Listen everyone, I didn’t want to do endorsements. It’s the DFL calendar forcing my hand. I’m otherwise happy to wait until fall. Even Tom Hoch put out a slate of Minneapolis candidates — so why should I stifle my voice? I have more to offer the world than Tom Hoch. So, yes I am offering my from-the-heart, too-much-time-spent-watching-local-government, Minneapolis DFL endorsements.
But first, let me briefly explain how I see the stakes. People think of Minneapolis as a one party town. But it’s not true. Don’t use a national frame to look at local politics. We do actually have conservatives and progressives at City Hall.
Every four years we can either elect leaders with ideas and the energy to see them through or we can elect people who are mostly content to leave things as they are. And on a 13 member council it’s about more than who will promise to support good things and oppose the bad things. It’s about who will pick up an idea, shape it into something, and push it to the point where it has the chance to pass.
2020 was a year of catastrophic failure. First, a public health and economic crisis made worse by federal incompetence and inaction. And then our police department imploded under the weight of generations of corruption. In 2021, we can’t afford to retreat into fear and conservatism. This is the year to recommit to replacing failing systems and creating a more just, more resilient, more equitable city.
City Council is an important job, hard work, and full of opportunity to make our city a better place. There are people running in 2021 — some of them incumbents — with no ideas, no agenda, nothing new to offer. We should aspire to more than leaders whose best and boldest promise amounts to being a minimally competent caretaker.
How to participate: Minneapolis DFL caucus registration is happening now through the end of April at caucus.dfl.org.
My criteria for endorsement:
- Does the candidate largely embody my values, especially on public safety, housing, and transportation? Will they be on the right side of a close vote? Will they tend to empower Lisa Goodman or Linea Palmisano?
- Does the candidate have the qualities of an effective council member? Do I like the way they think? Are they tenacious and crafty enough to push their agenda through the machinery of city hall? Do they even have an agenda?
- Confidence level: Am I willing to own this endorsement without shame for all eternity (or at least until the next election in two years)?
- Disqualifier: Has the candidate ever used the meaningless phrase “support our chief”?
- Is the candidate running against Linea Palmisano or Lisa Goodman?
City Council Ward 1, Elliott Payne
Payne has a clear, well-considered vision for Minneapolis. On public safety, on housing, and on transportation, he wants to take us in the right direction. Most importantly, I believe he has the leadership qualities to see his vision through. He has worked on policy in the City’s office of Performance and Innovation. He helped develop an ordinance to prevent renters and victims of crime from being evicted without due process. This is an especially important race. In 2017, incumbent Kevin Reich won by a thin margin — about 180 votes. Reich has mostly kept his head down this term, but has no discernable agenda. With many progressive seats on defense in 2021, flipping Ward 1 would be a bonus.
[Watch the Elliott Payne episode of the Wedge LIVE podcast]
City Council Ward 2, “uncommitted”
Let’s postpone all talk of Ward 2. I encourage you to caucus and become a delegate for “uncommitted” so that you can render “no endorsement” at the DFL convention. Move on to the general election where you will have non-DFL candidates to consider.
City Council Ward 3, Steve Fletcher
Steve Fletcher is the one who most often makes me say “nailed it, Steve!” (t-shirt idea) while watching City Council meetings. And that’s not just because he’s the only one named Steve. He actually has ideas, is good on housing, transportation, and public safety, among others. And if you ever disagree with him, he’s thoughtful enough to make you consider if you’ve gotten it wrong. (Note: Please don’t elect Michael Rainville, unless you hate everything I stand for, in which case you’d probably like Michael Rainville.)
City Council Ward 4, Phillipe Cunningham
Ward 4 turned the page on 50 years of conservative leadership (rejecting hereditary rule by the House of Rainville) when it elected Phillipe Cunningham in 2017. As chair of the City Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee, Cunningham is focused on a public health approach to safe communities. He’s a champion on housing and protections for tenants. When it was clear our city-funded neighborhood organizations were producing inequitable results, he insisted on a process to analyze the problem and change the system. He’s open, he’s energetic, he’s data-driven, and he has embraced the work of building a new system of public safety in Minneapolis.
City Council Ward 5, Jeremiah Ellison
Jeremiah Ellison has been a dynamic and engaged member of the city council; a leader on housing and tenant protections and an essential voice on public safety. If he was running for Mayor, I might consider abandoning my principles and getting behind the strong mayor charter amendment. Ellison has earned my deep respect and more nice words than this, but I don’t think Ward 5 should be a difficult choice for anyone this year.
City Council Ward 7, Nick Kor
Say thank you to Nick Kor for running a formidable progressive campaign to end Lisa Goodman’s 24 year career. It’s a real gift to have a candidate like this running in a hard year. I was worried nobody would have the desire to take another shot in Ward 7. The incumbent has a big bank account. It’s a lot of work taking on the business community and conservative parts of Ward 7, but Nick Kor inspires confidence. What a huge difference it would make to flip this seat.
City Council Ward 10, Katie Jones
Katie is my neighbor in the Wedge, who shows up for issues big and small at neighborhood meetings, at city council public hearings, and as part of her service on advisory committees for parks and city infrastructure (yes, I have watched her get heckled). Do you know who takes more time to attend public meetings than I have over these many years? Katie Jones.
Katie has proven herself to me over and over again. She never fails to show up. She cares deeply about our community. She’s the kind of person who works herself to exhaustion and still picks up the slack when others falter. She shares my values and hopes for Minneapolis. I don’t say this lightly: she’s intellectually relentless, methodical, focused, and exactly the person I trust to attack a complicated problem.
Katie seeks out people who know more than she does. She seeks out those who disagree with her (to my occasional annoyance) in order to bring people together (sometimes successfully, to my occasional surprise). Katie is someone I’m grateful to have running in 2021. We are lucky when exceptional people run for office in challenging times. It’s an understatement to say Katie Jones has all the essential qualities of a great city council member. Of everyone on this list, she has my strongest possible endorsement.
City Council Ward 11, Jeremy Schroeder
I didn’t endorse Jeremy Schroeder in 2017. After winning his first election, he could have kept his head down and cruised to reelection. He didn’t do that. He chose to lead on housing. He chose to lead on public safety. He put a target on his back (like some others on this list) because he has a core set of beliefs that are more important than reelection. Schroeder is a leader with integrity. Hold on to him for another term.
City Council Ward 13, Mike Norton
What do you have to lose? Norton is new to local politics but sharp. He thinks of himself as conservative by Minneapolis standards, but has a remarkable openness to progressive reforms on public safety. He is pro housing and has attractive positions on transportation. Mike Norton would be a welcome fresh start from the increasingly conservative and nonsensical leadership of Linea Palmisano.
Mayor, Not Jacob Frey
I encourage you to vote against Mayor Frey. Vote Sheila Nezhad or Kate Knuth. There’s bound to be one you like. If I were a delegate, even if I preferred one alternative, I’d rank my ballot 1-2 to increase the odds of an endorsement against Frey.
Board of Estimate and Taxation, Christa Moseng
I’m really proud of my BET endorsement, Christa Moseng, who is producing some great educational content over on her website. When I first endorsed her a few weeks ago, I already had great admiration for her many fine qualities, but I didn’t realize she would be so good at this. Having a talent for explaining obscure processes and concepts means that I’m doubling down: Christa Moseng is DOUBLE ENDORSED.
Park Board? Haven’t had time to think about it. We’ll get to it later. Though I will likely have fewer strong opinions on Park Board.