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MINNEAPOLIS-Affordable housing is very high on Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton’s agenda if she can win another term in office. The mayor is in a surprisingly close race with challenger R.T. Rybak for the city’s top job.

Several of the key issues in the campaign revolve around development — affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization and subsidies for Downtown development.

Sayles-Belton argues that during her stint in office, Minneapolis has stayed a strong and prosperous city that has been largely shielded from the national economic downturn by its diverse economy. During her term, the city has benefited from a construction boomthat continues in commercial and industrial projects, housing on the riverfront, and in neighborhood development, she says.

In the area of housing, for instance, 1,350 affordable housing units have been built or preserved in the last two years, with another 880 units of new construction planned for 2002. She cites the coming light rail system, including a transit station on 38th Street,and plans for the city’s new central library as other projects in the works.

But she has been criticized by Rybak and others for not making more affordable housing available and for giving too much attention — and taxpayer dollars — to Downtown development. She is an avid proponent of a new stadium for the Minnesota Twins, and she has backed controversial uses of tax money — such a $39-million subsidy to bring a new entertainment complex for downtown’s Block E and $62 million for a new Target store and office building on Nicollet Mall.

Sayles-Belton won endorsement from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, but Rybak was endorsed by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The election will be held Nov. 6.

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