2023 Endorsements for Minneapolis City Council

If you want my thoughts on the stakes for public safety, rent stabilization, and other big issues — please read this. It applies broadly to every candidate I’m endorsing in 2023.

Do I want to put my spotless reputation on the line for the bad acts and opinions of others? Not at all. I have grown to hate endorsements. But any good editorial board knows the public has a short memory for bad calls and really needs to be told how to think. So here we go. If you don’t see your ward listed, you are either in a part of the city that’s beyond help or you’re fine and you don’t need any help.

Ward 5 – Jeremiah Ellison

Let’s keep it brief. Victor Martinez is a cartoonishly bad candidate. Martinez voted for Trump, is pastor of a homophobic church, is the rare candidate to be proud of his police union endorsement, thinks renters are lesser citizens, and uses a consulting firm that associates exclusively with extreme right wing candidates. On the other hand, incumbent Jeremiah Ellison is frequently one of the council’s most thoughtful members, is a normal person who lives on planet earth, and has boring mainstream non-MAGA values.

Ward 6 – Kayseh Magan

Kayseh Magan could be doing more to let the world know his campaign exists and where he stands on issues. I would’ve liked to see him respond to the big housing questionnaire, for example. At the one candidate forum I attended his answers ranged from progressive to middle of the road. He’s not running as a tool of All of Mpls and the Chamber of Commerce. But the issues are not what distinguish the candidates in Ward 6, it’s corruption.

Incumbent Jamal Osman and his wife both founded separate fraudulent organizations connected to the Feeding Our Future scam. This should be too much for anyone to ignore.

A third candidate, Tiger Worku, looks to have signed up phony delegates to the Ward 6 DFL convention and submitted an equally phony looking finance report. He claims to have raised $47,000 but not a single donor exceeded the $100 threshold to be itemized and disclosed? This violates my golden rule for political figures: If you’re going to lie, make it believable enough that it’s not so obvious you think we’re all stupid.

If you want a more extensive write-up of Ward 6 candidates, go read Naomi Kritzer.

Ward 7 – Katie Cashman

EDIT: I’ve written a deeper, more substantive endorsement of Katie Cashman here.

The contrast in Ward 7 is big. Katie Cashman is sharp and collaborative; committed to safe streets and sustainability; and about the same age as Lisa Goodman was when she was first elected in 1997. A new day in Ward 7 is possible. A different kind of leadership. Youth. Energy. Openness. Someone wise enough to know they don’t have all the answers. On issues like public safety, she’ll be willing to part with the mayor, to hold the executive branch accountable.

26 years of Lisa Goodman is too many. It’d be nice for Ward 7 to have representation that’s not forever stuck in the 1990s.

I appreciate Scott Graham for lacking the experience and institutional mastery* wielded by Lisa Goodman to fuck up so many street projects over the years. The downside is he’s unable to find anything he disagrees with Goodman on. If you enjoyed Goodman, you should vote for Scott Graham**. Unfortunately, that’s probably a recipe for winning in Ward 7. My endorsement has negative value there. You’re welcome, Katie Cashman.

*threatening staff
**on second thought, maybe even if you enjoyed Goodman, Graham’s record as a terrible landlord might put you off.

Ward 8 – Soren Stevenson

In Ward 8, there are moments when I suspect my personal politics might be closer to Andrea Jenkins than Soren Stevenson. The problem: it’s a mirage. She is ineffective, perhaps in part because she’s aligned herself so totally with Mayor Frey and the council’s more conservative wing.

Jenkins has done a poor job facilitating council success, which is her job as president. If you’re looking for compromise and bridge-building, you might expect her middle-ish politics to do the job. But she’s just not plugged in. She’s not interested.

As an example, there’s Jenkins’ role in setting up a rent stabilization work group that kicked the can down the road so far that it effectively killed the issue for this term. This is despite the fact that her ostensible position is that she wants a compromise policy (me too).

On the other side, Soren Stevenson won’t simply defer to the mayor; is excellent on my top issue, transportation; and a thoughtful guy. Like others on the progressive side, I worry about his no-exceptions stance on rent stabilization. There’s a big downside to getting rent stabilization wrong.

I lean against having the chamber of commerce’s pick for council president for another term. That’s just not how I conceive of Ward 8. I’m still eager to attend a candidate forum, to hear from the candidates in real time, but it’s unlikely to change my perspective. Jenkins remaining as council president isn’t a healthy dynamic for the city.

Ward 10 – Aisha Chughtai

I don’t believe this one is competitive but it’s home, so I’m obligated.

The anti-progressive slate in Ward 10 is as bad as ever. We’ve got Greg Kline running under the “Abolish Bike Lanes” party. Too extreme for me. I feel unsafe. I now wear two helmets to bed to protect me from the nightmares.

Then there’s Nasri Warsame, who will live in infamy as the candidate whose supporters rushed the stage and forced an evacuation of the building at the Ward 10 convention. There was also a TN-based “news” website full of auto-generated nonsense, where the only original content was an article in support of Nasri Warsame’s campaign. This “article” was shared on Warsame’s social accounts immediately after being published. I get a strong scam vibe from this candidate.

Developer Bruce Dachis is the ultimate anti-progressive. He entered the race late; is running a campaign based on crime resentment; was a co-plaintiff on Don Samuels MPD staffing lawsuit; has a lot of developer friends plus Carol Becker hosting a fundraiser for him. You’d think Dachis would have money to burn, but his campaign materials are so poorly done that some significant number of people who agree with him probably won’t take him seriously. Rich guy, low-effort last minute campaign, and too conservative on every issue for Ward 10. I prefer Linea Palmisano. Give me Lisa Goodman. Anyone but “Buzzy” Bruce.

Finally, there’s Ward 10 incumbent Aisha Chughtai who is admittedly left of me. I didn’t endorse her last time, but in 2023 she is the only serious candidate. I’ve found her to be prepared, attentive, actually seeking solutions to big problems, not deferential to the executive branch, and sometimes lives up to the word pragmatic. Good council member. Satisfied customer.

People who make the argument that she kneecapped MPD, deprived them of funding, and is responsible for crime, are relying on our collective stupidity. The mayor’s in charge and the police have had more money than they can spend for longer than her two years in office.

If we ever have a real legislative debate about rent stabilization, I hope she would moderate her strict no-exceptions position on rent stabilization. But my concerns on that point don’t outweigh the unseriousness of these Ward 10 challengers.

Ward 12 – Aurin Chowdhury

Aurin Chowdhury is the progressive. Luther Ranheim is the anti-progressive*. Ranheim is also supported by Mayor Frey’s PAC. It’s a fork in the road: Ranheim will be to the right of departing Council Member Andrew Johnson, giving you something along the lines of Linea Palmisano or Emily Koski. Chowdhury will be to Johnson’s left. Johnson was often a swing vote.

I wrote about a recent candidate forum in this race, and you should read that. There’s big contrast here. There were a couple of key moments (on rent stabilization and winter sidewalks) where Ranheim simply criticized the cost or ambition of proposed solutions. He even got a round of applause. His constituency is people demanding he stand in opposition to things. There’s an eagerness to say no, reject the premise, and stop the conversation.

In answering the same questions, Chowdhury acknowledged the seriousness of the problems, stopping short of embracing the most ambitious proposed solutions. She committed to working to find compromise on rent stabilization, and departed from some of her fellow progressives on policy details. She didn’t pretend safer winter sidewalks were a binary choice between $40 million or nothing. On the side of pragmatism, Chowdhury poured cold water on Ranheim’s idea that he could simply reallocate tens of millions of dollars in utility franchise fees without blowing a hole in the city budget.

I appreciated Luther’s willingness to come on the Wedge LIVE podcast, but it turned out he misrepresented his views to me. He told me he was pro-bike lane, then months later he told attendees of a private zoom call that he wanted to defund the city’s bike infrastructure. It was surprising to hear him suggest bike infrastructure was a significant source of money to go after in the city budget (it’s not). We shouldn’t elect people who oppose safe streets. Aurin Chowdhury won’t defund our city’s bike infrastructure.

Ward 13 – TBD

[We are considering the possibility of an endorsement]

In conclusion

As much as I hate endorsements, I realize how important my opinion is to the democratic process. Please take this thread with you into the voting booth. If you want my thoughts on the stakes for public safety, rent stabilization, and other big issues — please read this. It applies broadly to every candidate I’m endorsing in 2023.

Other helpful resources:

*Note on language: People who don’t understand context, don’t understand the relative nature of things, or don’t understand that I almost exclusively write about urban politics — they get mad when I use phrases like “more conservative” to describe one faction of the city council. But the term “moderate” (used by most other news outlets) implies a middle ground that doesn’t accurately reflect two groups operating at different wings, often in opposition. I’m using “progressive” and “anti-progressive.” Let me know if you have a better idea.