Streets.mn Voter Guide – Mark Andrew

Our second Minneapolis mayoral candidate to submit their answers to the Streets.mn Voter Guide is Mark Andrew.

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 if elected?

One of the most urgent issues facing our city is transportation, and specifically, building out the proposed LRT, streetcar, and bicycling infrastructure so that all neighborhoods in the City benefit equally. Our existing transportation system was built around the needs of commuters. Instead we need to build an interconnected transportation system that improves mobility in every corner in the city for every community, so that it becomes possible for all Minneapolis residents to live their lives utilizing a multimodal transportation system, from traveling to and from work, to getting to the grocery store, going out to a movie and getting to your kids’ piano recital.

As a Hennepin County Commissioner, I led the charge to bring the Midtown Greenway and Light Rail Transit to the region, and continue to actively support expansion of the Bottineau and Southwest LRT lines. as well as additional greenways. I support bringing streetcars back to Minneapolis, and building more dedicated bicycle routes and greenways. The Midtown Greenway has been an unmitigated success, and I would champion building greenways that traverse north and northeast Minneapolis.

A cornerstone of my campaign is making Minneapolis the greenest city in North America. Expanding our public transportation system opens up exciting opportunities for growing a smarter, greener Minneapolis. It will lead private investment in transit-oriented development, including higher-density housing in appropriate neighborhoods along transit corridors, which in turn will help us improve our tax base (which is a good thing), increase our population (which is a good thing), and reduce our CO2 footprint on a per capita basis (which is a good thing). It’s a threefer.

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?

Balance. I believe each mode of transportation is important for our citizens. For some individuals at some times, driving is more practical, while others might prefer to bike, or walk or take transit. We need to make each mode possible and we need to design our streets to be open to them. That being said, we should take every step possible to encourage residents to bike and walk. If there are barriers for citizens to use bicycling and walking as their preferred modes of transportation, we need to do our best to erase these barriers because the economic, environmental, and health benefits of biking and walking are tremendous and are central to my vision of Minneapolis.

The Complete Streets model is fundamental to my view of transportation–our streets are, and must be, for everyone. We must work as a city to see that there is an enforceable Complete Streets program in Minneapolis with the capacity to ensure that enforcement is carried out. This also means building a Complete Streets culture in City Hall as well as in our public works department so that Complete Streets values inform every aspect of our city.

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, what are the obstacles to realizing these plans, and how would you address them?

The City cannot fund the needed investments in our transportation system on our own. As mayor I will work in conjunction with other levels of government (county, state, federal as well as the Metropolitan Council) to continue to build out our infrastructure improvements. The private sector can play a role as well, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield’s investment in Nice Ride. My administration will continue to prioritize funding comprehensive programs that build a green, livable Minneapolis.

I would ensure that members of the Capital Long Range Improvement Committee appointed by the mayor share my values and vision of the city. But these appointments allocated to the mayor comprise less than a quarter of the total committee. Because of this, my administration’s capital budget proposals will always reflect my dedication to finding the greenest, most effective solutions for transportation in Minneapolis.

Other than funding, the biggest obstacle to implementing the great plans set forward in The Minneapolis Plan, Access Minneapolis and the Bicycle Master Plan is consensus around priorities and what comes first. I have years of experience building coalitions that have led to true change for Minneapolis, like the Midtown Greenway, like the light rail transit system. I will bring my years of experience building powerful coalitions to bear on the obstacles facing Minneapolis, and with the community I will achieve results for Minneapolis.

4. As mayor, how would you respond to concerns about development impacts around the city? Is there a recent controversial project (land use or transportation) somewhere in the city that you would have handled differently had you been in the mayor’s office?

The mayor’s role in development issues is to promote a city-wide vision of a vibrant city on the move with livable neighborhoods. The mayor works in partnership with neighborhood councils, residents and the local councilmember to ensure that development is appropriate and consistent with the character of the neighborhood, and reflects the overall vision of the city as reflected in the Minneapolis Plan. We are fortunate to have the problems of urban growth rather than urban decay, and need to work together to address concerns from local businesses and residents when they feel that proposed developments may disrupt their neighborhoods and detract from their quality of life.

Recent development proposals in the Linden Hills neighborhood have highlighted how difficult this balance is to strike. I am guided by the conviction that new development should reflect the rich history and texture of our city. Every neighborhood in Minneapolis is different, and as mayor I will work to preserve the diverse urban fabric of Minneapolis while encouraging long-term growth. We cannot afford to become short-sighted in growing Minneapolis.

This means striking a delicate balance between the needs of neighborhoods today, and the necessity of growing a greener, smarter Minneapolis. Just one example among many is LRT development. LRT development is tremendously disruptive, but it is also necessary for the future of Minneapolis. Consulting with residents and neighborhood councils to address their needs and concerns is vital, and will help ensure that our plans for Minneapolis are deliberate, conscientious, and reflect the needs of our growing city. By empowering citizens throughout the development process, citizens become stakeholders in the future of our city, and short-term impositions can more readily be accepted to allow for long-term planning.

4b. In addition, if you have any comments or opinions on the recent designs or development process for the Minnesota Vikings football stadium or the Star Tribune blocks, or your vision for that area, please provide that here.

Citizen involvement and engagement in the development process is vital, and that’s why I have been critical of the way in which the Vikings’ stadium was handled. The City Charter called for a referendum, and as mayor I would have consulted the citizens of Minneapolis on the issue. Citizen engagement on all levels is essential to building a healthy Minneapolis, and we must empower our residents to take part in the development process every step of the way.

This attitude has always informed my relationship with the public–it actually led to my first brand-new car I ever owned getting stolen! I left it running while I ran back inside to get something I had forgotten, and on the way back I ran into a constituent. We talked for so long that when I made it back outside, my car was gone. Of course, leaving it running was a mistake, but my commitment citizen engagement and to the public has never faltered. 

All of this being said, the Vikings’ stadium is a reality, and now we must do our best to see that it serves the interests of our city. First and foremost we must make sure that the economic benefits accrue locally, and that means working with labor to achieve hiring goals. Secondly, we need to make sure that the public’s investment in the Viking’s Stadium and the surrounding neighborhood leads to private investment that will help build the neighborhood we want.

The proposed Yard public park and surrounding mixed-use development is exciting and will help create a vibrant Downtown East. For the park to be successful, it must be maintained, developed, and programmed. But we can’t stop at this. I am encouraged by the efforts to pursue LEED-ND status for the neighborhood development in the surrounding area, and believe it provides a solid framework for private development in the Downtown East neighborhood. Vikings Stadium aside, with the Central Corridor LRT coming online in 2014, its proximity to downtown jobs and entertainment, the University of Minnesota and the Mississippi River, the Downtown East neighborhood is poised to become one of the best neighborhoods in the metropolitan region.

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

Toughest question yet, since Minneapolis — known as a city in a park — is chock full of great places to walk. But if I had to choose just one, it would be the lakes near my house. Every time I take my dog for a walk, I am reminded how fortunate we are to live in a city so intertwined with nature.

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