Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 1

There are four candidates on the ballot:

Kevin Reich (incumbent)
Elliott Payne (DFL-endorsed)
Calvin Carpenter
Thomas Wortman

tl;dr vote for Elliot Payne.

Kevin Reich has been on the council since 2010 and I’ve never been a fan. This cycle, he’s endorsed by the pro-cop group Operation Safety Now, although he doesn’t list it on his site. He does list the endorsement of the Senior DFL caucus (who overlaps heavily with OSN in terms of priorities and endorsements) despite the fact that you’re not supposed to claim endorsement from DFL subcaucuses if the DFL as a whole has endorsed someone else in the race. (I am torn between being bothered by this, and appreciating the easily-spotted warning label.)

In the June 2020, there was a community meeting to discuss policing at Powderhorn Park, which Reich skipped. At the time he claimed he couldn’t make it. Now he frames it as a principled decision: “I was one of only three City Council Members not on the stage in Powderhorn Park last summer to call for the disbanding of the Minneapolis Police Department. I stand by my decision not to rush to calling for the defunding or abolishing of the police even at a time when it was politically expedient to do so.” Anyway, I stand by my decision in 2017 to suggest voting for Kevin Reich’s opponent, and I’m endorsing his opponent this year, too.

Elliott Payne is endorsed by the DFL plus basically every progressive org in Minneapolis. MN350 said he was a “climate champion.” He has solid policy ideas and experience working in policy. And he decided to run against Reich in part because Reich couldn’t even be reached for comment after blowing off that gathering at Powderhorn.

Calvin Carpenter’s only website is a Facebook page that says he’s running for 60A State Rep (he’s posting regularly but hasn’t updated the office he’s running for) and his positions are a mix of “sure, okay” (“Help families to come together and raise their children to become better citizens”), “huh?” (“Let start practicing group economics”) and “NOPE” (“Put God back into our schools and our lives.”) He’s affiliated with the Veteran’s Party, which is basically what you’d get if your blowhard brother-in-law’s Facebook page were a political party.

Thomas Wortman has no web page, no Facebook page, absolutely zero online presence other than his affidavit of candidacy (on which he claims to be a DFLer), and yet somehow he has yard signs. I couldn’t even find a LinkedIn for him.

Anyway: vote for Elliott Payne! He sounds great!


Did you know that I had a book released this April? Chaos on CatNet is a sequel to Catfishing on CatNet and takes place in a future Minneapolis. Signed copies are usually available from Dreamhaven and from the current mail-order-only incarnation of Uncle Hugo’s. Books make great holiday gifts, but should be ordered early this year — Tubby & Coo’s bookstore explains why.

I do not have a Patreon or Ko-Fi, but you can make a donation to encourage my work! I get a lot of satisfaction watching fundraisers I highlight getting funded. My readers have now bought a refrigerator for the school nurse at Olson Middle School, and outfitted some 8th grade Algebra students with binders to stay organized. Here are some other worthwhile fundraisers for high-poverty Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools:

An art teacher at Andersen United middle school is starting a ceramics program and needs a pug mill to recycle dried out clay back into usable clay. (Over time, they’ll save a lot of money on clay if they have this!)

The North High School librarian would like copies of We Are Not From Here for students to read in 9th grade English class.

And a teacher at Whittier would like an air purifier to reduce COVID risks in her elementary school classroom as is recommended by the EPA in conjunction with other measures. Why is that something a teacher has to fundraise for? WTF? anyway apparently this is something she has to fundraise for.

7 thoughts on “Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 1

  1. Sooo … Ward 1 resident here. I moved into the district shortly before the 2017 election dead set on primarying Kevin Reich, on account of his stadium vote. I went to the district convention as a delegate and … ended up, to my surprise, voting for him and for “no endorsement.” (Partly because I just didn’t feel like either of the other candidates were speaking to my interests like I thought they would.)

    Over time, I realized that he’s insanely involved with the community (drops into neighborhood association board meetings just to make sure everything’s going okay, shows up at, like, every other election’s candidate forums to listen in but not make a scene about who he is, comes to all sorts of neighborhood random crap to be part of it but not make a scene about he is).

    Furthermore, I saw that he had a bunch of endorsements in 2017 from all sorts of minority-owned businesses I adore on Central Ave, like Crescent Moon / Football Pizza. When I met him on a “tour of northeast” bike ride, I asked him why. He said he felt it was because of all the legwork he’d done at city hall, with the state, with the county, etc. to “bird-dog” getting them money, legal approvals, procedural assistance, etc. at accomplishing their business goals.

    On that same bike ride, by the way, I marveled at how much of our city’s river+lake waterfront is dedicated to public right-of-way, compared to, say, the Boston area, and he told me long stories of the politicians who went door-knocking on rich peoples’ land, wheeling and dealing, pointing out they’d never have to have their views of the water blocked if they’d sell their waterfrontage to the Park Board, until just about everything that had ever been claimed privately was all bought back by a public institution.

    At a candidate meet-and-greet this spring, he told me about how important certain types of development are to him — he’s really passionate about taking advantage of the fact that there’s industrial space from the Broadway warehouse corridor from the Arts District to the Costco, and making it so that there are always blue-collar jobs people can easily get to from affordable homes.

    He said that while certain things have been zoned for mixed manufacturing-housing in the 2040 plan, it’s still going to take a bit before all of that becomes actual code, and in the meantime, developers can do things under old codes and destroy manufacturing spaces.

    He’s got a speed dial list of local developers who are willing to sit and wait around for codes to catch up and who are on board with his visions for the neighborhood. Often, when he hears through the gossip mill that a place that could be great “housing+maker” space is going up for sale, he calls those developers and sees if any of them wants to try to do him a favor and outbid anyone who tries to shuffle in from New York.

    (He said that in addition to just wanting to do those types of projects because they live here, his “speed dial local developers” also often gamble on his hunches & suggestions because they know how hard he works to push projects that he thinks will be good for the future of the city through processes and procedures at City Hall, so they feel like actually trying to redevelop a parcel he suggests and envisions as a great way to comply with the 2040 plan’s vision shouldn’t be too painful of a process.)

    He also told me about how he managed to find some opportunity for gamesmanship, playing various state & federal & county & city budgeting rules against each other, until he was able to earmark a significant amount of money for YEARS longer than it’d normally be reservable, while waiting for dependencies like private property owners caving and accepting the Met Council’s offers to buy them out, along bus route corridors in low-income mixed-housing-and-commerce neighborhoods so as to majorly redo the stops and make them way nicer than just a signpost on a narrow sidewalk.

    The man loves finding obscure rules in city, county, state, and federal code that can help one constituent at a time transform his little piece of the city for a more sustainable and affordable future.

    It’s the classic argument for keeping an incumbent, I know, but I just wanted to say that he lives up to the reputation some other incumbents only claim, when it comes to what he does with his time & experience.

    Is that enough to send him back downtown on? I don’t know. I genuinely, honestly, don’t know.

    But I remember some of the 2021 postcards pre-caucus coming to my house from Elliott Payne saying that Ward 1 deserved a representative who would “show up for” them or “work for” them or something like that and nearly spit out my coffee. How could anyone imply that Kevin Reich doesn’t shortchange himself on sleep doing exactly that?

    Anyway, maybe it’s time for Payne, on account of policy, as we deal with policing issues, just like Reich wasn’t the right person to have on a stadium vote. Maybe Reich’s gotten some lucky grace years he never should’ve had after his stadium vote. But I did want to say that, to his credit, Reich’s made me feel that he never wasted a single minute of those precious years, knowing that it was his special, unexpected chance to do community service for his childhood neighborhood (pretty sure an Edison grad).

    Even if Reich’s not the man for 2021-2023, he’s absolutely been the kind of devoted worker that you name a park shelter or a banquet hall or something after and give a long obituary in the local paper.

    I’ve become pretty convinced that every day I enjoy some little bit of Nordeast that he’s responsible for cutting red tape on and didn’t even know it.

    Maybe it’s time for him to lose, and I’m not going to argue too hard about that. But I do want to say that if Reich loses, Payne would have MASSIVE shoes to fill with respect to the “boring parts” of being a council person for Ward 1.

    If Payne doesn’t end up being that kind of back-office project-person, Reich is such a busy bee that … like … I mean, things aren’t going to fall apart … you can’t see & then “miss” bus stops that never happen or restaurants that never open or extra floors that never end up on apartments unless you live in a scifi show with alternate timelines, but … there could be beautiful things that might not come to pass.

    Kevin Reich’s more moderate than I am, to my frustration, but my GOD has he tried to do a lot of things that I consider quite important to the common good with his power, as well.

    That’s all! Thanks for letting me share.

    • I’ve supported Reich strongly in the past, for much the same reasons. But unfortunately on the critical issue of police reform, he has indeed failed to show up, and has elected instead to muddy the waters instead of correcting his own admitted lack of knowledge and interest in that area. I like the man and hugely appreciate his work for NE Minneapolis, but I can’t support him over another candidate who is strong on policy and legwork AND is working (and will continue to work) for the kind of reform that will enable me to call 911 in good conscience someday when someone near me needs help in a hurry.

      • Shawn, can you tell me more about you feeling that Payne is also “strong on legwork”? I’d genuinely love to hear more — much appreciated if you have the time, and I think it would help a lot of other visitors here, too!

    • I feel very similarly about Reich; we just moved to his ward two months ago from S Mpls, and in that time we met Reich going door to door and had a chance to talk with him and neighbors who support him. I got this story several times – about the legwork he’s done, about the way he’s been able to revitalize Central over the last decade. And the number of small, minority-owned shops and restaurants is absolutely a testament. I did like the guy, talking to him.

      In my block there are lots of folks who have his sign up – I think some are because of his experience, but there are some just using it as a dog whistle to share their views on keeping the police status quo as is. I would love to have a chance to talk to Elliott Payne (missed the primary town hall for Ward 1, since I was in Ward 3 at the time), but yeah if we do succeed in getting a Yes on Question 2, we’re going to need a strong, progressive council to decide what Public Safety should look like.

      • Hi Jonathan, I’m Elliott Payne’s campaign manager and would love to connect you to Elliott so you can talk to him! Feel free to email hello@elliottpayne.org or call/text me at 6127592145 and we can set something up.

        Also, welcome to Ward 1!

        Liam Davis Temple
        Fellow Northeaster in Holland

    • Hi Katy, I’m Elliott Payne’s campaign manager. I think what Shawnmcburnie is referring to about Elliott’s legwork is the fact that he’s worked at city hall the past 5 years in the office of performance and innovation and has his own laundry list of accomplishments including getting the mental health response passed in the Safety for All budget as an alternative to policing, starting the small business portal to make it easier for BIPOC and immigrant entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, and amending the conduct on licensed premises ordinance to protect remter’s from unjust evictions. And those are just a couple things he’s got done at the staff level at city hall.

      I’d love to connect you to Elliott so you can speak further, share your perspective, and get any questions you have answered. Feel free to email at hello@elliottpayne.org or call/text me at 6127592145

      Liam Davis Temple
      Fellow Northeaster in Holland

    • I’ll start by saying, I think Kevin is a fine person. I don’t dislike him as a person who lives in my neighborhood. So that being said, I’d argue yes-ish to some of these things, but it’s a bit of a more nuanced story to tell. Has he “gotten things done?” Well, of course. But has HE gotten them done? Most of the stuff that’s been accomplished over the last 12 years was because of the work of people around him. Coincidentally, most of those people are now supporting Elliott because they’re tired of carrying the weight of a guy who’s been claiming their work as his own for years.

      As for legwork, I think the guy leading a whole handful of initiatives at the Office of Performance & Innovation, digging into the details and figuring out how things are actually going to work before they go to the council for consideration, is no stranger to legwork. In fact, I’d argue he IS the nuts and bolts of a lot of policy. I mean, 7 of the current sitting city council members have publicly endorsed Elliott, so you gotta wonder who they think is and isn’t putting in the work.

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