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You get two batches in one day because this last batch, well, yeah. This is the last four! For anyone who’s seeing just this post, I’m doing the Minneapolis mayoral candidates in batches of four, alphabetically. (Mostly. I screwed up the order in one post.)

David Rosenfeld SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY
Ian Simpson THE IDEA PARTY
Captain Jack Sparrow BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE
David John Wilson RAINBOWS BUTTERFLIES UNICORNS

David Rosenfeld

It’s 2017, and Socialism is hot. Like, it’s current and fresh and people are actually calling themselves socialists and little red rose emojis are all over Twitter.

But among the Socialist Workers, it might as well still be 1998. Right down to their website design. David Rosenfeld links to The Militant, which is entirely stuff like “Capitalism makes storms social disaster for workers: Cuban Revolution mobilizes population to defend island” with zero content related in any useful way to the Minneapolis mayoral race. He offers zero information about himself. I found someone on Facebook that might be him, but there’s almost no public info (other than that he “liked” a conservative talk radio station back in 2012?) and he’s not on LinkedIn.

Seriously! Guys! YOU ARE MISSING YOUR MOMENT!

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? no. Even if you’re a socialist. YOU CAN DO BETTER.

Ian Simpson

Ian says he’s running with “The Idea Party,” which makes it even funnier that his website has zero ideas. It has some irrelevant stock art that he couldn’t be arsed to change, though.

I found another Ian Simpson on LinkedIn who’s a writer for an ad agency with a truly obnoxious website. (“We dig deep to find a true insight that creates an emotional tie between brands and Conscious Consumers. We call this the Connector.”)

That’s all I’ve got.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? no.

Captain Jack Sparrow

It takes a very special sort of person to go to court to have your name changed to “Captain Jack Sparrow,” cosplay as Jack Sparrow 24/7, and then complain about how no one takes you seriously.

His post about the race went up in July. If you visit his website, you’ll want to click on that post to see the whole thing as otherwise it gets truncated in the middle of a super random rant about Viking raiders killing women and children and you’ll miss (a) the connection to current policy and (b) his actual stances on stuff.

The connection between Viking raiders and current policy is that he wants to demand that the football team change its name: “Another way to prevent violence, is to stop glorifying the purveyors of violence, those from the past, as well as those in the present. In Europe, the Vikings went on a rampage, where they would attack undefended villages, killing everyone, including the women and children. Even the clergy were killed in the name of Odin.  They were also in the Americas, initiating the genocidal activities towards the Native Americans, which was then continued after the arrival of Columbus, some 500 years later. The Vikings left a legacy of murder, rape and slavery wherever they went. I am calling for the elimination of  the word “Vikings” in the name of the Minnesota football team.”

Let’s see, his other stances. Universal basic income: he’s for it. Policing: “The problem of inadequate protection in poor neighborhoods is at least as important as the issue of police abuse by some police officers toward people in these neighborhoods.” (He attached himself pretty firmly to the Occupy movement, and I suspect he misses it. BLM has got to be less fun for him.) Climate change: he’s against it. Transit: for.

He’s firmly against people not taking him seriously: “While the mainstream press has tried to make me out to be a frivolous or non-serious candidate, if you read my blog you will see that I am serious indeed.” Dude, I am reading your blog. Serious candidates don’t put up a single blog post in July and wait for campaign workers and votes to roll in.

Also, you cosplay this guy:

giphy (1).gif

You are not owed anyone’s time and attention. You earn it by being worth listening to.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? no.

David John Wilson

My first question about this guy was whether he was John Charles Wilson of the Lauraist party with a minor name change. No, he’s not. John Charles Wilson is not running this year.

My second question was on the details of what the “Rainbows Butterflies Unicorns” party or principle involved, exactly. Like, is he proposing protections for unicorns, or is he hoping for a study proving unicorns exist, or does he want Minneapolis residents to be granted permits to keep their own unicorns, or what, exactly? His website is not working, so I e-mailed him. I got a prompt e-mail back saying that he would be launching a website soon. That was September 4th and there is still no website.

 

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? no.

AND THAT IS IT FOR THE MINNEAPOLIS MAYORAL CANDIDATES. I’ll be back with either the St. Paul mayors, or some city council candidates, because holy shit did you hear about Lisa Goodman handing her used gum to another candidate right before a candidate forum? And probably some more analysis of the mayoral candidates, but with a focus on people I’d consider voting for.

 

 


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Reminder: I’m writing about these candidates in batches, alphabetically. So if your fave isn’t in this batch, check the other posts.

Nekima Levy-Pounds DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Ronald Lischeid PEOPLE OVER POLITICS
L.A. Nik INDEPENDENT
Aswar Rahman DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Nekima Levy-Pounds

Nekima Levy-Pounds is a former law professor, an activist, and the President of the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP. Her website refers to her as Reverend Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds: the “Reverend” title isn’t explained on her campaign site or her resume, but according to this article, she used to preach at her church every other month. (Presumably the “Dr.” title is because she holds a law degree, a Juris Doctor.)

Levy-Pounds’ activism is long-standing and includes some really deep involvement in stuff. In 2006, she founded the Community Justice Project, which connected UST law students with underserved communities by way of the NAACP. That was still running at least in 2016. She also cofounded an organization to support Black men called Brotherhood Inc, but I’m not sure whether that’s still a going concern. (Their former web page leads to a page full of Japanese text that’s apparently selling skin care products.)

She’s been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement since Ferguson, and ran for NAACP Chapter President in 2015 in part because she wanted the NAACP to work more closely with the Black Lives Matter movement. She thought that this might attract more young people to become involved. (I’m curious if she was measurably right about this?My guess is yes, but I don’t know.)

One of the things that kind of surprises me is how thin the information on her website is. She has a hell of a political biography: grew up in poverty, was awarded a scholarship to go to a boarding school 3,000 miles from her home, first in her family to go to college. None of that is on her website, which focuses on listing awards she’s won. Awards are way less compelling to me than an interesting life story. Her website doesn’t even mention the Community Justice Project. Her curriculum vitae is here and I think it does a better job of listing the stuff she’s done than her campaign site.

Her website has a link to a calendar, but it doesn’t actually list her events. FYI, they’re available from her Facebook site. She’s added a few meet-and-greet events since I first looked a couple of days ago.

Anyway! Let’s talk about her platform. Like everything else on her website, it’s pretty bare-bones. She has three platform items: affordable housing, economic equity, and criminal justice reform. This page also notes that she was an early supporter of the $15 minimum wage, and that she’s a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.

One of the things I look for on campaign websites is specifics. Like, obviously you want more affordable housing, everyone wants more affordable housing, what’s your plan? She spends most of that platform point making a case that there’s a problem (do people really need to be convinced?) and then says:

Our vision includes championing initiatives that:

  • Reduce housing disparities and predatory rental practices
  • Enact equal access initiatives and enforce fair housing laws
  • Hold landlords accountable for the livability of their properties

All of these things are good ideas, but none of them are going to increase the supply of housing in Minneapolis. If anything, they’re going to reduce it. (There are a lot of asshole landlords around. That’s not surprising, because it’s a pain in the ass to be a landlord, and that’s more so if you’re not an asshole. If you get rid of the assholes, you will immediately have less rental housing. That might be worth it, especially if you have some plan for increasing housing overall, but in the short term, especially, you’re making the problem worse instead of better. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that this won’t solve your problems if the problem is a shortage of affordable housing.) Equal access initatives presumably mean that everyone will have an equal shot at those apartments that are out there, but it doesn’t mean there will be enough to bring down prices such that people can afford them.

Her real focus is criminal justice reform — I mean, she’s a law professor who’s researched this stuff pretty extensively. ( For example: “From the Frying Pan Into the Fire: How Poor Women of Color and Children are Affected by the Sentencing Guidelines & Mandatory Minimums” is a paper she wrote that appeared in the Santa Clara Law Review in 2007.) She’s been involved in BLM since the movement started. Etc. Here’s what she says about criminal justice reform:

The time is now to move beyond talking about criminal justice reform. We must now start enacting policies that put those words into action. Minneapolis can be a national leader in showing what true racial equity is all about. That means taking actions like improving community and police relations, advocating for the fair treatment of people of color, and reducing racial profiling.

We also cannot forget about those who are reentering society from correctional facilities. I will push for reentry policies that reduce recidivism and provide economic and housing stability for people seeking a fresh start.

I mean, I’m cutting her a certain amount of slack because this is an area where she’s made her stance so very clear, but that first paragraph is mostly platitudes. “Improving community and police relations, advocating for the fair treatment of people of color, and reducing racial profiling” — I mean, if what you want is a bold, clear, specific set of plans for demilitarizing the police, you won’t find them here, even though I’m pretty damn sure that’s something she wants.

There have been a whole lot of ideas thrown out from candidates on how to change the way the Minneapolis police treat Black residents, and given Levy-Pounds’ focus on this issue in general, I’d be really interested in hearing what she would actually do as mayor.

I mean, we can safely assume that if she’s elected mayor, Lt. Kroll will shit a litter of kittens on the spot? So there’s that.

Anyway. I find Nekima Levy-Pounds impressive as a person, but kind of an enigma as a candidate. For the passionate Levy-Pounds fans reading this — if you want to put in some useful volunteer hours, offer to improve the content available on her website! There are a LOT of people out there who do most of their research by looking at those websites to see what candidates have to say. Has she been interviewed? Could you provide links, and maybe transcripts so people can skim and look for answers to their own questions? Could you go along to meet & greets and take notes on any Q&A, then type it up and put it on her website?

Is there any reason to believe she’s qualified to be mayor? Yes. She has an impressive record of service and leadership.
Does she have any chance of winning? Yes, although I think the most likely scenario where she wins is that a bunch of people list her as their first choice symbolically and get something other than the outcome they actually wanted.
Is there any reason to vote for her? Despite not providing much in the way of specific plans, you would probably not be wrong if you thought she would push back harder against the Minneapolis Police than any other mayoral candidate.

Ronald Lischeid

I linked to his page because he wrote down a URL on his affidavit of candidacy and so they set up a link from the Secretary of State site, but there’s nothing there.

He does have a Facebook campaign site, though! I found it via his personal page. On September 9th, he posted a link to his Facebook campaign page to his personal site and asked all his friends to like and share, promising to post on the campaign site every few days. Also on the 9th, he posted a line drawing of himself, a meme about how every other candidate in the race is beholden to special interests, and that was the last time he posted any content to the page. (I mean, it’s only been a week and a half, but, yeah.)

He also thinks it’s price gouging when downtown parking places jack up their rates for Vikings games, and compared it to Epipen pricing.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Zero.
Does he have any chance of winning? None.
Is there any reason to vote for him? Nope.

L.A. Nik

You know how a “celebrity” is “someone who’s famous for being famous”? I feel like we need a term for “someone who tells you constantly that they’re famous, and are doing their absolute best to be famous for being famous, but no one’s ever actually heard of them.”

giphy

L.A. Nik is a “self-appointed ultimate scenester…[who] calls himself a ‘professional entertainment personality.'” He is “‘the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Minneapolis After Dark.'” There’s at least one writer out there who’s pretty sure he’s a straight-up grifter.

I would honestly not know if someone was a famous “ultimate scenester” because downtown nightlife wasn’t really my thing even before I had kids. (And I have had kids for 17 years now.) I go to restaurants and theaters in downtown Minneapolis but not so much bars, nightclubs, or music venues. Anyway, I tried asking my friends, who admittedly are also mostly middle-aged nerds but at least a few of whom are involved with the music scene in some way and none of them had ever heard of him. (Update: someone chimed in who’d met him. She said he had excellent table manners and was quite pleasant.)

(Another note I’m adding: my father sent me a link to this article about European cities and their “night mayors.” If the next mayor of Minneapolis wants to appoint a night life coordinator, they could probably do worse than appointing Nik.)

Anyway. Nik’s website promotes his podcast, his self-help book, his YouTube videos, and the idea that he’s a celebrity. If there’s anything in there about politics, it’s buried in a video or a podcast.

I was actually thinking the other day about that $500 fee for getting on the ballot and how it’s not an outrageous sum if your goal is advertising. You get to provide a web link, which then goes up on the Secretary of State site, and lots of people pull up the list of candidates and check them out. I don’t know how many clicks you’re likely to get, but it might not be a terrible investment if you think of it that way?

The only thing about Nik’s political views I was able to readily turn up: he was a Trump supporter.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? According to the Bio on his website, he “has sat on the board of the Hospitality Zone Assessment Group.” He’s very enthusiastic about the downtown area of Minneapolis. That’s a pretty thin political resume but it’s something.
Does he have any chance of winning? Not even if every other Trump supporter in Minneapolis lists him as their #1.
Is there any reason to vote for him? Nope.

Aswar Rahman

The first thing I will note about Aswar Rahman is that he is 23 years old and his political experience consists of volunteering in R.T. Rybak’s office. He sent out a press release back in January that insulted all the reporters reading it; the irritated City Pages reporter followed up on some of his claims and noted that although he appears to be telling the truth that he volunteered in R.T.’s office, R.T. doesn’t remember who he was. (Pro tip: don’t send out insulting press releases. John Scalzi will tell you that the failure mode of “clever” is “asshole” and I strongly suspect that Rahman thought he was being clever.)

“I volunteered in the office of Notable Politician, who probably doesn’t remember me” is actually a perfectly lovely beginning for a political resume. It is not a great sign when that is your entire political resume.

He has ideas, ambition, and energy in spades. I am genuinely impressed by his energy and creativity. It looks (from the little video on his website and FB page) that he rented a truck and went around to various events over the summer and handed out free bottles of water with his name on them, which is a genuinely pretty inexpensive way to get people to come over and talk to you. (Not exactly an environmentalist statement, but who among us has not bought those stupid overpriced environmentally-nightmarish plastic disposable bottles of water at summer events?) It’s hard to suss out exactly how successful someone’s campaign is (especially given that for obvious reasons, candidates are invested in making their campaigns look like they’re doing very well)  but he’s got a lot of “Meet Aswar” events, and the fundraising dinner scheduled for 9/20 had 8 people saying they were going on the 19th, and it appears today that 10 people went. (I checked out the RSVPs for meet & greets for Levy-Pounds, Tom Hoch, Jacob Frey, and Ray Dehn, and they all had comparable numbers.) Given the his campaign started out as just him (just him, sending out insulting press releases) that’s a hell of a testament to his energy and campaigning ability.

On to his ideas. He has a lot of ideas and is extremely specific about them. Which is great! Or would be great, if the specifics here were good.

His two big areas of interest are the city budget, and policing. I appreciate the fact that he links to the budget from his page about the budget.

He wants to “free up” $70 million from the city budget. He is specific about the offices he’s going to cut, but in most cases he’s not actually specific about what they do. For example, he proposes to find $12,531,872 by “capping Public Works Contract Services to 2014-2016 levels.” What exactly does Public Works Contract Services do for the city of Minneapolis? Do they plow snow? Clear leaves? Fill potholes? (I sent him an e-mail asking him about this; no answer yet.)

The first item on his hit list is actually $42,452,000 by “replacing Meet Minneapolis with leaner marketing approach, funded by hospitality sector.” Meet Minneapolis is the marketing department of the Convention Center, apparently, and FYI the savings is over four years.

So OK. You can certainly argue that $10.6 million/year is way more than a city’s convention center’s marketing department needs. But unless I’m missing something, the city budget says that the convention center brings in $18.8 million; overall expenses are $26.8 million. So in fact the tax expenditure is not $10.6 for the marketing department, but $8 million for the convention center as a whole. (You can argue about that $8 million, but the theory is that you need a functional and pleasant convention center to get conventions, conventions bring a whole bunch of people downtown to spend money at hotels and restaurants and bars and so on, it’s an overall net gain because like everyone else, we tax the hell out of visitors.)

Meet Minneapolis is 11% of the convention center’s operating funds. And 11% of $8 million is $880,000, which over four years is $3.5 million. Which is a full order of magnitude less than the money he’s planning to bring in by cutting it.

I think he may have straight-up missed that the convention center’s funding includes money they make? Or else he thinks that since it’s going into the city pot, and the money to run stuff is coming out of the city pot, we can just cut what we’re giving them to $0 and also take an extra $2.6 million/year out of their coffers? Except if we cut their marketing budget to nothing, they’re going to have a harder time getting business and thus the money they bring in will fall as well.

 

He caps a whole bunch of things, and I have no idea what most of them do. Does Aswar? I don’t know. He doesn’t tell you what they do, despite being very specific about the money he’s cutting, probably in part because he wants you to think that he’s not cutting most of these, he’s just capping them. But here’s the thing: a “cap” is a cut. Inflation is a thing that exists, plus we just raised the minimum wage in Minneapolis to $15/hour. If you cut someone’s budget, they will lay people off and reduce services. That can be a totally legitimate thing, when it’s a thing you do not value. Or when it’s a thing you think might be nice, but just isn’t worth what it would cost the city. But since I don’t know what these offices currently do, I don’t know what that means in terms of city services. (It’s things like “City Coordinator Internal Service Capital” and “Finance and Property Department Internal Contractual Services” and “CPED Special Revenue Operating Costs.”)

Having raised $70 million through cuts, he wants to spend that money to vastly increase scholarships for poor students attending MCTC; offer preschool to all impoverished kids; offer small-business job grants and empty storefront grants; fund youth employment programs; and do an annual assessment on whether the $15/hour minimum wage is hurting the Minneapolis economy.

MCTC and preschool scholarships sound great! And it’s nice to see a candidate who actually has a plan for funding stuff. I’m just really, really skeptical that he knows how any of this stuff works and what the effects would be of what he’s proposing. Especially since he’s never held elected office, served on a citizen advisory board, worked for a public agency, run a large nonprofit, etc.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? No.
Does he have any chance of winning? He’s a long shot, but yes, he has a chance.
Is there any reason to vote for him? If “I am a 23-year-old filmmaker and I am really, really smart” is the sort of electoral case that deeply impresses you, then sure, but I’m not sure why you read my blog.

 

 


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On to the next four candidates! (Just to reiterate: I’m profiling candidates four to a post. I’m going in alphabetical order. If you’re looking for Frey, he was in the last post. If you’re looking for Levy-Pounds, she’ll be in the next post.)

Charlie Gers LIBERTARIAN PARTY
Tom Hoch DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Betsy Hodges DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Gregg A. Iverson DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Charlie Gers

Charlie is a U of M student and has a write-up on “Students for Liberty” (which I think is an organization of  Libertarian students). His website is a Facebook page; Facebook has added some tools (like he has an “issues” section with positions on four issues) but doesn’t appear to make it straightforward to (a) collect donations or (b) organize volunteers.

He is very, very into being a Libertarian. Like, before he was a Libertarian mayoral candidate, he worked for Young Americans for Liberty. His personal Facebook page shows him speaking at a Young Americans for Liberty conference in Colorado last year. He worked for the Minnesota Republic (a conservative student newspaper). He volunteered for Rand Paul. He works for some group called FEE that appears to exist to convince people that Reaganomics totally works. He had a summer internship with the Charles Koch Institute. This guy only graduated high school in 2014!

There’s this comic strip showing the 24 Types of Libertarian and on first looking at his page, I thought he was probably “Left-Wing.” (The comic shows someone shouting, “I exist! I’m against the government AND corporations! Why does everyone always ignore me?” He’s in favor of DACA, in favor of Title VII civil rights protections (that one genuinely surprised me, given how many Libertarians will insist that the only legitimate solution to discrimination is market-based, not legal. (“It’s immoral to force someone to do business with someone they don’t want to do with” is the usual claim.) But the guy interned for the Koch Brothers and volunteered for Rand Paul. (But he posted a pro-choice meme despite volunteering for an anti-choice candidate.) I do not know what to make of him, frankly.

His most consistent stance: taxes are bad.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? you, too, might hate both taxes and racism and find yourself stymied by a choice of parties. Also, if you’re a Republican living in Minneapolis, he might literally be the candidate closest to your politics. (No one is running as a Republican.)

Tom Hoch

Although, I mean, you could go for Tom Hoch, who was in the news this week because it turns out he donates to Republicans. On occasion. For reasons. (Here’s his statement on the donation, which doesn’t really explain much. I mean, I’m pretty sure an actual explanation would look like this: “As CEO of the the Hennepin Theater Trust, it’s my job to lobby politicians for their support. I go to certain events because when Republicans hear ‘arts funding’ I want them to think ‘oh, yeah, that organization that brought Aladdin to town. My grandkids loved that!’ instead of picturing Karen Finley, not that I have anything against Karen Finley, and if you go to this kind of thing you basically have to make a donation. If you don’t like that this is how politics works, maybe take that up with someone other than the mayoral candidates? Because this is how politics works.” Maybe? This seems like his most likely motivation, honestly.)

Moving on. Tom Hoch is a married gay man; he copied the “please for the love of all that’s holy, vote for my husband to get him out of the house” ad format from a Republican who ran in 2016, although I think it worked better for the first guy. His blog includes a recap of his meet-and-greet events; it looks like he has an assistant who live-Tweets them, so you can read the Q&A on Twitter. Which is cool, but unfortunately forces a lot of brevity on the responses, which means he comes across in those as incredibly facile. Example:

Q: We don’t have a vision for putting an end to crime in our city. What will yours be?

A: My vision is collaborative. We need to talk to people & find out why they feel unsafe, then find solutions to the problems they identify.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with talking to people to find out what their priorities are, but “find solutions to the problems they identify” is sort of a classic politician answer because it so deftly avoids any specifics. Then there’s this:

Q: An article in the @StarTribune said the city is over-focused on bike lanes. What do you think?

A: The issue isn’t bike lanes themselves it’s the way they are being implemented. Communication is lacking & many are confused & frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong: communication is always lacking. Just, across the board, for anything involving streets, traffic, or construction: what the heck are you doing here? why? when will you be done tearing up my street? why didn’t you do this thing with the pipes when you tore out this street two years ago? why are you tearing out these two parallel streets simultaneously, instead of finishing one before you ripped out the obvious alternate route? I always want the answer to these questions and I literally never have them.

 

But blaming communication is frequently a dodge and this answer makes him look like he’s both trying to avoid speaking up in favor of bike lanes, and trying to avoid saying “yeah, we just focus on them too much.”

I’d say he’s the candidate who’s spoken up with the most alacrity about recruiting Amazon to build their second HQ in the Twin Cities; he also thinks that we should market ourselves to corporations around our strengths, which he sees as health innovation, food, and the arts.

A couple of other notes:

  • Hoch’s statements on police stuff are much more law-and-order-y than some of the candidates. He focuses a lot more on crime than on fear of the police. He does, however, say that one of his goals is that 90% of Minneapolis residents in every neighborhood should be satisfied with the professionalism of the police. (His approach to public safety is to set goals and use that as a metric.) He doesn’t particularly care whether the police live in Minneapolis, and I found nothing addressing the specific concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement. I actually searched his site for the word “black” just to see if anything came up: literally nothing. (When I searched “white,” I found this post on acknowledging bigotry and discrimination, where he identifies himself as a gay white man: https://www.tomforminneapolis.com/toms-blog/2017/8/3/bigotry-cant-be-solved-without-first-acknowledging-it ) He does acknowledge that African American and Native American men are 6 to 9 times more likely to be arrested for petty bullshit than white guys, and he specifically suggests decriminalizing marijuana possession. He’s got ideas that might mitigate some of the problems with the MPD but he’s not proposing anything radical.
  • He does get asked in one of the Q&As, “How would you demilitarize the police?” His response: “1. Review the department from top to bottom. 2. Work for a culture change in MPD. 3. Civilian review with skilled investigators.” (See what I mean about Twitter and facile answers?)
  • Oh dear GOD, in the same Q&A he gets asked, ” How do you make the MPD a partner in a civilian review program rather than an adversary?” His answer: “I would start from a place of assuming good intentions. I have found assuming positive intent goes a long way toward bridging divides.”

    No. Just, no. I don’t even know what to say to that because I’m hung up on, “are you fucking serious?” Maybe I’d start with, “Have you ever read anything either by or about Lt. Bob Kroll, the leader of the police union?”  What the everloving fuck. NOPE.

  • He mentions changing zoning to require more affordable units when an apartment building is being built, but he definitely does not sound like an upzoning proponent:

    Q: What is your vision for the city regarding density and transportation?

    A: We want to grow the city’s tax base. However, I don’t support density that changes the character of neighborhoods.

    When people no longer feel at home in their neighborhoods and leave, that destabilizes neighborhoods. That hurts us all.

Strengths: he has actually worked in public housing (and apparently put a bunch of units in southwest, ignoring the whining of rich people), and he’s got a solid grasp of how downtown works (or doesn’t.) These live-Tweeted Q&As are happening at Meet & Greets that he’s having several times a week, so if you’re interested in him and want an answer to your question, you can go to one and ask him. If you try e-mailing him, let me know if you get more of a response than I did? (I sent an e-mail and asked him (a) how he intended to measure the results of the “90% of ALL residents” goals on public safety, especially marginalized residents, who tend to be harder to poll, and (b) did he have any endorsements? No response.)

I have found nothing about endorsements on his website, but he highlighted the fact that Jackie Cherryhomes came to one of his meet & greets. (I would definitely hold it against him if he got her endorsement, but maybe she just showed up as an interested citizen? It doesn’t say.)

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Absolutely. He is solidly qualified.
Does he have any chance of winning? Yes.
Is there any reason to vote for him? If you really want to see Minneapolis work hard to recruit big companies to locate their headquarters here, Tom’s probably your guy. I also know some people who really like him; I think the people who’ve worked with him on arts stuff are often fans.

Betsy Hodges

Honestly, I’ve been dreading writing up Betsy, because I am so torn between feeling like her critics have a point (or lots of points) and suspecting strongly that she’d be coasting along on good will and smiles if she were a tall, rugged-looking man who wears mismatched socks and bikes a lot. (The key word there is man, obviously. I don’t think Betsy taking up mismatched socks as a habit would help her.)

I never really seriously wrote up R.T. He did have a serious opponent in 2005 (Peter McLaughlin), and I did an election blog post, but all I said was, “the mayoral race has gotten plenty of coverage, I’m sure you all know who you’re voting for.” In 2009, it was the first year Instant Runoff was used, and R.T. beat his ten opponents in the first round with 73% of the vote, which is about all you really need to know about that race. I did post about it, but without much detail about the one serious opponent, John Kolstad.

Anyway, as an incumbent, Betsy gets to be evaluated in part on what she’s gotten done (in collaboration with the City Council; we have a “weak mayor” system.)

  1. Passed an ordinance requiring all Minneapolis employers with 6+ employees to offer paid sick time. (It’s “sick and safe time,” which means you can also use this leave to get services for domestic abuse and similar issues, and you can stay home with a kid who’s home for a snow day.) Smaller employers have to allow unpaid leave. There are various exceptions made, like if you opened a new business  you get to offer unpaid leave the first year.
  2. Implemented body cams for police officers. Which mysteriously didn’t get turned on when Justine Damond was shot. (They’re a good idea, but not a perfect, instant fix, especially when turning them on is left to the discretion of the officers.)
  3. The $15 minimum wage ordinance passed (but has not yet been implemented). Betsy doesn’t mention this on her website, which surprises me.
  4. The city has continued building bike lanes, moving more toward sheltered lanes and away from striping. She talks on her website about investing $40 million in affordable housing over the last three years, but not how that compares to what was being spent before she became mayor.
  5. The city has added about 5,300 private-sector jobs annually since she became mayor. (Because of Betsy? Who knows. Minnesota’s economy is overall strong.)

I’ll also note that she’s backed remaining a sanctuary city, and delivered her State-of-the-City address at a mosque.

Stuff she’s done that’s not so awesome:

There was the budget thing. According to the city charter, she’s supposed to turn in a budget by August 15th. Hodges turned in a sort of outline budget, promising a full budget within a month and blaming the Damond shooting and the fire at Minnehaha Academy. (The articles all note that other mayors have missed their budget deadline after a public safety crisis of some kind, but aren’t specific about who or when.) Carol Becker, who serves on the Board of Estimate and Taxation but filed this lawsuit as a private citizen, sued. Her comments on her Facebook page were pretty awesome, so I’m going to quote her here: “I have had this fight with the Mayor (and previous mayor) before. I could yell about it again, hoping that she will do the right thing. Or we could settle this once and for all. So I have petitioned the courts to rule on whether a budget is seven tables in an eight page speech or if it is a one inch thick document. I believe that it is a one-inch thick document that promotes debate and discussion in our community. I hope that the courts agree.”

Becker’s point was that the full budget was going to get released only a day before the hearing on the property tax increase, and there was no way for citizens to actually look at the budget and figure out whether they thought the new expenditures were worthwhile enough to make the outlay from their own pockets worthwhile, with only a day between the full budget release and the hearing. A judge tossed the suit, saying that under the city charter, seven tables in an eight page speech fulfilled the requirements. (I have mixed feelings about this: on one hand, I think Becker makes an excellent point. On the other hand, a major fire that killed two people plus a cop shooting of an unarmed civilian in her PJs are legit emergencies that the mayor had to drop everything to deal with.)

Of course, she didn’t drop absolutely everything; she still flew out to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. And again, I have mixed feelings about this. Specifically, I think it was a bad call on her part (both because she was leaving the city mid-crisis, and because she was using this crisis as a reason she didn’t have her budget done while leaving town for a day) but reading Frey and Hoch gleefully making hay over it is gross and off-putting and makes me like both of them significantly less.

The other major complaint I’ve heard about Betsy is that she has not done enough to deal with the police department. She kept Janee Harteau on as police chief (until last month, when she fired her in part because she did not promptly return from vacation after the shooting); she had the protest camp cleared from the area around the 4th precinct. Her accomplishments page lists body cameras and also “getting all police officers trained in implicit bias, procedural justice, and crisis intervention; making it easier to file and track complaints against officers; creating new classes of Community Service Officers, which are more than half people of color; and investing significantly in community policing, one of the pillars of building relationships and trust with community.”

And this is all good! Although making it easier to file and track complaints is only helpful if anything is ever done about the complaints (as of a few years ago, nothing was very consistently the result of complaints about the Minneapolis Police).

Honestly, I don’t know how much to even blame the mayor for the police; it’s clear that police departments all over believe themselves accountable to no one.

Anyway. Overall: Betsy is a mixed bag. But I am having a hell of a time separating out the complaints into “yeah, this is legit” vs. “you just don’t like the sound of women’s voices, period, and it really doesn’t matter what they’re saying.”

Oh, wait, I skipped endorsements. SHE HAS A FEW. I am irritated by the inclusion of Dan Savage on the list — I’m a fan of his column and podcasts (don’t @ me) but the guy lives in Seattle. Do I endorse Seattle politicians? No. I don’t. Not even when I like them. But, okay, she’s also endorsed by Al Franken and a long list of legislators, City Council reps, Park Board reps, County Commissioners, etc. Also a union (SEIU), Outfront Minnesota, and the Sierra Club.

Is there any reason to believe she’s qualified to be mayor? Hopefully that’s an obvious “yes.”
Does she have any chance of winning? Yes.
Is there any reason to vote for her? If you think she’s basically done a good job.

Gregg Iverson

Gregg Iverson is a perennial candidate who runs for all sorts of things but can’t be bothered to set up a website. He has a personal Facebook page where in 2016 he told people to vote for him for Congress. KSTP apparently found out that “he wants to lower taxes, encourage educators, and support unions.”

It now costs $500 to get on the ballot. I am absolutely baffled by candidates who shell out the money to get on the ballot but then can’t be bothered to set up a website. If you’re one of these random guys with no campaign manager, money, etc., you are definitely not going to win but if you set up a website, you can promote your message of whatever to all the curious people who find you via the MyBallot site and figure they’ll check you out. If your goal is to get some idea out there (whether it’s “cryptocurrency is the future” or “unicorn farts are a great source of green energy” or “I have an awesome idea for the design of bike lanes”), $500 is not actually a bad price for getting potentially several thousand engaged Minneapolis residents to go look at your site and be exposed to your cool idea, but you do need to have a site. (Also some interesting ideas.) If you’re not going to do that, maybe stop and consider the possibility that you could more enjoyably spend your $500 on almost anything else?

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Even less than for most flake candidates.
Does he have any chance of winning? Zero.
Is there any reason to vote for him? No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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In a conversation on Facebook, a couple of people piled on Frey a bit. Someone noted that he had taken a $250 donation from the Police Federation a few months back, then defended this with “it wasn’t that big a donation.” Someone else noted that he called himself “the BLM candidate,” adding, “I can honestly say that I never saw his butt at the 4th Precinct or anything else. Dehn was there regularly.”

And this kind of touches on two issues I was thinking about last night but was too busy to pull into focus. (I started that post nine days ago and had it sitting in an open browser window and kept getting bogged down so I really wanted to get it done.)

  1. Frey is really working from an outdated script on police issues. While I would not vote for him for mayor, I feel like browsing Al Flowers’ history with the Minneapolis Police puts a lot of stuff out there pretty clearly. He is a Black man who has been repeatedly beaten up by the cops for no reason. And this isn’t new. This isn’t remotely new. But since 2014, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s increasingly an expectation that people like mayors take action to actually deal with out-of-control, brutal police officers, people who use their badge as a license to abuse and even kill with impunity and to endanger the communities they allegedly serve.

    But Frey is still talking about how having beat cops will solve this problem. Having Christopher Reiter patrolling your neighborhood every day is not going to help anything. (That link leads to an article with a video of Reiter kicking the man in the face. This guy had been ordered out of his car; he obeyed immediately and got on his hands and knees, like you literally could not ask for someone to be more obviously unresistant and unthreatening. Reiter broke his jaw and left him with a permanent brain injury.)

  2. Frey is also really fond of claiming credit for stuff, and maybe he actually did a lot of stuff, but there are thirteen people on the city council and it’s kind of hard to believe that he was as personally responsible as he claims to be for as many things as he says he led on, piloted, ran, authored, etc. I hesitated to say this last night because it felt unfair; there are people who are just that energetic. But … I mean … there are also a lot of people out there who will unhesitatingly claim sole credit for a team effort. And someone who will claim to be the BLM candidate (as a white guy! in a race that also includes Nekima Levy-Pounds! when you weren’t showing up at the protests!) …hearing that made me think, “maybe I was trying too hard to be fair about the ‘claiming credit for everything good that’s happened since he took office’ stuff.”

Finally, someone e-mailed me an article about the use-of-force policy stuff that Frey was probably talking about. (Noting that it probably wouldn’t have made a difference for Justine Damond.)

I have never been entirely clear about the extent to which the mayor can impose policy on the police department, in part because the Minneapolis Police Department seems to operate so thoroughly without oversight of any kind. But this bit:

[Police Officers Federation President Bob Kroll] also challenged a provision that would hold an officer accountable “if their actions unnecessarily place themselves, the suspect, or the public in a deadly force situation.” That would make it easier to punish officers even if their actions comply with a law allowing the use of deadly force to protect themselves from great bodily harm or death, he said.

That is exactly the sort of policy change we need, whether cops like it or not. If you shoot a person dead because you put yourself in a bad situation where you then felt the need to kill someone to protect yourself? Yeah. You should be fucking held accountable. I’m sorry that it offends you that the people you supposedly are here to protect want you to actually prioritize not killing people as you do your job?

(And not firing at moving cars ought to be standard policy. You will miss and your bullet will probably hit someone else, so yeah, just get the hell out of the way. I had a friend years ago who watched a security guard fire his gun at a car that was backing out at about 5 mph as the guard tried to block the parking space to keep a shoplifter from getting away. It was in the parking lot of the Lake Street Cub Foods, which is in the same plaza as the Lake Street Target — this is a parking lot that is routinely full of people, day and night, and a bullet that misses its target could hit any number of random people, some of them children. I was so incensed I got in touch with my City Council rep and demanded an investigation. The guard claimed that they were “coming at him and trying to hit him” and as far as I know, absolutely nothing came of this.)

I also heard a bunch of complaints about my comparison between upzoning and deregulation. And, fine. Upzoning isn’t removing zoning, it’s just changing the zoning. But fundamentally, someone found a fancy-pants real estate term to avoid pointing out that the complaint here is that there are a bunch of regulations put into place by well-meaning people that are restrictive, annoying, and having results you don’t like, and you are hoping that removing some of these restrictions will result in market-based solutions to things that everyone agrees are a problem (like “not enough affordable housing.”)

I just find that funny! I mean, on a local level, there are plenty of places where the conservative/liberal divide starts to fall apart. Almost everyone agrees that Minneapolis has a lot of pointless and annoying regulations that are not effectively accomplishing any useful goal; that’s not a Republican stance, that’s the stance of anyone who’s ever found out they were supposed to have their dishwasher installation officially inspected by someone from the city. (To name one minor example.) I am in favor of regulations (including zoning) that accomplish the goals I think are a good idea, and we can join hands across the partisan aisle (although in Minneapolis, the partisan divide is Democrat vs. Green) and remove the regulations that discriminate against the already marginalized (and also the regulations that do literally nothing other than annoy everyone and possibly provide full employment for dishwasher inspectors.)

Finally, I got an e-mail from a friend about this “naturally-occurring affordable housing”:

I’m kind of stuck on the notion of “naturally occurring affordable housing,” as if this is some kind of natural resource that just sprouts out of the ground or something. Do you know if that’s, in fact, code for “older housing stock that is cheaper because of smaller square footage”?

I’m pretty sure that’s an example of what they mean. That in general, it’s housing that’s cheap, not because it’s subsidized or was built as part of a planned affordable housing development, but because it’s just not all that desirable. It’s old, dumpy, small, run down, not terribly private, ugly, in someone’s finished basement to which they added egress windows… anything like that.

I mean, I’m glad we’re talking about this. I’ve lost track of the number of newspaper articles I’ve seen over the years, celebrating the fact that we’re tearing down a “problem property” or unsightly 70s-era apartment complex, glossing completely over the fact that these apartments were actually affordable and are being replaced by trendy condos for the affluent. (There’s usually a single resident who gets quoted saying “I don’t know where I’m going to go,” then back to the “but neighbors said they won’t miss the peeling paint,” etc.)

 

 


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OKAY. ::cracks knuckles:: Let’s get this election-blogging-show on the road. The first set of four (edited to note: these are the first four alphabetically, I will be covering all sixteen candidates):

Troy Benjegerdes FARMER LABOR
Raymond Dehn DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Jacob Frey DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Al Flowers DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Four years ago, I suggested that when picking three candidates (out of 35) to rank, the two most basic questions are, “who here could plausibly do the job?” and “who here could plausibly win?”

Occasionally, candidates show up really mad when I say they’re not a serious candidate. Here’s how I know that you are definitely not a serious candidate for a job like “mayor” — if you have no campaign manager, no fundraising link, no way for interested people to volunteer, no one who appears to be volunteering for you, and no one who’s endorsed you. (If I can’t even figure any of that out because you have no website, then you definitely are not a serious candidate.) Even if all your ideas are perfectly sensible, if you’re not doing this fairly basic stuff, you’re not a serious candidate.

In most cases, not all their ideas are perfectly sensible. They’re a crank. Or they have no actual ideas. Or they’re running 100% on platitudes. (There are serious candidates who run 100% on platitudes, but they also have high-powered endorsements. This might seem unfair; you can take comfort from the fact that I, for one, do notice when someone’s running 100% on platitudes.)

Anyway, on to the first set of candidates!

Troy Benjegerdes

Troy ran four years ago. I was not super impressed by him at the time. From his Facebook, he’s clearly in local fandom (there are pictures of him, his wife, and his adorable baby going to both MarsCon and Convergence) and we’ve got several real-life friends in common and in looking at pictures of his wife I think it’s entirely possible we’ve chatted at conventions.

Putting him through the “fannish” filter makes his obsession with cryptocurrency slightly less weird. Maybe? Maybe slightly.

Back in 2013, he suggested you could support his campaign by donating Bitcoin. This time around he suggested last month that you should get yourself some “Grantcoin,” which is a cryptocurrency that “supports basic income” in the sense that you can enroll in it and they’ll simply send you some every month, which appears to differ from me declaring a currency and offering to send anyone who wants it an e-mail awarding them 1,000,000 Gold-Plated Unicorn Farts annually in the following ways:

  1. Blockchain is involved.
  2. There’s a registration process that isn’t working very well and people got really pissy about it back in 2016. (Or so I gather from the really irritable blog post from its founder.)

Also, it sounds like “Grantcoin” is relaunching as “Manna.” However, everything here really sounds to me like it runs on unicorn farts. I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON BLOCKCHAIN and hey, Bitcoin continues to be in use, although I’m pretty sure that the only people I know who’ve used it, bought it in order to send in the ransom after getting hijacked by ransomware. But I’ll tell you this much: after a bunch of poking around on the Grantcoin site, I didn’t run across anyone accepting payment for anything in Grantcoin, and on the exchange I found via the Grantcoin site, they appear to have the approximate value of dog farts (I mean, let’s be honest, unicorn farts would probably be worth something).

In addition to donating 6 months of volunteer time to Grantcoin, Troy also works for a company that provides cryptocurrency infrastructure, I guess? He’s also an “Agronomic artist and Holistic Engineer” at a farm he owns (?) down in Iowa.

Four years ago, I remember him mentioning somewhere that he really wanted to run as “Farmer-Labor” but wasn’t allowed to — you can be a Democrat-Farm-Labor candidate but you couldn’t have either “Farm” or “Labor” in your party name otherwise. (He was “Local Energy/Food” instead.) I thought this was bogus. This year, he’s on the ballot as Farm/Labor and his website talks about how Democrats are more dangerous than fascists: “The organized elite left-wing….are, due to unconscious bias, far more dangerous than the open right-wing fascists.”

Hey, did I mention he’s a white dude?

He goes on to say: “You see it in the politics in Minneapolis in the belief that only a card carrying lifetime democratic party member can be a serious candidate. I am a serious candidate, and so is everyone else who has taken the time to gather signatures or pay the fee to be on the ballot.”

  1. If someone’s prime example of threats to democracy is that in Minneapolis, only Democrats get taken seriously as candidates, they need to get out more. (Also, serious Greens get taken seriously. Serious Independents get taken seriously. Even occasional Republicans have gotten people to take them seriously.)
  2. He was trolling for a campaign manager in July.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? hell, no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? maybe you really like his proposal to allow you to pay your taxes in unicorn farts.

Raymond Dehn

I’ve heard Dehn referred to as the favorite candidate of the lefty progressives. (I’m not entirely sure how fair this is; I definitely know lefty progressives supporting Betsy Hodges, and I’m pretty sure there are at least a few supporting Nekima Levy-Pounds.) Dehn is the State House Rep from 59B, which I think includes a mix of upper-income and lower-income neighborhoods. I was trying to check my assumptions here by looking for the houses for sale in the Jordan neighborhoods he represents, and — this is kind of hilarious — found a handyman special with a JACOB FREY sign in the picture of the house. At least one of his constituents clearly thinks he sucks.

Anyway. The thing I find most fascinating about Dehn is that he’s served time. In the 1970s, as a troubled teen with a cocaine habit, he took up burglary to pay for his drugs. He got caught and served seven months, followed by a drug rehab program. He’s been sober for 40 years. In the early 1980s he had his voting rights restored (this doesn’t happen automatically in MN) (which I think is bogus, FTR). He was elected to the state legislature in 2012.

His website has a “Ray-Bot” link that pulls up Facebook Messenger and lets you chat with a chatbot that will tell you about Ray’s background, visions, etc. I will say I’m impressed with the fact that he manages to be both brief and reasonably substantive. (On housing, his action plan: “1. Build enough affordable housing to meet demand. 2. Increase density while protecting naturally occurring affordable housing. 3. Increase the number of public housing residents serving on city boards and commissions.” There are a lot of hanging questions there, like “when you say build enough affordable housing, do you mean that the city itself should build it? Or offer incentives to get landlords to build it?” But I like that he mentioned protecting “naturally occurring affordable housing” — that is something Minneapolis has been distinctly terrible about in the past. (This may be a hot new buzzword I’m going to find in everyone’s essays about housing; I guess we’ll see.)

His website gets you longer versions of everything, but who’s going to build the new units is still not clear. He does talk explicitly about avoiding gentrification that prices poor people out of their neighborhoods, and calls for “upzoning” — “Implement strategic and equitable growth in density by upzoning parcels across the city and bringing our zoning code into the 21st century.”

I was curious about upzoning and turned up this case for it. It looks heavily like what a lot of Republicans would call “deregulation.” “Fewer design requirements that limit the size, shape, and cost of new buildings or how they’re used inside. Examples include further reducing parking minimums, easing minimum setback requirements, and reducing minimum lot size per unit requirements.”

One of the issues we’re seeing in both Minneapolis and St. Paul right now is teardowns: people want a big house, can’t find out available in Longfellow or Nokomis because they’re neighborhoods full of bungalows, so they buy a bungalow, tear it down to the foundation, and rebuild it as a 4-BR 2-BA full-two-stories house with a two-car garage on the alley. These are mostly not McMansions; they’re replacing 1200-square-foot houses with 2500-square-foot houses. I went looking for an example and found one. At 4452 41st Avenue (this is literally three blocks down from my old house) someone bought a 2-bed 1.5-bath 1402 square foot bungalow:

445241stAveThen

…tore it down, and replaced it with a two-story, 4 BR 2.5 BA, 2200-square-foot (but the basement can be finished with another 2 BR 1 BA and family room for $35K…) house that is currently for sale for $493K:

445241stAveNOW

I know this is literally the opposite of what Dehn is advocating for, but I’m not sure how you regulate against teardowns followed by overbuilding (one of the objections to these houses is that they’re often a lot taller than their neighbors, putting everyone else into shadow) if part of your plan is decreasing regulation about mandatory setbacks and how tall stuff can be.

On continuing to read down, he wants to impose a special tax on houses worth more than $500K. I’m not sure whether this is a tax imposed at time of sale, or if it would apply to people whose houses go up in value because their neighborhood became trendy.

He’s a fan of rent control. (I am not. It perpetuates housing shortages, unless your city is going to get out there and build an absolute shit ton of housing, which it’s not going to do, no matter who you elect mayor. I mean, realistically speaking.) It doesn’t really matter that he’s a fan of rent control, though, as apparently there’s a state law against it? (He wants to have that changed, but he’ll have a much better shot of changing that law if he stays in the state legislature, where this stuff actually gets passed.) He also uses language on his website like “Uplift Climate and Environmental Justice,” which sounds like the sort of language a lefty Madisonian would use, which is probably why he’s endorsed by Our Revolution. (Bernie also chronically sounded to me like a lefty Madisonian.)

Where Dehn has really made a name for himself is with the police accountability stuff. He got profiled on some godawful right-wing news site and infuriated the head of the Police Union by suggesting that police officers in Minneapolis ought to be required to leave their gun in their car unless they had a good reason to go get it.

According to his page on accountable policing, he wants to cut the police budget; not increase the number of officers; decriminalize some low-level offenses (he doesn’t say which, although as a general rule I think this is a good idea. Broken-windows policing was debunked as a good thing a long time ago). He wants to ban the MPS from using military-grade equipment and prioritize de-escalation. He wants to protect the right to protest and assemble. Here’s the piece he wrote for the Star Trib on all this stuff.

I like pretty much all his ideas on policing, although when he says “Add effective civilian oversight mechanisms to current structure” I wonder why he thinks he’ll succeed where others have failed.

I always find endorsements interesting in these sorts of races. Dehn is endorsed by the Minnesota Nurses Association; Minnesota Young DFL; Our Revolution; Representatives Karen Clark and Ilhan Omar; and Minneapolis School Board members Kim Ellison, Kerryjo Felder, and Jill Davis. He also lists two private citizens, one of whom I’m friends with; possibly this is simply because they went up on his campaign’s Facebook page (there’s a lot of automatic connectivity between his website and his Facebook page, which is pretty cool.)

Anyway: that’s certainly a number of noted progressives in town, but it’s definitely not the full spread. I noticed that he’s not endorsed by any of the reps in the districts that border his, or by the State Senator whose district his is within. (You can see the map of State Reps or the map of State Senators, complete with pictures.) The fact that a State Rep has very few endorsements from colleagues makes me wonder if this is a policy issue, or if they’re hedging their bets because they think Betsy Hodges is probably going to win, or if they don’t much like the guy. (To be fair: a lot of city legislators just stay out of the endorsements for mayor. To quote one legislator I spoke with last time: “I have to work with whoever wins.”)

One final note: I started writing this over a week ago, and having chatted a bit with the Ray-Bot, I sent him an e-mail asking him a question about his plans for affordable housing and police accountability. Nine days, no response. (The Ray-Bot says that if you have more specific questions, you can send in an e-mail, but I guess it doesn’t actually say you’ll get a response?)

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Totally.
Does he have any chance of winning? Heck yes.
Is there any reason to vote for him? The police stuff.

Jacob Frey

So due to the alphabetical order, we’re going straight from the leftiest lefty to the guy broadly viewed as a corporate hack.

I’m not quite sure how and when that transformation took place; back in 2013, he was definitely more progressive than the stadium flack he ran against. (Here’s my writeup at the time.) He’s the one who floated the idea of a tip credit to offset the $15 minimum wage for waitstaff (and then backed off when this proved unpopular) and he was pro-soccer-stadium. (FWIW, the soccer stadium was asking for a much more modest sort of public subsidy, and I kind of suspect that Hodges shot it down mostly to demonstrate how anti-stadium she was. But, whatever.)

Frey promises to be an approachable, responsive mayor. I sent an e-mail to his media contact address, asking for more information on his housing plan and also his endorsements. I got a response within three days, with a link to his brand-new endorsements page and the promise of an affordable housing plan that was coming out soon.

There’s an expanded housing section on the website now, in fact, and he makes some of the same proposals as Dehn: preserving naturally-occurring affordable housing, increasing density, building more public housing. He also suggests expanding the owner-occupied rental market, decreasing parking requirements, shrinking or eliminating minimum lot sizes, and easing occupancy limits. (“Restrictive occupancy limits based on outdated conceptions of what a ‘family’ is supposed to look like often make life challenging for immigrant families, and I support changing these laws.”)

Are there candidates pushing for street cars this time around? Dehn’s Uplifting of Environmental Justice references transit but with basically no specifics. Frey wants expanded light rail and bus rapid transit.

Again, policing is a big issue. Frey’s proposals are overall less radical than Dehn’s. The stuff he advocates is mostly stuff I think people were generally advocating for a decade ago: let’s go back to having beat cops, everyone should know their cop, let’s train cops in de-escalation and educate them about mental health crises, stuff like that. Probably his most controversial proposal is trying to get more police officers to live in the city, but contrary to the outraged letter to the editor I saw last week, he is not trying to force anyone to live anywhere, he’s suggesting offering a rent credit good only in the city or some other incentive.

One of the claims he makes, incidentally: “We must implement the use-of-force reforms that the MPD rejected and that Mayor Hodges declined to implement less than a month before Justine Damond was shot,  including requiring officers to exhaust reasonable alternatives before the use of deadly force is a permissible option, deterring officers from shooting at moving vehicles, and holding officers accountable for taking actions that unnecessarily place themselves, suspects, or bystanders in deadly force situations.” I went looking for more details on this and found something from over a year ago on how the MPD was changing its use-of-force policy: “Minneapolis police officers will be trained to exhaust all reasonable means in defusing potentially violent encounters before resorting to force, under new department rules unveiled Monday” says this article from August 2016. This change is discussed in an article from last month (which observes that it didn’t keep Justine Damond from getting shot). Anyway — I found no info on what Frey was talking about regarding stuff rejected by Hodges, so if anyone knows, please chime in in the comments. (And I’ll note that this is one of the things I dislike about both Frey and Dehn. Like, I know you are running against Betsy and you have some legit beefs with her; I feel like some of the claims they make about her are neither reasonable nor fair.)

Moving on to his endorsements: wow, is that ever a lot of unions.  I have mixed feelings about union endorsements. On one hand, I am in favor of worker-friendly policies like mandatory paid sick time. On the other hand, building and trade unions tend to adore things like stadium deals. And on the other other hand, everyone seriously running for mayor supports mandatory paid sick time, I think. If you actively opposed it, you’d probably come in behind the Rainbows Butterflies Unicorns guy.

I don’t know: I have a lot of friends who are vehemently Not Fans. Fundamentally, I think they think his progressive stances here are for the sake of political expediency. And … maybe? The thing that strikes me is that he radiates ambition. I’m not necessarily opposed to ambition if it’s tied to genuine progressive values. We need a bench, right? This guy wants to be on that bench. (And he’s younger than me by almost a decade. So he’s got years ahead of him to run for the offices that would eventually lead him to whatever it is he’s dreaming about in his secret heart of hearts.)

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Totally.
Does he have any chance of winning? Heck yes.
Is there any reason to vote for him? I mean, he’s trying to position himself as possessing basically Betsy Hodges type values, but being a more effective version of Betsy. And possibly that’s what you want? I feel like his housing platform is pretty practical and his campaign office lived up to their “I will get back to you promptly if you contact me” pledge.

Al Flowers

Al Flowers has run for mayor once before — in 2009, he was one of the dozen or so randos who ran against RT. He made the news for a marijuana arrest, not that it mattered: he wouldn’t have won the election anyway.

Articles that mention Al Flowers typically describe him as an “activist” but mention no issues or organizational affiliations. I wanted to know what exactly he was an activist for or with. Also, since he doesn’t hold elected office, I was also curious what he does for a living.

He has a campaign website (with a fundraising link and lawn signs, even) and an issues page full of bland platitudes and zero specifics, but there’s no “About the Candidate” page with the usual bio. I dug in and here’s what I can tell you about who he is.

Al Flowers is a Black man who’s had a shit ton of negative run-ins with the police. Back in 2007, MinnPost had an article about the many times he’d sued the city, generally over police brutality issues. In 2003, local NAACP leaders called the cops to have him removed from a meeting because he was allegedly being violent; he sued the cops and city for allegedly beating him up while he was handcuffed.

In 2014, the police came to Flowers’ home very late at night to arrest his daughter (she’d violated some sort of home-monitoring thing). When he asked to see a warrant, they arrested him for obstruction of justice and beat him up. He filed a complaint and sued. The cops were cleared, but in May 2016, surveillance video captured one of the police officers involved in that arrest brutally kicking an unresisting man in the face. (He looked like he was about to resist, you see. The kick caused a permanent traumatic brain injury and was so egregious they actually fired the cop and charged him with felony assault. (As of June of this year, the victim had sued for 4 million; no update on the felony charge.) (In case you’re skimming: that wasn’t Al Flowers, but the cop that Al Flowers said assaulted him, with no video so he couldn’t prove it despite a bunch of really visible injuries, went on to really brutally assault someone else in front of a camera.)

So hey, if you were for some reason wondering why policing in Minneapolis is such a hot-button issue in this election: this is barely scratching the surface.

But okay, what does Al Flowers do, exactly? In 2014, he apparently ran an organization — of a sort — called the Community Standards Initiative. It’s mentioned in a July 2014 article about crime in North Minneapolis. In May of 2014, the Community Standards Initiative was approved to receive $375,000 from the Minneapolis School Board for … stuff. It was supposed to be an achievement-gap group, maybe? But it doesn’t sound like there was ever any specific plan for how they were going to accomplish anything? And then in October of 2014, a group of Black leaders demanded an investigation into what the hell the school board was thinking, awarding this much money to a group with no plan or even a website other than an inactive Facebook page. With no bidding. There’s a longer postmortem here.

So I guess what I’m concluding here is that he would probably not be a good choice for mayor.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Less and less the more I read about him.
Does he have any chance of winning? Not in a million billion years.
Is there any reason to vote for him? If your #1 issue is policing, you could put him on your ballot to send a message, maybe. (However, it might or might not get through.)

 


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