Mpls Mayoral Race: Gers, Hoch, Hodges, Iverson

On to the next four candidates! (Just to reiterate: I’m profiling candidates four to a post. I’m going in alphabetical order. If you’re looking for Frey, he was in the last post. If you’re looking for Levy-Pounds, she’ll be in the next post.)

Charlie Gers LIBERTARIAN PARTY
Tom Hoch DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Betsy Hodges DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR
Gregg A. Iverson DEMOCRATIC-FARMER-LABOR

Charlie Gers

Charlie is a U of M student and has a write-up on “Students for Liberty” (which I think is an organization of  Libertarian students). His website is a Facebook page; Facebook has added some tools (like he has an “issues” section with positions on four issues) but doesn’t appear to make it straightforward to (a) collect donations or (b) organize volunteers.

He is very, very into being a Libertarian. Like, before he was a Libertarian mayoral candidate, he worked for Young Americans for Liberty. His personal Facebook page shows him speaking at a Young Americans for Liberty conference in Colorado last year. He worked for the Minnesota Republic (a conservative student newspaper). He volunteered for Rand Paul. He works for some group called FEE that appears to exist to convince people that Reaganomics totally works. He had a summer internship with the Charles Koch Institute. This guy only graduated high school in 2014!

There’s this comic strip showing the 24 Types of Libertarian and on first looking at his page, I thought he was probably “Left-Wing.” (The comic shows someone shouting, “I exist! I’m against the government AND corporations! Why does everyone always ignore me?” He’s in favor of DACA, in favor of Title VII civil rights protections (that one genuinely surprised me, given how many Libertarians will insist that the only legitimate solution to discrimination is market-based, not legal. (“It’s immoral to force someone to do business with someone they don’t want to do with” is the usual claim.) But the guy interned for the Koch Brothers and volunteered for Rand Paul. (But he posted a pro-choice meme despite volunteering for an anti-choice candidate.) I do not know what to make of him, frankly.

His most consistent stance: taxes are bad.

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? no.
Does he have any chance of winning? no.
Is there any reason to vote for him? you, too, might hate both taxes and racism and find yourself stymied by a choice of parties. Also, if you’re a Republican living in Minneapolis, he might literally be the candidate closest to your politics. (No one is running as a Republican.)

Tom Hoch

Although, I mean, you could go for Tom Hoch, who was in the news this week because it turns out he donates to Republicans. On occasion. For reasons. (Here’s his statement on the donation, which doesn’t really explain much. I mean, I’m pretty sure an actual explanation would look like this: “As CEO of the the Hennepin Theater Trust, it’s my job to lobby politicians for their support. I go to certain events because when Republicans hear ‘arts funding’ I want them to think ‘oh, yeah, that organization that brought Aladdin to town. My grandkids loved that!’ instead of picturing Karen Finley, not that I have anything against Karen Finley, and if you go to this kind of thing you basically have to make a donation. If you don’t like that this is how politics works, maybe take that up with someone other than the mayoral candidates? Because this is how politics works.” Maybe? This seems like his most likely motivation, honestly.)

Moving on. Tom Hoch is a married gay man; he copied the “please for the love of all that’s holy, vote for my husband to get him out of the house” ad format from a Republican who ran in 2016, although I think it worked better for the first guy. His blog includes a recap of his meet-and-greet events; it looks like he has an assistant who live-Tweets them, so you can read the Q&A on Twitter. Which is cool, but unfortunately forces a lot of brevity on the responses, which means he comes across in those as incredibly facile. Example:

Q: We don’t have a vision for putting an end to crime in our city. What will yours be?

A: My vision is collaborative. We need to talk to people & find out why they feel unsafe, then find solutions to the problems they identify.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with talking to people to find out what their priorities are, but “find solutions to the problems they identify” is sort of a classic politician answer because it so deftly avoids any specifics. Then there’s this:

Q: An article in the @StarTribune said the city is over-focused on bike lanes. What do you think?

A: The issue isn’t bike lanes themselves it’s the way they are being implemented. Communication is lacking & many are confused & frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong: communication is always lacking. Just, across the board, for anything involving streets, traffic, or construction: what the heck are you doing here? why? when will you be done tearing up my street? why didn’t you do this thing with the pipes when you tore out this street two years ago? why are you tearing out these two parallel streets simultaneously, instead of finishing one before you ripped out the obvious alternate route? I always want the answer to these questions and I literally never have them.

 

But blaming communication is frequently a dodge and this answer makes him look like he’s both trying to avoid speaking up in favor of bike lanes, and trying to avoid saying “yeah, we just focus on them too much.”

I’d say he’s the candidate who’s spoken up with the most alacrity about recruiting Amazon to build their second HQ in the Twin Cities; he also thinks that we should market ourselves to corporations around our strengths, which he sees as health innovation, food, and the arts.

A couple of other notes:

  • Hoch’s statements on police stuff are much more law-and-order-y than some of the candidates. He focuses a lot more on crime than on fear of the police. He does, however, say that one of his goals is that 90% of Minneapolis residents in every neighborhood should be satisfied with the professionalism of the police. (His approach to public safety is to set goals and use that as a metric.) He doesn’t particularly care whether the police live in Minneapolis, and I found nothing addressing the specific concerns of the Black Lives Matter movement. I actually searched his site for the word “black” just to see if anything came up: literally nothing. (When I searched “white,” I found this post on acknowledging bigotry and discrimination, where he identifies himself as a gay white man: https://www.tomforminneapolis.com/toms-blog/2017/8/3/bigotry-cant-be-solved-without-first-acknowledging-it ) He does acknowledge that African American and Native American men are 6 to 9 times more likely to be arrested for petty bullshit than white guys, and he specifically suggests decriminalizing marijuana possession. He’s got ideas that might mitigate some of the problems with the MPD but he’s not proposing anything radical.
  • He does get asked in one of the Q&As, “How would you demilitarize the police?” His response: “1. Review the department from top to bottom. 2. Work for a culture change in MPD. 3. Civilian review with skilled investigators.” (See what I mean about Twitter and facile answers?)
  • Oh dear GOD, in the same Q&A he gets asked, ” How do you make the MPD a partner in a civilian review program rather than an adversary?” His answer: “I would start from a place of assuming good intentions. I have found assuming positive intent goes a long way toward bridging divides.”No. Just, no. I don’t even know what to say to that because I’m hung up on, “are you fucking serious?” Maybe I’d start with, “Have you ever read anything either by or about Lt. Bob Kroll, the leader of the police union?”  What the everloving fuck. NOPE.
  • He mentions changing zoning to require more affordable units when an apartment building is being built, but he definitely does not sound like an upzoning proponent:Q: What is your vision for the city regarding density and transportation?

    A: We want to grow the city’s tax base. However, I don’t support density that changes the character of neighborhoods.

    When people no longer feel at home in their neighborhoods and leave, that destabilizes neighborhoods. That hurts us all.

Strengths: he has actually worked in public housing (and apparently put a bunch of units in southwest, ignoring the whining of rich people), and he’s got a solid grasp of how downtown works (or doesn’t.) These live-Tweeted Q&As are happening at Meet & Greets that he’s having several times a week, so if you’re interested in him and want an answer to your question, you can go to one and ask him. If you try e-mailing him, let me know if you get more of a response than I did? (I sent an e-mail and asked him (a) how he intended to measure the results of the “90% of ALL residents” goals on public safety, especially marginalized residents, who tend to be harder to poll, and (b) did he have any endorsements? No response.)

I have found nothing about endorsements on his website, but he highlighted the fact that Jackie Cherryhomes came to one of his meet & greets. (I would definitely hold it against him if he got her endorsement, but maybe she just showed up as an interested citizen? It doesn’t say.)

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Absolutely. He is solidly qualified.
Does he have any chance of winning? Yes.
Is there any reason to vote for him? If you really want to see Minneapolis work hard to recruit big companies to locate their headquarters here, Tom’s probably your guy. I also know some people who really like him; I think the people who’ve worked with him on arts stuff are often fans.

Betsy Hodges

Honestly, I’ve been dreading writing up Betsy, because I am so torn between feeling like her critics have a point (or lots of points) and suspecting strongly that she’d be coasting along on good will and smiles if she were a tall, rugged-looking man who wears mismatched socks and bikes a lot. (The key word there is man, obviously. I don’t think Betsy taking up mismatched socks as a habit would help her.)

I never really seriously wrote up R.T. He did have a serious opponent in 2005 (Peter McLaughlin), and I did an election blog post, but all I said was, “the mayoral race has gotten plenty of coverage, I’m sure you all know who you’re voting for.” In 2009, it was the first year Instant Runoff was used, and R.T. beat his ten opponents in the first round with 73% of the vote, which is about all you really need to know about that race. I did post about it, but without much detail about the one serious opponent, John Kolstad.

Anyway, as an incumbent, Betsy gets to be evaluated in part on what she’s gotten done (in collaboration with the City Council; we have a “weak mayor” system.)

  1. Passed an ordinance requiring all Minneapolis employers with 6+ employees to offer paid sick time. (It’s “sick and safe time,” which means you can also use this leave to get services for domestic abuse and similar issues, and you can stay home with a kid who’s home for a snow day.) Smaller employers have to allow unpaid leave. There are various exceptions made, like if you opened a new business  you get to offer unpaid leave the first year.
  2. Implemented body cams for police officers. Which mysteriously didn’t get turned on when Justine Damond was shot. (They’re a good idea, but not a perfect, instant fix, especially when turning them on is left to the discretion of the officers.)
  3. The $15 minimum wage ordinance passed (but has not yet been implemented). Betsy doesn’t mention this on her website, which surprises me.
  4. The city has continued building bike lanes, moving more toward sheltered lanes and away from striping. She talks on her website about investing $40 million in affordable housing over the last three years, but not how that compares to what was being spent before she became mayor.
  5. The city has added about 5,300 private-sector jobs annually since she became mayor. (Because of Betsy? Who knows. Minnesota’s economy is overall strong.)

I’ll also note that she’s backed remaining a sanctuary city, and delivered her State-of-the-City address at a mosque.

Stuff she’s done that’s not so awesome:

There was the budget thing. According to the city charter, she’s supposed to turn in a budget by August 15th. Hodges turned in a sort of outline budget, promising a full budget within a month and blaming the Damond shooting and the fire at Minnehaha Academy. (The articles all note that other mayors have missed their budget deadline after a public safety crisis of some kind, but aren’t specific about who or when.) Carol Becker, who serves on the Board of Estimate and Taxation but filed this lawsuit as a private citizen, sued. Her comments on her Facebook page were pretty awesome, so I’m going to quote her here: “I have had this fight with the Mayor (and previous mayor) before. I could yell about it again, hoping that she will do the right thing. Or we could settle this once and for all. So I have petitioned the courts to rule on whether a budget is seven tables in an eight page speech or if it is a one inch thick document. I believe that it is a one-inch thick document that promotes debate and discussion in our community. I hope that the courts agree.”

Becker’s point was that the full budget was going to get released only a day before the hearing on the property tax increase, and there was no way for citizens to actually look at the budget and figure out whether they thought the new expenditures were worthwhile enough to make the outlay from their own pockets worthwhile, with only a day between the full budget release and the hearing. A judge tossed the suit, saying that under the city charter, seven tables in an eight page speech fulfilled the requirements. (I have mixed feelings about this: on one hand, I think Becker makes an excellent point. On the other hand, a major fire that killed two people plus a cop shooting of an unarmed civilian in her PJs are legit emergencies that the mayor had to drop everything to deal with.)

Of course, she didn’t drop absolutely everything; she still flew out to Los Angeles for a fundraiser. And again, I have mixed feelings about this. Specifically, I think it was a bad call on her part (both because she was leaving the city mid-crisis, and because she was using this crisis as a reason she didn’t have her budget done while leaving town for a day) but reading Frey and Hoch gleefully making hay over it is gross and off-putting and makes me like both of them significantly less.

The other major complaint I’ve heard about Betsy is that she has not done enough to deal with the police department. She kept Janee Harteau on as police chief (until last month, when she fired her in part because she did not promptly return from vacation after the shooting); she had the protest camp cleared from the area around the 4th precinct. Her accomplishments page lists body cameras and also “getting all police officers trained in implicit bias, procedural justice, and crisis intervention; making it easier to file and track complaints against officers; creating new classes of Community Service Officers, which are more than half people of color; and investing significantly in community policing, one of the pillars of building relationships and trust with community.”

And this is all good! Although making it easier to file and track complaints is only helpful if anything is ever done about the complaints (as of a few years ago, nothing was very consistently the result of complaints about the Minneapolis Police).

Honestly, I don’t know how much to even blame the mayor for the police; it’s clear that police departments all over believe themselves accountable to no one.

Anyway. Overall: Betsy is a mixed bag. But I am having a hell of a time separating out the complaints into “yeah, this is legit” vs. “you just don’t like the sound of women’s voices, period, and it really doesn’t matter what they’re saying.”

Oh, wait, I skipped endorsements. SHE HAS A FEW. I am irritated by the inclusion of Dan Savage on the list — I’m a fan of his column and podcasts (don’t @ me) but the guy lives in Seattle. Do I endorse Seattle politicians? No. I don’t. Not even when I like them. But, okay, she’s also endorsed by Al Franken and a long list of legislators, City Council reps, Park Board reps, County Commissioners, etc. Also a union (SEIU), Outfront Minnesota, and the Sierra Club.

Is there any reason to believe she’s qualified to be mayor? Hopefully that’s an obvious “yes.”
Does she have any chance of winning? Yes.
Is there any reason to vote for her? If you think she’s basically done a good job.

Gregg Iverson

Gregg Iverson is a perennial candidate who runs for all sorts of things but can’t be bothered to set up a website. He has a personal Facebook page where in 2016 he told people to vote for him for Congress. KSTP apparently found out that “he wants to lower taxes, encourage educators, and support unions.”

It now costs $500 to get on the ballot. I am absolutely baffled by candidates who shell out the money to get on the ballot but then can’t be bothered to set up a website. If you’re one of these random guys with no campaign manager, money, etc., you are definitely not going to win but if you set up a website, you can promote your message of whatever to all the curious people who find you via the MyBallot site and figure they’ll check you out. If your goal is to get some idea out there (whether it’s “cryptocurrency is the future” or “unicorn farts are a great source of green energy” or “I have an awesome idea for the design of bike lanes”), $500 is not actually a bad price for getting potentially several thousand engaged Minneapolis residents to go look at your site and be exposed to your cool idea, but you do need to have a site. (Also some interesting ideas.) If you’re not going to do that, maybe stop and consider the possibility that you could more enjoyably spend your $500 on almost anything else?

Is there any reason to believe he’s qualified to be mayor? Even less than for most flake candidates.
Does he have any chance of winning? Zero.
Is there any reason to vote for him? No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Mpls Mayoral Race: Gers, Hoch, Hodges, Iverson

  1. (Part 1 of 2) I’m a committed supporter and volunteer for Betsy Hodges. I feel like she takes on the hard problems, makes responsible rather than easy choices, and moves the proverbial Overton window to the left. A few specifics (and note that I’m speaking 100% for myself here):

    * In 2013, candidate Hodges expressed openness to a municipal energy utility. Business went nuts (how DARE she challenge Xcel!). We didn’t get the utility, but we did get a historic Clean Energy Partnership. Which, by the way, Betsy is proposing to enhance in 2018: https://ilsr.org/press-release-hodges-budget-energy-leader/

    * In 2015, Mayor Hodges proposed parts of the Working Families Agenda. Business again freaked out (CLEARLY she’s never run a restaurant!). It was messy, but we got the sick/safe time ordinance that you mention; also, fair scheduling is at least in the conversation now. The $15 wage is complicated: Many folks say–and I don’t disagree–that proper credit for its passage should go to the activists, not politicians of any stripe. Betsy opposed a city-level ordinance in 2015, favoring a regional approach instead. She changed her stance after the shocking 2016 elections, when hopes for a federal or state-level wage hike went up in smoke. This year, Betsy helped ensure that the wage ordinance was done right, i.e. without a tip penalty that would have set a harmful precedent.

    * Other accomplishments include the Complete Streets policy; the 20-year streets/parks deal with sound financing and equity; a suite of pre-K resources; and organics recycling. (I’ll talk about police reform in Part 2.)

    * Not to mention everything she accomplished in her 8 years as City Councilmember beforehand. On the budget committee, she responsibly dealt with the triple-whammy of the Great Recession, Pawlenty-era LGA cuts, and past city budgetary mistakes. She cut the middlemen out of troubled city pensions. She opposed the Vikings stadium deal and championed Nice Ride.

    * Re: endorsements, Betsy’s most important one IMO comes from Councilmember Lisa Bender; see https://www.votelisabender.com/accomplishments/ for her record. Lisa has frequently joined CMs Glidden and Gordon in acting and advocating for progressive change. The most important sentence in Lisa’s endorsement of Betsy (again IMO) is this: “In partnership with a more progressive City Council, [Betsy] will accomplish even more in our next term.” To give you a glimpse of what that’s about: The past 3-4 years would surely have gone differently if Frey had supported Glidden rather than Barb Johnson for City Council President.

  2. (Part 2 of 2)
    * I’m unable to give a full and fair account of the Fourth Precinct occupation of Nov-Dec 2015, after the Jamar Clark shooting. This is unfortunate, because I feel it’s essential to understanding the mayoral election. A few thoughts on this fraught topic:
    ** As you’d expect from a major protest, it was tense and messy and punctuated by violence (from anarchists, white supremacists, and yes, some of the police officers). Even so, IMO, the occupation succeeded in giving a voice and a space to the people most affected by police violence, and this helped spare Minneapolis the more damaging unrest that other cities have seen.
    ** To my understanding, the police union was outraged with Betsy’s interference, starting with her insistence on Day One that police refrain from arresting protesters or taking down tents. (Source: Bob Kroll, in radio interviews.) I have to suspect that this is a big reason why the union wrote that check to Frey’s “city council campaign” just days after the occupation ended. (Yes, Jacob did return the check eventually.)
    ** To my understanding, some progressives were outraged about Betsy’s carefully neutral public stance during the occupation; her failure to restrain the cops more than she did; her push to negotiate an end to the occupation sooner rather than later; her hastily-proposed-then-abandoned budget amendment for precinct fortifications, after the occupation ended; and other points of contention.
    ** Ray Dehn and Nekima Levy-Pounds stood with the activists during the occupation.
    ** Lisa Bender stood with the activists, too. At one point, there was evidently a tense moment with officers who were holding up marking-round launchers, and Lisa said to one of them: “there are 2 CMs and a state rep here, are you going to shoot us? Put your guns down.” https://twitter.com/lisabendermpls/status/667208063036837889 This context gives another reason why Lisa’s endorsement of Betsy is so important.
    ** I won’t deny that Betsy made substantial mistakes in her handling of the occupation. I criticized her (publicly, on Twitter) at the time myself, and for whatever it’s worth I own those tweets. For her part, Betsy has acted publicly and privately to own her actions, what worked as well as what didn’t. Here’s what I keep returning to: If Kroll’s complaint about Day One is accurate, then Betsy took a tremendous political risk in enabling the occupation to happen at all–something I feel should not be taken for granted.

    * If I can set aside the highly charged topics of police shootings and protests for a moment: Those police reforms that you quote Betsy on are substantial, and she has introduced a variety of violence prevention/health programs as well. No single one of these is a proverbial magic bullet; also, police culture does not change overnight. But as I understand it, Minneapolis is a leader among cities investing in innovative strategies. (I’ve heard that Dallas and Richmond, CA, have had success; if there are other examples, I’m all ears.) This is another area where Betsy has proposed enhancements for 2018: https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2017/09/minneapolis-hodges-uses-city-budget-address-tout-efforts-police-reform-housi

    * One more thing about police: Earlier this year, then-Chief Harteau appeared to pull a fast one on Betsy. The Strib posted some quotations from text messages between Janee and Betsy that made Betsy look bad. Subsequently, the full text messages came out, and these (IMO) vindicated Betsy while making Janee look more than a little unprofessional. But the mayor lacks the authority to unilaterally fire the police chief; that would require the City Council (or the Executive Committee, or something).

    I hope this is not unhelpful, to you or to your readers or to Betsy. Thanks for reading.

  3. I … have always had a feeling that the “criticisms of Betsy Hodges fall particularly hard upon her because she’s a woman” thing isn’t the whole story.

    I have a feeling that there’s also an element of “Criticisms of Betsy Hodges fall particularly hard upon her because she’s an easy target in the way of Jacob Frey’s ascension to governor / senator.”

    Honestly, I feel the same way about Capt. Harteau. I felt like she was doing as good of a job as could be expected — particularly for a lesbian woman of color in a macho line of work with a douchey macho man as the union president — “working to make change from within” in the way policing happens in this city. For example, impromptu protest marches typically get a police escort, not a wall of riot gear. I felt like she really was working hard to handle protests against police brutality like Nashville / Dallas.

    Was that enough to make things actually improve for victims of police brutality? Arguably not.

    But was there really much more that Capt. Harteau herself could’ve been doing in that direction but simply wasn’t? I’m not sure exactly what people want to pinpoint on her there.

    So when I heard candidate-for-mayor Jacob Frey, at a pre-caucus meet-and-greet, say that he wasn’t too happy with Capt. Harteau but try to be “respectful” and “not say too much,” I was just like, “?????”

    I was thinking, “Wait, what? Are you just trying to make Harteau look bad so that not-having-long-since-replaced-Harteau makes your opponent look bad?”

    I feel like ever since Frey decided that he needed to run for an office with “next-step” potential while it was still available, even though he’s almost completely indistinguishable from Hodges aside from charisma & genitalia (and honestly, I’d trust him WAY LESS in a stadium vote — even when he ran against a bigtime corporate socialist, I never felt like he wasn’t one — just that he didn’t have to admit it because he could be “not that longtime corporate socialist”), that’s when the “is Hodges still going to be able to remain respected by the people?” & “Can Hodges & Harteau work it out for the good of the city?” op-eds started blooming (at which point, they definitely take on a life of their own because controversy sells stories).

    I’m not saying he started everything or masterminded everything or whatever. But I’m saying that it’s always felt like he’s been perfectly willing to lend a hand in making mountains out of molehills and present Hodges’ Minneapolis as “dysfunctional” so that he can have a chance to do the same thing instead, because otherwise, he won’t get to fulfill his personal dreams of “making a difference to better the world” by holding a high office.

    I swear he’s always run “to the left” of candidates simply by being younger than them, more energetic than them, showing up at the left’s events before the competition gets a chance, and pointing out his opponent’s flaws incredibly gracefully & politely rather than letting the left really size him up. Oh, and by taking credit for “pushing” leftist things he actually rubber-stamped.

    Hodges had to go if Frey wanted a chance — so molehills had to be mountains. They just had to.

    I’m not saying he’d be a bad mayor. He’d be somewhere between Rybak & Coleman, I think, as far as left-right. Like both of them in terms of “blustery-white-guy invincibility from unseating.” Which, y’know, could win a governor’s election in 2026, I suppose.

    But I do think that his necessity to “be mayor now if he’s ever going to be anything” has as much to do with both Harteau’s and Hodges’ “struggles” with “public respect” as being women does.

    They were in the way. Typical old-as-time rulers’-games stuff. Too bad for them.

    • I just remembered my analogy I’ve used for the vibe I’ve gotten from Frey! Applicable to “reboot” Dr. Who fans — the whole thing with Hodges & Harteau just feels like the Tenth Doctor’s whispered “Don’t you think she looks … tired?” against Prime Minister Jones.

      (Which, actually, in looking this up, I just learned ties back into real politics! *sigh* Of course against a female politician, even if I can’t stand Thatcher. It must be a really old trick in the book to undermine leaders whose authority is already wobbly due to their demographic background by dropping passing thoughts, “Do you think people really like them?”)

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