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:

Northeast is another of Minneapolis’ DFL strongholds, a tradition-bound home to a variety of European immigrant groups since the 19th century. In recent years an influx of artists and immigrants from other parts of the globe have refreshed the area’s demographics and, more slowly, its politics.

An often-retold quote gathered during an NE/CDC survey of Central Avenue shoppers goes something like, “Central used to be full of Polish and Ukrainians and Italians. Now, everything’s ethnic!”

I’m happy to be the most inclusive candidate in the race. I understand that shopper and the tradition he was missing. But I also understand the value of the traditions being built on Central today. City Hall should serve everyone, not just those the Councilmember has the best connection with. When we define who we want to engage, we’re also defining who we are not engaging. That’s unacceptable.

Fox, like Reich, points to his work at the neighborhood level, including service as president of the Audubon Neighborhood Association and on a citywide panel that charted a future for the popular Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).

But unlike Reich, Fox (an independent graphic designer and web developer) is running against the dominant DFL Party — which the NRP serves as a farm system, in his view. Indeed, he stands opposed to party politics, preferring a principled approach based on ideals of equity, advocacy and responsibility.

I say it’s time to recognize the new Northeast. Let’s get out from the shadows and make November 3rd a birthday for our brighter future!

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