Local elections are the most underappreciated devotions to citizenship in the United States. Nationally, only about five percent of the voting population participates in these elections and the Twin Cities are hosting theirs tomorrow so I’m willing to bet many of my fellow student-citizens have a vested interest in this mayoral race. I must admit, I have not done my duty in keeping the Chronicle’s readers focused on these local races despite their importance. In my defense, Donald Trump is the President.
The vast majority of governance happens at the local level. Zoning, affordable housing, sidewalks, road repair, and dozens of other government activities are overwhelmingly or exclusively local government actions. Politico ran a story last week about the discrepancy between what mayors believe Millennials want versus what Millennials actually need. The number one need for our generation, according to this survey, was affordable housing. I want to give a brief overview of the five major candidates and conclude with my endorsement.
Raymond Dehn, 60, is a business owner. He won election to House 59B, serving northern and downtown Minneapolis. He has worked on criminal justice reform measures like “Ban the Box,” law enforcement reform, believes in expanding affordable housing opportunities and wants a more collaborative approach between the Mayor’s office and City Council.
Jacob Frey is an attorney and former Pan-American long distance runner. At 36, he’s been on the City Council since 2013. He founded the Big Gay Race to fight against the proposed Minnesota Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. He wants land use reform at the city level and greater affordable housing, citing 10,000 lost affordable housing units in the last fifteen years. He favors a proactive government approach to increasing access to housing and educational opportunities for citizens of color.
Tom Hoch is the oldest candidate at 62. He’s been a teacher, lawyer, theater executive, among other careers. Two of the boards he sits on include the Humane Society and Planned Parenthood. He wants to keep property taxes low, expand the potential for affordable housing, and create conditions for Minneapolis to be a national leader in food research. If elected, he would be the city’s first openly gay mayor.
Betsey Hodges is the incumbent. She was first elected to City Council in 2005 and has been mayor since 2013. She’s 48-years-old. Hodges wants to keep the city’s financial situation improving and have sound financial health. She wants to expand green energy production and use to fight climate change as well as expanding pre-preschool opportunities. She also wants to close socioeconomic discrepancies to have a more inclusive city.
The final candidate I will cover is 41-year-old Nekima Levy-Pounds. The only citizen of color in the race, she was a law school professor from 2003-2016 and now runs a consulting firm. Her five-point-plan is centered on economic justice, minimum wage increase, environmental justice, police reform, and keeping housing affordable.
Minneapolis uses ranked-choice voting. A candidate needs to hit 50% of the vote in order to win. If no candidate hits that threshold, then the lowest-vote earning candidate is eliminated and the votes allocated to the second and third choice candidates. This continues until there is a winner. In 2013, it took 33 rounds. This opinion editor is struck by the focus on affordable housing. This is an issue for all citizens, but especially the poor. Nonetheless, affordable housing is not the only issue I am concerned about.
My first choice is for the young gun, Jacob Frey. His old-school progressive stance on proactive government is notably different than the other candidates, as well as his concern for social and educational justice. Beyond that, I firmly believe it’s time for our generation to start to take their rightful place as community leaders and elected officials.
My second choice is Raymond Dehn. His prior experience in the Minnesota House would serve the city well for lobbying and connections. His criminal justice reform efforts have led to some successes, and a unified local government can do a lot well.
My last choice is for Mayor Hodges. Her experience notwithstanding, environmental issues are near and dear to my generation’s heart; it’s something we will have to tackle the rest of our lives. Reducing socioeconomic discrepancies is of the greatest import if we choose to be a nation that is more free, more equal, more just, and more democratic.