Elections 2020: Minneapolis Ward 6 City Council. NOT A PRIMARY.

Abdi Warsame, the former Minneapolis City Council rep for Ward 6, resigned in March to lead the city’s Public Housing Authority instead. There is a special election, and on August 11th (the same day as the primary) Ward 6 residents will have their election for this open seat. They will be using ranked-choice voting so there is no primary. Voters will get to rank three candidates, and the August 11th election is the actual election.

The winner will serve for one year, then (presumably) run for re-election in 2021.

There are 12 candidates on the ballot.

AK Hassan (DFL)
AJ Awed (Independent)
Michael P. Dougherty (DFL)
Mohamoud Hassan (DFL)
Nebiha Mohammed (DFL)
Suud Olat (DFL)
Jamal Osman (DFL)
Sara Mae Engberg (Humanity Forward)
Alex Palacios (DFL)
Saciido Shaie (DFL)
Joshua Scheunemann (Green)
Abdirizak Bihi (DFL)

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Election 2020: Charter Amendments & Police Reform

In Minnesota, a lot of cities have charters. Your city charter is sort of the constitution by which your city is run. Ordinances can be changed fairly easily, by having the City Council vote; in order to amend a City Charter, you need a referendum. (This is not entirely true — noncontroversial stuff can just be approved by the City Council. But a lot of stuff requires votes.)

I’ve written about the Minneapolis City Charter a couple of times. In 2018, there was an amendment to revise liquor licensing laws. More notably, in 2013, the whole charter got a massive revision. The Charter Commission rewrote it in modern English instead of archaic legalese and took out all the bits that had been superceded by other bits. This had to go to two referendum votes (which were on the same ballot), because passing anything related to alcohol requires a larger majority, and they agreed that having most of it in modern English but reverting abruptly to archaic legalese whenever alcohol was mentioned would still be an overall improvement. (Both pieces passed.) Nothing about the rules was actually changed in 2013 — the goal was not to fix the rules (many of which are overly fiddly and very much something that should be in the ordinances, not the charter), it was to fix the problem where people couldn’t even figure out what the rules were because the charter was such an overall unreadable mess.

By chance, the section I pulled out in 2013 to illustrate the difference between the old charter and the new charter is the one under discussion right now. Here’s the current version:

7.3. Police
(a) Police department. The Mayor has complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department. The Mayor may make all rules and regulations and may promulgate and enforce general and special orders necessary to operating the police department. Except where the law vests an appointment in the department itself, the Mayor appoints and may discipline or discharge any employee in the department (subject to the Civil Service Commission’s rules, in the case of an employee in the classified service).

(1) Police chief.
(A) Appointment. The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a police chief under section 8.4(b).
(B) Term. The chief’s term is three years.
(C) Civil service. The chief serves in the unclassified service, but with the same employee benefits (except as to hiring and removal) as an officer in the classified service. If a chief is appointed from the classified service, then he or she is treated as taking a leave of Revised Charter 30 Proposed 1 May 2013
absence while serving as chief, after which he or she is entitled to return to his or her permanent grade in the classified service. If no vacancy is available in that grade, then the least senior employee so classified returns to his or her grade before being so classified.
(D) Public health. The chief must execute the City Council’s orders relating to the preservation of health.
(2) Police officers. Each peace officer appointed in the police department must be licensed as required by law. Each such licensed officer may exercise any lawful power that a peace officer enjoys at common law or by general or special law, and may execute a warrant anywhere in the county.
(b) Temporary police. The Mayor may, in case of riot or other emergency, appoint any necessary temporary police officer for up to one week. Each such officer must be a licensed peace officer.
(c) Funding. The City Council must fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, and provide for those employees’ compensation, for which purpose it may tax the taxable property in the City up to 0.3 percent of its value annually. This tax is in addition to any other tax, and not subject to the maximum set under section 9.3(a)(4).

“The City Council must fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, and provide for those employees’ compensation” is a rule that makes it extremely difficult to do meaningful police reform. If we want real change, a charter amendment is needed. Here’s the full text of what the City Council is proposing. The whole policing section above is replaced with the following:

§ 7.3. Police Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
(a) Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The City Council must establish, maintain, adequately fund, and consistently engage the public about a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.
(1) Director of Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department. The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a director of the department of community safety and violence prevention under section 8.4(b). Individuals eligible to be appointed as director will have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.
(b) Division of Law Enforcement Services. The Council may maintain a division of law enforcement services, composed of licensed peace officers, subject to the supervision of the department of community safety and violence prevention.
(1) Director of Law Enforcement Services Division. The director of the department of community safety and violence prevention shall appoint the director of the division of law enforcement services, subject to confirmation by official act of the City Council and Mayor.

However, in order for Minneapolis residents to be able to vote on this, the Charter Commission has to put it on the ballot, and that’s something they have to do by early August.

From the WedgeLive article:

Written comments can be submitted here. Instructions for how to participate by phone in the July 15 virtual public hearing will be available here once the meeting notice has been posted.

If this is something you want, make your voice heard. And note that this is not, in fact, a proposal to abolish all policing; instead, it would allow the city to choose to spend less money on a bunch of suburban bullies with guns to solve problems that they’re unequipped (by training, temperament, or inclination) to deal with. And hey, maybe this means that on occasions when there is something a bunch of armed people are needed to deal with, they’ll actually fucking show up? (“John Elder, a Minneapolis police spokesperson, said officers were simultaneously handling two other shootings in which a total of eight people were wounded.” There are 800 officers in the MPD. It’s super weird that apparently they were so overwhelmed by two shootings that they couldn’t send anyone to a shooting-in-progress where a bunch of kids were in danger!)

(There are 425,403 people in Minneapolis. 0.0017 police department employees per resident = 723. There are 800 sworn officers plus 300 civilian employees. So even if this doesn’t pass, we could, in fact, drastically cut the budget under the current charter and redirect money towards things that are not cops. I don’t think that’s the ideal situation, and the situation with that shooting at Jordan Park illustrates why. “Oh, we would have liked to respond to a shooting-in-progress at a park full of kids, but gosh golly we were just too busy” is unmitigated steaming horseshit, and their blithe expectation that everyone just swallow it is exactly why this department can’t be reformed, it has to be fucking eliminated. If there are any non-rotten apples in the MPD barrel, maybe we can recruit them for the law enforcement division of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.)

Anyway. Want to be able to vote on this in November? Send in a written comment and watch for the opportunity to attend (virtually) the hearing.

 

Election 2020: US House MN-04 Primaries

This is the Betty McCollum seat and not the Ilhan Omar seat, which has a much more competitive primary; I’ll be writing about that before the primary, but the more complex races tend to take me more time. My next post is going to be about the Minneapolis school board primary, since I’ve had multiple people ask about it already.

In Saint Paul, we’ve got the following DFLers:

Tiffini Flynn Forslund
Alberder Gillespie
Betty McCollum (incumbent)
Reid Rossel
David Sandbeck

And two Republicans:

Gene Rechtizgel
Sia Lo

To remind people again how this works: you can pick one party for all your partisan races. If you vote in both the Republican and the DFL primary, even if you’re voting in the Republican race for Senate and the DFL for House, your ballot is spoiled and your votes will not be counted. In person, the machine will spit out your ballot and you can go back for a fresh ballot and a re-do, but if you vote by mail, you are SOL because your ballot is separated from the envelope before being put through the machine, and they have no way of knowing whose ballot it was.

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Election 2020: US Senate Primaries

I’m going to kick this off with an easy one.

Senator Tina Smith was appointed in 2017, ran to keep the seat for the remainder of the term in 2018, and is now running for a six-year regular Senate term. Senator Amy Klobuchar was re-elected to a six-year term in 2018 and is apparently not running for Vice President; if, say, she gets appointed to a presidential cabinet position sometime in early 2021, Tim Walz will get to appoint someone to fill her seat, and that person will then run in the 2022 election to serve out the rest of that term. Mentioning that just in case anyone’s wondering.

On the DFL ballot:

Tina Smith
Steve Carlson
Christopher Lovell Seymore, Sr.
Paula Overby
Ahmad R. Hassan

On the Republican ballot:

Jason Lewis
Bob “Again” Carney Jr.
Cynthia Gail
James Reibestein
John L. Berman

I always imagine Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version) singing “come with me…and you’ll be…in a world of pure imagination” when I hit the “Insert Read More tag” button, for some reason. Rivers of chocolate: probably cooler than political candidates. Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka: less of a weirdo than some of these people.

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Election 2020: Minnesota Primaries

So hey, for those who started following this blog because I’m a science fiction writer, just a heads up for you, I also write an election guide for my local elections. My vague apologies to those who were not expecting to be inundated with Minneapolis and Saint Paul election stuff.

Anyway. Primary elections in Minnesota will be held August 11th. The presidential primary was back in March; these are the primaries for everything else. Information on voting by mail can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State site.

A note on how the primary elections work: everyone gets the same ballot. The front of the ballot is divided down the middle. On one side are the Republican primaries; on the other are the DFL primaries. You pick one party. If you cast votes on both sides, you’ll spoil your ballot and none of your votes will be counted, in any race. You will spoil your ballot even if you stick to one party for each race (like if you vote in the Republican primary for US Senate, the Democratic primary for US House). Pick one. You only get to vote in one party’s primaries. Edited to add: And then, if you’re in Minneapolis, you’ll also have a nonpartisan race on the back of the ballot. You can vote in that one regardless. (Someone pointed out that “vote on only one side!” was actually a bad way to phrase this and they were right. You can vote both front and back! You can’t vote both DFL and GOP, though.)

If you’re voting in person, and try to vote in both party primaries, the machine will reject your ballot, and you can trade it in for a fresh ballot and try again. If you’re voting by mail … I am not sure if there’s any mechanism to notify you that you fucked up your ballot but my guess would be no.

Primary races happening this year:

US Senate. Incumbent Senator Tina Smith is running for a six-year term as Senator. She has opponents in the primary. There’s also a Republican primary. Unless something very strange happens, it’s going to be Tina Smith vs. Jason “Unfamiliar With the Concept of Animal Control” Lewis in November.

US House. In MN-04, Betty McCollum has four opponents challenging her for the nomination; there are also two Republicans running for the opportunity to lose in November. In MN-05, Ilhan Omar has four opponents in the primary (at least one of whom, Antone Melton-Meaux, is being taken seriously and supported by people I know). Three Republicans are running for the opportunity to lose in November, one of whom has been banned from Twitter and has an active arrest warrant for felony shoplifting, or did back in February, anyway.

Minnesota Senate. Every seat in the State Senate will be up for election in November. In August, Senator Bobby Joe Champion (MN-59) is being challenged by Suielman Isse; Jeff Hayden (MN-62) is being challenged by Omar Fateh; and Sandy Pappas (MN-65) is being challenged by Laverne McCartney Knighton. (You can see the full rundown of challenges in this very helpful MPR article.)

Minnesota House. Every seat in the State House will be up for election in November. In August, Rep Raymond Dehn (MN-59B) is being challenged by Isaiah Whitmore and Esther Agbaje; Rep Jim Davnie (MN-63A) is being challenged by April Kane; and Rep. John Lesch (MN-66B) is being challenged by Athena Hollins.

Also, in House District 63B, Rep Jean Wagenius is retiring and Emma Greenman, Husniyah Dent Bradle, and Jerome T Evans are running in the primary to fill her seat; In House District 67A, Rep Tim Mahoney is retiring and John Thompson and Hoang Murphy are running to fill his seat.

(For the full rundown, including a list of legislative candidates who will have no opponent in either the primary or the general election, see the MPR article here.)

Minneapolis School Board. Minneapolis is also electing several school board members. The at-large race will appear on the Primary ballot; you can vote for one of the five people running. (The incumbent is Kim Ellison.) In District 2, incumbent Kerry Jo Felder has one opponent, which I think means this race won’t show up on the primary ballot. In District 4, Bob Walser is not running again, and there are three people running, which I think means the race will show up on the primary ballot (for people in District 4.)

I think that’s it for the primary races, but if you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul and I missed a race you see on your primary ballot, please drop me a comment and let me know.

And don’t forget that Minnesota makes it easy to vote by mail!

Election 2020: Democratic Primary

I first got asked when I was going to write this post in early February of 2019. Fortunately, by virtue of waiting until after Iowa and New Hampshire, I never had to develop an opinion on Andrew Yang more complicated than, “I have always said that the Presidency is not an appropriate entry-level political job, and nothing that’s happened since 2016 has made me reconsider this stance.”

TL;DR — I’m endorsing Elizabeth Warren.

Here’s who’s on the Minnesota ballot, but no longer running:

Andrew Yang
Cory Booker
Deval Patrick
John K. Delaney
Julián Castro
Marianne Williamson
Michael Bennet
As of 2/29, Tom Steyer. (I left my assessment of him below.)
And as of 3/1, Pete Buttigieg (Ditto.)
Holy shit, Amy Klobuchar dropped out on 3/2 (assessment is still below.)

I am not going to write about any of these people. They have dropped out. If you are dead set on voting for one of them anyway, you obviously already have an opinion and thus don’t need mine.

On the ballot and also still running:
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Joseph Biden
Michael R. Bloomberg
Tulsi Gabbard

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