Elections 2020: Minneapolis School Board Primary

Minneapolis City Council and Mayoral races are done with instant runoff voting, but school board is not. There’s a primary (you vote for one) and then a runoff between the two top candidates. Five candidates are running for one at-large seat.

Kim Ellison (incumbent, DFL-endorsed)
William Awe
Doug Mann
Lynne Crockett
Michael Dueñes

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Election 2020: Charter Amendments & Police Reform

In Minnesota, a lot of cities have charters. Your city charter is sort of the constitution by which your city is run. Ordinances can be changed fairly easily, by having the City Council vote; in order to amend a City Charter, you need a referendum. (This is not entirely true — noncontroversial stuff can just be approved by the City Council. But a lot of stuff requires votes.)

I’ve written about the Minneapolis City Charter a couple of times. In 2018, there was an amendment to revise liquor licensing laws. More notably, in 2013, the whole charter got a massive revision. The Charter Commission rewrote it in modern English instead of archaic legalese and took out all the bits that had been superceded by other bits. This had to go to two referendum votes (which were on the same ballot), because passing anything related to alcohol requires a larger majority, and they agreed that having most of it in modern English but reverting abruptly to archaic legalese whenever alcohol was mentioned would still be an overall improvement. (Both pieces passed.) Nothing about the rules was actually changed in 2013 — the goal was not to fix the rules (many of which are overly fiddly and very much something that should be in the ordinances, not the charter), it was to fix the problem where people couldn’t even figure out what the rules were because the charter was such an overall unreadable mess.

By chance, the section I pulled out in 2013 to illustrate the difference between the old charter and the new charter is the one under discussion right now. Here’s the current version:

7.3. Police
(a) Police department. The Mayor has complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department. The Mayor may make all rules and regulations and may promulgate and enforce general and special orders necessary to operating the police department. Except where the law vests an appointment in the department itself, the Mayor appoints and may discipline or discharge any employee in the department (subject to the Civil Service Commission’s rules, in the case of an employee in the classified service).

(1) Police chief.
(A) Appointment. The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a police chief under section 8.4(b).
(B) Term. The chief’s term is three years.
(C) Civil service. The chief serves in the unclassified service, but with the same employee benefits (except as to hiring and removal) as an officer in the classified service. If a chief is appointed from the classified service, then he or she is treated as taking a leave of Revised Charter 30 Proposed 1 May 2013
absence while serving as chief, after which he or she is entitled to return to his or her permanent grade in the classified service. If no vacancy is available in that grade, then the least senior employee so classified returns to his or her grade before being so classified.
(D) Public health. The chief must execute the City Council’s orders relating to the preservation of health.
(2) Police officers. Each peace officer appointed in the police department must be licensed as required by law. Each such licensed officer may exercise any lawful power that a peace officer enjoys at common law or by general or special law, and may execute a warrant anywhere in the county.
(b) Temporary police. The Mayor may, in case of riot or other emergency, appoint any necessary temporary police officer for up to one week. Each such officer must be a licensed peace officer.
(c) Funding. The City Council must fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, and provide for those employees’ compensation, for which purpose it may tax the taxable property in the City up to 0.3 percent of its value annually. This tax is in addition to any other tax, and not subject to the maximum set under section 9.3(a)(4).

“The City Council must fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, and provide for those employees’ compensation” is a rule that makes it extremely difficult to do meaningful police reform. If we want real change, a charter amendment is needed. Here’s the full text of what the City Council is proposing. The whole policing section above is replaced with the following:

§ 7.3. Police Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
(a) Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The City Council must establish, maintain, adequately fund, and consistently engage the public about a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.
(1) Director of Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department. The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a director of the department of community safety and violence prevention under section 8.4(b). Individuals eligible to be appointed as director will have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.
(b) Division of Law Enforcement Services. The Council may maintain a division of law enforcement services, composed of licensed peace officers, subject to the supervision of the department of community safety and violence prevention.
(1) Director of Law Enforcement Services Division. The director of the department of community safety and violence prevention shall appoint the director of the division of law enforcement services, subject to confirmation by official act of the City Council and Mayor.

However, in order for Minneapolis residents to be able to vote on this, the Charter Commission has to put it on the ballot, and that’s something they have to do by early August.

From the WedgeLive article:

Written comments can be submitted here. Instructions for how to participate by phone in the July 15 virtual public hearing will be available here once the meeting notice has been posted.

If this is something you want, make your voice heard. And note that this is not, in fact, a proposal to abolish all policing; instead, it would allow the city to choose to spend less money on a bunch of suburban bullies with guns to solve problems that they’re unequipped (by training, temperament, or inclination) to deal with. And hey, maybe this means that on occasions when there is something a bunch of armed people are needed to deal with, they’ll actually fucking show up? (“John Elder, a Minneapolis police spokesperson, said officers were simultaneously handling two other shootings in which a total of eight people were wounded.” There are 800 officers in the MPD. It’s super weird that apparently they were so overwhelmed by two shootings that they couldn’t send anyone to a shooting-in-progress where a bunch of kids were in danger!)

(There are 425,403 people in Minneapolis. 0.0017 police department employees per resident = 723. There are 800 sworn officers plus 300 civilian employees. So even if this doesn’t pass, we could, in fact, drastically cut the budget under the current charter and redirect money towards things that are not cops. I don’t think that’s the ideal situation, and the situation with that shooting at Jordan Park illustrates why. “Oh, we would have liked to respond to a shooting-in-progress at a park full of kids, but gosh golly we were just too busy” is unmitigated steaming horseshit, and their blithe expectation that everyone just swallow it is exactly why this department can’t be reformed, it has to be fucking eliminated. If there are any non-rotten apples in the MPD barrel, maybe we can recruit them for the law enforcement division of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.)

Anyway. Want to be able to vote on this in November? Send in a written comment and watch for the opportunity to attend (virtually) the hearing.

 

Election 2020: US House MN-04 Primaries

This is the Betty McCollum seat and not the Ilhan Omar seat, which has a much more competitive primary; I’ll be writing about that before the primary, but the more complex races tend to take me more time. My next post is going to be about the Minneapolis school board primary, since I’ve had multiple people ask about it already.

In Saint Paul, we’ve got the following DFLers:

Tiffini Flynn Forslund
Alberder Gillespie
Betty McCollum (incumbent)
Reid Rossel
David Sandbeck

And two Republicans:

Gene Rechtizgel
Sia Lo

To remind people again how this works: you can pick one party for all your partisan races. If you vote in both the Republican and the DFL primary, even if you’re voting in the Republican race for Senate and the DFL for House, your ballot is spoiled and your votes will not be counted. In person, the machine will spit out your ballot and you can go back for a fresh ballot and a re-do, but if you vote by mail, you are SOL because your ballot is separated from the envelope before being put through the machine, and they have no way of knowing whose ballot it was.

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Election 2020: US Senate Primaries

I’m going to kick this off with an easy one.

Senator Tina Smith was appointed in 2017, ran to keep the seat for the remainder of the term in 2018, and is now running for a six-year regular Senate term. Senator Amy Klobuchar was re-elected to a six-year term in 2018 and is apparently not running for Vice President; if, say, she gets appointed to a presidential cabinet position sometime in early 2021, Tim Walz will get to appoint someone to fill her seat, and that person will then run in the 2022 election to serve out the rest of that term. Mentioning that just in case anyone’s wondering.

On the DFL ballot:

Tina Smith
Steve Carlson
Christopher Lovell Seymore, Sr.
Paula Overby
Ahmad R. Hassan

On the Republican ballot:

Jason Lewis
Bob “Again” Carney Jr.
Cynthia Gail
James Reibestein
John L. Berman

I always imagine Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version) singing “come with me…and you’ll be…in a world of pure imagination” when I hit the “Insert Read More tag” button, for some reason. Rivers of chocolate: probably cooler than political candidates. Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka: less of a weirdo than some of these people.

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Election 2020: Minnesota Primaries

So hey, for those who started following this blog because I’m a science fiction writer, just a heads up for you, I also write an election guide for my local elections. My vague apologies to those who were not expecting to be inundated with Minneapolis and Saint Paul election stuff.

Anyway. Primary elections in Minnesota will be held August 11th. The presidential primary was back in March; these are the primaries for everything else. Information on voting by mail can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State site.

A note on how the primary elections work: everyone gets the same ballot. The front of the ballot is divided down the middle. On one side are the Republican primaries; on the other are the DFL primaries. You pick one party. If you cast votes on both sides, you’ll spoil your ballot and none of your votes will be counted, in any race. You will spoil your ballot even if you stick to one party for each race (like if you vote in the Republican primary for US Senate, the Democratic primary for US House). Pick one. You only get to vote in one party’s primaries. Edited to add: And then, if you’re in Minneapolis, you’ll also have a nonpartisan race on the back of the ballot. You can vote in that one regardless. (Someone pointed out that “vote on only one side!” was actually a bad way to phrase this and they were right. You can vote both front and back! You can’t vote both DFL and GOP, though.)

If you’re voting in person, and try to vote in both party primaries, the machine will reject your ballot, and you can trade it in for a fresh ballot and try again. If you’re voting by mail … I am not sure if there’s any mechanism to notify you that you fucked up your ballot but my guess would be no.

Primary races happening this year:

US Senate. Incumbent Senator Tina Smith is running for a six-year term as Senator. She has opponents in the primary. There’s also a Republican primary. Unless something very strange happens, it’s going to be Tina Smith vs. Jason “Unfamiliar With the Concept of Animal Control” Lewis in November.

US House. In MN-04, Betty McCollum has four opponents challenging her for the nomination; there are also two Republicans running for the opportunity to lose in November. In MN-05, Ilhan Omar has four opponents in the primary (at least one of whom, Antone Melton-Meaux, is being taken seriously and supported by people I know). Three Republicans are running for the opportunity to lose in November, one of whom has been banned from Twitter and has an active arrest warrant for felony shoplifting, or did back in February, anyway.

Minnesota Senate. Every seat in the State Senate will be up for election in November. In August, Senator Bobby Joe Champion (MN-59) is being challenged by Suielman Isse; Jeff Hayden (MN-62) is being challenged by Omar Fateh; and Sandy Pappas (MN-65) is being challenged by Laverne McCartney Knighton. (You can see the full rundown of challenges in this very helpful MPR article.)

Minnesota House. Every seat in the State House will be up for election in November. In August, Rep Raymond Dehn (MN-59B) is being challenged by Isaiah Whitmore and Esther Agbaje; Rep Jim Davnie (MN-63A) is being challenged by April Kane; and Rep. John Lesch (MN-66B) is being challenged by Athena Hollins.

Also, in House District 63B, Rep Jean Wagenius is retiring and Emma Greenman, Husniyah Dent Bradle, and Jerome T Evans are running in the primary to fill her seat; In House District 67A, Rep Tim Mahoney is retiring and John Thompson and Hoang Murphy are running to fill his seat.

(For the full rundown, including a list of legislative candidates who will have no opponent in either the primary or the general election, see the MPR article here.)

Minneapolis School Board. Minneapolis is also electing several school board members. The at-large race will appear on the Primary ballot; you can vote for one of the five people running. (The incumbent is Kim Ellison.) In District 2, incumbent Kerry Jo Felder has one opponent, which I think means this race won’t show up on the primary ballot. In District 4, Bob Walser is not running again, and there are three people running, which I think means the race will show up on the primary ballot (for people in District 4.)

I think that’s it for the primary races, but if you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul and I missed a race you see on your primary ballot, please drop me a comment and let me know.

And don’t forget that Minnesota makes it easy to vote by mail!

Minneapolis & Outside Agitators

Something I honestly did not know before this past week is how deeply confusing living through a crisis like this is. Speculation gets turned into rumor gets turned into “I know this for a fact!” more quickly than I would have thought possible.

But there are hundreds of eyewitness reports from around Minneapolis that arsons were being committed by small groups of white men, apparently outsiders, moving rapidly around the city mostly in vehicles without license plates; watching that get endlessly dismissed on Twitter as “what the authorities always say” from people outside the state has been enraging.

First, I just want to note: all of this is happening because a group of Minneapolis police officers murdered a non-resisting Black man who’d been accused of the pettiest of all possible minor offenses. They murdered him in cold blood, in front of witnesses, with a camera running, because they felt completely immune from consequences. This is happening because in murder after murder like this, the cops are immune from consequences. There have been endless peaceful demonstrations, from marches to letters to the editor to sports teams “taking a knee” and police officers still assume that they can murder Black men with no consequences, and when they discover they might possibly be faced with consequences, they are enraged and take out their anger on the entire community.

That’s how things started here.

(Cutting here because this is going to run long.)

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Miscellaneous writing news + a virtual book signing

In the last week of April, I won the Minnesota Book Award followed two days later by the Edgar Award (both in the Young Adult category). Last week, the Nautilus Book Awards named Catfishing on CatNet a Silver Winner. (The Nautilus Book Award focuses on books striving to make a better world and goes heavily to non-fiction, but they also have a YA fiction category.)

edgarjpg-012c5587ac712a4f

I don’t have my Edgar yet but this is what they look like.

I am deeply honored that my book has spoken to so many people. You can see what else it’s a finalist for (and when/how the winners will be announced) here.

If you happen to need a copy of Catfishing on CatNet, or a copy of my short story collection or anything else they’ve got in stock, I’m going to do a virtual signing at Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s on Tuesday, May 12th, and if you get your order in before noon on May 12th you can get a personalized signed copy. (After that, there should be plenty of signed copies available for order, but they will not be personalized.)

 

 

Mayday, Fictional Mayday, and “So Much Cooking”

If you’re one of my Minneapolis readers, you have probably at least once attended the Powderhorn Mayday Parade and festival put on for 45 years by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater on the first Sunday in May. My family has attended most years since sometime in the late 1990s; I’ve been in the parade with my kids twice. Everything in the parade is human-powered, and the puppets and costumes were overwhelmingly made by participants out of materials like papier-mache, under the guidance of teaching artists hired by Heart of the Beast.

mayday1

After the parade is the pageant. I used to go to the pageant, but got out of the habit when my kids were young and squirrely. The time lag between parade and festival is substantial, especially if you’re watching near the northern end of the parade (which we always did because it’s so much less crowded the further north you go) and we liked bringing chairs to sit on, which we then had to either return to the car (always parked miles away) or carry to the park (ugh) and we liked the parade better than the pageant anyway. The pageant is a performance done at Powderhorn Park that finishes with a flotilla of boats bringing a giant puppet of the sun across the lake.

mayday3Once the sun puppet arrives, it’s raised up, along with a giant Mayday pole that’s also a tree of life, and the audience sings “You Are My Sunshine.”

One of the things about Mayday that nearly everyone who goes agrees on is that it’s clearly magic. The weather for the parade is not always great. I’ve watched it in both rain and snow. (I’ve also bailed a few times because the weather was so miserable.) But when they row the sun across the lake, no matter how bad the weather was earlier, the sun comes out. It’s uncanny.

The Mayday Parade and Festival is enough of an iconic Minneapolis event that you can make reference to rowing the sun across the lake, and expect people to understand what you’re talking about.

Last year, Heart of the Beast announced that they were taking a year off. So there wouldn’t have been a parade this year even without a pandemic. It may possibly return next year.

Back in 2017 or 2018 I worked on a sequel to “So Much Cooking,” my story about cooking during a pandemic. I didn’t get very far, and for various reasons I don’t think I’m going to ever return to it, but the bit I wrote included a section about a post-pandemic Mayday Parade, which I’ve decided to share on my blog. Please consider donating to HotB — which was already struggling, and like all arts organizations, has been hit really hard by the pandemic.

Story excerpt is below the cut.

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Award Nominations & Virtual Award Ceremonies

My new novel, Catfishing on CatNet, is up for a lot of awards this year, which is delightful. The pandemic, unfortunately, means that basically all the award ceremonies are going to be online. For the convenience of family, close friends, and extremely committed fans, I’m collecting here the schedule and links to all the virtual award ceremonies. This post will be updated as I get more information. (Some of these award ceremonies are not happening for months and their information right now is just, “we’re going virtual, more information coming.”)

I just want to say: I feel so incredibly honored by every one of these nominations. Looking at the other books in my category is an absolute delight in every single case, and I need to remember to call one of my local bookstores that’s doing mail order or delivery and order some of the ones I haven’t read yet because they look amazing. 

The Minnesota Book Awards, April 28th, 7 p.m.

Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist in the Young Adult Literature category of the Minnesota Book Awards, which are presented each spring by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

The Minnesota Book Awards will be live-streamed online on April 28th at 7 p.m. More information here. I believe they’ll have a live-stream up on the page; they’ll also be streaming to YouTube and to their Facebook page. Finalists will be called on the phone in order to make acceptance speeches. If you register at the link as attending, you’ll be entered to win a set of all the winning books.

The Minnesota Book Awards did a series of “Meet the Finalists” events on Zoom, which you can watch on YouTube; they’ve set up a playlist. Minnesota has such an amazing array of incredibly talented and interesting writers.

Update: I won!

The Edgar Awards, April 30th, 10 a.m. CDT.

Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist in the Young Adult category for the Edgar Award, which is presented by the Mystery Writers of America to the best mysteries of the year. I was absolutely, totally floored to be nominated for this — although in fact one of the things I most love about YA is how seamlessly it can embrace multiple genres.

MWA is going to announce winners, a category at a time, on Twitter. (The MWA feed is @EdgarAwards.) We were all asked to submit a video of ourselves giving an acceptance speech, and I think the winners’ speeches will be uploaded to YouTube and linked. Anyway, watching the announcements roll out on Twitter tends to be how I watch awards shows I’m not attending in person regardless so I have to say, I love this option.

Update: I won!

The Nebula Awards, May 30th, 7 p.m. CDT.

Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist for the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. This is a science fiction award, given by SFWA (the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America). There is going to be a whole virtual Nebula Weekend, and the awards will be livestreamed. I don’t know a lot of details beyond the date and time, but as they’re announced I expect they’ll go up on SFWA’s website. (The programming for the virtual weekend is being announced May 15th, I think.)

Editing very quickly to add links:

https://events.sfwa.org/events/55th-annual-nebula-awards/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fTixQc410o

Update: I did not win. The Andre Norton award went to Riverland by my friend Fran Wilde.
Locus Awards, June 27th

Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist in the Young Adult category. The Locus Awards will take place at the Virtual Locus Awards Weekend. They’re planning some virtual programming but I don’t have any details yet on exactly how this will work.

Update: there should be a live link on the Locus Awards page sometime today (I think). The ceremony starts at 3 p.m. West Coast time (5 p.m. CDT, 6 p.m. EDT). I think it’s just going to be Connie Willis announcing the nominees and winners by category; they did not ask nominees for an acceptance speech or video, because editing everything together was going to be too much to try to get done when they also had a magazine to get out.

Update: I did not win. The Locus Award went to Dragon Pearl by my friend Yoon Ha Lee.

ITW Thriller Awards, July 11th.

The International Thriller Writers award the Thriller Awards each year, and Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist in the Young Adult category. The ITW is hosting a “Virtual ThrillerFest” on their Facebook page and will be announcing winners on July 11th. (More details to come.)

Update: the Thriller Award went to Tom Ryan for Keep This To Yourself.

The Hugo Awards, August 1st or 2nd.

Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, which is given with the Hugo Awards but is technically not a Hugo Award. (The good news for Lodestar Finalists: that means we go first, right after the Astounding Award, I think.) The Hugo Awards along with the Lodestar and the Astounding Award are nominated by the members of the World Science Fiction Society — which is to say, the members of WorldCon. Anyone who wants can buy a supporting membership to ConZealand and vote (and! you generally get a voter’s packet with electronic copies of most of the nominated works.)

ConZealand announced in March that they were moving to a virtual convention. They did a lovely job streaming the Hugo nomination announcements; they are planning a livestream of the awards that sounds similar to how the Nebulas did it, except they are also requesting that all nominees send a just-in-case back-up video in case the technology falls apart. (I can’t find a schedule on their website yet, so I’m not actually sure which day it’ll happen.)

The Anthony Awards, October 17th

The Anthony Awards are a mystery award given by Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, which would have been held in Sacramento, California this year but is instead (like everything else) virtual. Catfishing on CatNet is a finalist in the YA category. The awards, and the convention, are named after Anthony Boucher, a mystery, horror, and science fiction writer and editor who died in 1968.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q. Is it a total bummer not being able to go to the awards ceremonies?
A. I am both very disappointed and also very aware that in the context of a catastrophic global pandemic, there are people with much worse problems than “my trip to Los Angeles to maybe win an award is now cancelled.”

Q. How many of these were you going to go to in person?
A. Well, the Minnesota Book Awards, obviously. (Those would have been in downtown St. Paul. I just about could have walked.) I was also planning to go to New York for the Edgars (and to see my nephews!) and to Los Angeles for the Nebulas (and to see a friend who lives there!) I was probably not going to make it to ConZealand. New Zealand is a very long, expensive trip from Minnesota, and I would love to go to New Zealand sometime but I’d really rather go in February, when it’s summer there and winter here. I know, I know, New Zealand has very mild winters, but August is usually one of the nicest months in Minnesota and February is typically the worst.

ETA: You know something I’m discovering that’s sort of weird. With SF/F, I know a lot of people. Not literally everyone, but most of the people I don’t know, I have a friend who does. With Mystery and Thriller, I hardly know anyone. It feels sort of like being the new student at a very large high school. (I do appreciate the fact that mystery writers joke about murder a lot. This is a form of humor I deeply appreciate.) But it would have been really nice to get to go to the Edgars, ThrillerCon, and BoucherCon, just for the opportunity to meet a bunch of people face-to-face and have a stronger sense of being part of this new community. As it is, I’m connecting with people online a bit but it’s harder.

Q. Are you going to dress up in cocktail attire like the Minnesota Book Awards suggested?
A1. YES, I will be wearing EXTREMELY FANCY CLOTHING and you should most definitely picture me accordingly.
A2. If you’re holding a cocktail, that means you’re in cocktail attire, right?

 

Election 2020: Democratic Primary

I first got asked when I was going to write this post in early February of 2019. Fortunately, by virtue of waiting until after Iowa and New Hampshire, I never had to develop an opinion on Andrew Yang more complicated than, “I have always said that the Presidency is not an appropriate entry-level political job, and nothing that’s happened since 2016 has made me reconsider this stance.”

TL;DR — I’m endorsing Elizabeth Warren.

Here’s who’s on the Minnesota ballot, but no longer running:

Andrew Yang
Cory Booker
Deval Patrick
John K. Delaney
Julián Castro
Marianne Williamson
Michael Bennet
As of 2/29, Tom Steyer. (I left my assessment of him below.)
And as of 3/1, Pete Buttigieg (Ditto.)
Holy shit, Amy Klobuchar dropped out on 3/2 (assessment is still below.)

I am not going to write about any of these people. They have dropped out. If you are dead set on voting for one of them anyway, you obviously already have an opinion and thus don’t need mine.

On the ballot and also still running:
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Joseph Biden
Michael R. Bloomberg
Tulsi Gabbard

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