It was supposed to be a Monday news conference about airport noise featuring Minneapolis mayoral candidate Cam Winton. He arrived in his newly decorated old car with a vacuum cleaner at the ready to demonstrate what 70 decibels of noise sound like.
Then there was just one small question about candidates’ campaign finance reports and the whole conversation was off and running in a different direction.
“Mark Andrew has been bought and sold by every union in town,” said Winton. “Mark Andrew has cast his lot with the forces of status quo and Mark Andrew’s campaign finance report reflects that fact.”
A quick count of labor organizations on Andrew’s list of donors includes 14 labor groups, everything from carpenters to pipe fitters to plumbers and sheet metal workers. The list also includes Walter Mondale, Stanley and Karen Hubbard, former Mayor Don Fraser and former Secretary of State Joan Growe.
“If you look at the union bosses that stand between our city and the necessary changes we need to make as a city, they’ve all contributed to Mark Andrew,” said Winton. He then shared some of the changes he would make to Minneapolis that might not get a stamp of approval from the trade unions.
He would consolidate some city and county services, such as finance, human resources and procurement, in the process cutting the combined work forces by as many as 500 jobs, saving as much as $50 million and doing it through attrition as baby boomers retire. He would not lay off workers.
“It’s completely duplicative and completely unnecessary,” said Winton of the two separate systems running across the street from each other. “St. Paul and Ramsey County have gotten smart on this — they’re beating us on this.”
Joe Ellickson, who manages the Andrew campaign, suggested that as a former Hennepin County commissioner, Andrew might be better able to pull off a merger of service staffs than a newcomer like Winton.
“Having relationships matters. It’s a lot easier to get things done with people you have a relationship with,” said Ellickson. He noted that Jim Graves, owner of Graves Hospitality Corp., has endorsed Andrew, as have the union members who work in Graves’ hotels.
“What Minneapolis needs is a mayor who can unite small business and labor and move Minneapolis forward,” Ellickson said.
Back at the news conference, Winton was talking about the need for a fully staffed Police Department and how policy and poverty combine to undermine education.
“We need to see the end of ‘last in, first out,’” said Winton of the policy that drops new teachers first in times of budget shortfalls. “That is a policy that protects mediocre adults at the expense of exceptional children. Mark Andrew has been bought by the teachers union.”
Again, Ellickson took the criticism in stride. “That typically happens to a front-runner,” he said.
Now Winton was rolling. If elected, he would ask the City Council to cut the mayor’s pay from $105,000 a year to $90,000 and establish three possible bonuses tied to performance.
The mayor could receive $10,000, for example, if the high school graduation rate went up, another $10,000 based on road repair goals and another $10,000 based on a public safety goal, perhaps the number of officers on the street.
“Voters of Minneapolis, I am one of you,” said Winton. “I have not been in the insider system. I’m shining a spotlight on this insider system, and nobody embodies this mutual back-scratching society more than Mark Andrew.”
Reporters had gathered on a residential street corner at 58th and Pleasant to talk about airport noise. We were supposed to hear a vacuum cleaner.
“I hope you say something about airport noise,” said Winton, realizing reporters were a lot more interest in his bashing of Andrew than they were in airplane noise.
So here is something about airport noise. The Federal Aviation Agency is considering a plan that would consolidate the current 30 flight tracks over the Twin Cities into seven flight tracks.
If you live under one of those seven new flight tracks, you might have as many as 120 planes a day flying. There was a public hearing on this topic earlier this summer, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission has asked the FAA to delay implementation.
Winton praised the public officials who have been part of the conversation with FAA and promised that if he becomes mayor, he would be at the table with the FAA on behalf of citizens under the flight paths.
“The FAA is poised to put an airplane super-highway in the skies over southeast Minneapolis,” said Winton. “It’s up to us to make sure the FAA does not stick it to us.”
For the record, the FAA is still studying the idea.