Election 2021: Minneapolis Mayoral Race. Kate, Sheila, Jacob.

I left this one for last because of all the races, it’s the one that you’re going to have the least trouble finding information about.

There are seventeen people running for mayor of Minneapolis, most of whom will be dropped after the first ballot. I wrote about fourteen of them in another post. The three people with a strong chance of winning:

Jacob Frey
Sheila Nezhad
Kate Knuth

tl;dr don’t rank Jacob. Vote either Kate/Sheila or Sheila/Kate. I’m going to talk about what I see as their distinctive strengths but I’m not going to tell you how to rank them; I am endorsing both.

First, quickly, I will talk about Jacob.

Last time around, my friends who were ranking him responded to my concerns about him being in the pocket of developers by noting, basically, that Minneapolis really urgently needed development (specifically of housing) so maybe someone friendly with developers wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world? And with Jacob, I think we’ve seen both the upside and the downside of that really clearly. On the upside: a lot of new housing really has been built! Some of this is just that we’ve continued to move out of the housing market crash/foreclosure crisis that continued to create massive problems well into the 20-teens, but he probably gets at least some credit. On the downside: you know what developers like? Police that emphasize the protection of property, even if they occasionally murder people. And Jacob has consistently danced to their tune.

Although what really did it for me was in the immediate wake of George Floyd’s murder, when Jacob just vanished. He wasn’t at the demonstrations. He wasn’t talking to the local media. He put in one appearance (I can’t remember which day) and when he got heckled he left in a huff. He was worse than useless. It’s now been almost 18 months and we still don’t even have an after-action report. We have endless video of Minneapolis police shooting less-lethal projectiles at people sitting on their own front porches, pepper-spraying people standing on a train station platform, “hunting” Minneapolis residents; they’ve found time to try Jaleel Stalling, but not a single one of those police officers has been charged with a goddamn thing. (Jacob says that disciplining police officers is a long process and we should trust him. Jacob, at this point, I would not trust you to water my plants.)

Don’t rank Jacob. Don’t give him another four years. Don’t trust him to solve the problems with the Minneapolis Police Department! Jacob failed — he failed before the murder of George Floyd, and he’s failed (repeatedly) afterward. I would rank Kate Knuth and Sheila Nezhad, or Sheila Nezhad and Kate Knuth. I would not rank anyone else.

Kate and Sheila are both dynamic, progressive, insightful women with new ideas about solving Minneapolis’s problems and a commitment to transparency, reform, and justice. Either would be an improvement over Jacob. They’re also pretty distinct in a number of ways, and rather than telling you who I’d rank first / second, I’m going to talk about the differences as I see them.

  • When I chatted with Kate, I was struck by her analytical approach. She spots stuff in the background, and her approach to big problems is to break them down into smaller, maybe-more-solvable pieces. I like this.
  • When I chatted with Sheila, I was struck by her warmth. She’s someone who can draw you in to the stuff she cares about with her own passion. (A lot of people try to do this! most people fail!) I like this, too.
  • On policing, Sheila is an abolitionist; Kate is not. Kate, in her LWV questionnaire, says “let me be very clear. Police are part of the solution in an integrated strategy that invests in upstream solutions and violence prevention.” Sheila’s page on public safety is very focused on alternatives to policing and incarceration. I just want to note: for most police/prison abolitionists, this is a long-term goal, not something they have on the calendar for 2022. The immediate goal is to work on violence prevention and establish non-police responses for all the things people call for help with that don’t actually benefit from an armed response. (All things Kate also supports. In the immediate term, I think the things they’d do on policing and public safety would be very similar. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit here.)
  • Sheila supports participatory budgeting. She wants to allocate a segment of the budget each year to be decided by the people of Minneapolis. This is one of those ideas that is both neat, and makes me a little bit apprehensive, because the people who have the time and energy to show up at neighborhood meetings are often people who already tend to get what they want out of their elected officials. (She has plans for outreach and so on, which should help, but it takes a lot of work to make sure the loudest voices don’t come from Ward 13.)
  • They both support rent control, but Sheila is much more committed to the more restrictive approach. Minneapolis has a rent control question asking if the City Council should be able to write a rent control policy; Saint Paul has a proposed policy on the ballot. I wrote about it here. I have some significant reservations about not exempting new construction. The mayor of Minneapolis will need to get a majority of City Council reps to support their proposal, but I think a rent control policy under Sheila would probably be more restrictive than under Kate.
  • Everyone supports SROs; Sheila talks about boarding houses for income generation. It’s been startling but gratifying to see single-room occupancy housing suddenly land on the agenda. In the Neighbors for More Neighbors housing questionnaire, Sheila noted that in generations past people would take in boarders when they needed money, which suggests an openness to making that style of rental housing legal and easier.
  • Although they talk in very similar ways about development, I think Kate would be more open to development in general. Sheila’s cohort tends to be more focused on how development should be the correct development, while Kate tends to be more from the “even if it’s luxury apartments, it’s housing someone, and that leaves more of the naturally-occurring affordable housing for the people who need it” school of thought.
  • Kate has focused a lot on the lack of an after-action report from last May. Former mayor Betsy Hodges had an editorial in MinnPost this week about this same issue. (Linea Palmisano responded with an editorial defending Frey but it seems to be premised on the idea that they couldn’t possibly have started it prior to February 2021, which is ludicrous, and having waited that long, they couldn’t possibly do it in less than a year, which is also ludicrous.) “We should study and learn from our mistakes” is a good approach.
  • Sheila has focused a lot on how protesters of police violence are also mourners. “As mayor, I will respond with compassion, solidarity, and healing resources [such as] providing hot food and bathrooms to those who are protesting state violence.”
  • Kate’s background is as a legislator and administrator; Sheila’s background is as an activist and organizer. You can check out Kate’s LinkedIn here. She was a state legislator, developed an environmental leadership program at the U, and worked as the Chief Resilience Officer for the city. Sheila’s LinkedIn is here. She came up through activism, organizing, and policy development. Sheila also works for the Ricardo Morales art gallery. Sheila has done academic research on LGBTQ health; Kate wrote a doctoral dissertation on “the question of how we drive transformational change to make progress on complex challenges like sustainability.”

    ETA: A conversation with a friend sent got me thinking about everyone’s academic background. Sheila’s undergraduate degree is in Econ, and she has a Master’s degree in Development Practice. Kate’s undergraduate degree was a double major in Philosophy and Biology, she has a Master’s degree in Biodiversity Conservation and Management and a PhD in Conservation Sciences. And Jacob’s background prior to running for City Council was a BA in Government, a JD, a little under five years of work as a lawyer, and having organized a successful fundraiser to support marriage equality. With all due respect to people who have JDs: the intellectual, and academic preparation that either Kate or Sheila would bring to the table is a lot more impressive than Jacob’s.
  • Sheila has spent more time focused on public safety issues; Kate has spent more time focused on environmental issues. Sheila’s recent work has been with Reclaim the Block, and she has a lot of expertise on violence prevention and alternatives to policing and what works and is worth investing in. Kate’s recent work has been on climate change and resilience, and she has a lot of expertise on things Minneapolis can do to become a cleaner, lower-carbon city that’s prepared for the future.
  • Both candidates have a whole array of innovative ideas. Some of my favorite bullet points from Sheila: she wants a municipal shoveling program; she wants to provide childcare and payment for people serving on Community Advisory Committees; she wants mandatory hazard pay and employer-provided personal protective equipment for people in jobs at high risk for COVID exposure; she wants a program to pay youth to create public art (instead of just painting over graffiti in neutral colors). Some of my favorite bullet points from Kate: she wants to organize partnerships with Metro Transit to bring people back to restaurants and so on as they reopen; she wants to provide scholarships for undocumented young adults pursuing higher education at local colleges and universities; she wants to incentivize people to use heat pumps and rooftop solar for home heating and cooling; she wants to significantly expand the Office of Violence Prevention into a whole lot of wrap-around services specifically for teenagers and young men.

I’ve seen people try to work out strategies for instant-runoff voting and it gives me a headache. Rank your favorite person first and rank the other one second. Don’t rank Jacob Frey, and cross your fingers.


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, provided a book/curriculum set to students at Green Elementary that would thoroughly upset a lot of pearl-clutching Republicans, and funded snacks for kids at JeffersonFolwell, and Lucy Laney. Here are some other worthwhile fundraisers for high-poverty Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools.

In Minneapolis:

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.

An elementary school teacher at Folwell would like to be able to feed her students mid-morning snacks.

An elementary school teacher at Jenny Lind would like to provide her students with a selection of graphic novels to read in class. A bunch of the books on that list made me smile nostalgically because they were favorites of my kids (Geronimo Stilton! Babymouse! Bone!)

In Saint Paul:

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.”

Crossroads Elementary needs a large stock of disposable face masks. (This doesn’t seem like something you should have to fundraise for, does it? but apparently it is.)

And a Head Start teacher would like snowpants, mittens, and hats for her students to wear to play outside in the winter!

And a different kind of school fundraiser (again, in Minneapolis):

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 Mayoral Race. Kate, Sheila, Jacob.

  1. The “don’t rank Jacob” advice won’t actually hurt unless one of the other-than-top-three candidates has extraordinarily strong support, but it’s a mistake to think that ranking him third will somehow help elect him. Your third choice will count ONLY if your first and second choices are BOTH eliminated. If they are, and you leave the third choice blank, you’ve effectively stayed home and let others vote for you, and (under this scenario), vote for one of the whackos who somehow survive. I do not want Jacob Frey to be mayor for another single day, but I’ll rank him third.

    • I kind of figure that there is no scenario where it comes down to Jacob vs. anyone other than Sheila or Kate, so not ranking Jacob as your third choice mainly says, “if it comes down to it I cannot stop him from being mayor, but I am definitely not adding my vote to the plurality here.”

  2. Many of Sheila’s ideas sound great, but the information we’re missing here is that the city is already implementing many of those same ideas. Maybe it’s not doing a great job, but instead of presenting them as new plans, she should clarify how she will implement them better/more efficiently etc. than what’s already happening. Kate does provide the nuance in her plans to demonstrate 1. she’s aware of what policies and initiatives are already in place and 2. how she will approach adding to them/changing them/making them better (in addition to recommending new initiatives that are not currently underway).

    Another aspect that I believe has been completely absent from the Kate-Sheila debate, is that we really need a mayor who can make things happen with the city council. We all know that the relationship between Frey and the city council is abysmal. Five city council members have endorsed Kate, and zero have endorsed Sheila. I really like the prospect of electing a mayor who will have a respectful and productive relationship with all members of city council. While I’m here, I’ll also throw in that several current (and former) congress people/senators have publicly endorsed Kate #1, but none have done the same for Sheila.

    Finally, I think it’s great that Kate has created comprehensive plans for both children and for immigrants. I searched Sheila’s website for similar plans (or at least some sort of write-up to demonstrate she’s thought about these issues) and they appear to be entirely missing. I also expected Sheila’s public safety plan to be awesome, and I was surprised/disappointed that I didn’t learn anything by reading it. Here’s a comparison:
    https://www.sheilaforthepeople.com/policy/safety
    https://mplsforkate.com/publicsafety
    Thanks for the write-up, Naomi!

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