. It's just mind boggling how many incredible civic leaders we have. And I will miss that. But you know, it is time to pass the torch. I've been here 22 years. You can't do something forever. And so, this feels like a time. Particularly after this major accomplishment of the transportation bill.

Look, there's always things, right? Recycling, composting, things like that, that are high on my agenda. But we have great leadership here that's really taking that, really taking that on vigorously. Sydney Jordan, for example, in northeast Minneapolis is just such a strong environmental leader. Esther Agbaje from the Northside. And Athena Hollins from St. Paul, I mean, they are doing this work. And so I feel really comfortable and confident that the priorities I'm working on–and we have a very deep bench on the Transportation Committee in the House. There are several people that are just ready to take on the reins of leadership. That's great. That's really at the end what I've dedicated my life to both as a community organizer and legislator is creating that deep bench.

It's about leadership. And that's what Paul taught us. I wouldn't be in politics without Paul Wellstone. I don't think that I even had it crossed my mind to run for public office until he did. I go back to his first State Auditor campaign in 1982. It was really inspiring. The doors he opened for people that didn't have access. So it's really been exciting and fun. And I certainly will miss it. So that's why I have mixed feelings.