Voter Guide – Ken Bradley, Ward 10

Our seventh response to the Voter Guide is from Ken Bradley, candidate in Ward 10, which includes the Uptown area of southwest Minneapolis.

1) What do you believe is the most significant land use and/or transportation issue facing Minneapolis in the next 5 years and how do you hope to address it in office?

The greatest debt we are leaving future generations is global warming pollution. I serve on the Minnesota Blue Green Alliance Steering Committee which unites 14 of our nation’s largest labor unions and environmental organizations focused around a mission of creating good jobs, clean environment and a green economy. I have also served as chair of Solar Works for Minnesota a coalition of 150 businesses, non-profits and unions working towards the goal of generation 10% of our power from solar energy by 2030. As the next 10th Ward City Council member I can create the partnerships necessary to improve energy efficiency in our existing building stock, create good paying jobs and attract emerging industries to our city to reduce global warming emissions.

Minneapolis must create a comprehensive plan for increasing population growth over the next five years and beyond to help curb sprawl across our state and increase density to help reduce emissions across our state. As part of increasing population our city also needs to deal with historic patterns of segregation by color and class in our city to create a more equitable community for everyone to live in.

Our city population peaked at over 520,000 in the 1950’s and reached a historic low of 368,000 in 1990. Since then, our city has seen slow growth climbing to 387,000 in 2000 and approximately remaining at that number during the last census in 2011.

Minneapolis has added just shy of 10,000 units of new housing since 2000, according to the census figures. However, Minneapolis has about 8,500 more vacant housing units today than it did 10 years ago, essentially canceling out the addition of new units.

During the last census, figures report a total of 14,747 vacant housing units in Minneapolis. With approximately 178,000 housing units citywide, that translates to a vacancy rate of 8.3 percent among all types of housing.

Altogether, the number of vacant homes in the city more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, from just over 6,000 to nearly 15,000. Nearly all of the new vacancies were on the North Side. Hawthorne alone lost nearly 300 homes. The losses were more than enough to offset impressive property unit gains elsewhere in places like in South Minneapolis.

A recent report indicated, local Minneapolis apartment vacancy climbed slightly to 2.9 percent at the end of 2012 according to the latest market report from Minneapolis-based Marquette Advisors, and 1.5 percent in SW Minneapolis, which is extremely low rate. However, even in SW Minneapolis, abandoned and boarded up homes and rental property can be found. This problem is a crisis in certain areas of North and South Central Minneapolis and other economically struggling communities.

While our city has prioritized building new rental units, as the next 10th Ward City Council member I will prioritize rehabilitating existing housing units and not have areas of our city with abandoned properties that ultimately impacts all property values in those neighborhoods. This results in lower property values and reduced property tax revenues for the city and an unsustainable community for everyone to live in.

The post World War II baby boom pushed Minneapolis school enrollment to 75,156 in 1960. Minneapolis currently has about 36,000 students enrolled and while projections suggest those numbers will grow in the future, enrollment is near a historic lows. One of the key factors for this decline in enrollment is the result of families becoming smaller and couples often choosing to move to the suburbs once their children reach school age because they are concerned about the education their child will receive.

The more affluent families in Minneapolis that choose to move as their children get closer to school age are actually the children performing well and are prepared for higher education after graduation. Minneapolis needs to develop a plan to ensure we have great schools which in part starts with creating stable healthy families.

Families that are dealing with inequalities in jobs, transportation and housing often have children that are struggling academically. Minneapolis City Council should not get involved in the education business, but we should join in the resolving inequalities business. This starts with first realizing we have two cities, one that is primarily white and prosperous and another with poor and predominantly people of color who are struggling economically.

I understand the importance of connecting training programs and jobs with adults that are unemployed and under-employed with emphasis on low-income and people of color with children. As a city council member, I will provide the leadership to reverse these historic trends and work to create a more equitable city.

Over two years, ago the Economic Policy Institute issued “Uneven Pain”, a policy brief identifying the Twin Cities as among the worst in the nation for unemployment among black people. Minneapolis is actively engaged and has several efforts underway to address racial equity in employment in Minneapolis and our metro region. However, significantly more has to be accomplished if we expect to have a sustainable city; it is not plausible to have some residents living a sustainable life-style when others are struggling with various inequalities that make their opportunities for success a daunting task.

We need to recognize that of the 81 neighborhoods the historical trend has been to locate the majority of low-income and supportive housing in a few specific neighborhoods. Back in 1992, the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis filed a lawsuit known as the Hollman lawsuit on behalf of 17 public housing tenants and the Minneapolis NAACP branch against the City of Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Council, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and others.

The Hollman plaintiffs alleged that the defendants carried out policies which fostered the development of racially segregated housing market and concentrated poor people in traditionally black neighborhoods. The case was later settled and according to city officials, the Hollman Consent Decree only addresses the redevelopment of the “Hollman site,” and does not impose any obligation on the city to increase the supply of affordable housing or to desegregate the housing market in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis city officials have argued that more housing units affordable to poor people should be built in the suburbs of Minneapolis. The solution of spreading poor people, especially poor black people, more evenly has not always been popular among residents in the city’s more affluent, and predominantly white, neighborhoods which represents an on-going struggle between race and class in our city. However, continued support of development that increases concentrated poor people in specific neighborhoods may result in another lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis which will also not benefit taxpayers.

It appears that those development patterns have continued since the Hollman settlement. While, it may be true that suburbs need to take on a greater number of affordable housing for low-income families, the city’s wealthier neighborhoods should not be exempt from increasing the number of affordable and low-income housing units, especially after our city’s education system has become more focused on neighborhood schools. Otherwise, we only continue down the historic path of segregation based on color and class that harms our entire city. In fact, only 22% of low income households in Minneapolis have affordable housing and 5500 children in Minneapolis Public Schools are homeless.

Low income households as well traditional have lived in less energy efficient homes resulting in them paying a higher percentage of their income towards energy which results in making homes even less affordable for their families. Minneapolis needs to focus on energy-efficiency programs that improve housing stock in traditionally low-income communities to reduce emissions but also to help reduce costs for these families.

Minneapolis leaders in the past have argued that the suburbs should take on a larger share of affordable housing for low-income families; however, this does not solve the very real problem in our own city that nearly 80% of low income households do not have affordable housing and an embarrassing large number of children and their families are homeless.

As a city council member I would advocate for increasing housing units across our city while working to create more equitable city and begin to reverse the trends that have created a segregated city based on color and class. Minneapolis needs to increase higher end and middle income housing in communities that have traditionally taken on the largest burden of low-income and supportive housing units while consistently advocating for greater energy-efficiency. At the same time, our city needs to increase affordable, low-income and supportive housing in communities that have traditionally not served those communities that is also more energy-efficient, while also working with our city government affairs staff to continue to make the case at the state and county level that the suburbs need to take on a greater number of low-income and supportive housing in the future.

My additional campaign priorities that are focused on development include:

  • champion the protection of our historic buildings.
  • create a more transparent and proactive approach to development. This starts with ensuring projects provide the greatest community benefits by encouraging feedback and participation from all stakeholders.
  • advocate for the highest energy efficiency standards in our buildings.

Minneapolis needs to increase our city’s population while reversing traditional patterns that have created a city that is segregated by class and color, and that is not sustainable today and will not be for future generations. Minneapolis needs to improve existing housing stock energy-efficiency that has traditionally served low-income communities to reduce global warming emissions but also reduce operating costs for these families.

2) How do you think the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers can be met most effectively? Would you prioritize one or more of these modes over others?

Creating a city where mobility is possible for all and that is more focused on what is best for people versus what is best for the automobile will be critical to shaping our city in the future. Minneapolis is plagued by traffic congestion, especially in densely populated areas like the 10th Ward. Often, the quickest mode of transportation is by bicycle, versus public transit or automobile, however, we need transportation solutions that help all ages and abilities which will not be solved by just improving biking infrastructure.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the just shy of $9,000 in annual expenditures for transportation in Minneapolis, 93.8 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles, compared to the national average of 93.7 percent. The remaining 6.2 percent of a Minneapolis household’s transportation budget was spent on public transit, which includes fares for taxis, buses, trains, and planes. Nationally, 6.3 percent of transportation expenditures went to public transit.

Development in our neighborhoods is clearly increasing pressure when it comes to traffic and parking. The problem is that while we are approving new development that is increasing density, we have not built the public transportation infrastructure to support it when more than 90% of our residents are still automobile dependent. Many of our families are still two car families and most have at least one vehicle.

Parking is the short term issue that needs to be resolved, – but my long term goal is to make it easier for people to move away from the automobile entirely. When more than 90% of our population is still using an automobile as the primary mode of transportation making such a shift will not be easy and will take innovative leadership.

We need to develop and support a much stronger public transportation infrastructure on the Hennepin, Nicollet, Lyndale and Lake Street corridors to move people from point A to point B in our city quicker. This will allow two car families to begin to entertain the idea of becoming one car families and one car families to consider possibly giving up their vehicle or at using it less. We also need to ensure our neighborhoods provide various stores, daycares, healthcare facilities and many other services to allow those that are car dependent to be able to either walk or take short vehicle trips to acquire the services they need.

The average income in MN per capita is ~43k. That means the average Minnesotan that is dedicating nearly $9000 of their income annually to automobile spends roughly up to 20% before taxes on an transportation. By creating a better public transportation system, we help residents moving away from the automobile, which helps to solve our traffic congestion and parking problems, but also helps them improve their economic situation.

Minneapolis will need the right infrastructure including cycle paths and bicycle parking, but also a number of communication initiatives such as campaigns to promote cycling, educating children and special initiatives targeted at groups who do not normally cycle such as immigrant populations.

I have been a card carrying bus rider for most of my life and if I am honored with the 10th Ward seat, I promise to bus, bike, or walk to work each day in an effort to help promote alternative transportation options. When bussing, I will tweet my route, and I look forward to impromptu meetings with constituents while riding Metro Transit. I will promote alternative transportation and infrastructure that is pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. I will

  • support modern street cars on Nicollet, enhanced bus on Hennepin, and am open to enhanced bus, modern street cars, or LRT along the Midtown Greenway.
  • advocate for 40 additional miles of safe, dedicated bike lanes in our city by 2023.
  • encourage the promotion of Minneapolis as a vacation destination for bicycle enthusiasts to attract tourists from around the world.

The automobile has been a status symbol, and part of our societies identity for generations. A new generation often views a car as a burden, and they are less connected to it as part of their identities. They view independence as a smart phone, or an iPad that keeps them connected with their friends and co-workers. We need to understand that a new generation will prefer to bus, bike or walk and we need our city to be working to transition and serve this generation and their new mind set while also understanding that a large majority of our society is still very automobile dependent. As the next 10th Ward City Council Member I have the experience and skills to help guide this transition while always understanding transportation solutions need to serve all ages and abilities.

3) Minneapolis has many plans for land use, transit, road and cycling infrastructure improvements in plans like Access Minneapolis, the Bicycle Master Plan and the city’s comprehensive plan. How do you think the city should fund these improvements in the future? Other than funding, are there other obstacles to realizing these plans and how would you address them?

As director of Environment Minnesota and Board Member of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, I have been a strong supporter of various transit campaigns that included benefits for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure with most recently supporting the “Transit for Stronger Economy” which would provide $50 million annually in the metro-area to increase bicycle routes, create safer sidewalks and include ADA enhancements. I am very hopefully that Transit for Stronger Economy will be successful this legislative session to help provide additional funding not only for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure but also by creating a more robust public transportation system in our city.

Also, while serving on MEP’s Government Affairs Committee, I supported strong statewide Complete Streets policy in 2010 so that our streets and roadways are designed and operated to be safe and accessible for pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists, and drivers—all users, regardless of age or ability. This means more livable communities and less traffic pollution.

Minneapolis Complete Streets policy should be backed by a long-term commitment to funding by the city council to adjust public works projects and planning around bike, pedestrian, ADA and transit mobility.  As a city council member, I would be a strong advocate for providing the necessary funding to ensure Public Works and other city departments have proper resources to provide adequate funding to be able to implement the Complete Streets policy.

Besides funding, one of the greatest obstacles towards transitioning the public towards alternatives transportation options will be improving the service and speed of our transit system. A University of California Berkley study recently concluded that more than half of the riders said they had reduced their use of public transportation specifically because of its unreliability. Most of them didn’t just make fewer trips overall; rather, they switched to other modes of transportation altogether. We need to create a more robust and reliable public transportation system if we hope to make it easier for residents of our city to transition away from the automobile. At present time, only the transit hardy and those that have no other options consistently use our transit system and that must change and reliability and increased speed will be critical part of creating a more transit friendly city.

As a volunteer leader and through my work with several non-profit advocacy groups I have been a strong supporter of increasing public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for more than ten years. Increased investments towards better alternatives is one of several important options to promote that will make it easier for the residents of our city to eliminate or cut back their automobile usage which is critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I will be a champion on the City Council for ensuring we make the proper investments that include a more reliable and faster transit system and communities that are more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

4) As a council person, how would you respond to concerns about development impacts in your ward? Outside of your ward? Is there a recent controversial project (land use or transportation) that you would have handled differently?

First, I am a strong supporter of density but also understand we need be ensure that development reflects the character of our neighborhoods in the future. We need to be cautious about the type of development approved in our city. Decades ago, when the development that created Kmart that blocked Nicollet and Lake Street, many people in our city understood this was not urban style development. In the last several years, the CB2 that was built on Hennepin and 31st and it was again inefficient suburban style development that does a disservice to our neighborhoods. It is development that replaced historic density with in efficient suburban style development.

While council member Tuthill was in office, the council voted to tear down a three story historic brick building on 31st & Hennepin which met the Uptown Small Area Plan, and replaced it with a two story CB2 suburban style development that did not meet our small area plan. This is not logical or efficient development and it takes away from character of our city.

We should be repurposing and developing around our existing historic buildings, not tearing them down. The Lund’s Store built on Hennepin and 12th is a great example of elegant repurposing. The new Lund’s building was constructed in the building that formerly housed Reno Motor Company and was built in 1912; it is one of the earliest automotive buildings that still exist along Hennepin. Lund’s repurposed the historic building, and added on to it, so it fit their floor model. An efficient and elegant solution that proudly preserves our heritage while being forward thinking at the same time.

Kim Bartmann, who owns several restaurants in Minneapolis has taken two existing buildings, the locations of Red Stag Supperclub and Pat’s Tap, and refurbished them to be LEED certified. Her two restaurants are the only two in the state that are LEED certified and used existing buildings. Minneapolis should work to retain historic and unique building stock while creating incentives for developers to certify these buildings as either LEED or Energy Star in the future.

That is the type of repurposing that needs to occur in our city so we can ensure development reflects the character of our neighborhoods. We can have the future without rejecting the past and embrace what makes our neighborhoods a unique place to live.

5) Where is your favorite place to walk (in or outside of Minneapolis)?

As a candidate, I have enjoyed walking around our entire ward while door knocking and meeting with various community members which allows me to get my own private Parade of Minneapolis Homes Tour. I have enjoyed seeing the magnificent historic homes and other buildings that make up our incredible city. However, my favorite place for nearly twenty years has been walking my dogs at Minnehaha and Fort Snelling Park along the Mississippi River with my spouse Crystal. Walking along the gorge and peering out over the tree tops on a warm spring or spectacular fall day is one of the most special experiences. On rare occasions, we will stop by and visit Cold Water Spring and witness the water ripple down the bluffs like it has for thousands of years. Cold Water Spring is the birth place of Minnesota and a sacred place for Dakota and other Tribes long before our ancestors arrived.

Sam Newberg

About Sam Newberg

Sam Newberg, a.k.a. Joe Urban, is an urbanist, real estate consultant and writer. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two kids, and his website is