My Thoughts On Election Eve 2023

Are we voting our fears again this year? Last week in Ward 10, I received a mailer from a crime-themed PAC slicing the city’s crime stats in a way to show me crime is actually up, despite all those news stories telling me crime is down. But I’m clever, so I recognized this as an attempt to get me to vote for Minneapolis City Council candidate Bruce Dachis, who is alarmingly ignorant and whose policies are extremely against my interests.

Dachis appeared on a local right wing talk radio show on yesterday. The host falsely accused Council Member Aisha Chughtai of supporting Hamas. And at another point they sat there listening to a Vietnam-era country song bashing anti-war protesters. Election 2023 is weird and gross in ways I had not expected.

Don’t miss this week’s fake episode of the Wedge LIVE podcast:

In case you forgot the events of the 2021 election, we the voters:

  • Reaffirmed mayor’s total power over MPD
  • Ensured continued funding for MPD beyond their capacity to spend it

Council members are not 13 mini police chiefs. The mayor is in charge. The police chief answers to the mayor. It has always been this way. Larger players in the criminal justice system include: the mayor, police chief, prosecutors, judges, local and federal law enforcement.

Plutocracy Watch: Mayor Frey’s allies and wealthy donors are on track to spend over a million dollars on the 2023 election, via unlimited contributions to the PAC All of Mpls. In 2021, the same group spent over $2.3 million. All of Mpls is currently outspending its progressive counterpart Minneapolis for the Many by 5 to 1. For context, an extremely well-funded City Council campaign might approach $100,000 in spending.

All of Mpls is targeting spending in Wards 7, 8, 12 in support of Scott Graham, Andrea Jenkins and Luther Ranheim. They’ve spent a much smaller amount supporting Dachis in Ward 10.

Minneapolis needs a progressive counter to Mayor Frey.

We are very divided. So much of that division comes down to how we interpret and explain the events of the last three years. Some people believe that activists and progressive council members said the wrong words, disrespected the police, drove them out of the profession, or deprived them of funding (this last one is just provably, by the numbers, not true).

To be clear, I am someone who actually believes we need armed law enforcement to respond to violent crime. But my understanding of the last three years is that MPD earned the distrust of many and the hatred of some; has long been a poorly led, racist and dysfunctional institution; and has been funded beyond their capacity to spend their budget in every year since 2020.

I won’t be manipulated by fear into believing we can flatter and fund the police at a level that will solve those root problems. You shouldn’t be manipulated either. The funding is there, thanks to an enforceable legal mandate that still exists in the charter. And when I count votes of a potential seven seat progressive council majority, I count candidates who’ve pledged to fund MPD up to that officer minimum.

We may need police, but we know we can’t rely on them, so the real question is how urgently we get to building public safety services that won’t disappear in a crisis. That urgency won’t come from a council majority content to be a rubber stamp for Mayor Frey.

And one more thing. Electing a council majority of people who campaigned as police boosters gives the police union aid and comfort in their ongoing negotiations with the city. Give the mayor some leverage. Give his labor negotiators some hard-ass bad guy council members to point to.

Tired Old White Men vs Rising Young Women. Two of the three big battlegrounds in Minneapolis (Wards 7 and 12) stand out for a generational and gender split. Take it from me, someone well on his way to being a cranky old man: when we’re given the opportunity to elect impressive women leaders like Aurin Chowdhury and Katie Cashman, who are willing to tolerate the pain and misery that comes from leading a public life, we really should just say yes.

And if you don’t believe me, take it from fellow tired old white guy R.T. Rybak: “Having seen parts of this movie before, I caution people to keep their minds open, because behind some of the walls going up there may be some younger important new leaders with the fresh perspective our city needs right now.”

Or take it from even older guy, ex-Gov. Mark Dayton.

In the other big battleground, Ward 8, it’s notable that Andrea Jenkins (in addition to getting help from Mayor Frey’s friends at All of Mpls) is relying on Linea Palmisano and LaTrisha Vetaw to vouch for her in the closing days. These are two council members who may be a match for their own wards but seem out of sync with very progressive Ward 8.

Dream Team. In Ward 5, the anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion Trumper Victor Martinez recently teamed up for a campaign video with disgraced Ward 10 candidate Nasri Warsame (whose supporters stormed the stage and ended the Ward 10 DFL convention prematurely back in May).

Surprise Battleground: Ward 13. Who knew I would end the 2023 election season riding bikes with City Council Vice President Linea Palmisano? I had a chance to ride with both Palmisano and her challenger Kate Mortenson on the freshly reconstructed Bryant Avenue, the result of which Mortenson has been critical.

I had a good time. We proved that people of differing political perspectives can ride bikes together in a non-combative way. I hope the people of Minneapolis can follow our example.

Don’t sleep on transportation as an issue. Scott Graham is promising his supporters in Ward 7 that if elected he will try to scrap the Hennepin Ave plan and “relitigate it” — which he must know is not possible. Luther Ranheim in Ward 12 called for defunding the city’s bike infrastructure — and I guess it’s possible he’s ignorant enough to think there’s a lot of money to squeeze from the city’s white paint and bollard budget. I’m not fans of these two.