Sydney Jordan – MN House 60A

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.

In 2012, our state was up against two constitutional amendments that threatened to change the very shape of our democracy. The anti-marriage amendment would have enshrined discrimination in our state constitution and told our LGBTQ neighbors that their relationships were less valuable. Meanwhile, the Voter ID amendment would have added additional hoops to jump through for anyone wishing to exercise their right to vote. As a student at the time, I knew that this would make it more difficult for students to vote and would unfairly impact minority voters throughout the state.

I was involved with MPIRG at the time, and we took seriously our responsibility to stop these amendments from passing. I was a lead student witness against the Voter ID
amendment at hearings at the State Capitol when it was being proposed, and when
Republicans voted to put it on the ballot anyway, I organized my fellow students and
Minnesotans to vote no twice. We registered and collected pledges to vote no from over 10,000 students across the state.

Winning those fights was a real lesson in the power of organizing, and I have continued to be involved in progressive local and state politics ever since, including working for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and my current role with Save the Boundary Waters.

If elected, what committee assignment would you like to receive and why?

Taxes: I want to help institute a more progressive tax system and ensure the burden of funding new programs is shifted away from those living in tight financial straits, and towards those with plenty to spare – namely, the ultra-wealthy and large corporations.

Education Finance: One of my core policy priorities is to support Minnesota schools with a fairer and more thorough state funding scheme, culminating in E-12 education fully funded by the state.

Environment and Natural Resources Policy: Another primary goal of my candidacy is instituting environmental protections, promoting sustainable growth and alternative energy, reducing industrial waste, reducing emissions, and eliminating environmental disparities in the Twin Cities.

Finally, in keeping with my current work fighting to keep the Boundary Waters a pristine wilderness for future generations, I am particularly interested in joining the Water Subcommittee.

Legislators are not always able to choose their ideal committee assignments, but I know that I will have a progessive impact on my district no matter which committees I am assigned to.

Do you agree that we’re facing a climate emergency? If yes, what’s the appropriate emergency-level policy response?

We are absolutely in a climate emergency. Minnesota should immediately reduce its reliance on carbon-producing energy. If the federal government is unwilling to address climate change, states should enter regional collaboratives to reduce emissions. I will support and prioritize efforts seeking to transition to alternative, climate-friendly energy and quickly reach net zero emissions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Passing a Minnesota Green New Deal.
  • Incentivizing solar and wind projects.
  • Disincentivizing driving.
  • Passing a transportation bill prioritizing mass transit (including high speed rail), bicycling, and walking with the goal of reducing car use.
  • Supporting electric vehicle infrastructure and the adoption of Governor Walz’s
  • Clean Car Standards.
  • Implementing a 100 Percent Clean Energy standard.
  • Adopting more robust energy standards in building codes and allowing local governments to adopt a stretch code.

Other interventions are less direct, but no less important. Building out the public transit system, and encouraging its use by lowering barriers to ridership, reduce private vehicle emissions. Reducing suburban and exurban sprawl will reduce overall energy consumption, as well as emissions related to vehicle use, infrastructure development,
and habitat destruction. It’s often overlooked, but more housing in the city is a major
climate intervention.

Name some specific housing policies you would push as a legislator to make Minneapolis a more affordable place to find housing.

Our entire region is facing an affordable housing crisis and every city in the region must
play a part in resolving it. Metro housing development should be overseen on a regional
basis within the Met Council, which has the authority to allocate fair share housing goals to individual communities. This mandate should be statutorily strengthened.

We must ensure that our neighborhoods can continue to grow economically without displacing existing residents with high housing costs. Put very simply, this means more housing must be built. Only additional units can permanently reduce cost pressures on existing housing within Minneapolis. I also support efforts to reduce undue regulatory burdens to housing construction. Finally, I support inclusive zoning legislation to ensure that new affordable housing is produced alongside market-rate developments in growing areas, so that developers cannot only build housing for the rich and leave the rest behind.

Minnesota must increase funding for publicly-subsidized affordable housing, and take steps to ensure that this funding is directed where it is most needed: areas with high rents, plentiful jobs, and strong neighborhood schools and services. The state housing finance agency has the authority to site new affordable housing; it should be directed to place a substantial number of these units in high-opportunity areas. Minnesota should also consider the role of redundant or over complex affordable housing bureaucracy in sabotaging housing policy aims.

Finally, I support increased oversight and enforcement of anti-discrimination rules in real estate and home lending. Credit discrimination and redlining often create financial barriers for Minnesotans of color, driving up the cost of purchasing a home.

Can you identify anything the legislature currently gets wrong on transportation — and how you’d fix this?

Put very bluntly, we spend far too much on car infrastructure and not nearly enough on transit, biking, and walking infrastructure. This is bad for cities, bad for commuters, bad for pedestrians, bad for bikers, and immensely bad for the environment. As a standing priority, I would work to reallocate state transportation funding away from automobile infrastructure to the greatest possible extent.

One reason our transportation system is imbalanced is that roads have a stable, dedicated funding stream – something that transit simply doesn’t have at present. To fix this, and put transit on more sustainable footing, I support establishing a metro area sales tax dedicated to transit that can pay for transit operations and new transit routes, including the aggressive expansion of additional aBRT routes throughout the metro area. This is one of the fastest ways we can improve service and increase ridership on Metro Transit.

Here in District 60A, one step we can take to improve transit immediately is upgrade the 10 bus to an aBRT line. The bus is often beyond capacity, and it is unnecessarily slowed down by traffic and the slow boarding process at busy stops. More frequent buses, traffic signal priority, and off-board fare payment can help speed this line up and make this transit lifeline to Northeast even more useful to our neighborhoods. As a legislator, I will fight to add this corridor to the list of aBRT projects in the queue, and fight to get the additional funding we need to upgrade this corridor, and other corridors throughout the metro area.

Identify the top challenges facing schools in your area and how you’d address them.

I am a proud proponent of public education and public educators. Part of why I entered
this race is to help improve Minnesota schools.

Currently, our schools face significant funding disparities, a lack of support for educators, a lack of teacher diversity. Schools with large numbers of students from marginalized populations bear the scars of historic discrimination and segregation.

I support fully funding E-12 education from the state budget in order to eliminate financial disparities between schools. The present system of school funding, in which state support is combined with local property tax levies, advantages schools in high-income districts and neighborhoods, linking property wealth to educational quality. This contributes to existing achievement and opportunity gaps between students in rich areas and students in poor areas. Funding education from the state budget completely eliminates this problem.

As a shorter-term measure, I would fully fund mandated educational services like special education and English learner instruction. Because the state only partially funds these programs, schools with a high concentration of special education or English learner students face larger per-student expenses, which must be paid out of their general revenue. This represents a significant financial disadvantage. Notably, such schools are disproportionately located in low-income areas and districts, such as Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Schools function best when its educators are happy. I support worker protections, improved benefits, and higher pay for teaching staff, including education support professionals.

Research consistently shows that exposure to same-group role models helps students of color perform academically. One of my top educational priorities is increased recruitment and retention of educators of color. I want to support for programs at our colleges and universities that focus on recruitment of students for teaching programs with diverse backgrounds. Recruitment is not the sole issue here — Minnesota has also struggled to retain teachers of color, a problem that appears to be rooted in poor working conditions in schools. Improved state financial support for E-12 education, and improved educator employment conditions generally, will improve long-term retention rates.

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?

Representative Diane Loeffler was an incredible champion for human services in Minnesota, and built deep expertise on the subject. Many of her peers in the legislators often called upon her knowledge when developing policy in the area. While I recognize the vital role state and county human services departments play in providing stability in so many Minnesotans’ lives, I am going to need help filling Rep. Loeffler’s shoes.

I know that all legislators will have blind spots on policy, however. For me, the important thing is admitting when those subjects arise, and being willing to consult experts, community members, and the people affected by policy changes under consideration. As a legislator, I would have even greater resources at my disposal for policy learning, in the form of committees, House research staff, and the Legislative Auditor.

Do you see specific opportunities for the state legislature to support the work of —
or remove obstacles for — the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor?

Minneapolis should receive increased financial support from the state, Minnesota should eliminate preemption statutes that create a regulatory “ceiling” for Minneapolis, particularly in the areas of housing and employment.

Minneapolis should also receive the support of a strong regional government and state housing finance agency. Regional policymaking, particularly in the areas of land use and housing, reduces destructive competition between Minneapolis and neighboring municipalities. Excessive sprawl in low-tax, low-density suburban and exurban communities has contributed to historic population loss from Minneapolis, and has slowed its recent economic and residential growth. The Met Council should be empowered to fight back against sprawl and ensure that every community in the Twin Cities area is contributing its fair share to the region’s housing stock.

Lightning Round – Short answers if possible.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I live in the Northeast Park neighborhood of Northeast.

Do you have a favorite Metro Transit bus route? Where does it take you?

The 10: it takes me downtown and is a connection to the entire metro transit system. My favorite regular summer activity is to take the 10 downtown, run errands, and scooter back up Central. I only wish it was more frequent!

What leadership experience do you have?

I am currently the State Director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

Have you run for elected office before? Which one/s?

I have never run for public elected office before.

Do you support the Minneapolis 2040 plan?


[Click here to read answers from all district 60A candidates. The special primary election is on January 21st, 2020.]