Kelly Doran Bullshits His Way Through a Debate with Councilman Steve

On Monday I was at the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA), mostly because I heard a crew of residents would be riled up over a plan for short term rentals. (The rumors were true. I’ve never heard so many lawsuit threats in my life).

As a bonus, I got to hear developers Mike Garvin and Kelly Doran make their case against a proposed city ordinance to limit landlord screening practices on things like background checks, credit checks, and deposit amounts.

Garvin, who is also chair of the Multi Housing Association that lobbies on behalf of building owners, argued the ordinances would “stifle new construction.” He said the proposal wouldn’t result in any new housing, which is certainly true. But there are some problems in the world — even housing problems — that aren’t solved by new housing. And his argument ignores other policies (nationally heralded policies) pursued by the city council to encourage new housing.

Then it was Doran’s turn and things got weird. He distributed copies of the draft proposal, and picked it apart: “Some of the facts that are represented here on the first page are not even correct.”

He ticked off a list of things that he claimed weren’t true. Among them: “As many as one-third of adults in the United States has a criminal history.” Despite Doran’s protest, this fact is true.

Then Doran said something so wild it made me wonder if he’s capable of telling a truth. He claimed it’s “not statistically correct” to say that “Renters are more likely to be low-income than homeowners.”

He said so many obviously untrue things in a row that I fact-checked his claim of being a “lifelong Democrat.”

Kelly Doran wasn’t content to just disagree with the solution, he felt the need to bullshit his way to discrediting any moral justification for addressing the problem. (I will rate this statement from Doran as true: “There’s a real lack of trust right now between us as landlords and the city politicians.”)

Doran made an issue of the five-year limitation on felony background checks, claiming someone would step out of prison and into an apartment (just disregard that a landlord can still verify income and employment).

DMNA board member Joey Senkyr asked Doran, “if they’re out of prison after five years because the court system has decided that five years is the appropriate term, where are they supposed to live?”

Doran’s answer zipped right past any acknowledgment of systemic racism in the justice system: “In many cases, that’s the choice they made by getting involved in criminal activity.”

Will the Policy Discourage More Housing?

I’m skeptical. It doesn’t help that Kelly Doran tells one big lie after another. For example, he claimed the interim inclusionary zoning ordinance is discouraging development. The interim inclusionary zoning ordinance was designed to only be applicable in rare cases where a developer pointed to the 2040 plan to justify very significant upzoning (60% or more). Steve Cramer of the Business Community agrees with me on this.

Here’s another anecdotal reason to be skeptical. Hornig Companies is a big landlord that’s been vocal in MHA’s fight against the city’s fair housing ordinances. I am only familiar with Hornig as the owner of old apartment buildings, not as a developer. So I was surprised to see Hornig as the developer presenting a new apartment building to the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization on Wednesday.

The argument from landlords and developers: The city is stifling new development — at a time when we really need more housing. Give us policies that produce housing! So it’s interesting to me that Hornig — who isn’t known as a developer — has decided to become a developer at this moment. And their project utilizes three recent city policies: the city’s 4D program that reduces their property taxes; parking reform that took effect in 2015; and upzoning called for in the 2040 plan.

[Correction: I’ve been told that there are two Hornigs operating as landlords of older apartment buildings in the Wedge/Whittier area. One “Hornig Companies” who has been outspoken against the tenant screening ordinance and another Hornig who is building these apartments in Whittier. I don’t know what the latter Hornig’s stance on the tenant screening ordinance is.]

Kelly Doran in the news

7/17/19: “Blue Cross denied Kelly Doran a scan during his recovery from lung cancer. So he switched his 250 employees to HealthPartners” at a cost of $70,000. When a big company tries to crush you under their boot with unfair practices, you just take your big company’s business elsewhere. We salute you, Kelly Doran.

Ward 3 Council Member Steve Fletcher Addresses Concerns

At the DMNA meeting I learned that Steve Fletcher is referred to as “Councilman Steve” so I will call him that in the following section. Bolded text are my pretend questions followed by Steve Fletcher’s real quotes from Monday night.

We need more housing, Councilman Steve. “There’s not enough housing, that’s totally true. I agree with that. And, where there is housing, there are people who are getting systematically left out of the market. Frankly, that’s happening more in low-income housing than [in high-end housing].”

How afraid should we be, Councilman Steve? “If you ask most people what gives you your sense of safety in a neighborhood, the landlord application screening process usually isn’t one of the top 10 things that come up.”

What about the prison-to-apartment pipeline, Councilman Steve? “I think scare tactics are really inappropriate.”

Talk to us about yard signs, Councilman Steve: “There’s been a lot of money put into what I think is not… I mean, I kind of agree this is not going to be super-impactful. Any housing policy is like a bite at the apple. The amount of energy and the colorful lawn signs and everything else that has gone into this has been really weird.”

Councilman Steve, can you say something that convinces us you’ve thought about these issues more deeply than Kelly Doran? “A lot of people are needlessly disqualifying people based on some really unfair criteria. Those aren’t unfair criteria that the landlord set. Those are unfair criteria because we have a structurally racist credit scoring system. Those are unfair criteria because we have a structurally racist criminal justice system that disproportionately gives records to people of color. And those are unfair criteria because we have in particular an eviction system that keeps evictions on your record even if it turns out to have been baseless and the landlord doesn’t proceed with the eviction. It’ll still follow you around on your record.”