Wedge LIVE 2017 Voter Guide: Minneapolis City Council

This post comes a little late! But I’ve been busy volunteering for a candidate (you should be too!) Election day is Tuesday. This is your abbreviated Wedge LIVE! Voter Guide for competitive city council races in Minneapolis. (For a non-partisan voter guide please see our sister publication, MSP Votes.)

Ward 1 Endorsement: Jillia Pessenda

Pessenda is the credible challenger from the left. Got lots of endorsements, to the point I assumed at one point months ago that Kevin Reich was toast. Pessenda had more delegates than incumbent Reich at the Ward 1 convention. Pessenda believes Minneapolis needs more housing, and has said things that make me think she’s a real ally on zoning reform. Thinks that actually implementing the city’s Complete Streets policy will serve to reconnect Ward 1 to the rest of the city. Pessenda looks to be dependable ally for the Bender/Gordon wing of the city council when it comes to transportation, housing, police reform, and many other issues.

Kevin Reich is a strongly pro-Barb Johnson (Ward 4) incumbent. Will vote with Team Barb on close votes. Has weird habit of using words like “grievable.” Reich doesn’t like it when you point out he voted for Vikings stadium subsidy. Barb sends him campaign donations from her own campaign account.

John Hayden is the fiscally conservative, anti-Vikings stadium crusader in Ward 1. I’d rank him ahead of Reich but that’s because I sometimes enjoy him on Twitter.

Ward 3 Endorsement: Steve Fletcher

Fletcher is good. If you want an ideological model, he roughly fits with Lisa Bender. That means police reform, workplace protections, more housing, good on the environment and transportation (if you’re a fan of walking, biking, bussing). I was very impressed with his Q&A session at the Ward 3 DFL Convention and his performance at candidate forums. Read my longer endorsement of Fletcher here.

You may be wondering why not Socialist Ginger Jentzen? I’ll just say I think her housing platform is unworkable and hugely counterproductive.

Samantha Pree-Stinson is the Green Party candidate in Ward 3.

Definitely do not rank Tim Bildsoe, who is an actual Republican.

Ward 4 Endorsement: Philippe Cunningham

I like Philippe Cunningham’s policy experience in the mayor’s office. Go with him. But certainly rank Stephanie Gasca too.

Incumbent Barb Johnson is just relentlessly terrible. She thinks garage apartments cause prostitution. She spends campaign money on her cable TV, internet, and phone bills. She’s by far the most law-and-order, police-can-do-no-wrong politician in Minneapolis. Which I believe to be a bad thing. We all need to be done with Barb. We need Ward 4 to get it done.

Ward 5 Endorsement: Jeremiah Ellison

Ellison is DFL-endorsed which is an impressive thing to have done against an incumbent (nobody else did it this year). Ellison is an artist, which could be a red flag. But many people tell me he is incredibly smart. I saw him in person at a candidate forum, and that checks out. Politically gifted, which makes sense considering his dad is Keith Ellison. From a distance, I say he’s running an impressive campaign (which is a definite skill to be measured, considering all the candidates out there phoning it in).

Ideologically speaking, Ellison lines up as an ally of the Bender/Gordon wing of the council, so if you like the sound of that, you should love Ellison. I’m optimistic and prepared to love him.

Blong Yang is a close Barb ally, who looks feeble to me, politically speaking. He doesn’t show up to forums. Doesn’t answer candidate questionnaires. He lost the DFL endorsement. Yet still some people tell me he’s on track to win. This makes me less confident in my prediction that Blong is toast. Still, I don’t buy it. Blong Yang gives the appearance of a candidate who is running scared.

One essential Blong Yang story: as chair of the Public Safety committee during the Jamar Clark protests, Yang engaged in a weird procedural move to allow racist police union president Bob Kroll to speak, while excluding dissenting views from the hearing.

Raeisha Williams is also running in Ward 5. I’d rank her ahead of Yang.

Ward 6 Endorsement: Mohamud Noor

I have no reason to believe Mohamud Noor is a great candidate. I didn’t look very hard. Maybe he’s great. I do know he’s become the chosen candidate of Minneapolis progressives (Ilhan Omar, Ray Dehn, other state senators and representatives,  Mayor Hodges, and others) who think Abdi Warsame is a dick. And Abdi Warsame legitimately seems like a dick, so that’s good enough for me. Vote Noor.

Ward 7 Endorsement: Janne Flisrand

Janne is a friend of mine. But you should still believe me when I tell you, Janne is amazing. She has run a truly impressive campaign. One of the smartest, hardest working people I’ve ever met. Has a genuine talent for bringing people together to accomplish big things. She has all the skills you’d want in a leader. Read my full endorsement of Janne here.

Lisa Goodman has a well-earned reputation for favoring her wealthiest constituents and big business. She was hostile to action on the minimum wage and workplace protections in the last council term. Goodman is a Barb Johnson ally, and is an opponent of police reform. Lots of people are afraid of Lisa Goodman, feel bullied by Lisa Goodman, and are ready to see Lisa Goodman go away.

Ward 9 Endorsement: Wedge LIVE is not getting involved in Ward 9.

Your choice is between incumbent Alondra Cano and “guy who was the Ward 9 incumbent four years ago” Gary Schiff. I refuse to help you decide! Just don’t vote for Mohamed Farah, the GOP-funded. Minneapolis Works! candidate.

Ward 10 Endorsement: Lisa Bender

Obviously, we’re bringing Lisa Bender back for another four years. She’s smart, she’s committed to doing the right thing for the most people, regardless of power dynamics or the political cost to herself. I really admire Lisa Bender. Read my full endorsement of Lisa Bender here.

The other candidates in Ward 10 turned out much weirder than I could have imagined in 2017. Saralyn Romanishan, the person who runs the zany NIMBY Facebook page decided to run. She compares city government to Hitler and genocide, among other atrocities. She once called an equity plan put forward by the city a “pogrom.” Though in her defense, I’ve often questioned whether Saralyn knows what words mean. (Read a selection of Saralyn’s horrific commentary over the years.)

I served with Saralyn on the Lowry Hill East neighborhood board. She didn’t even get along with people who agreed with her. She took on a lot of responsibility and was incompetent at most of it.

Here’s the really beyond the pale disqualifying stuff: a friend of Saralyn’s once threatened my girlfriend with an anonymous email; this person put my girlfriend’s name, description, and location in a Craigslist ad, inviting strangers to come visit her. How have I determined the source of this anonymous threat? Because Saralyn’s friend was stupid enough to reference, within the anonymous email, the particular private disagreement I’d had with Saralyn just days before.

My message to you: don’t support terrible people with stupid, malicious friends. Don’t rank Saralyn on your ballot.

David Schorn is another candidate of questionable quality. He shares Saralyn’s anti-everything ideology without the maliciousness. Though he did show up to a protest where people held signs comparing bikers to Nazis. If you want to rank your ballot defensively to avoid Saralyn, I’d put Schorn second.

There’s a third challenger in Ward 10 who is a Republican who has said many jaw-droppingly racist things at candidate forums, and I’d rank him ahead of Saralyn too. Which I feel like I could defend morally, if I took the time to write four or five more paragraphs.

Ward 11 Endorsement: Erica Mauter

I really like Erica Mauter for a few reasons and you can read that full endorsement here.

Jeremy Schroeder is also great. With enthusiasm I say rank him second.

Minneapolis politicians attend protest march comparing bikes to Nazis

“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 marchers began by walking in the newly installed bike lane on 26th Street, east from Hennepin to Lyndale Ave. They then walked in the bike lane, west on 28th Street. Observers on social media remarked how fortunate they were to find refuge from cars in the bike lanes.

Former Ward 10 City Council member Meg Tuthill (left, in sunglasses).
City Council candidates David Schorn & Joe Kovacs (right, on sidewalk).

— Franklin Sayre (@mysnuggle) October 14, 2017

> Drivers freak out about bike lanes
> Fake bike lane protest organized online as joke
> Conservatives actually show up w/“Nazi Lanes” signs

— Tony Webster (@webster) October 14, 2017

Cannot fathom the fucking nerve to carry a sign that looks like it’s dripping with blood. Car violence IS killing PEOPLE. That’s real blood

— Ella Rasp (@ella_enroute) October 14, 2017

Do you think the irony that a nazi killed a woman with a car and not a bike in #Charlottesville is lost on them?

— Heartsapian (@Heartsapian) October 14, 2017

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.

Lisa Bender’s opponents in Ward 10 include: David Schorn, who was at today’s “Nazi Lane” protest; Saralyn Romanishan, who is fond of comparing city government to Hitler/Isis/ethnic cleansing; and Bruce Lundeen, the Republican candidate who made racist remarks at a recent candidate forum.

Counter protest “Bike Lane Party.” Lotta bikes. No offensive signage. @lisabendermpls is here.

— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) October 14, 2017

Downtown business interests pay for mailers supporting conservative city council members

[Post updated with additional waves of mailers sent on behalf of conservative city council members aligned with Barb Johnson. See this post to read how the group funding these mailers has aligned with the right-wing PAC that helped flip the Minnesota House and Senate from the DFL to Republicans. Minneapolis Works is supporting a slate of candidates that includes incumbents Lisa Goodman, Council President Barb Johnson, Blong Yang, Kevin Reich, John Quincy; and challengers Tim Bildsoe (an actual Republican), and Mohamed Farah.]
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 10/21: We now know this group is soliciting corporate checks through an alliance with a right-wing PAC called the Minnesota Jobs Coalition.]

Send your tips/pictures to if you happen to see advertising from Minneapolis Works!

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.
October 27 update:

Facebook ads begin appearing October 26:

November 1:

Conservative Minneapolis incumbents running scared from democracy

Blong Yang; Barb Johnson; Lisa Goodman

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.

The 2013 voter guide produced by the city was “identified in surveys as the single most effect voter outreach tool.” It cost $97,000 to send to every household in Minneapolis.

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.

Ward 7 features another conservative incumbent, Lisa Goodman, who’s been dodging debates and refusing to answer candidate questionnaires. Now, you might remember that when Goodman finally showed up for a candidate forum a few weeks ago it became an international scandal, as first reported by Wedge LIVE (no joke: Lisa Goodman’s public performance really was horrific enough that it showed up in a UK tabloid).

Ward 7 incumbent Lisa Goodman is hiding from the election.

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).

The overall turnout numbers in Ward 7 are fairly average by Minneapolis standards. But there’s a wide disparity between the high-turnout “lakes area” neighborhoods (40-50%) and low-turnout downtown neighborhoods (15-30%). Lisa Goodman, facing a serious challenger for the first time since she was first elected in 1997, has a base of support that’s made up of those high turnout areas around the lakes.

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.

— Resolve.Action.Love (@Snowman55403) September 30, 2017

Received my Ward 7 newsletter yesterday. Every four years like clockwork!

— Conquistador Jones (@devomase) September 26, 2017

Lisa Goodman mailed Mother of All Franked pieces 6 wks b4 election. She send 4-color pieces other times? City return address; taxpayer dime.
— David Brauer (@dbrauer) September 27, 2017

So you should vote this year. A good rule of thumb is to vote against the people who are running away from this election, afraid that more people might vote.

Ward 10 candidate forum overrun by zany, unprepared challengers

Ward 10 incumbent Lisa Bender puts hands to her face in disbelief

Tuesday night’s Ward 10 forum got weird when Republican candidate Bruce Lundeen opened his mouth.

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 other news, candidate David Schorn (who readers of this blog might remember as the history teacher whose knowledge of history includes misremembered urban legends) was asked about inclusionary zoning, which is the practice of requiring or encouraging affordable units in new market-rate housing.
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.

Election 2017 Calendar

We’re going to try to track Minneapolis candidate forums and other key election-related dates on this calendar. You’ll also see a sidebar calendar on the desktop version of the site. I’m asking readers and campaigns to help track down anything we’ve missed: contact us via Twitter or send an email to

The Great Big Mayoral Roundup

Lots of big news swirling around the race for Minneapolis Mayor.

Carol Becker sues Mayor Hodges. Becker, a member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, says the budget document the Mayor delivered is insufficient and violates the city’s charter. The mayor says she has complied with the charter and will deliver a more robust budget presentation in September.

After routine order from the judge, Carol Becker declares premature victory. The Star Tribune frames the story in misleading way, giving impression judge is siding with Carol Becker on the merits.

Keep in mind, I am arguably less qualified than Carol Becker to dole out legal opinions. But here’s one reason why I’m dubious about this lawsuit: Her complaint quotes language that no longer exists in the city charter; the since-deleted section she cites dates to the Rybak-era (which happens to be the last time she made a similar stink over the budget).

Non-Mayoral News: Minneapolis Park Board incumbent Scott Vreeland says fellow incumbent Brad Bourn is soft on pedophiles. This could be frustration related to Vreeland’s recent defeat at the DFL City Convention.

The Saga of Hollywood Hodges. It has emerged that Mayor Hodges, in the heat of a re-election campaign, took a trip to Los Angeles for a fundraiser during the week after Justine Damond was killed by a Minneapolis cop.

Jacob Frey wants you to know the Hodges fundraiser happened at a fancy-sounding place called the “Wilshire Country Club.”

Jon Tevlin of the Star Tribune wants you to know guests at the fundraiser were served “kale wraps” and “locally sourced tofu.”

Mayor Hodges says this story is just now emerging because it was “shopped” to reporters by her better-funded opponents.

As you might imagine, Jacob Frey and Tom Hoch are sitting on enormous piles of cash received from fancy people at fancy fundraisers. I look forward to reading Jon Tevlin’s future love letters to mayoral candidate Raymond Dehn, who is so admirably bad at raising money that he was outraised by a socialist city council candidate.

Jon Tevlin

In the third major scandal to rock the Hodges campaign in less than a week, the mayor was caught doing a dance called the “wobble.” Jon Tevlin of the Star Tribune shows restraint by not turning this into one of his cracks about “rehab.

More dance news.

The Star Tribune wonders if Jacob Frey has fallen out of favor with the business community, to the benefit of Tom Hoch. The evidence is thin: Trumper LA Nik’s campaign treasurer used to be a Frey supporter; and Steve Minn likes to give anguished quotes about not feeling supported. Bottom line: not even the people who would love to elect Tom Hoch are able to take Tom Hoch’s campaign seriously.

Yes, Minneapolis’ most prominent Trump supporter, LA Nik is now pretending to run for mayor after months of pretending to run for city council.

Here are the results from recent Wedge LIVE polls of the Business Community and the Regular Community.

Upcoming mayoral forum: Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, September 14.

Groundbreaking Campaign Finance Transparency Tool for Minneapolis Elections

Today, MSP Votes is debuting a groundbreaking new campaign finance transparency tool. We have combed through the finance reports of every City Council, Mayoral, and Park Board candidate for the last two years (from January 1, 2016 to July 25, 2017). We have compiled the most significant donations (nearly 1000!) and plugged that data into MSP Votes (alongside all the great info you can already access in our candidate profiles).

Where possible, donors have been categorized (developer, restaurant, fire, police, etc). These categories are visible on candidate pages, and through the campaign finance link at the top of the screen. If you want to find a particular donor or organization, you can search the site via the 🔍 icon.

From the Jacob Frey page.
Donors are often linked to an organization or employer. On an organization’s page you will see donors affiliated with that organization. 
The below example shows donations received by Lisa Goodman from individual donors associated with what we’re calling the “Peter Hafiz strip club empire” (notable for the amount they donate, and because earlier this year Hafiz was found to be subjecting his employees to dangerous working conditions).
From the “Hafiz” page.
The below example shows a portion of the page for the Minneapolis Downtown Council, which includes donations from the organization and from CEO Steve Cramer.
From the Minneapolis Downtown Council page.
Each donor/organization page has a timeline of donations. Each circle represents one donation. The larger the circle, the larger the donation. The below example shows a large cluster of donations to Blong Yang and Barb Johnson from fire fighters and fire unions in March of 2017.

From the “Fire” (firefighters) category.
Lobbyist profiles include donations, as well as a link to their lobbying records from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board (which has a surprisingly cool website).
Lobbyist profiles on MSP Votes link directly to lobbyist reports from the state of Minnesota.
Minnesota Campaign Finance Board website.
If you come across a particularly interesting campaign contribution, click the arrow next to that donation to share it with your friends on social media. Such fun! (My favorite donations are the police/fire/Brian Rice donations to Barb Johnson and Blong Yang.)
Share your favorite donations!
This tool was created in the interests of transparency. We think campaign contributions (like endorsements) are sometimes useful for understanding where an elected official stands ideologically or, in some cases, demonstrate a problematic affiliation (Bob Kroll and the police union!). But before you dig in, here’s some important things you should know:
  • This database does not contain a comprehensive list of all donors. We used our own editorial judgment to select donors based on the following criteria: notable donors or employers; high-dollar donors; and repeat donors. 
  • Examining dozens of reports to manually compile this data is a time-consuming process subject to human error; we have undoubtedly missed some things. If you believe you’ve found a glaring omission, you can help by sending us an email or direct message–we’ll look into it.
  • Hennepin County needs to begin requiring reports to be filed and published in machine-readable format. This would make similar transparency projects much less laborious and far more comprehensive: more effort could be spent annotating data rather than entering it.
  • Campaign contributions by themselves are not a smoking gun. Please use this tool wisely. 

You may have noticed this tool does not include St. Paul campaign finance data. There are a few reasons for this. First, St. Paul is just not that interesting (St. Paul’s government could be taken over tomorrow by big donors who’d like to turn the Ford Site into a giant pyramidal parking garage and we would barely notice). But more importantly, we don’t have the humanpower. If you are willing to volunteer to compile St. Paul data, please be in touch!
The MSP Votes project is driven by the genius of Ryan Johnson, and you can support his work here:

Tenth Ward Update: Saralyn Romanishan enters Ward 10 City Council race

Following the short-lived campaign of Scott Fine, and the blunderous beginnings of candidate David Schorn, Ward 10 now has a third city council challenger: Saralyn Romanishan. Romanishan is best known for her work running the Facebook page Minneapolis Residents for Responsible Development Coalition (MRRDC).

She’s risen to become a leading figure in a movement of southwest Minneapolis anti-apartment activists who have become increasingly bold in the last few years, engaging in acts of vandalism such as letting the air out of the car tires of a worker who was removing appliances from a vacant house [VIDEO].

In 2015, both Romanishan and I were serving as board members with the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association. Though Romanishan’s campaign material now touts her role with the neighborhood organization’s Zoning and Planning Committee from 2015 to 2017 as “promoting relations between the city, residents, and developers,” this doesn’t accurately reflect what she was up to at the time. 
Since the 2013 election in which Lisa Bender was elected to the City Council, Romanishan has gained prominence as Bender’s chief antagonist: coining the term “Bendrification,” calling the city’s plan for equitable neighborhood engagement a “pogrom,” and comparing the actions of city planners to Hitler’s Third Reich.
A good example of that antagonism came in July 2015, when Romanishan wrote a Facebook post addressing a parking reform ordinance [screenshot] authored by Lisa Bender.
In the post, Romanishan plays to nativist sentiment, deriding Bender as an illegitimate newcomer to the neighborhood. She points out that Bender “moved into this neighborhood 2 or 3 years before running for office.”
Romanishan goes on to observe that Bender “is from a 4th ring small town suburb and only lived in SF and NY for a very short time before moving here and running for city council…”
This was the context in which I shared a link to Romanishan’s remarkable piece of political commentary:
Below is the email that I, and 10 other LHENA board members, received from Romanishan later that day:
Today, Romanishan is explicitly running her campaign for city council based mostly on the “community organizing” she did over the past four years with LHENA and MRRDC. So I guess you could say my big offense in sharing her parking commentary was chronicling the rise of a prominent neighborhood activist and budding political star.
Four days after Romanishan’s initial message (and three days after I declined to delete my tweet), I received this email threatening my girlfriend, accompanied by a link to a sexually explicit online personals ad:
“pat farrell” is not a real name.
To summarize the timeline: in an email sent on a Friday night, Romanishan accused me of “stalking.” Then, on Tuesday morning, someone acting on behalf of “LHENA volunteers” put my girlfriend’s name, personal details, and location on Craigslist, inviting strangers on the internet to show up at her home.
Romanishan runs with a nasty crew of people, and she does her best to rile them up with wild accusations detached from reality. However remote her chances, and whatever your political inclinations, the idea of Saralyn Romanishan as a member of the Minneapolis City Council should scare you. If you are a journalist writing about her candidacy, please portray her as the fringe figure she truly is.

The expressed political views of Ward 10 City Council candidate Saralyn Romanishan

Below is a selection of Saralyn Romanishan’s political views. You should also read this other blog post explaining why I think she’s a frightening possibility for City Council.

Note: this page may be updated. 

Comparing city government to Hitler/Isis/ethnic cleansing

“Too bad this city follows the same plan” as Isis. 1/21/2016

Compared modern urban planners to Hitler. 9/27/2015

Called a plan for equitable neighborhood engagement a “pogrom” (against white homeowners?). 8/22/2015

International Conspiracies and Agenda 21

The United Nation’s “Agenda 21” leads to “community voices” being “shut down.” 9/24/2015

Pushes idea of nefarious connection between the City of Minneapolis and Brazil. 10/28/201512/2/2015

Follows a page on Facebook called “Agenda 21 News.”

Black Lives Matter

Quote: “Blacklivesmatter – yes. But please don’t detract from the message and the movement by attacking someone that thinks catlivesmatter too.” 7/30/2015

Quote: “Alot of white people support blacklivesmatter because it is the right thing to do. And they do it even though they are attacked online and made to feel small just because they were born with a different color of skin. Does this sound familiar?” 7/30/2015

Shifted blame for slavery to black people: “You know how all those slave ships got their cargo, right?” 2015


Believes long-time residents are actually the ones who are underrepresented in local politics. 2016

Disparaged work on neighborhood equity in Minneapolis solely because it receives funding from a foundation based in Detroit. 10/17/2015

Political Hot Takes

Regularly posts indecipherable, stream of consciousness conspiracy theories. 3/8/2016

Lisa Bender is illegitimate because she hasn’t lived in the neighborhood long enough. 7/10/2015

Lisa Bender is illegitimate because she lived in San Francisco and New York. 7/10/2015

Lisa Bender is illegitimate because she’s from a “4th ring small town suburb.” 7/10/2015

Coined the term “Bendrification,” then banned everyone who left a dissenting comment. 4/22/2014

Thinks too many incompetent women get promoted into leadership (hint: Lisa Bender). 9/18/2015

Refers to unnamed politician as “one-trick pony” who benefits from “propaganda articles” and “publicity articles” (Hint: Lisa Bender). 12/30/2015

Says “Twitter is simply diarrhea of the fingers.” 😲 12/5/2015

Urban Planning

Called industrial and commercial parking lots – places that are often slated for new housing – “some of the best urban wildlife habitats in our city.” 2016

Blamed a new building after car crashed into it. 2015

Opposed legalizing duplexes on smaller lots, in areas already zoned for two-family homes, because of “livability reasons.” 5/10/2016

Chastised bike advocates with 112-year-old picture of bicyclist in downtown Minneapolis: “Funny how some people think they’re doing something new.” (hint: Lisa Bender) 2016

On parking reform: “This is corporate welfare for the developers and another give in to the Cult of the Carless.” 6/12/2015

On parking reform: “This will not stop people from having cars.” 6/12/2015

On parking reform: “You cannot make people not have cars. 6/12/2015

On parking reform: “Car Hop’s business is booming.” 6/12/2015