Endorsement: Mike Norton for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 13

Ward 13 incumbent Linea Palmisano could have easily cruised through 2021 without a serious opponent. Is Mike Norton that serious opponent? He’s a longshot, but with a campaign you can feel good supporting. Norton is straightforward about his positions. He makes pragmatic arguments for progressive policies — in a way that suits southwest Minneapolis.

He supports the public safety charter amendment, and makes it clear that it’s about creating a more resilient, integrated and effective department of public safety — not eliminating police, as Palmisano claims. He offers strong support for streets with space for bikes, pedestrians, and bus riders, as well as cars. He supports zoning reforms that allow for more housing, as well as the rent control charter amendment that would allow the council to combat rent gouging. He will make Ward 13 a constructive part of important citywide conversations, instead of a knee-jerk vote to block progress.

I’ve had the chance to get to know Mike Norton over the last several months. We talked about his campaign (and his Asperger’s diagnosis) on the podcast. He taught me a little about Minnesota history on a walk through Lakewood Cemetery. I enjoy him as a person. He’s a thoughtful guy who cares deeply about our community.

And I’m especially impressed by the people who power his campaign. His communications and social media have been great. The newsletters are solid. I actually enjoy the infographics in his instagram posts. Mike Norton is helping to build a future progressive mini-movement in Ward 13. I love it.

Now for the the problem with Palmisano. It’s true she casts a lot of votes I disagree with. But she does it in new and interesting ways. When there are lopsided votes, she often won’t justify her position on the substance, instead reaching for procedural complaints. Here’s a less than comprehensive list of times I’ve been confused:

Palmisano represents the most conservative part of the city, and has a voting record to match. But instead of being a strong advocate for that point of view, she produces an endless series contradictions, incoherence, and grandstanding.

In 2021, I’ve been especially disappointed in her opposition to Question 2, regarding a new department of public safety. Like many candidates this year, she has hidden behind the chief and stood in the way of what amounts to incremental progress on the way to transforming how Minneapolis keeps residents safe.

Here’s something Palmisano said in a candidate questionnaire: “I also cannot support the Charter Amendment on the ballot this November that calls for the abolition or defunding of our city’s police.”

One mental exercise you can use to test whether this charter amendment abolishes police: imagine 13 copies of Linea Palmisano on the city council. You can be sure that police funding would go up, rapidly and in perpetuity, at the expense of other potential programs in the budget. So if we’re being honest — which Palmisano is not — this charter amendment is really about democratic control of budgets and policy. Other cities set their public safety budgets entirely through the normal legislative process. We’ve spent 60 years deferring purely democratic control to a rule won by the police union in 1961. That’s what this debate is about. If Linea Palmisano is afraid the other 12 Minneapolis wards will fund public safety in a way she disagrees with, that’s just democracy.

The mayor and his allies like Linea Palmisano have put a lot of effort into painting this as a choice between incremental change and the apocalypse. This has it backwards. The incremental change is voting yes on 2. The other side stands for no change at all. You should reject the lies and hyperbole from those perpetuating the ongoing and spectacular failure of the existing system.

Mike Norton is the obvious choice. He won’t be on the left wing of the city council. But he will bring Ward 13 back into the policy conversation in a way that actually affects outcomes, rather than always standing alone in opposition.