“Nazi Lane” signs dripping with fake blood (photo: Shane Morin)
Minneapolis election season has collided with backlash to a pair of bike lanes recently installed on 26th and 28th streets. Previous negative reaction to those lanes has mainly consisted of Facebook posts, a never-ending thread of commentary on the Nextdoor website, and Jon Tevlin of the Star Tribune fanning the flames. Today the bikelash became an actual real-life protest with signs reading “Nazi Lanes,” “Mafia Lanes,” and “Suck It Lanes.”
One important thing to know is that the idea for this protest began on social media as a hoax, but became very real after spreading to credulous bike-haters on Facebook. The Facebook event was created by internet hoax artist Jeremy Piatt (known for creating the GoFundMe for Kanye West that was picked up by major national news outlets).
By all accounts, organizer Jeremy Piatt didn’t show up to the protest. But here’s who did show up to march against bikes: two candidates for City Council, David Schorn (Ward 10) and Joe Kovacs (Ward 7); and former Ward 10 City Council member Meg Tuthill; and let’s not forget the group of people carrying “Nazi Lane” signs dripping with red paint intended to look like blood.
The anti-bike protest was followed a few hours later by an event billed as a “Bike Lane Party” attended by a few dozen residents, including current Ward 10 City Council member Lisa Bender. Bender advocates for policies that create safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, and has been the target of criticism from bike lane opponents on social media.
There’s a political fund called “Minneapolis Works!” sending mailers supporting Ward 7 incumbent Lisa Goodman [and a bunch of other candidates, as indicated above]. On both sides of the mailer, a diverse collection of disembodied thumbs can be seen endorsing Lisa Goodman as the “proven progressive.”
The group had raised $12,000 at the end of August. Funding was provided by the Downtown Council ($1,000); Steve Cramer, President and CEO of the Downtown Council ($500); developer Steve Minn ($5,000) and wife Lucille Minn ($5,000); and Jonathan Weinhagen, the President and CEO of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce ($500). Based on the large volume of advertising from Minneapolis Works in the last half of October, future finance reports will show a much larger fundraising haul.
UPDATE: more mailers from Minneapolis Works: Barb Johnson in Ward 4, Kevin Reich in Ward 1 and John Quincy in Ward 11.
UPDATE: Round 2 of Minneapolis Works mailers (arriving October 19th/20th). Lisa Goodman, the pretend progressive; Kevin Reich and the stock image diversity 🌍 children; Tim Bildsoe, who was a Republican city council member in Plymouth until 2014, is labeled a “proven progressive”; and John Quincy, famous for doing nothing, is the progressive who gets things done.
October 25: Attack mailers from Minneapolis Works! start arriving.
Wards 4 and 5 in Minneapolis are composed of 14 North Side neighborhoods where people of color are the majority. By a wide margin, these wards have the lowest turnout in Minneapolis municipal elections. These wards have also produced two of the most conservative members of the Minneapolis City Council, Barb Johnson and Blong Yang.
Voter turnout in Minneapolis (2013)
One way to boost turnout would be to let people know there’s an election going on and how they can participate. Early voting is happening right now. Election day is less than a month away on November 7. Fortunately, the City of Minneapolis produces and mails a voter guide with some essential voter information. This guide contains basic info, like:
date of the election
times polls are open
how to locate your polling place
how to access a sample ballot
voter eligibility requirements
Minnesota voter bill of rights
how to mark a ranked choice ballot
Last Wednesday, Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl told the City Council’s Elections Committee that his team gets “more compliments and positive feedback on [the voter guide] than anything else we do.”
But Council President Barb Johnson, who benefits from the fact that so many people of color in Ward 4 don’t vote, responded to the City Clerk’s presentation with this: “I’m glad you got a lot of positives about the voter guide, but I got a lot of negatives.”
Barb continued, “Why are we mailing to every house? And what does that cost? Can you give me a price tag about that? Because, as I say, I got a lot of negative feedback.”
Barb didn’t mention specific details about the negative feedback, or who she’s hearing it from.
I’m not sure how Blong Yang feels about voter guides in low-turnout Ward 5, but he’s campaigning in a way that makes me think he needs one mailed to his house, because it’s not clear he understands there’s an election happening right now.
One important thing to remember about Blong Yang is he didn’t begin his term on the Council in a position of strength; he received only 42 percent of first-choice votes in 2013. This election year, instead of trying to expand his coalition, Yang’s strategy has been to run and hide. Naomi Kritzer explains the problem with Blong Yang in 2017:
He didn’t get endorsed at the DFL Ward Convention and has been campaigning in what I can only describe as a completely halfhearted way. He has not shown up for many (any?) of the debate/forum type events. He hasn’t filled out any questionnaires. His events (which you can find on his campaign Facebook page) are few in number and the campaign Facebook page is mostly just announcements of these events. On that grounds alone, I would not vote for him. If someone doesn’t want to be accountable to their constituents during the campaign they certainly aren’t going to be accountable to you after they take office.
Reading Kritzer’s post reminded me of this Public Safety Committee hearing Blong chaired in 2015, where he essentially excluded the general public from an impromptu public hearing, but found a way to make time for Bob Kroll and other invited guests who were hand-picked to give the right kind of testimony. Being a city council person involves facing people who disagree with you, right or wrong; Blong Yang seems to have no stomach for that part of the job.
Last week, I showed up at a Ward 5 forum to see Blong field questions alongside challengers Jeremiah Ellison and Raeisha Williams. Even though I knew Blong had been avoiding debates, I was pretty confident that, as the lone member of the City Council to vote against a $15 minimum wage, Blong wouldn’t run away from a forum sponsored by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce; but he wasn’t there. And it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Blong thinks either that he can’t win, or that his candidacy doesn’t stand up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny. This page on MSP Votes has a list of forums and questionnaires Blong Yang has avoided.
Goodman has skipped two other recent candidate forums, including one hosted by the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. She has refused to answer questionnaires on housing, transportation, racial justice, and other topics. Goodman did find a way to attend a forum sponsored by the five “lakes area” neighborhood organizations, featuring an audience question that instructed candidates to “restrict their answers to only the five lakes-area neighborhoods” (which tells you a lot about Ward 7 political dynamics).
At the City Council’s Elections Committee hearing where the city’s voter guide was discussed, a very conscientious-sounding Lisa Goodman said she feels “weird” and “awkward” using “city resources” (her e-newsletter) to promote basic info about the election.
But I don’t think an elected official telling people where and when they can vote is all that weird or awkward. What’s really weird and extremely awkward is Lisa Goodman using city resources to promote herself with a six-page color newsletter, printed and mailed to constituents just before the election. According to Ward 7 residents, this newsletter is not something they usually receive.
Goodman also sent 6 page color gatefold newsletter printed, mailed at city expense. Never seen such fanciness in 5+ years in W7.
Lundeen said that non-profits are the “path to the urban plantation, which is basically what we keep up in north Minneapolis.”
“If you’re a black man, you need to try and get a good job,” Lundeen said. “You need to imagine that.”
Lundeen continued: “I don’t even see any… very few blacks here. They don’t even bother to come to hear this chatter anymore.”
Lundeen then pointed towards the back of the room, at incumbent Ward 10 city council member Lisa Bender’s policy aide Ron Harris, who is black. Lundeen said, “ok, there’s one…. I wonder if you agree with what I say.”
“Not at all,” Harris replied. “Continue.”
Bender placed her hands over her head during the exchange.
In one of his finest moments of the campaign so far, Schorn admitted he didn’t know what inclusionary zoning was. Lisa Bender even commended him for admitting a lack of knowledge instead of faking his way through an answer.
However, in one of Schorn’s worst moments of the campaign so far, he showed up to a city council candidate forum on housing without knowing anything about inclusionary zoning, which is one of the most commonly discussed concepts in housing politics.
It’s important to remember that Schorn is running a campaign that’s largely a series of complaints about Bender’s housing policies, blaming Bender for the cost of housing, while demanding stricter parking mandates (Schorn’s preferred parking policies would drive up the cost of housing).
Schorn got into his usual routine of “vacancy rate trutherism.” In rebutting the idea that housing is expensive because there isn’t enough of it, Schorn claimed that landlords are faking low vacancy rates in order to charge higher rents. Schorn said this theory is based on his personal experience as the resident of a luxury apartment building in Uptown.
Candidate Saralyn Romanishan had a somewhat forgettable forum performance. But I did find her advocating for cutting the estate tax in her Make Homes Happen candidate questionnaire (Make Homes Happen was the forum host):
The estate tax exemption in Minnesota is $2.1 million for 2017. There isn’t a single home in the Wedge that would be reasonably valued at much more than $1 million. Romanishan’s estate tax cut idea would benefit only the very rich. It seems like an idea that Republican candidate Bruce Lundeen might be willing to co-sponsor.
Three Ward 10 neighborhood organizations are planning another candidate forum on October 17. Because it will be hosted by neighborhood organizations, this forum has the chance to be infinitely weirder.