Endorsement: Katie Jones for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 10

Katie Jones in Ward 10 is the strongest endorsement I will make this year. Here’s my assessment of Katie from earlier this year: “intellectually relentless, methodical, focused, and exactly the person I trust to attack a complicated problem.”

Our city has no shortage of problems. We need leaders like Katie Jones to take them on. Over the years I’ve watched Katie devote her considerable energy to our city in various roles — on sustainability, infrastructure, parks, and neighborhood leadership. I have worked alongside her and others on an effort to make Hennepin Avenue a neighborhood street that works better for everyone (something she’s put great effort into while running a campaign and working full time). She isn’t running to occupy a seat. She’s running to do the job. It’s a job she couldn’t be better suited for.

I want our next council member to be someone I trust, who shares my values, who will devote themselves to the work. Katie is that person. She’s deeply curious — an engineer — constantly seeking out those who can help her understand an issue better. She’s also someone who engages those on the other side of an issue. On that last point, I’ll admit there was a time I was legitimately suspicious of her ability to maintain dialogue with people I would’ve written off. But I’ve known her long enough to accept it as a virtue.

From public safety, to housing, to economic recovery — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the challenges facing Minneapolis. When I consider some of the candidates across the city who could win, I feel distress. But there are bright spots on the ballot this year. Katie Jones is one of them. I trust Katie to attack our city’s complicated problems — and get it right on issues big and small.

[listen to my conversation with Katie Jones]

Aisha Chughtai

I am ranking Aisha Chughtai second on my ballot. She’s an organizer for SEIU, has worked for Ilhan Omar, and has run an impressive campaign. Aisha is the only other candidate on the ballot who will keep moving the city council’s agenda in the right direction on public safety, renter protections, transportation, housing and other issues.

[listen to the Wedge LIVE podcast conversation with Aisha Chughtai]

Chris Parsons

Parsons is a “support the chief” and cut MPD a blank check sort of candidate. Those are my feelings about Question 2 and his opposition to it. He wants to cement the current mayoral control over MPD and extend mayoral control (Question 1) over the rest of the city’s departments. He wants to surrender any future prospect of council oversight and put his faith in the competence and good will of our mayor. You can apply this to the candidates below (Gibson and Wheeler) who are YES on 1 and NO on 2.

In a perverse way, I kind of admire Chris Parsons for being the unabashed candidate of bike-and-housing-resentment politics. On the other hand, he’s a legitimate nightmare. His housing platform has anti-development buzzwords. However — in what was meant to be a private conference call/Q&A with landlords (reported exclusively by Wedge LIVE) — he expressed opposition to just cause eviction protections, rent stabilization, short-term rental limits, and a tenant opportunity to purchase ordinance. When it comes to building more housing, he uses language indicating he wants to intervene in the market to stop it. But in his approach to renters’ relationships with their landlords, he’s extremely free market. This is the worst combination. Ward 10 is an 80% renter ward.

On transportation, he has pledged blanket opposition to new bike lanes (and because he is Chris Parsons, he posted this on a crime-themed Facebook page). But he has a climate section on his website that pledges a 15% increase in bike mode share. He will somehow achieve this increase in biking via the three planks in his transportation platform: (1) “keep the current design of Hennepin Avenue,” (2) electric cars, (3) maintain car parking. Aside from total opposition to bike lanes, he can’t even be bothered to give us an empty pledge like implement bus lanes where appropriate. He once used the phrase “bike lobby” — with sincerity — while in mid-pander to a group of landlords. Chris Parsons is a nightmare. He’s way over the top, very explicitly hostile to everything I care about.

Chris Parsons Fun Fact: I once poked fun at Chris Parsons’ tree-covered billboard (but I didn’t name him). Chris Parsons said he felt bullied by my tweet and used it to solicit sympathy and campaign donations.

Alicia Gibson

If you consume enough of Alicia Gibson’s campaign material, it’s hard to find anything concrete to hold on to. On her website, on social media, and in the forums I’ve watched, she tends toward empty “support our chief” rhetoric and is toeing the standard conservative line of YES/NO/NO on this year’s charter amendments (strong mayor/public safety/rent stabilization).

She’s said, “If I have anything to say about it, when those reports are released we will hold accountable every single person [police officers] who has abused their authority and public trust.” How? Her campaign platform is to maintain the status quo of a mayor that’s in complete control of the police department. She should own the fact that she doesn’t want a say in it.

I believe the work of the city council is vitally important. That’s why I have a strong reaction against Alicia Gibson. There’s nothing there. If you stare glassy-eyed at this graphic for a few minutes, you’ll learn “equity” is a key pillar in “equitable planning.”

Naomi Kritzer pointed to this instructive detail: Gibson wants the city to study rent stabilization, even though the city has already contracted and published a study — and oh by the way, she’s against Question 3 on your ballot, the thing that would allow the city to pursue a rent stabilization policy in the future. Question 3 is the first step in a two step process, so that we can jump through a hoop in state law. Why does Gibson want us to repeatedly study something she doesn’t want the city to have the power to pursue in the first place?

Alicia Gibson is a candidate who talks in circles, and it’s hard to know what you’re getting. If you can’t quite penetrate her words, let me take a guess at what we’d end up with: without any strong inclinations of her own, and based on the constituency that makes up her base of support, Gibson would fill the role of Lisa Goodman’s sidekick.

Gibson is also a fudger. She claims credit for a role in the effort to fix Lyndale Avenue, which I have enough firsthand knowledge of to assure you is not true. She talks about programs that already exist — things which are the professional work of a different candidate in the race (Katie Jones) — as if they are her very own brand new ideas. She has represented herself as a lawyer on campaign materials (the Star Tribune has repeated this claim). While showing she graduated from law school, Gibson does not indicate on her LinkedIn that she has actually ever been a lawyer.

If you happen to enjoy Alicia Gibson’s politics, you maybe should just vote for Chris Parsons because he might be focused enough to seriously pursue an agenda. If you have accidentally come to supporting Alicia Gibson because she makes noises that sound vaguely progressive, you should consider ranking Katie and Aisha instead. Seriously, go out there and have a conversation with other candidates. They are very available right now.

Alicia Gibson Fun Fact: It’s very strange that I have memories of Gibson before she’d actually moved to Minneapolis. In 2016, I was watching a City Council Zoning and Planning Committee meeting at which a man was reading the concerns of someone he referred to as “Alicia Gibson JD PhD.” Alicia Gibson JD PhD was in the process of moving from Cincinnati — she had a purchase contract for a home. As a soon-to-be-resident, she already had concerns that the neighborhood was changing. She had written a letter with concerns about the lack of parking for a 10-unit building. She started another sentence with: “Not only would we not want a rooftop party patio across the street from our single-family home…” And five years later she has fulfilled her destiny as my least favorite candidate for City Council.

David Wheeler

When I met David Wheeler for the first time, his opening line was about how passionate he is to be running for city council. Naturally, I asked him to get specific and tell me what he’s passionate about. And the first thing he told me was the charter amendment to limit the power of the city council — you know, the job he’s running for. It’s weird for that issue to be the first thing to come to his mind. I absolutely believe in a world where David Wheeler has less power. But I think the best way to achieve that is by not voting for David Wheeler.

David Wheeler Fun Fact: he’s the only 2021 candidate to scold multiple members of a zoom audience for giving him a thumbs down gesture.

Who to rank third?

Gibson, Parsons, and Wheeler are all equally bad on the substance of housing and public safety. Gibson and Parsons are a disaster on transportation, whereas Wheeler offers progressive rhetoric: embracing the reality that we must prioritize and support people driving less, and make space for alternatives to private automobiles. He seems sincere. So if you absolutely feel a compulsion to rank a non-viable third choice, Wheeler is your candidate.

  1. Katie Jones
  2. Aisha Chughtai
  3. David Wheeler

(Warning: David Wheeler is probably going to clip my words to make it appear as though I said “… absolutely… Wheeler is your candidate.” Don’t fall for it.)