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The Charter Commission rewrote it in modern English instead of archaic legalese and took out all the bits that had been superceded by other bits.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: 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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My 2019 Fiction Roundup

The cover of my book, CATFISHING ON CATNET. Shows a teenage girl looking in alarm at her cell phone, with the tagline, "How much does the internet know about you?"

The only fiction I had published in 2019 was my novel, CATFISHING ON CATNET. If you’re nominating for awards, the Hugos, the Nebulas, and the Locus Awards all have a special category for YA. (Okay, technically the Andre Norton Award may be a separate award, but it’s presented along with the Nebulas, and the Lodestar Award is a separate award, but it’s presented along with the Hugos.)

It is also eligible in the novel category.

It is currently a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award (!) and the Edgar Award (!!) (that one still blows my mind.) My publisher also ran out of printed copies and had to order another run — so if you tried to buy it locally and couldn’t, just know that it should be available again shortly!

Since the beginning of 2020 I’ve had a short story published on Clarkesworld (“Monster“) and my short story “Little Free Library” will appear on Tor.com this spring. The sequel to CATFISHING ON CATNET is scheduled to come out in April of 2021.

Election 2020: Special Election, State Representative District 60A

Oh hey, 60A people, you have an election on Tuesday. Your options:

Sydney Jordan (DFL)
Marty Super (Legal Marijuana Now party)

Sydney is a Democrat and seems fine. Marty hasn’t bothered to set up a website. He does seem to have a personal Facebook with a number of world-readable posts. I visited, and found out that he likes Bernie, weed, and Bernie’s stance on weed.

(Edited to add: I would vote for Sydney, in case that wasn’t clear from “seems fine.”)

If you had an opinion about this race, I hope you voted in the primary.

There’s going to be another special election this year, for the Minneapolis City Council, Ward 6, because Abdi Warsame is resigning to take over leading the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. I’ll write about that once it actually starts happening. And I’m going to write about the Presidential Primary, but not until after New Hampshire votes.

Election 2020: Special Primary, State Representative District 60A (analysis)

District 60A, which is mostly Northeast Minneapolis but also includes a little bit of Southeast, is having an election on January 21st. (Not sure if you live in 60A? You can find out here.) To be clear: January 21st is the DFL Primary, and it’s also almost certainly where the next representative for 60A will be decided. There is a general election on February 4th; the only non-DFLer running is Marty Super of Legal Marijuana Now.

Whoever wins will serve in the upcoming legislative session, then (presumably) run for re-election in November of 2020 for a full two-year term.

This is a really rough time of year to be running a special election. People tend to be busy and distracted in December; it’s also likely to be cold/snowy/sleeting/just a terrible time of year to go out and door-knock. There are also eleven candidates.

Here’s who’s running, with links to websites. 

Piyali Nath Dalal
Mohamed Issa Barre
Sydney Jordan
Saciido Shaie
Zachary Wefel
Susan Whitaker
Aaron Neumann
Jessica Intermill
Aswar Rahman
Amal Ibrahim
Sonia Neculescu

Other useful information you can find online:

  • John Edwards of WedgeLive sent out a questionnaire to the candidates, and most responded; you can find all their answers here.
  • The DFL held a candidate forum on January 11th. Everyone attended except for Mohamed Barre. You can view it on Facebook: Part One and Part Two. Part One, you probably want to skip about 20 minutes in to get to the actual forum. There are some sound issues early on but they got straightened out pretty quickly.
  • Another forum was held on January 13th. It’s also on Facebook; you can watch it here. All eleven candidates participated.
  • The local DFL also requested that the candidates all fill out a questionnaire with some detailed questions about their beliefs and policy ideas. Everyone other than Mohamed Barre completed the questionnaire, and you can find their answers on the Senate District 60 DFL site.

My analysis (but first, an analysis of how I’m analyzing people) below the cut.

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Election 2019: St. Paul School Board

It’s election season! But only in St. Paul — Minneapolis is not voting on anything. Here in St. Paul, we’ve got the following:

  • Saint Paul School Board (vote for 4)
  • Saint Paul City Council
  • Garbage pickup referendum

This means {heavy sigh} that I’m going to have to actually write about the trash pickup issue. Spoiler: I come from Minneapolis, always thought it was ridiculous that St. Paul didn’t have municipal pickup, and have minimal amounts of sympathy for people who don’t think they should have to pay for a municipal service just because they use less of it; that way lies “why should I pay for libraries when I don’t read.”

Anyway, I do feel like I need some information that I still need to research before I can do a truly comprehensive write-up on that one, so in the meantime, I’ll take a whack at the school board race. Here’s who’s running:

Charlie Castro
Omar Syed
Jennifer McPherson
Elijah Norris-Holliday
Jessica Kopp
Tiffany Fearing
Steve Marchese
Zuki Ellis
Ryan Williams
Chauntyll Allen

You get to vote for four. This vote is not ranked. It’s a non-partisan race, but the DFL City Convention endorsed three candidates (Zuki, Steve, and Chauntyll) and then couldn’t settle on a fourth.

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Trip Report, Part 1: Cork & Killarney

 

I was up for a Hugo Award this year, which provided us with a stupendous excuse to take a family vacation in Ireland and Iceland. (Icelandair is both a budget airline and clearly an arm of the Icelandic Bureau of Tourism since they let you arrange a multi-day stopover in Iceland at no extra cost, and inundate you with on-board advertisements designed to sell you on the idea. HORSES! NORTHERN LIGHTS! SCENERY!)

We went over about a week before the convention started. Ed and I visited Ireland 20 years ago — before we had kids — and Dublin was our least favorite bit, so we wanted to get out of it as quickly as possible. We took a train to Cork, where we discovered that the guest house I’d booked thinking it was walking distance from the train station was not around the corner from the train station but straight up a cliff. (There were stairs! I do not recommend hauling a bunch of suitcases up four flights of stairs, in the rain, while massively jet-lagged and operating on almost no sleep. Just, I mean, if you were considering it.)

The rest of the trip went quite a bit better.

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My 2018 Fiction Roundup

Here’s my fiction that came out in 2018 (with helpful information on the categories they’d go in, should anyone want to nominate them for anything):

“Prophet of the Roads,” which appeared in the  Infinity’s End anthology (edited by Jonathan Strahan), July 2018. If you squint, this might be a far-far-far-future sequel to “Cat Pictures Please.” This is a short story.

Field Biology of the Wee Fairies, which appeared in Apex, September 2018. There’s also an interview with me about the story in which you can see some photos of the protagonist, who is based on my mother. This is a short story.

The Thing About Ghost StoriesUncanny, November/December 2018. This story was also featured on their podcast, which includes an interview with me. This is a novelette, barely.

In 2019, look for my YA novel, Catfishing on Catnet, which will be coming out from Tor Teen in November! (You’ll see the cover, an excerpt, outtakes, and the all-important pre-ordering link as those become available this year, don’t worry.) This book includes one of my absolute favorite scenes I have ever written, in which the AI protagonist of “Cat Pictures Please” teaches a high school sex ed class.

 

Election Night

If you’re looking for something to do on Election Night, I will be providing “real-time hot takes” at the Parkway Theater as part of an onstage political panel at the Theater of Public Policy’s Election Night event.

The event runs 8-11 p.m., and it’s free. In addition to ongoing results, there will be live music and improv comedy. (I know the picture says 6 p.m. Everything else I’ve seen says 8 p.m. There won’t be any results until 8 p.m. Maybe the doors open at six? I don’t know.)

The Parkway Theater is at 4814 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55417.

 

Election 2018: Ballot Roundup

Here are my recommendations for allllllllllll the races I’ve written about in 2018. Links lead back to my post about the race.


Statewide

US Senator (term expiring January 3, 2025): Amy Klobuchar

US Senator (Special Election for term expiring January 3, 2021): Tina Smith

Governor: Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan

Secretary of State: Steve Simon

State Auditor: Julie Blaha

Attorney General: Keith Ellison


Statewide Judicial

Supreme Court, Associate Justice 2: Margaret Chutich

Court of Appeals, Judge 2: Lucinda Ellen Jesson


Minneapolis and Hennepin County Races

US Representative, District 5: Ilhan Omar

State Representative 63A: Jim Davnie
(I didn’t research any other State Rep races. Just vote for the DFLer. This is a better state when the Democrats are running things.)

Hennepin County Commissioner, District 2: Irene Fernando

Hennepin County Commissioner, District 3: Marion Greene

Hennepin County Commissioner, District 4: Angela Conley

Hennepin County Sheriff: Dave Hutch

Hennepin County Attorney: Mark Haase

Minneapolis City Question regarding liquor licenses: Yes

Minneapolis School Board At-Large (vote for 2): Kimberly Caprini and Josh Pauly

Minneapolis School District Questions: Yes (to both)

Note regarding judicial races: all the Hennepin County district judges are running unopposed. It kind of doesn’t matter much whether you fill in the dots or not. I usually vote for all the unopposed incumbents unless I’m running short of time, but as you may have noticed, I’m overly thorough about anything election-related.


Saint Paul and Ramsey County Races

US Representative, District 4: Betty McCollum

State Representative 64B: Dave Pinto
(I didn’t research any other State Rep races. Just vote for the DFLer. This is a better state when the Democrats are running things.)

Ramsey County Commissioner, District 3: Trista MatasCastillo

Ramsey County Commissioner, District 5: Rafael Ortega (post is from the primary season; Charles Barklind is no longer on the ballot, everything else applies.)

Ramsey County Sheriff: Jack Serier

Ramsey County Attorney: John Choi

Saint Paul School District Question: Yes

2nd District Court, Judge 2: DeAnne Hilgers

2nd District Court, Judge 11: Leaning toward Scott Flaherty for my own vote, but both candidates are excellent.

2nd District Court, Judge 14: Robyn Millenacker

2nd District Court, Judge 20: Probably Tony Atwal, despite his DUI.

2nd District Court, Judge 28: Elena Ostby

I think that’s all of them. If you have some spare time this weekend, CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING.

Edited to add: if you’re looking for more perspectives, or information on races outside Minneapolis and St. Paul, this tool also has some information on downticket races: https://inthearenaonline.com/mycandidates/

I’ve been asked about a tip jar, and for various reasons I don’t have one. You can buy one of my books (online if that’s easiest, but local bookstores Dreamhaven and Uncle Hugo’s usually have Cat Pictures Please & Other Stories, my short story collection, and might have my novels). You can also stay tuned to pre-order my new novel Catfishing on Catnet (coming November 2019 from Tor Teen!) once there’s a pre-ordering page. Finally, you can donate to the not-yet-fully-funded Donors Choose fundraiser I linked to back on the post about the Minneapolis School Board race: a trip to Wolf Ridge Learning Center for 5th graders at Green Central Park Community School.