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Twin Cities voters have full political plate Tuesday

Voters in both St. Paul and Minneapolis will decide mayoral contests, plus pivotal ballot questions on rent control.

MINNEAPOLIS — There's been much attention paid to the tumult in Minneapolis over the future of policing in that city, but voters are also wrestling with a host of big decisions in both Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Minnesota's two largest cities both have mayoral races and a rent control ballot question. In Minneapolis, voters are being asked whether to give the city council the authority to regulative private property rent levels in the future, but in St. Paul the rent stabilization question would cap rent hikes at 3% per year beginning May 1.

Friday morning, opponents of rent control in St. Paul summoned reporters to Highland Bridge, the enormous mixed-used neighborhood development taking shape on the site of the old Ford plant. They cautioned that affordable housing units originally planned for the site may have to be scaled back if rent control passes, because potential lenders will see them as a risky investment.

"You put rent control in place it means lenders are going to have to think long and hard about financing a project coming up," Barb Pecks of the North Central States Carpenters Union remarked, adding that the supply of affordable housing in the Capital City depends on healthy investments in market-priced multi-family housing.

RELATED: Navigating your 2021 St. Paul Municipal Election ballot

B Kyle, the president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said that with the city facing a 6% property tax increase next year, utility price increases and inflation in construction materials it will be difficult for landlords and builders to deal with a three percent cap.

"It's not about good guys and bad guys. It's about math and the math doesn't add up," Kyle explained.

"What I can tell you is there are at least 760 affordable housing units at Highland Bridge alone that are not yet fully funded."

Mayor Melvin Carter, who has endorsed St. Paul's Ballot Question 1, issued this statement late Friday:

"I believe our city can figure out how to build new housing and expand fair housing opportunities at the same time."

Supporters of the ballot question said developers take all kinds of changes in regulations into consideration when they build new housing and are accustomed to contingency planning over the long range.

"At the end of the day rent stabilization is a change in city regulations. And regulatory change is something that developers and investors are constantly adapting to, whether it be parking minimums, to construction code changes to zoning changes," Tram Hoang, campaign manager for Keep St Paul Home told KARE.

An ally in the movement, Margaret Kaplan of the Housing Justice Center, said she's confident the Highland Bridge affordable housing can attract the funding it will need.

"When it comes to affordable housing, these are developments that are going to be highly subsidized through various streams of public financing -- city, state and federal funds," Kaplan explained.

RELATED: Navigating your 2021 Minneapolis Municipal Election ballot

In the Minneapolis mayoral race there are 17 candidates on the ranked choice ballot, but four have emerged as the likely frontrunners based on fundraising success and visibility.

Incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey's top three rivals included former Rep. Kate Knuth, community organizer Sheila Nezhad and professional mediator A.J. Awed. The four of them have squared off in several debates, mainly focused on the future of public safety in the city.

Mayor Frey and Awed are opposed to Ballot Question 2, which would replace the MPD with a new department of public safety and remove minimum police staffing levels requirement from the city charter.  Knuth and Nezhad favor Question 2 and have formed an alliance, urging their supporters to rank the other one second on their ballots.

"I think it's clear we need a new mayor for the city to move forward," Knuth told KARE, explaining the alliance with Nezhad.

On Friday afternoon, Knuth could be found door-knocking at University of Minnesota residence halls, dropping literature and explaining to students how they can use their student ID to vote in the city election.

In the meantime, the Frey campaign released a video of Courtney Ross endorsing Frey.  Ross is George Floyd's former partner. In the video she explained how Frey reached out to her after Floyd's murder and spent hours listening to her as she tried to process what had happened.

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