One of the things I DO FOR YOU is listen to landlord zoom calls. If you’re not familiar, Kari Lundin (the “Duplex Chick”), a realtor and mentor to the local landlord community, hosts Q&A sessions where Minneapolis candidates give revealing answers, but only after being reassured that a wider audience will never see it. Past guests include LaTrisha Vetaw, who embarrassed herself so thoroughly on a landlord zoom call in 2021 that voters in Ward 4 elected her to the City Council.
Last Tuesday, Ward 12 candidate for the Minneapolis City Council, Luther Ranheim took questions on a zoom call with landlords. His answers were different than some of the things he told me back in January.
Luther was asked by landlords to identify sources of extra money in the city budget to pay for his priorities. He offered two strategies: reducing MPD misconduct payouts (“we’re paying out millions of dollars in settlements because of the behavior of our Police Department”) and defunding bike infrastructure.
What he told landlords in private last week: “I think we would actually save some significant money because we’ve been plowing so much money into bike lane building and changing of streets because of it.”
He pointed to Minneapolis’ status as a top biking city as a reason for defunding bike infrastructure: “We are the number one biking city in the country, we just took the title back from Portland once again.”
In an episode of the Wedge LIVE podcast recorded in January, I asked Luther: “Am I misinterpreting to think that maybe you believe the city has gone too far — has the city struck the right balance when it comes to bike lanes?”
Luther: “I don’t think we’ve gone too far. I think there’s room to continue doing more.”
It could be that Luther is greatly overestimating the amount of money in the city budget for painted bike lanes and plastic bollards, especially if he’s putting it in the same category as police misconduct settlements. It should also be noted that when bike infrastructure is installed on a reconstructed street, it doesn’t actually cost more. That hypothetical street was already old, broken, and in need of a rebuild.
Including space for bikes (and pedestrians and transit) isn’t a budget question — it’s a priority question about which modes of travel are given space on our public streets. It’s also a policy question that’s been decided by the Transportation Action Plan. And even if it were a budget question, bike infrastructure comes out ahead due to the fact it’s more space efficient and cheaper to maintain than building lanes that carry and store heavy cars and trucks.
But forget bikes. The main issue of concern at any landlord zoom call is rent stabilization. On this issue, speaking to landlords in private, Luther was unequivocal: “I would be a no vote on any rent control ordinance measure that would come through the city council.”
But seven months earlier, Luther was open to compromise: “I don’t support rent control at the level that was recently passed in St. Paul.”
I asked what changes it would take to get him to support a proposed rent stabilization policy. A different percentage cap? An exemption for new construction?
Luther: “I want to bring everyone together to find out what that right number is…”
In conclusion, I think some candidates may be saying things in private that conflict with the words they’re saying in public. And Wedge LIVE is a ghost, a legend, a mythical creature ever-present in your landlord zoom room.