After members of the Minneapolis Police Department killed George Floyd last summer, Minneapolis became the epicenter of a national movement for significant police and public safety reform. As a white Minnesotan living in Ward 13, the wealthiest ward in Minneapolis, the conversations that followed opened my eyes to the many ways in which our city’s current systems and politicians have contributed to the racial segregation and dramatic economic disparities present in Minneapolis. I attempted to talk with incumbent Council Member Linea Palmisano as her constituent and ask for her to support the structural changes we need to work towards a racially just and equitable public safety system. I was disappointed by her lack of engagement as well as her votes, which have demonstrated a commitment to the status quo that benefits the white, wealthy residents of our ward while leaving the rest of the city behind.
Council Member Palmisano has said, at times, that structural change to the MPD is necessary. Most notably, in 2017, the day after Justine Damond was killed by Mohamed Noor in Ward 13, Council Member Palmisano said, “I am moving beyond sadness and I am angry. … I will be pushing for fundamental changes in our police department from top to bottom, and I ask you as my colleagues to join in these efforts.” She has had four more years in office since then, and at least 7 more people have been killed by MPD officers. She has also gained a reputation as the most conservative member of the Council who often opposes and obstructs efforts at progressive reforms due to claims of inadequate public engagement or technicalities.
Ward 13 deserves a candidate to meet the moment on public safety reforms in Minneapolis. Though I didn’t plan to run for office this year, as the deadline to file for the DFL caucuses approached, I decided to step up and run for the chance to take on that responsibility. If elected, I’ll push for significant police reforms (not incremental change). I support the Yes4Minneapolis ballot initiative to create a new, more transparent, and professionally led Department of Public Safety. I also support reallocating some of the MPD’s budget to other evidence-based violence prevention and public safety initiatives. We currently spent one-third of Minneapolis’s general fund on the MPD, which is too much. We should not be paying for police to perform pretext traffic stops or minor drug possession arrests – both of which disproportionately affect Black residents. If elected, I will listen to the community and fight for a budget that will spend our public safety dollars in a way that will actually keep us safe – particularly our most vulnerable residents.
If elected, I will also focus on two issues that affect a lot of college students – improved housing affordability, and expanded, safe transit options for Southwest and all of Minneapolis. Single family zoning, and the scarcity that comes with it, has made housing less affordable for a large number of Minneapolis residents. Additionally, our Ward and city’s history of redlining and racial covenants has resulted in a highly racially and economically segregated city. Many of Council Member Palmisano’s votes, including voting against the 2040 plan in 2018, and her recent vote against the more robust version of the rent stabilization ordinance that will appear on our ballot this year, show her commitment to the status quo. I support the 2040 plan to make housing more affordable to more residents everywhere in the city, including Ward 13. I support creating more multi-unit housing, passing rent stabilization measures, increasing the rights of renters, and ending restrictions on single-room occupancy residences. I also support increasing the city minimum wage to $20/hr, which will make housing much more attainable for many residents.
I support significantly increasing accessible and environmentally friendly public transportation options in Minneapolis. Specifically, I would advocate for more Bus Rapid Transit lines in Ward 13 and throughout the city, as well as a significant increase in protected bike lanes (not just paint lines on the road). I am also in favor of transferring responsibility for clearing snow and ice on sidewalks from residents to the city. Requiring residents to shovel sidewalks places a high burden on citizens with mobility issues and allows residents and businesses to use excess salt and chemicals that harm our environment.
Though this is my first time running for office, I’m not new to activism and leadership. I earned my degree in economics from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2007一the same year the Student Senate honored me as the Student Agitator of the Year after I wrote a book outlining how student fees were spent. While on Student Senate, I was the first to get the campus bookstores to publish ISBN’s online so students could price shop. I also successfully lobbied the school administration to change the name of the “Free” parking lot to the “Complimentary Lot” because students were actually subsidizing allegedly “free” parking through student fees. So, I have a deep respect and appreciation for activism on college campuses. I started my own logistics business in 2015, and have been extremely fortunate to be able to convince some great people to join the company. The lowest wage I have ever paid is $15/hr to our first interns in 2016. Now, they and all employees are paid more than $20/hr.
I would be incredibly grateful for an endorsement from the CDMN and am happy to talk with you anytime about whatever issues are top of mind for your membership.
A campaign against an incumbent is always difficult, but this one is an especially uphill battle. Council Member Palmisano started her campaign with a healthy budget left over from previous election and has an existing stable of wealthy conservative voters to tap for more. She already has name recognition, and has a history of saying she supports progressive change without taking any action to prove it. So, for residents who trust her at her word, or who haven’t had the time and energy to pay close attention to local politics, it may take multiple deep conversations to help them understand why change is needed.
My campaign has built our current grassroots support network by working with our Ward’s progressive leaders and having personal conversations to activate new voters who care about racial justice and progressive change but haven’t been as engaged in municipal elections in the past. Despite being a political newcomer who had announced my campaign only a couple months in advance, we managed to secure support from more than 30% of the delegates in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) caucus process. So, this fight is winnable, but we need all the help we can get. Small donations of $20 from your membership could add up quickly to help us get the word out. And we need as many volunteers as possible to help us knock on doors, make phone calls, and have in-depth conversations with Ward 13 residents. It’s also critical to get the word out on social media that Ward 13 has a progressive choice this year. Support from organizations like the CDMN could make a huge difference in November.