Today I had a chance to sit down with Jose Velez and ask him about his run for the Ward 1 DFL endorsement.
In many ways, Jose was much luckier than Doron Clark, as he got my undivided attention rather than a half-distracted baby wrangler. But he didn't get to talk to Smartie, so perhaps it balanced out.
The two candidates have a lot in common. Both have obvious pride in their city and their neighborhood. Both have a dedication to bike paths as part of their transit plans that still quite honestly befuddles me (can we please get the #11 to come more frequently, first?). But there were genuine differences between the two as well.
Velez was highly focused on the best ways to keep the neighborhood strong in the face of the plummeting real estate market. His ideas on rehabilitating troubled properties with more green and energy efficient materials combined with a possible apprentice program with children of color to learn to provide the labor seemed like a reasonable solution to deal with the two tier issue of blight properties and job creation. And I learned quite a bit about projects around the city that I had no idea were occurring, like the JAC Flats initiative.
But then there's the streetcars. I understand the appeal. I played on them in San Francisco. But I just don't know if I feel that streetcars can work here. A streetcar going up Central would be great for slowing folks down enough to see the wide array of businesses we have. But I sort of think of it like the bus on Nicollet Mall. People ride it to connect to other buses, they seldom just ride up and down to go to the shops themselves. I would like to see a light rail go from University and hook downtown. I feel that it would be much more useful.
Both candidates have definite strengths, and I think would make excellent city council members for their own reasons. I will go further what those are on Monday.
Tomorrow, I meet Susan Howitz Hanna, and Friday, Kevin Reich. So, more first impressions tomorrow.