Aftermath

The Minnesota Independent’s Chris Steller has offered the best coverage of our race. We’re even featured in his post-election follow-up story:

An Election Day that turned cold and rainy dumped water on IRV’s promise as a boost to voter turnout, which failed to match (let alone exceed) the 30 percent figure from the last city election in 2005.

DFL endorsee Kevin Reich squeaked by with barely 14 more votes than needed for the 50-percent-plus-one threshold for outright victory in a single-seat contest.

Hanna holds out hope that the race will be sent into a runoff by the hand count that’s required for every race because the city’s tally machines aren’t certified for IRV elections. But by randomly assigned sequence, Ward One will be last among the city’s 13 wards to be counted, putting that date with destiny off by as much as a month.

Mark Fox, an independent who finished last in the five-way Ward One race, would be the first candidate eliminated in a runoff. In Fox’s view, Reich’s bare-majority support, from “less than 12 percent of the people,” means “Minneapolis government is pretty evidently non-representative.”

“If this [election] were a council meeting, I would ask for a quorum call,” Fox wrote in a morning-after email.

In that email, I made the point that I’m not sour at all. Overall, 700 people thought I offered something valuable enough to vote for. There is no shame in my game.

I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed “retail politics”—trying to sell my ideas to voters at their doors. Yes, there was massive apathy. But the people who talked with me were genuinely interested in knowing about the candidates and making an informed vote. The way it looks to me, the endorsed victorious candidate(s) should be, if not ashamed, at least very humble as they try to advance an agenda. Less than 2,000 votes of 16,200 registered is essentially the opposite of a mandate.

Now I return to my regular life. If anyone who happens by likes my writing or the design of my handout and website, I’m looking for work. Gotta pay those rising taxes somehow.

And anyone curious about my thoughts on the spectrum of politics, economics and culture is invited to check my blog:
Negative Railroad. Posting there has been sparse for a couple of months, but I expect to get back up to speed soon enough.

Thanks again to everyone who supported me. Someday I just might run again…

Polls are Closed

Thank you to everyone who helped or offered a kind word. You have no idea how much all of it mattered.

From all the reports I’ve seen, turnout was unusually low, even for a local election. I like to think that means those who took the time to vote were informed and deliberative. And I like to think that helps my chances.

We’re not expecting results too quickly. If you want to follow the progress as votes are counted, check the Minnesota Secretary of State website. Meanwhile, I’m going to get some rest.

Priorities vs. Efficiencies

I think every candidate has something to say about priorities for City Hall. Nobody can say public safety, for example, is not a priority. Looking deeper, we have to consider the ordering of priorities and the trade-offs implicit in putting one need above another desire.

I say Basics First! That means we fund core services toward excellence before we fund non-critical initiatives. I'm in favor of getting the basics right over doing eveything inadequately.

Rather than admit to trade-offs and acknowledge there's just not enough tax money to support every good idea, candidates will bring up the notion of increasing efficiency as a way to escape the harsh constraints of economics and finance. But there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

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A Word to the Voters of 1-7

The First Ward is not all Northeast. I know there are about 16 blocks—and around 165 homesteaders—in Southeast Como who deserve representation, too.

More than any other candidate in the race, and perhaps as much as any candidate in the city, I know how much it stinks to be ignored, forgotten, and dismissed. I want to bring the outside in. And that includes the 7th Precinct of the First Ward.

Political lines have put us together, but we’re from different neighborhoods. We can still work together. Every resident expects certain things from City Hall. Like good streets and enough cops to keep us safe. That’s what I mean by “Basics First!”

We're united not only by Ward boundaries, but also by the 2nd Police Precinct. That’s why the crime-fighting website I run is called “Eastside Defender”. Bad guys don’t follow lines on maps, so we have to look past them, too.

As I understand it, the top concern in Como is about livability. Absentee landlords and disrespectful tenants make it hard to keep faith in city living. Addressing these problems is a central part of my experience and expertise. I've been part of the Northeast Citizen Patrol’s problem property group since it began. We have solved over 30 properties.

KFAI Radio Interview

On October 19th, KFAI radio (90.3 FM) aired a news story on the First Ward Council race. Four of the five competitors were interviewed, and those interviews were edited into individual segments. Here's mine:

Left Out

One of my campaign principles is advocacy for the unengaged. In my experience, our political system ignores too many people. With my history as a non-party community activist, I know what it feels like to be an outsider. I’m running to help bring the outside in.

Amusingly, as I was typing my previous post about last night’s candidate forum, I received a call from the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. They wanted to know if I was voting next week. I said yes.

Then the caller asked which candidate I was voting for and listed four of the five names on the ballot. She didn’t mention me.

I told the caller that she didn’t list the candidate I was voting for. She just continued with her script, making sure I knew who the Federation had endorsed.

I suppose I should be mad. But I’m not. The Federation has sent me enough postcards to wallpaper a bedroom, too. I see it all as a symptom of the dysfunction in our city. I don’t think we get good results when money and connections rule politics. Instead of being angry, I’m out knocking on doors trying to make the system work better.

Our Only Forum

Despite the lack of an incumbent and a slate of candidates all making their first run for public office, First Ward voters were offered only one opportunity to hear from those seeking to represent them. It happened last night, and the Minnesota Independent was there to report:

The candidates spent much of the forum seconding each other’s opinions, leaving Hanna and Reich to trade the evening’s sharpest jabs.

Building a Voluntary City

During last week-end’s doorknocking I was asked to say more about what I mean by encouraging volunteer groups that help our city work better.

My biggest and most personal example is the Northeast Citizen Patrol (NECP). We’re extra eyes and ears for the police. When an NECP patrol is on the sidewalk, the bad guys have a hard time doing business. We‘ve proven our effectiveness over five years. The Mayor even proclaimed May 11th, 2009, to be Northeast Citizen Patrol Day.

I understand patroling is not for everyone. Less-formal walking groups and block clubs help our city work better by helping prevent crime. I want to encouage participation in any form that is effective.

The Eastside Food Co-op began a plastics recycling program with support from the City. Now EFC is continuing the program on its own, supporting all of us to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. And that’s just one example from this hive of volunteer energy.

The Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association puts on the spectacular Art-a-Whirl every year. They promote arts and culture in Northeast and the whole city without taxpayer subsidies. Times are tough, and although City Hall can’t afford artful water fountains, our arts community can step forward to help make Northeast more awesome.

How Much Does it Cost?

Yard signs and newspaper ads aren’t cheap. I’ve seen what my competitors are doing, and I am impressed by their ability to spend money. Dollars are not votes, but every candidate wishes they had more of both.

I’m no different in regard to that desire. But I knew when I started I would have to make a campaign work on a shoestring. I could afford only a handful of yard signs. My literature is one-color, and we have been delivering it all by hand (Thanks, volunteers!). But still, I am confident that my ideas and our hard work can overcome my lack of fundraising connections.

With that said, what’s the bottom line?

Northeaster Candidate Questionnaire

As I was out doorknocking Monday and Tuesday afternoon, I saw the latest Northeaster being delivered. In case your copy didn’t make it all the way to your front steps (or got too wet to read), here are my answers to the Northeaster’s candidate questionnaire:

1) YOUR BACKGROUND: EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, COMMUNITY SERVICE, VOLUNTEER JOBS, ETC., AS THESE EXPERIENCES MIGHT RELATE TO YOUR QUALIFICATIONS FOR THIS OFFICE. (100 WORDS OR LESS)

I came up through the NRP system. I was recruited onto my neighborhood Board and served two terms as President. From grassroots outreach to working with City officials on neighborhood projects, I’ve done everything a volunteer can do to address community concerns.

I was the first volunteer for the Northeast Citizen Patrol. I’ve put in thousands of hours across every Northeast neighborhood making a stand against crime. I’ve heard the worries of people our entrenched political system overlooks.

I’ve been a Northeaster for 18 years, after being raised in southwest. I know how the rest of the city sees us.

2) WHY ARE YOU RUNNING, AND WHAT IS YOUR MAIN PRIORITY? (100 WORDS OR LESS)

Taxes keep going up while services are being cut. City Hall puts pet projects ahead of streets, cops and firefighters. I say, “Basics First!”

Garage Grilling

In case you’re not home when I make it to your front door, here are my answers to the Garage Grilling (from Joe Soucheray on AM1500):

1. Which section of the paper do you read first?
I decided the paper wasn’t worth reading years ago. I used to subscribe to the Sunday edition for the Vikings pregame coverage. And for the coupons.

A Priority Test

The StarTribune published some good news for Minneapolis residents. Low interest rates will allow City Hall to refinance some bonds and save $8 million.

"There is a big demand for municipal debt due to its perceived safety," said Michael Abeln, director of capital and debt management for the city of Minneapolis. "Because there is a lot of demand, the rates that we have to pay are dropped."

Bond investors trust City Hall to make good on its promises. That trust is well-founded. Our city has earned a great credit rating. But what about the promises City Hall makes to residents? What happens to that $8M—which was our money in the first place?

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Mr. President, I Couldn’t Agree More

One of my policy ideas is to encourage volunteer groups that make our city work better. I see that as the best way to maintain our quality of life while keeping a lid on taxes. And, empowering volunteers creates engagement from the bottom up. People participate where they can make a difference on issues important to them.

President Obama agrees:

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Can We Escape Walt’s Shadow?

The Minnesota Independent is running a series of stories about each City Council race. The First Ward was covered last. In the story, one name not on the ballot got significant mention:

Ranallo’s signs look a little like he’s running for sheriff, with a Wild West typeface and the word “WANTED” on top. It’s an approach, he says, inspired by Walt Dziedzic, who represented the ward before Ostrow for 22 years and once used the same word on his lawn signs.

Dziedzic is the first person Reich names when asked who he’d look to as a model for holding elective office.

Northeast is still living under Walt’s shadow.

Maybe that’s why we’ve been treated as a municipal afterthought. Dziedzic built an empire over two decades. As I hear the stories, Walt knew how to deliver the goods for his supporters. We even have a street named after him (18th Ave NE), which is proof of something. He was the face behind the city-wide attitude that “Northeast can take care of itself”.

Northeasters love their history. But the Independent hints that today’s Northeast is not Walt’s old nordeast:

A Little Bit of Human Interest

Some candidates make their personal lives part of their campaign. Families and the values that we associate with them are markers of character. As our culture grows, we’re finding the value in non-traditional families, too.

I accept that such things are important to many voters. But I think candidates should be judged on their ideas and their public accomplishments much more than their personal stories. Maybe I hold that view because my family structure is still outside the ever-widening mainstream.

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