Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 10

This is an open seat; Lisa Bender is not running again.

On the ballot:

Alicia Gibson (DFL)
Katie Jones (DFL)
Chris Parsons (DFL)
Aisha Chughtai (DFL)
David Wheeler (DFL)
Ubah Nur (DFL)

No one has the DFL endorsement.

tl;dr — Katie Jones and Aisha Chughtai in some order, 1 and 2.

Alicia Gibson (DFL)

Alicia is endorsed by Operation Safety Now, opposes the public safety charter amendment, supports the strong mayor charter amendment, and opposes rent control. That’s fairly typical of the conservative candidates in the city races this year. Where I really get irritated is in her arguments against (or for) those amendments.

  • She says: “The proposed plan to rename our police department and put it under the management of city council does NOTHING to address this problem” [the union contract]. That’s not true. The public safety charter amendment does one very crucial and specific thing, which is to eliminate the minimum number of police officers per resident, a rule that exists in no other city in the state and which gives the police union excessive power.
  • She holds up Cincinnati as an example of approaches that can work, saying that after the Justice Department intervened, “they saw a 70% decrease in the use of police force as well as a decrease in crime.” Except starting around 2014 police brutality started going right back up — her information is wildly out of date.
  • She’s very focused on the recommendations made by the Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters, calling it a “road map” that was ignored. (a) A lot of these recommendations are exactly as weaksauce as you’d expect from a working group on “Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters.” (b) It’s not just the deadly ones we need to work on. (c) It wasn’t ignored, it’s just that the changes are mostly so small they haven’t been particularly groundbreaking. (For example, in early 2020, the BCA hired a “victim, family and community relations coordinator,” Biiftuu Adam, who would work as a contact point for families who lost loved ones to police violence. Here’s an article about her. I’m sure she’s been helpful to the people who needed her. This is the sort of incremental change that’s worth doing, but it’s not at the level of changes we need in MPD.)
  • She both pooh-poohs the amendment as merely being a re-naming of the police department and says, “The amendment has no plandespite needing to be implemented 30 days after the election.” Mayor Frey blocked planning, which means that for a while after the election, it’s just going to be the police department by the same name with an Interim Commissioner of Public Safety at the top. (Ward 2 City Council Rep Cam Gordon had an excellent Twitter thread about how this would work.)
  • She says there’s been no citywide conversation. The ballot question was written by a citizen group which collected tens of thousands of signatures. There has absolutely been a citywide conversation. It’s still ongoing.
  • She says that rent control is illegal. The state law on the subject has a specific provision that goes (I’m going to edit this down to make it more readable): “Subdivision 1 does not preclude a charter city from controlling rents on private residential property to the extent that the city has the power to adopt a charter amendment to control these rents if the charter amendment is approved in a general election.”
  • She wants to “order a rent stabilization study to align city planning goals.” The current City Council did in fact order a rent stabilization study. It’s done. You can read the whole study here. All my rent-control-supporting friends are pointing to it, so I assume it comes down on the side of rent control. (I haven’t read it yet because it’s long. This is also why I haven’t written about the rent control ballot questions yet.)

Alicia also claims credit for some of the safety improvements made to Lyndale, work that multiple activists involved in the push for those safety improvements have said she was not involved in. (She did write an editorial in 2019.) She also talks about wanting safer streets but doesn’t want to do anything that might restrict or disincentivize car traffic (here she is at a forum talking about how we need to avoid reducing parking on Hennepin).

Anyway: she is very much not what I want.

Chris Parsons (DFL)

Chris has similar politics to Alicia but goes to a lot more trouble to hide it. If he talks anywhere on his website about the rent stabilization charter amendment, I couldn’t find it. He has a page on affordable housing where he talks about using zoning to reduce the influence of speculators but apparently in a landlord Q&A he opposed short term rental limits, which I have to say is pretty much the lowest of low-hanging fruit — the only people this inconveniences are landlords who want to turn multiple properties into AirBnBs, forcing them to either sell the properties or turn them back into rental housing. He’s also opposed to just-cause evictions (a rule that says that when your lease expires, your landlord needs a reason not to let you renew) and of course he opposes the rent control charter amendment while not actually admitting it on his site. (ETA: in comments, someone who attended the virtual endorsing convention says that Chris was much more openly conservative than Alicia, making it even weirder that his site isn’t straightforward about some of his views.)

He’s also opposed to the public safety charter amendment (and doesn’t say so on his site, although alert readers will note the endorsement from Operation Safety Now) and favors the strong mayor amendment.

His climate section centers on the idea that everyone can keep driving cars everywhere so long as we have plug-in spots for electric cars, and his “transit and infrastructure” section is basically 100% about how we need to protect parking spaces at all costs (that’s not much of an overstatement when we’re talking about the redesign of a street as incredibly dangerous as Hennepin currently is and your focus is “what about the parking spaces” and “we might inconvenience drivers.”) The complete absence of discussion of transit combined with his thing about how he just adores bikes but it’s too cold here to use anything but a car in winter makes me wonder if he even knows what buses are. FYI, for those wondering: they’re those large vehicles that are 3% of the motor vehicle traffic and yet move 49% of the people traveling along Hennepin at rush hour.

Again: emphatically not what I’m looking for.

David Wheeler (DFL)

David Wheeler’s website emphasizes broad strokes rather than much in the way of concrete plans, like his entire housing plan seems to be, “We must prioritize housing stability for all citizens of Minneapolis by promoting high wages, funding housing development, and emergency transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness.” (I assume he’s against rent control, but again, he doesn’t say.) He does at least reference transit options in his transit section and says that we need to move away from cars, and in talking about himself and his husband notes that they had to stop biking due to health issues but have continued to use the bus to get around. I guess he’s my least-unfavorite of the conservative candidates I don’t like but the bar here is low.

Ubah Nur (DFL)

Ubah Nur is showing up for candidate forums but her website still talks about how you can be a delegate for her at the DFL convention and if she has any endorsements, she doesn’t talk them up. Sometimes newer info is on social media because it’s more convenient to update, but her campaign Facebook has no posts since March and her campaign Twitter has no posts at all. She didn’t do the questionnaires for either the League of Women Voters, the Star Tribune, or Pollen. On her website she says she’s in favor of rent stabilization but doesn’t address the public safety charter amendment or the strong mayor charter amendment. Anyway, she’s not running very energetically. She does seem like maybe she’s closer politically to Katie and Aisha so if you want a third candidate who’s not endorsed by OSN you could list her.

Katie Jones (DFL)

Katie talks a lot about being an engineer; I checked out her LinkedIn for more details. She works for the Center for Energy and Environment, which offers a range of services to advise both homeowners and businesses on energy improvements, loans for things like solar panels, and policy development that includes stuff like figuring out how to measure the energy efficiency of a building. It’s work on sustainability that comes from an extremely pragmatic angle. Katie specifically worked on policy, and on developing benchmarks. She also served on the state’s Sustainable Transportation Advisory Committee and on the city’s Capital Long Range Improvements Committee (advising on infrastructure projects.)

One of her big ideas is the “fifteen-minute city,” the idea that anyone should be able to meet most of their day-to-day needs without a car and without any trip taking more than fifteen minutes each way (you might walk, roll, bike, or bus to get there) — this approach emphasizes local businesses, convenient transit, and safe streets.

She’s endorsed by (current Ward 10 rep) Lisa Bender, Park Board Commissioner Jono Cowgill, by the Sierra Club, and by John Edwards of WedgeLive, who says, “Do you know who takes more time to attend public meetings than I have over these many years? Katie Jones.” (That’s very impressive because John goes to, and live-tweets, a lot of public meetings.) He also describes her as “intellectually relentless, methodical, focused, and exactly the person I trust to attack a complicated problem.”

Aisha Chughtai (DFL)

Aisha works for a union (SEIU) as a political organizer. Her background is heavily in running political campaigns (she was Ilhan Omar’s campaign manager and also worked for Erin Murphy, Raymond Dehn, and Bernie Sanders); she also worked for Take Action Minnesota. She says that her most meaningful experiences have been grassroots organizing, and gives as an example, “after the murder of George Floyd, I helped lead my neighbors in Whittier to come together and keep one another safe when white nationalists were threatening us and we couldn’t rely on emergency services.”

Her vision page has a whole lot of specific, radical, and very ambitious ideas. A sampling: ban police use of chemical irritants and sonic weapons; require developers to use union labor for construction on all city contracts; ban the use of hostile architecture; municipalize the gas and electric utilities; add a permanent, at-large city council seat for the Indigenous community. (For many of these she says “champion” or “fight for,” she’s not making any promises on this stuff which is good because some of it I think is extremely unlikely.)

She’s endorsed by the DSA, the Sierra Club, Take Action, Our Revolution, and Minnesota Young DFL. Also by Southside Pride (I have seriously mixed feelings about that one). Also by Ilhan Omar, Erin Murphy, and Park Board Commissioner Londel French. (ETA: she’s also endorsed by Lisa Bender.)

For me, and a lot of Minneapolis progressives, it absolutely comes down to Katie vs. Aisha. I think Aisha has a more radical vision while Katie has a more pragmatic approach; based on their past work experiences, I think Aisha is more expert at building coalitions and convincing stakeholders to sign on while Katie is more expert at developing policies and troubleshooting projects with a lot of moving parts. Katie is more of a scientist; Aisha is more of an activist.

Either one, I think, would be good. Rank one first and one second based on whose approach you like better, and I don’t think I would rank anyone else.

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 helped buy a refrigerator for the school nurse at Olson Middle School, outfitted 8th grade Algebra students at Olson Middle School with binders to stay organized, bought a 3-D printer for students at Humboldt high school in St. Paul, equipped a classroom at Whittier with an air purifier, bought a pug mill (a clay mixer that allows you to reuse dried-out clay) for art students at Andersen United, bought copies of We Are Not From Here for North High students to read in 9th grade English class, and funded snacks for kids at Jefferson and Lucy Laney. Here are some other worthwhile fundraisers for high-poverty Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools:

A teacher at Green Central Elementary would like a book/curriculum set that covers “themes such as racism, cultural identity, homelessness, immigration, gender and sexuality, and social activism.” (Your conservative aunt on Facebook who scaremongers about “critical race theory” would keel over in horror at this one.)

A first-year teacher at Bryn Mawr would like a variety of classroom supplies, including individual dry-erase boards, a big easel, a classroom rug, a selection of books, and some educational games.

Two elementary teachers at  Folwell would like help providing a mid-morning snack to their students.

Two science teachers at Washington Technology high school in St. Paul would like learning materials for their chemistry classes: glassware and microscopes, and equipment that will allow students to “see how adding nanoparticles to a conductive solution affects voltage.”

And a different kind of school fundraiser:

Kaytie Kamphoff is a special education resource teacher at Patrick Henry High School and the co-director/producer of Henry Drama Club. (Christopher Michael is her co-director and their full-time theater and dance teacher.) She initially asked for funds on Twitter just so the Henry Drama Club could stage a couple of plays this year. Ms. Kamphoff has now set her sights higher: she’s hoping to raise enough to run a summer theater program for Northside kids, free for participants, paid for the recent grads/Drama Club alums who work. You can donate to her by Venmo or Paypal: Venmo is Henry_DC and PayPal is Kaytie.Kamphoff@gmail.com. Note “Henry Drama Club” in the memo and if Paypal insists you need the last four digits of her phone number, it’s 5548.

Her Twitter thread is solidly worth reading if you’d like some heartwarming stories of the transformational power of theater in the lives of high school students.


3 thoughts on “Election 2021: Minneapolis City Council, Ward 10

  1. I was a delegate for the DFL caucus; in forums during that process Parsons seemed very blatantly right of Gibson. She played the pro-police thing pretty close to free chest until specifically asked about charter amendments, while he introduced himself by saying he went to cop school. I didn’t spend any time on their websites after that, but it’s interesting to me that you and I got somewhat opposite impressions.

    Aisha is also endorsed by Lisa Bender, she announced it on Facebook on 9/22 but doesn’t appear to have added it to her endorsements page:

  2. In writing about Alicia you mention that “Mayor Frey blocked planning” in regards to Q2. In another write-up (I don’t recall which) you mentioned something else relating to the city attorney squashing discussion of Q2 transition. I’d love to see more (with sources) on this because I haven’t been able to find anything. Maybe my google-fu is on vacation. It’s such a common point of criticism of Q2 that some solid info on why current council members whe are pro Q2 don’t have a plan would be useful. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s