Tell us about a time — before you were a candidate for public office — where you felt strongly about a local/state political issue. Give an example of the action you took in response.
I am a firm advocate for the rights of tribal nations and their sovereignty. I built my practice and a law firm around that commitment, fighting for tribes in court and helping tribal leaders write laws. My work as an attorney has shown me the way laws– whether written well or poorly–impact individuals. It has also shown me the law’s limits. Sometimes, the solution is a political one outside of the courts. When reports of caged children, byzantine bait-and-switch procedures, and intentional cruelty started surfacing, I grabbed my mom, headed to the Ft. Snelling light rail station, and joined Never Again Action leaders in a direct action, risking arrest as I joined hands with a stranger to block exiting park-and-ride traffic during rush hour. Where it is most effective to use the way the system works, I use the system. Where it’s not, I join activists working to change the system itself.
If elected, what committee assignment would you like to receive and why?
I want to hear more from my constituents before making final decisions on which committee appointments to seek, but am currently looking to join
- Health and Human Services Policy to continue Rep. Loeffler’s legislative legacy and advocate for patient-centered healthcare that prioritizes people over profits.
- Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division to work for criminal-justice reforms to dismantle the current systems that disproportionately harm people of color.
- Transportation Finance and Policy Division to ensure that our district is fairly represented in transit funding that provides an alternative to car-centric transit. Whether that be walking, biking, or busing.
Do you agree that we’re facing a climate emergency? If yes, what’s the appropriate emergency-level policy response?
Our planet has already warmed beyond levels that are safe or just. As wildfires, floods, droughts, and extreme-weather events increase in intensity and frequency, it is clear that we are passing Earth’s ecological limits. I support the Green New Deal that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed. Minnesota can: incentivize “green” technologies instead of extractive economies, and enter into blue-green partnerships governed by project labor agreements that encourage collective bargaining and require minimum and prevailing wages; invest in and incentivize local-scale agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and upgrade transportation, water, and other infrastructure to reduce emissions and ensure universal access to clean water. As the headwaters of the Mississippi, Minnesota also has a specific obligation to protect the Mississippi watershed from point-source pollutants and maintain it for downstream users.
Name some specific housing policies you would push as a legislator to make Minneapolis a more affordable place to find housing.
I Oregon-style rent control. And we also need solutions that increase affordable housing stock in our community. As the Representative for 60A, I will push for a clawback of the decade-and-a-half of LGA revenue that Minneapolis lost during the Ventura and Pawlenty administrations when Minnesota did not keep its end of the funding bargain. That cash infusion would allow Minneapolis to craft city-specific housing solutions that will work for its residents and allow for innovation that we can advocate for statewide.
Can you identify anything the legislature currently gets wrong on transportation — and how you’d fix this?
We must increase the gas tax both to raise revenue and discourage fossil fuel consumption. Minnesota should dedicate a portion of this revenue increase to transit. Within the metro, we unfairly favor suburban and south-metro transit, and must push for revenue allocations that afford our neighborhoods the same amenities that exist elsewhere.
Identify the top challenges facing schools in your area and how you’d address them.
I am a strong advocate for public education. In my perfect world, every one of the students in our district would attend an MPS community-based school that is well funded, meets that student’s educational and emotional needs, and allows students within the district to opt into tailored programming that meets their cultural and linguistic needs. That is the goal I will work toward as your legislator. But right now, declining enrollment is an existential threat to public schools. Parents are opting out of MPS and into private schools, suburban schools, and charter schools, leaving decimated public-school budgets behind. It’s time to have the hard conversations about why these parents are opting out of MPS and what we can do to support all of our kids. It’s time to have the hard conversations about why these parents are opting out of MPS and what we can do to support all of our kids so that every Minneapolis parent is excited to send their student to an MPS school.
As we chart our way from here to that vision, I support a temporary moratorium on new charter schools to freeze the field while Minnesota implements stricter authorization and accountability standards. If a charter does not improve educational outcomes, it has no place in our education system. And while we tighten charter regulation, we must continue to support our neighborhood schools with the improvements they need like increasing the number of school counselors, funding wrap-around services, and broadening language offerings. Minnesota’s education commitment must include a both/and discussion of community-based public schools and innovative solutions to bridge Minnesota’s opportunity gap so that we meet the needs of all of our children.
Name an issue area about which your own knowledge and experience are lacking. How are you learning more? Who do you turn to for advice?
Because I do not have firsthand knowledge or experience with trans* equity issues, especially for trans* people of color, I’ve turned to supporters like Davis Senseman (a leader in the district) and Gloria Contreras Edin (an immigration attorney who frequently represents trans* asylum seekers). Particularly on equity issues, I prioritize the voices of affected community leaders whether I am familiar with the background issues or not. For example, I reached out to Tonja Honsey of the Prison Doula Project for her input into my justice reform platform, to Alissa Light of the Family Tree Clinic for her provider-side input into patient-centered care, and Danielle Grant (formerly of Minneapolis Public Schools) to learn more about school funding formulas and equity issues from a district perspective.
Do you see specific opportunities for the state legislature to support the work of — or remove obstacles for — the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor?
During the Ventura and Pawlenty administrations, Minnesota broke its promise to Minneapolis and did not pay Local Government Aid at the pace it pledged. It’s important that we’re back to reasonable aid levels, but Minneapolis needs to claw back the more-than-a-decade’s worth of underfunding to meet Minnesota’s LGA obligations. I will also work to protect progressive policies from State preemption, pass a statewide $15 minimum to ensure that Minneapolis businesses are not at a competitive disadvantage.
Lightning Round – Short answers if possible.
What neighborhood do you live in?
Do you have a favorite Metro Transit bus route? Where does it take you?
The 4 gets me from my house to the university, downtown for Twins games, and to family in the Lynn/Lake area.
What leadership experience do you have?
From 2005-2010, I served on the Board of the Family Tree Clinic, and as President of the Board led a strategic reorganization during the Great Recession, and the refinancing of a $1.35 million asset. In 2013, I co-founded and have since continued to operate a successful small business that represents tribal nations. In 2016, at the request of the Minneapolis Public Schools, I created an Indian law moot court curriculum for 10th graders in the All Nations Program at South High, and I’ve continued to run the program every year since. In 2018, I joined the Gateway to Legal Education Advisory Board to assist in the development of a barrier-breaking program that introduces undergraduates from underrepresented communities to legal education and careers. In 2018, I also became our street’s National Night Out block leader.
Have you run for elected office before? Which one/s?
Do you support the Minneapolis 2040 plan?