Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 9

Minneapolis’s 9th Ward is currently represented by Alondra Cano, who is not running again.

On the ballot:

Jason Chavez (DFL-endorsed)
Mickey Moore (listed as a DFLer on the ballot.)
Al Flowers, Jr. (DFL)
Carmen Means (DFL)
Jon Randall Denison (Social Justice)
Yussuf Haji (DFL)
Brenda Short (DFL)
Ross Tennesson (Republican)

That is a LOT of names, but good news: you only have to worry about a few of them. There’s a candidate forum you can watch on October 7th.

tl;dr vote for Jason Chavez.

I will start with the people you just don’t have to worry about at all.

Carmen Means (DFL)

Carmen Means is a pastor of a church and the executive director of the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization. I tried to look up info about her church but their website goes to a placeholder. Her campaign website is apparently expired. She was actively campaigning at one point but I’m just not finding much that’s current. She did not fill out either the Star Trib or League of Women Voters questionnaire.

Jon Randall Denison (Social Justice)

If Jon Denison has filled out any questionnaires or told anyone about his positions or reasons for running for the Minneapolis City Council, I couldn’t find them. I’m pretty sure he’s the same Jon Denison who was a perennial candidate for Northfield, MN city offices for a number of years.

Ross Tennesson (Republican)

Ross Tennesson is a pastor at a very conservative church. He ran against Aisha Gomez in 2020 but told a newspaper that contacted him that he wasn’t going to waste any time filling out questionnaires because he knew he was going to lose.

Onto the candidates who are campaigning:

Yussuf Haji (DFL)

His website and the ballot call him Yussuf Haji, but all older articles and some current ones call him Haji Yussuf. I’m not sure which one is correct. I went digging because his website says he’s a journalist; I turned up a commentary piece he wrote about leaving St. Cloud due to racism, an article about his challenge to Ilhan Omar in the primary and then about him dropping out, and an article in the MinnPost about his current candidacy.

He has a couple of endorsements (State Rep Hodan Hasan, Park Board Commissioner AK Hassan). Looking over his ideas, they are mostly fairly generic (for example, in a section under the opioid epidemic, he advocates for “creating community coalitions across sectors to work together”). On the plus side, he’s in favor of voting yes on creating a Department of Public Safety. If you like him, you can rank him, but definitely also rank Jason Chavez, who’s got a lot more traction and endorsements.

Brenda Short (DFL)

Brenda’s bio includes a period of homelessness, almost losing her kids to social services, and then slowly working her way up from two retail jobs into financial solvency. She’s someone who has personal insight into the obstacles people face when trying to emerge from poverty.

She has some specific ideas on her site about programs to assist renters coming out of homelessness, and homeowners on fixed incomes. On her LWV questionnaire, she does not give a straight answer on her position regarding the policing charter amendment (“I believe that the citizens of Minneapolis will make the right choice for this proposal on
November 2nd.”) She’s a bit more specific about policing on the questionnaire from the Star Tribune: she would cut the department to 400 licensed officers and 210 civilian employees, which would currently be illegal unless that amendment passes. She wants to require police to carry insurance and has a detailed plan for an anonymized mediation team that would determine if a payout needs to be done (not sure that’s actually a legal way to do it); if an officer has two mediations that resulted in a payout, they would have to see a psychiatrist; three, and they’re fired.

Phillips neighborhood newspaper The Alley sent out a questionnaire to everyone and got responses from Jason, Mickey, and Brenda. One of the questions was who else they’d rank on their ballots, given the ranked choice option. Brenda didn’t have any answer to that (“I don’t know much about the other candidates that are running for Ward 9. I can only vouch for myself.”) That seems like a pretty weak response to me — if you’re not engaged enough to look up the other candidates and figure out who stands for some of the same stuff you do, I’m not sure you’re really engaged enough to serve on the City Council. A huge part of serving in elected office is calling other people and trying to get them to do stuff.

She has no endorsements that I saw, and no events. Again, if you rank her, be sure to also rank Jason Chavez, who’s a lot more likely to win.

Al Flowers, Jr. (DFL)

Al Flowers, Jr. (AJ) is the son of local activist and occasional political candidate Al Flowers. Al Sr. and his sister Lisa Clemons filed a shit ton of lawsuits against the Minneapolis Police back in the early 2000s; in 2014, Al Sr. got beaten up by some Minneapolis police when they came to arrest his daughter and he asked to see a warrant; one of those officers went on to be caught on camera in 2016 brutally kicking someone in the face, and went to jail for it. (That wasn’t an assault on Al Flowers, to be clear, but had the city taken any action after this officer beat up Al Flowers, maybe another guy would have been spared a lifelong brain injury.)

Basically: the history of the Flowers family is like a catalog of the problems of the Minneapolis Police Department, so it is richly ironic that AJ Flowers is firmly pro-cop and endorsed by Operation Safety Now (as their second choice.) He does want to change the name of the Police Department to the Peace Department (I’m sorry, I’m all for a “Public Safety” department but a “Peace Department” that’s literally just MPD with a new name is hilarious, and not in a good way.)

MinnPost has a profile of him as a candidate that included a section on his political or civic experience:

Political or civic experience: Outreach Specialist with A Mother’s Love, board member of Minnesota Safe Streets, board chair of Steering Committee for P.R.O.O.F (Peoples Right to Obtain Our Freedom), founder of Tarvanisha Benae Boyd Be Better Foundation, and co-chair of the Unity Community Mediation Team Young People Task Force.

So OK. A Mother’s Love is run by his aunt, Alisa Clemons. He does appear on their web page as an outreach specialist. I googled “Minnesota Safe Streets” and got some coverage from last March saying they were going to do a bunch of things, and a defunct website. (The organization or initiative or whatever it was, was started by Al, his father.) I looked for “P.R.O.O.F. (Peoples Right to Obtain Our Freedom)” and found a Facebook page with almost no content at all except for a link to a blog post on a defunct web site. “Tarvanisha Benae Boyd Be Better Foundation” led me to a page recording an original filing in 2019 and an involuntary dissolution in February 2021. The Unity Community Mediation Team Young People Task Force seems to be a going concern (they at least have a web page and a schedule). The Unity Community Mediation Team is run by Al Flowers. So basically: his past civic and activist work is a mix of “working for his family” and “…what even happened here, I can’t tell.” This is not a recommendation. Neither are the endorsements from OSN and the DFL Senior Caucus. Do not vote for AJ.

Mickey Moore (listed as a DFLer on the ballot)

Mickey Moore is an absolute weirdo and yet somehow Jason Chavez’s main opponent. He ran last year against Ilhan Omar as a “Legal Marijuana Party” candidate who opposed the legalization of marijuana, and that was the merest tippy tip of the iceberg of bizarre stuff about him. Here’s the post I wrote in 2020. A sampling: disposable diapers are the root of America’s ills; all schools should start promptly at 7 a.m.; homeless people should be consigned to giant homelessness supercenters he’d call “Redemption Centers.”

So let me see, what’s new here? “I was born and raised in South Minneapolis, and I have lived here my whole life.” He ran against Ilhan Omar from a home in Oak Grove (which isn’t even in the 5th district!) and filed to run for the Ward 9 City Council seat from an address in Ward 8, which is at least in South Minneapolis. (ETA: he appears to actually live in Oak Grove, 35 miles from Ward 9.) “As a lifelong, progressive, pragmatic Democrat” — HE RAN ON THE LEGAL MARIJUANA PARTY TICKET LESS THAN A YEAR AGO. Not surprisingly, he wants “fundamental reform” of the Minneapolis Police Department but not in the sense of actually changing anything.

Of course this guy is endorsed by Operation Safety Now. He’s also endorsed by the Legal Marijuana Now Party, apparently, despite his opposition to legalizing marijuana. (I had to take a break and go yell about that one on Twitter.) And by Tom Hoch and Don Samuels, and — I found this one genuinely disturbing — the owners of Cup Foods. I am glad that the owner of Cup Foods didn’t get scapegoated for the murder of George Floyd, but he clearly, clearly bore some culpability for what happened. (At Derek Chauvin’s trial, the teenager who’d been working at the register testified. It was policy that if you took a counterfeit bill, that money got docked from your pay, which incidentally is wage theft. After George Floyd refused to come back into the store, the worker wanted to forget about it, but his manager called the police.) I’m guessing they endorsed Moore because he’s promised to reopen the intersection to cars. But, wow. WOW. Wow.

Anyway. The fact that a year ago Moore was writing things like this as part of a platform for US Congress:

1.) [Having children start school as soon as they’re toilet trained] encourages rapid and immediate toilet training of children. People in America simply don’t realize how critical this is.  How failing to immediately toilet train children, while it creates a tremendous economic boom for diaper companies, (who get an extra 2, 3 sometimes as much as 4 years of sales) actually STUNTS the growth of the children.  Imagine the confidence level of 2 or 3 year olds. Toilet trained children, going to school and receiving the cognitive skill sets that they’ll require for great achievement throughout their academic career, rather than allow them to soil themselves in wearable diaper pants until they are 4 or 5 years old.  Sometimes even as old as 6 years.  Spending much of their days crying out loud and failing to learn the critical concepts like authority, social skills and cooperation.  

and now his site says things like:

There is an affordable housing crisis in the city of Minneapolis. Hardworking men and women can no longer afford to live or raise a family in our city. However, rent control is not the answer. Transitioning renters to homeowners is the only viable solution.

It’s just striking. All the weird rambling, gone. He sounds like a totally normal conservative-ish Democrat. I do not believe for a minute that this was just Mickey learning and growing after an unsuccessful race.

If you’re on board with the idea that MPD needs real reform, probably all you needed to know was that he was endorsed by OSN to look elsewhere. But people from all over the Minneapolis spectrum read my blog, so let me just say: if you’re an OSN supporter and a police booster, I’m not going to tell you not to vote for, say, LaTrisha Vetaw. But even if you oppose the public safety charter amendment, I think you should vote for Jason Chavez. Seriously, go to my post from a year ago and read Mickey’s bizarre rambling about the evils of disposable diapers and late-start schools. This really was not even close to all the weirdness. His 2021 campaign website starts with a bunch of lies: that he’s a lifelong Democrat (he ran as a Legal Marijuana Party candidate in 2020!), that he’s lived in Minneapolis his whole life (he filed those papers in 2020 from an address in Oak Grove!) and he’s presenting himself as this totally mainstream businessman, someone steady and reliable? I would not trust this for a second. I don’t know what I would expect from him as a City Council member — but not the person he’s campaigning as right now. Really, do not vote for Mickey Moore. If you really want a pro-cop candidate, maybe vote for AJ.

Jason Chavez (DFL-endorsed)

Just for the record, I would think that Jason Chavez was a terrific candidate even if I hadn’t eliminated all the other candidates. I think he’ll make an outstanding City Council rep. He has a compelling background (his family was unhoused for a while when he was a teen; he was the first person in his family to go to college), useful political experience (he was a legislative aide, which means he knows a bunch of legislators — there’s a lot of things that the city needs to happen that require legislators, and knowing who to call is genuinely useful), and a solid set of progressive ideas for the city.

His policies emphasize harm reduction, tenant protection, and worker protections that go beyond a higher minimum wage (though he wants that, too) to cover things like abusive schedules (“Work on ordinances that will allow workers to demand one day off per week and to refuse clopens without facing retaliation” — a “clopen” is when you work the closing shift at night and then have to open the business the next morning.)

I have a disabled friend in Ward 9 who spoke with Jason during caucus season: “we also talked about my ideas for what the city could do to improve the lives of disabled people and he got REALLY REALLY excited about it.” His site now has a section on disability justice.

Jason is endorsed by the DFL, the DSA, the Sierra Club, and a long list of other organizations and progressive politicians.

If you find Carmen, Brenda, or Haji compelling, by all means go ahead and rank them. But absolutely put Jason Chavez on your ballot. I would put him as my #1.

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, outfitted 8th grade Algebra students with binders to stay organized, and equipped a classroom with an air purifier. 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.


7 thoughts on “Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 9

  1. Naomi, I hope you will soon make a post about the ward in South Minneapolis where Jeremy Schroeder is the incumbent, because the election has turned into a real race between Schroeder and Emily Koski. You can see it both from the numerous yard signs where Koski has an advantage of about factor 2 to 3 and from the endorsement meeting where neither candidate won the 60% needed for an endorsement, but where Koski got more votes.

    • I’m interested as well but there should be a high correlation between that race and Question 2. Schroeder is for yes on 2 while Koski is for no. There are other differences but that’s a pretty polarizing one. Looking forward to reading about other points though.

  2. I’m in Ward 9, this election kind of snuck up on me, and i had completely forgotten Moore was the loon who ran against Ilhan! But when his signs popped up all over the neighborhood i went to his web site and then came by here to find out what’s up.

    So thank you, as always. Its shocking that you have more institutional memory than the Strib. Going to drop some cash on those two teacher projects.

    • Kinda. They have their official endorsements, and then they also have up their “old, out-of-date” endorsements, you know, just in case you’re wondering who they were endorsing prior to the DFL endorsing people.

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