The incumbent commissioner, Linda Higgins, is not running for re-election. District 2 includes North and Northeast Minneapolis but also Golden Valley, Medicine Lake, Plymouth, and St. Anthony. (You can find a map of all the districts here.)
On the ballot:
Blong Yang served on the Minneapolis City Council and lost his race for re-election last year to Jeremiah Ellison. I was super unimpressed with him on the Council and was not sad to see him go.
When he ran for re-election to the City Council, he skipped all the forums and didn’t fill out any questionnaires. He’s shown up for at least one forum this time around but if he’s filled out any questionnaires, I didn’t find them, and he skipped a forum held last month that Fernando attended.
There were some really interesting people in his endorsements. It appears to be mostly citizens, but a couple of names jumped out at me. I could not for the life of me remember why Joe Biernat’s name was familiar until I found this article from 2002 about his resignation from the Minneapolis City Council in the wake of being found guilty of corruption. Less scandalously, he’s endorsed by Paul Ostrow (former City Council rep who just retired from the job rather than quitting due to a criminal conviction) and Park Board person Meg Forney (who seems to be friendly with the more-conservative Minneapolis politicians like Tom Hoch.) The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy Association also endorses Blong. They also endorsed Rich Stanek. Blong Yang also endorsed Stanek back in 2014. She’s not listed as a supporter on his website but Blong got a campaign donation from former City Council President Barb Johnson. (Those last two links are to the same WedgeLIVE article about this race, which is worth a read.)
Basically, Blong Yang is friends with all my least favorite people in Minneapolis politics, plus a genuinely disgraced City Council rep I hadn’t thought about in years. I’m not a fan.
Irene Fernando (DFL-endorsed)
Irene is young (early 30s) and energetic. I was a little bit taken aback to discover on her website that she founded Students Today Leaders Forever during her second week at the U of M. I’d heard of STLF because one of the 12th grade students at my kids’ school tried to organize a STLF trip last year and I read the materials and thought, “this sounds like a secular mission trip, and like it would have all the problems that mission trips for teens generally have, although at least they’d only be taking a bus to Chicago or something and not flying to Haiti.” (My kid did not go on the trip, so it’s possible my assumptions here were entirely unfair. Also, this organization was founded in 2003, when some of the inherent issues with voluntourism were not as clear.) The organization dissolved in May of this year. I will say that despite my reservations about organizations like this, I am impressed that Irene got it up and running and had a functional organization for years, despite being 17 when she started it, and that it ended with what sounds like an orderly dissolution. It suggests she’s got a lot of genuine competence and drive.
Irene wants to do data-driven policymaking and she emphasizes housing. She responded to the Our Streets Mpls questionnaire with enthusiasm for biking and transit and a desire to quickly fix the county intersections that aren’t ADA compliant. Her endorsements include the DFL, a bunch of local progressives, and Lisa Goodman.
I would definitely vote for Irene Fernando over Blong Yang.