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Gary Schiff throws his hat into Mayoral race in Minneapolis

Posted on 27 February 2013 by robwas66

Gary Schiff, who has been a City Council member representing Ward 9 since 2001, has made his move to join the race to become mayor of Minneapolis. Above, Schiff is pictured with Minneapolis Firefighters from Local 82.

Gary Schiff, who has been a City Council member representing Ward 9 since 2001, has made his move to join the race to become mayor of Minneapolis. Above, Schiff is pictured with Minneapolis Firefighters from Local 82.

By JAN WILLMS

Gary Schiff, who has been a City Council member representing Ward 9 since 2001, has made his move to join the race to become mayor of Minneapolis.

“The city has emerged from this recession, and we have a real opportunity that we can’t afford to waste to make every neighborhood a neighborhood that’s a great place to raise a family and a great place for small business,” Schiff said. He added that his years of experience on City Council as a voice for strong neighborhoods and small business will help move the city forward.

Citing enormous equity gaps in neighborhoods, Schiff said he wants to be a mayor who closes those gaps and has a concrete plan in place, and also a mayor who overhauls the complicated regulatory systems so small businesses can succeed.

Turning to the issue of employment, Schiff said that the only time City Hall really talks about jobs is when a big project like the Vikings Stadium or the Convention Center comes up.

“Every year we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on projects like roads and sewers,” he stated. “Those contracts are paid for by property tax money, but none of the contractors are required to employ people who actually live in Minneapolis.”

Schiff said one of the most common complaints he receives is from people wondering why there isn’t anyone who looks like them working at the jobsite. He said constituents wonder why property taxes are going up, but a company outside of Minneapolis gets the contract.

“So, like the Stadium or Midtown Exchange, we will require that one out of four jobs in repairing our infrastructure will go to people living in Minneapolis,” he noted. “We should invest in our people at the same time we invest in our infrastructure.”

Schiff said he considers one of the biggest challenges the city faces is that government does not work together.

“I was surprised when I joined the City Council to find that the Council and Hennepin County never meet together to talk about the city of Minneapolis,” he related. “Twelve years, and we have never talked together about what we are going to do when we tackle problems. The same goes for our school district and the Council.”

“Twenty per cent of the youth in our schools are homeless, or highly mobile,” Schiff said. “Whose responsibility is it to reduce homelessness? The City and County have to work together to set a goal. There has to be accountability for housing, and how tax dollars are spent. There needs to be a mayor who breaks down silos and makes sure that government works for everybody.”

Schiff has a history of working as a human rights activist, from the time he was in high school in New York through his days at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with a degree in women’s studies, and beyond. “As a representative of the 9th ward, I am in a very diverse district, and it has been very good preparation for the mayor’s race,” Schiff said. “My district has thousands of small businesses from Lake Street to 38th Street, and the largest population of American Indians, the largest population of Latinos and historic populations of African Americans. It is 50 per cent homeowners, and 50 per cent renters.”

Schiff has been endorsed by the Minneapolis Firefighters Union, the first union endorsement in the crowded mayoral race. He has enlisted 100 small business owners as supporters, who are also city residents.

“I just kicked off a listening tour, going across the city to hear from residents what people want from city government and what they hope for the future,” Schiff said.

He said he considers his ability to listen to be the strongest personal quality he brings to the race.

“Many people wanted to start a microbrewery,” Schiff recalled. “I got a phone call from Jason Sowards from Harriet Brewing. I listened to him tell about the fault in city codes that made it impossible to open a brewery. And listening allowed me to change the law. We now have seven microbreweries and two more set to open this year. That’s what people want, someone to listen and find solutions.”

Schiff said the votes he regrets most making on City Council were ones in which he didn’t trust his instincts and went along with the pack.

“A mayor needs to lead, and even if everybody thinks something is a great idea, needs to make sure that it makes sense and continue to ask questions,” Schiff explained.

He said he makes his decisions based on his values. “Those are the values I learned growing up in a union family, the values I learned as a product of the public schools system and the values of a deep faith.”

Schiff said the district he represents reflects the challenges that Minneapolis needs to face.

“Too many homeowners are underwater on their mortgages or need to find a job or are struggling with small business,” he claimed. “With rising property taxes and big tax cuts to corporations, people want a mayor who will be a voice for them. On the City Council I have maintained my independence and always voted my values.”

 

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