The four candidates running for two Robbinsdale City Council seats in the general election participated in a Sept. 29 forum. The forum, at CCX Media Studios in Brooklyn Park, was hosted by the Robbinsdale League of Women Voters and Chamber of Commerce and was moderated by Jackie Wells, a member of the Golden Valley League of Women Voters chapter.
The candidates for Ward 1 are Charles Austinson and Tyler Kline The ward encompasses much of northwestern Robbinsdale around South Twin Lake. In Ward 2, the candidates are Sheila Webb and Jason Greenberg. The ward includes the northeastern portion of the city and north and east of Crystal Lake.
The candidates offered opening and closing statements and answered questions submitted to the League of Women Voters before the event.
Budget and commerce
The candidates were first quizzed on their top two budget priorities in 2021, a year that will begin to exhibit the financial impact of the pandemic in cities.
Webb said her priorities would be to seek out partnerships due to the restricted budget, with an eye on infrastructure, redevelopment and public safety needs.
Greenberg said he would prioritize the health of city government and police, balanced by needs by city parks and lakes.
Kline said the city would need to focus on “doing more with less,” and his priorities would be with fostering light rail development and aiding residents to get back into the workforce.
Austinson acknowledged that his three-tier platform mainly consists of long-term goals (making the city bike- and pedestrian-friendly, fostering commerce and building police-community relations); he said he would prioritize keeping the city safe and clean, including not cutting corners on snow plowing and street repair.
The candidates were also asked about the anticipated effects of redevelopments, specifically the construction of new apartment complexes and the Hy-Vee store. All four agreed that the developments are positive for the community: Greenberg looked forward to more visitors and incoming businesses to the city, Webb said she was excited for the developments to expand the tax base, Kline said he welcomed the change and Austinson called the addition of Hy-Vee “a blessing” that filled up a previously “dormant” area of the city.
Still, keeping the area affordable was a concern for Webb, Austinson and Kline, as the apartments being construction are market rate. Greenberg noted that traffic in the area is a concern, but said he would prefer to wait until construction was complete to understand typical traffic patterns.
Changes to status quo
All of the candidates appeared to be in favor of some sort of change to the police force.
Greenberg and Austinson said they see benefits in more engagement between officers and residents outside of responses to incidents. Austinson said he would like the police department to host regular, off-duty public meet-ups where residents can “engage on any issue” with officers.
Webb said she would particularly invite a partnership between the police and the Robbinsdale Human Rights Commission to work through issues.
Kline said he had recently heard from those who didn’t feel safe working with the police department, and was balancing the testimony with his brother’s experience, who is an officer in St. Louis Park. Above all, Kline agreed solutions should be sought to make police-community interactions less adversarial.
The candidates were asked what city program they would like to change.
Austinson said he wanted to see a greater effort to highlight the minority-owned businesses in Robbinsdale.
Kline expressed a desire to repair a perceived disconnect between residents and City Hall.
Greenberg said he would like to add more city-sponsored events, like a concert series between Sanborn and Lakeview Terrace Park.
Webb said she would like to see more resources for mental health, a farmers market and more inclusive and accessible recreation options for children.