Mpls City Council: Ward 1

I’m going to just go through these in order, I think, for every ward except Ward 2, in which Cam Gordon is running unopposed.

Ward 1 has three candidates:

Kevin Reich (DFL, incumbent)
Jillia Pessenda (DFL)
John Hayden (Independent)

There was also a candidate named Zachary Wefel for a while. He is not on the ballot. It’s not clear to me when he dropped out. (His campaign Facebook page refers to him as “former Ward 1 candidate Zachary Wefel” but his campaign website is still up.

Kevin Reich voted in favor of the Vikings Stadium back in 2012, and yet was not swept out in the wave of indignation over this a year later, in part because he didn’t have a real opponent. (He had a Pirate Party guy and someone who said on his website he wasn’t actually running.) The Sport Palace of Bird Doom has now been open for over a year, people are still pissed off about it, and this time Kevin has two rather energized opponents.

I initially assumed John Hayden was a late arrival, because his website is not listed on his candidate filing. However, his campaign Facebook page has photos as far back as April, and he didn’t fill out his Affidavit of Candidacy until August, so … in fact, I think he’s just not very good at filling out forms. He’s also not very good at website design: large sections of his platform and bio spill off the side of the page. (I’m using the current version of Chrome in Windows 10.) If you copy the text and paste it into another document, you can read it there.

Despite these signs of flakiness, he is a real candidate, with actual endorsements (including former governor Arne Carlson and former City Council rep Paul Ostrow).

Somewhere (his Facebook page, probably) he linked to this voter guide (warning: plays music. Thank goodness for that “tab mute” feature that Chrome finally implemented) where he lists his first goal as a “paradigm shift.” He’s anti-stadium, anti-streetcar (he supports Bus Rapid Transit), anti-rent control (but wants to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund), and he has serious reservations about a $15/hour minimum wage (and definitely wants a tip credit and/or a subminimum wage for teens).

Having copied-and-pasted his comments on Public Safety so I could actually read them, I don’t think he has the slightest damn idea what he’d do about the police force. It’s a mix of platitudes (“When people slip through the cracks, it is important that there is a safety net of care that restores each individual to a place where they can be a contributor to society”), vague promises (“I am for growing our police force if they are willing to accept more accountability and make efforts to more closely represent the communities they serve,” “As a council member, you can expect me to take the politics out policing and make every effort to promote transparency and accountability”), and “No Shit, Sherlock” observations (“The relationship between MPD and City Hall has been very complicated and unhealthy as of late.”)

Moving on to the other two: I feel like almost everything you need to know about the differences between Jillia and Kevin can be found in this Candidate Q&A from NOC (Neighborhoods Organizing Change). Some samples:

Minnesota has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation. Yet voter participation in neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color is among the lowest in Minneapolis. How would you leverage your position on the city council to ensure that more people are given voting access in Minneapolis? What are some specific voter engagement strategies can you initiate as a city councilperson?

Pessenda: Our unjust system of mass incarceration acts as a system of mass disenfranchisement for Native communities, Black communities, Brown communities and communities of color. Over 47,000 Minnesotans are denied the right to vote by their criminal records. Because policing and incarceration disproportionately targets communities of color, these are the communities that are most harmed by the negative impact of disenfranchisement. As a city council person, I will work in grassroots coalition with the people most impacted by disenfranchisement to write and pass municipal and local ordinances that would decrease encounters with police and law enforcement in communities as well as holding and supporting expungement clinics. Additionally, I believe people don’t engage with politics and politicians because there is a lack of transparency and communication. I support more transparency and communication, and helping people understand how the policies we are working on affect their lives. I would initiate more town halls, more Facebook live events, more strategic use of social media and more engagement in people’s neighborhoods along accessible public transportation routes.

Reich: I believe our recent Early Vote Centers demonstrated the intense need for and positive response to better access to the means of voting. I support expanding this option significantly, as well as ramping up our voter engagement initiatives by partnering with outside organizations that have already built relationships and networks in these under-represented communities. Youth involvement programs could also be utilized to raise awareness and voter education.

So Kevin responds to this question without any acknowledgement of the issue of disenfranchisement of people with criminal records.

But Jillia has the line “As a city council person, I will work in grassroots coalition with the people most impacted by disenfranchisement…” People who say “I will work in grassroots coalition with” instead of just “I will work with” are annoying. Cut back on the progressive buzzwords.

Further down we’ve got this:

What lessons have you learned from the death of Jamar Clark and the related occupation of the 4th Precinct? What would you change about the city’s response to the occupation?

Pessenda: The City of Minneapolis Police Department needs more accountability and more transparency. We also need to support the people most impacted by racially discriminatory policing and police violence in building a Beyond Policing agenda that re-imagines community safety from the inside out, and under the leadership of the communities that have been most devastated by our current practices. I would have met with the community. I would have listened. I believe our officers need to be held accountable when they unjustifiably use force and needlessly take a life – lives that are all too often Brown, Black or Native. We need to work towards solutions that value the lives of our communities, specifically our Black, Brown, and Native communities. We need to center and be led by their voices. I witnessed firsthand how the police were allowed to use unnecessary force against protesters at the fourth precinct. As a human and as a council person I would stand on the side of those demanding justice for Jamar.

Reich: I agree with the Justice Department’s assessment that there were some key failures in communication and coordination in the response to the occupation. Moving forward, proactive and transparent communication that seeks to hear as much as it tries to say would be a good general starting point. A recognition early on that this was a grievable situation and allowing the community to say that on their own terms would have gone a long way to allowing us all to proceed with both an in-the-moment sincerity and a clear future resolve to improve.

A GRIEVABLE SITUATION

So yeah, I mean, buzzwords annoy me, but.

A GRIEVABLE SITUATION. Followed by “allowing us all to proceed with an in-the-moment sincerity.” What does that even mean?

And the whole passive-voice nightmare of the entire paragraph. There were some key failures! Communication would be a good starting point! A. GRIEVABLE. SITUATION.

Editing to add: a Northeast resident pointed me toward this jaw-dropping letter John Hayden sent in about policing to their local neighborhood paper. He doesn’t name BLM but it’s pretty clear that’s who he means by “extreme activist groups” and he talks sympathetically about how “police are reeling” and yeah, wow, NOPE. I had listed John Hayden as #2 but NO WAY.

Jillia Pessenda would absolutely be my #1.

The Northeast commenter said she’s just listing Jillia. But your second vote only comes into play if your first choice definitely isn’t winning, and in light of that letter I would prefer Kevin Reich over John Hayden. I would unenthusiastically list Kevin Reich as #2.

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6 thoughts on “Mpls City Council: Ward 1

  1. Hi Naomi. Thanks for this!
    Just some points of clarification. Zach elequently dropped out at the dfl ward convention in Feb.
    ‘Hayden was going to be my #2 until he wrote a rather nasty letter to our n’hood paper, The Northeaster, using false/misleading claims about Jillia’s position on policing. Also, his No Labels party affiliation just means you can’t run as an R in Mpls.
    Urging fellow NEster libs to just vote Jillia #1, and that’s it.
    Yay ward level politics!

      • Fwiw, your take on my LTE is way way off. I have no problem with BLM. I made a distinction between a candidate and myself on an approach to governance. I will not be “Cogoverning” with TakeAction MN or any group. Especially, if their goal is to abolish police.

        If you reached out for clarification or looked into the extensive equity work I have committed my life to, you might have come to a different conclusion.

        Ask Nekima Levy-Pounds (in my top 2) why she doesn’t give OurRev or TakeAction any attention.

        I sincerely appreciate your efforts.

      • So wait, your complaint is that I said you called BLM an “extreme activist group” BUT ACTUALLY you were calling Take Action MN an “extreme activist group”?

      • Not just a quibble. BLM is a movement that I totally affirm. TakeAction MN is a group of local activist that hold “extreme” economic and policing positions (is there a better, neutral term?)

        I affirm a lot, but don’t agree on everything. Therefore, I won’t “co-govern” with them.

        That’s a distinction between Jillia and I and was worth noting in LTE.. I do agree with Jillia on quite a few issues. And I offered to correct if I mischaracterized her or her campaign. Turns out she holds a more nuanced understanding of “co-govern” so we are at a bit of an impass.

        For the record, she has since clarified that she does not want to abolish or disarm police, but would not increase funding.

        Jillia and I do have differences, but I want to make clear that I had no intention of disparaging BLM.

        Again, thank you for contributing to the discussion and educating voters. Maybe I’ve just given you more reason to rank me last, but I wanted to clarify a bit.

  2. It’s a shame Zach didn’t get more traction because he is a wonk who is right about most things; he had Jillia’s progressive angle but with considerably better-thought-out policy solutions.

    She does say the right things; she is more comfortable about identifying root causes of the policing and voting issues than Kevin. However, I’ve yet to see her suggest a realistic and specific solution to anything. And regarding housing and development, she appears to fall into the “all development is gentrification” crowd. I observed her at an early debate and found her answers to essentially every question to be vapid versions of “we need to include everyone”. There’s simply nothing that gives me confidence she’d be more than the second coming of CAM Cano: effective as an outside organizer but no ability to use the system once on the inside.

    Kevin can point to specific development he’s helped move along. And for all his lack of articulation of the right words on the police issues, I get the impression he is effective working with communities of color in more one-on-one settings; an unscientific observation of the street signs in my neighborhood suggests he has some of these folks’ support.

    It’s not ideal. But I’m finding myself pretty stuck supporting the more conservative candidate. In the context of a new council, I think Kevin could provide some experience and a steady hand. If he’s a tool of Goodman’s then he’s a problem.

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