Most of the leading candidates for Minneapolis mayor agree on most issues -- probably because all but two are Democrats.
But there's one issue on which the candidates clearly diverge: how to spur economic growth in the city.
The candidates particularly disagree on public subsidies for big downtown development projects, especially the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
In May, the Minneapolis City Council approved a funding plan that would allow the team to build a new stadium on the Metrodome site. The plan includes committing more than $650 million of sales and hospitality taxes to the stadium for 30 years, including $150 million in up-front costs.
Don Samuels, a member of the city council, voted for the stadium plan because it will create thousands of construction jobs -- especially for minority residents. Former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew and former City Councilwoman Jackie Cherryhomes have quibbles with some of the details of the funding plan, but they're basically pro-stadium, too.
The strongest stadium opponent is Dan Cohen, a former member of the city council. He has said he would try to halt construction by refusing to honor the city's commitment. He says if that means a lawsuit, so be it.
The rest of the candidates also oppose the project, including current City Councilwoman Betsy Hodges. For her, the issue goes beyond stadiums.
"We must not turn to the public to fund luxury projects that private investors won't touch when those taxpayer dollars should be used for investments in the common ground," Hodges said. "The litmus test for that question in this election is the proposal for a Convention Center hotel."
The proposal Hodges refers to comes from Meet Minneapolis, the city's tourism board. It released a report earlier this year concluding the city would benefit from a new, 1,000-room hotel, because it would allow the Minneapolis Convention Center to attract larger groups. The catch: such a project would cost more than $300 million, and $125 million of that would need to come from public subsidies.
No candidate has come out in support of a subsidy that large. But Andrew has said he'd be open to some level of public spending on a new hotel.
"It's part of an overall strategy that I am deeply interested in and that I am going to pursue very aggressively to brand our city as a place -- some place that is more attractive for convention business, tourism business and other visitors to come into our community," he said.
Most of the other candidates have closed the door on a public subsidy for a hotel. But Cherryhomes hasn't. During her time on the council, Cherryhomes supported several big downtown developments, including Block E and the Target store. She said when policy makers consider whether to subsidize a project they need to apply the "but-for" test.
"But for city involvement, would we have these jobs, would we have the strength of this business in downtown?" she asked.
One development proposal that wouldn't require a public subsidy comes from Cohen, who has called for a downtown casino. He predicts a casino would create hundreds of year-round jobs plus spur additional development nearby.
"Gamblers don't sleep on the floor," Cohen said. "They're going to want hotels, restaurants, high-end entertainment is part of this package, and retail."
A downtown casino would require a change in state law. Most other candidates oppose the casino, with the exception of attorney Cam Winton.
One thing the candidates generally agree on is that reducing city bureaucracy will spur economic growth. But they offer different -- and at times diametrically opposed -- ideas for where to cut red tape.
Winton would get rid of most business licensing requirements. He'd also waive the need for building permits in many cases.
"If you want to install siding on your house, if you want to build basic structures, you shouldn't need a permit for that," Winton said. Instead, he would simply require builders working on smaller projects -- say, less than 10,000 square feet -- to simply notify the city about construction and renovation projects. A small number of those would be subjected to random inspections.
Samuels doesn't think that's a good idea.
"I don't think we can leave the naive or the inexperienced alone," he said. "We supervise them. We're helping them to do quality work. But when people develop skills, and they're trustworthy, and competent, and dependable and proven, then I think we start to back off."
Samuels would create a fast lane through the permitting process for developers with a proven track record -- essentially the opposite of Winton's proposal.
The unemployment rate in Minneapolis is just over 5 percent -- about the same as the state, and significantly better than the national average.
But a study released last year showed African Americans in the Twin Cities faced an unemployment rate three times that of whites -- the worst employment disparity in the nation. That's something all the candidates say they want to fix.