Lisa Goodman has been on the council as long as Barb Johnson, and is such a staunch ally that their names tend to run together in a whole lot of articles. She represents what the city website refers to as “beautiful, stable, in-demand residential neighborhoods like Kenwood, Lowry Hill, Cedar-Isles-Dean, and Bryn Mawr.” If you’re reading from out of town and thinking, “oh, is that where the rich people live?” that would be a YES. (They are rich Democrats, however.) Lisa also represents part of downtown and the Loring Park neighborhood.
Lisa is kind of a mixed bag. There’s stuff she’s done that I genuinely like and approve of; there’s stuff she’s done that’s unfortunate; there’s stuff that’s just gross, like “WTF WHY” levels of gross. (LIKE THE GUM THING.)
On the ballot:
No candidate received DFL endorsement.
Lisa Goodman really does not like it when people suggest she’s not a progressive. She got into politics campaigning for Paul Wellstone; she has Al Franken’s endorsement; she has fought for affordable housing and food trucks and parks, sometimes pushing back against her more NIMBYish constituents. In 2003, she fought for the construction of a supportive housing community in the face of neighborhood opposition. In 2012, she resisted neighborhood pressure to close a homeless shelter. Earlier this year, she responded to issues with a large homeless encampment in her ward by finding money in the budget to hire outreach workers. She liberalized food truck laws and founded the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This is all stuff I like.
On the other hand, she sided with Barb Johnson in shutting down activists who wanted to address the City Council after the shooting of Jamar Clark. There is literally nothing on her website about policing other than that she supported investing in body cams, and supported efforts to increase the number of police officers. (Her constituents, she says, want to see more police officers.) She eventually voted for the citywide $15 minimum wage, but spent a lot of 2016 objecting to it. (Ice cream cones will cost $7, she said. A study showing otherwise, she was pretty sure was biased.)
Our Revolution did a chart on whether people voted progressively or nonprogressively on a whole bunch of City Council issues; Lisa Goodman does not score well. Although a sympathetic Star Trib profile suggests that she’s just misunderstood: “The votes listed [on opponent Janne Flisrand’s website] were always more complicated in real life. For example, Goodman’s opposition to ‘allowing community gardens to sell produce to their neighbors’ was actually a vote against letting them do it 75 days a year in residential areas, where garage sales are limited to twice a year.” I see no major downside to letting Minneapolis residents sell homegrown produce for 75 days a year, so I’m not sure how this was more complicated than was presented.
And then there’s Gumghazi.
I … I seriously don’t even know what the hell was up with this. At a forum, before things got going, Lisa Goodman turned to Teqen Zea-Aida and said “would you take my gum?” He misunderstood this as, “hey, your breath smells bad, would you chew a stick of gum?” and said sure. At which point she handed him her chewed gum. She said afterwards that this was a joke gone wrong, and sure, up to a point, I can imagine jokingly asking the person sitting next to you if they’d take your gum when you didn’t have anywhere to put it, I guess. I can’t imagine actually “jokingly” putting your chewed gum into their hand.
(WedgeLive had the story! And photos!)
Teqen’s interpretation was that Lisa Goodman was deliberately trying to rattle him. Except, I’d say he’s not really viewed as her primary opponent; if she wanted to throw someone off their game, you’d think she’d have tried to foist her chewed gum on Janne Flisrand? Anyway, regardless of motive, the whole thing was gross and wildly inappropriate.
Teqen is a business owner (he runs a modeling agency and in 2015 started an art gallery) without a ton of political experience; he got into the race in part because he was so furious about what happened with the building where he lived and worked. A set of buildings near the corner of Nicollet and 15th were bought up by a developer who was supposed to help all the tenants find new spaces; they wound up totally screwed. One of the buildings was Jerusalem’s Restaurant. Teqen’s building, which also housed the Nicollet Grocery, was on the corner. (Actually, I think it’s still there. But they were all forced out ahead of demolition, with a bonus Catch-22 where they had to be there at the time of sale to get relocation assistance, but they were being evicted ahead of the sale.) Given that the developer was getting city money on the condition that they help all the tenants move, etc., this is exactly the sort of situation I’d expect the City Council rep to help with? However, as of September, everyone was just being evicted, and I found no more recent updates. Anyway, Teqen was furious and jumped in to run against Lisa. His website talks about a range of issues but he’s been summed up as an anti-gentrification candidate and I think that’s probably fair.
The building he’s in is going to be displaced by a nice building with affordable units (it’s a deal where every unit has to be affordable to those making 60% of the area median income for 30 years, after which it can become a market-rate building). I was very attached to Jerusalem’s but the building Teqen was in was not anything particularly attractive or special, and it’s being replaced with higher-density housing, which isn’t a bad thing. But, wow, the way this was handled was spectacularly bad and does not really speak well of Lisa Goodman’s constituent services (either that, or it doesn’t speak well of the City Pages commitment to journalistic follow-up. I checked the Jerusalem’s Cafe Facebook page, though, and there’s nothing about them finding a new location, something the developer here was supposed to help them with: “According to the relocation plan Dominium submitted to the city with their bond application — which cites the guidelines of the federal Uniform Relocation Act — the developer should have offered Jerusalem Cafe a new home at least 90 days before he’s required to move out. As it were, he has no new restaurant, no movers to help him transplant a kitchen full of equipment, and no promise of how much compensation he will ever receive.”)
Joe Kovacs is a Republican who — unlike the last Republican — has something resembling a Republican set of policy positions. He’s against the $15 minimum wage. He wants to mostly solve affordable housing with charity and also to give developers any vacant lots the city owns. (I mean, there are times this makes sense, and times it doesn’t.) Joe works in software development for Infinite Campus, so if your kid’s school uses Infinite Campus, now you have a name and a face to blame when it’s annoying.
Janne Flistrand is the candidate endorsed by the progressive groups (Our Revolution, Take Action MN, etc.) She helped found the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which is cool. In her day job she’s a consultant with a website that offers up a truly eye-glazing array of buzzwords. She also writes for streets.mn. I found her essays there to be a really interesting read, in terms of showing you how she thinks about all the many moving pieces of city design and planning. This piece on affordable housing (written in 2015) was particularly fascinating, as is her piece on how she sets rent as a landlord. She talks about policing (advocating for accountability and funding for alternatives.)
In her “Time for Change” section, which is a catalog of all the things Lisa Goodman has done that she doesn’t like, she links to this article from 2009. Fascinatingly, the article mentions a development controversy at the corner of Nicollet and 15th — at the “meter farm,” a piece of land kitty-corner to the Nicollet Grocery and Jerusalem’s Cafe buildings. In 2006, a bunch of groups proposed buildings; the end result was that nothing got built and as of 2009 it was still a meter farm. It is still a meter farm. Which, given that people are being evicted for a development from buildings across the street, just seems to weird to me. (The main controversy discussed in that article is that Lisa may have intervened so as to profit friends of hers.)
Anyway, I find myself liking Janne a lot and thinking she’d bring a really valuable perspective as a small landlord who’s worked on affordable housing policy. My ranking here is (1) Janne Flisrand, (2) Teqen Zea-Aida, (3) Lisa Goodman. I might have rated Lisa as #2 if it weren’t for the gum thing.