I Am Not Running

My name will be on the ballot this November, but I am not running. I don't have the time it takes to conduct a sincere campaign.

So, did I file as a joke?
No. Filing as a candidate opens a person up to a range of grief and aggravation that really has to be experienced to be understood. I may have a light-hearted tone at times, but this is not a joke.

What's the point then?
Nobody else filed to challenge the current First Ward Councilmember. I want to create a place for those disappointed with Mr Reich to register that disappointment.

Why would Northeasters be disappointed?
Mr Reich’s vote to bypass the City Charter to give corporate welfare to billionaires for a football stadium was reprehensible. His justification was, “It was the best deal we could get.” On that point alone, I would like to see Mr Reich removed from office. Often the best deal is no deal at all. And we’re finding out that the “best deal” was even worse than we thought.

I love the Vikings, and building stadiums puts people to work. What else do you have to complain about?
Well, if you don’t own property within a few blocks of Edison, you probably haven’t seen or heard from your Councilmember in the past four years. It is clear that Mr Reich serves a very narrow slice of Northeast. Which is great if you’re connected. But the other 99% of Northeasters deserve to be represented, too.

O.K., Mr Smartypants, what would you do better?
Relentlessly engage the people. Ask every faction and every interest about their needs and their desires. Carry those viewpoints to City Hall and give them all a voice.

I am passionate about civic participation and community engagement. The best way to make government serve us better is to get us more involved in it. At every level, from block clubs to neighborhood groups to communities of interest not bound by geography.

I would talk about getting and giving everyone a say in the decisions that affect their lives. I would work to shift power away from central authorities like City Hall and all its departments. And I would say a lot about personal responsibility and taking direct action to meet needs and effect changes. My motto is “No bystanders.”

So, although I am not running, I am not just standing silent. I am still serving the Northeast community and agitating on the issues that need more attention. I just can’t do it full-time. Not this year…

Damned by Faint Praise

Even the pro-stadium StarTribune has trouble finding reasons to endorse Kevin Reich:

Despite only serving one term so far, Reich would be more experienced than several of his first-time council colleagues. He should use that experience to build consensus around progrowth policies.

That’s the whole thing. Two sentences.

How can a guy who is so weak at outreach and engagement build consensus? To Northeasters, this sounds like selling our community out for the interests of more ambitious politicos at City Hall.

And experience doesn’t make up for lack of talent and limited insight. Remember, after three years of experience, he voted for the Vikings deal. Because, he reasoned, “it was the best we could get.” All the recent headlines are arguing the opposite. Even the Governor, for example, acknowledges that forgetting to include seat license revenue in the deal was a mistake.

Kevin and I came up in the same system, as community organizers under the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). We were peers. But while he was getting paid by his neighborhood organization, I was out in the ordinary world, working, investing and gaining practical experience.

Now, it is true that I can’t match his four years of sitting through Council committee meetings. Kevin knows his way around City Hall. So if I need to find the restroom, he’ll be the one I ask.

Questions from the Northeaster

I received the following from the editor of the Northeaster newspaper (look for the next issue behind your bushes or under your porch):

I am assembling information for the Northeaster on the First Ward race, for the newspaper that goes to print this weekend. Sorry for the late start, I'm hoping we can either talk or if you prefer, that you could email me back on these questions in the next couple days:

1.) What are your qualifications/background?

2.) Why are you running?

3.) Platform - what are your three top issues/interests?

I am also curious, in your website you accuse Kevin Reich of not getting much beyond Edison High School area, yet you admit that you also can't do community stuff full time. Can you elaborate on how you choose where to put your time and how you know that the incumbent isn't reaching the entire district?

Thank you very much.

This was my reply:

1) More than a decade of experience as a community organizer. I’ve been a leader in neighborhood planning and development, at the forefront of community crime prevention, and a steadfast champion of persistent engagement and outreach. I manage a local business with over 30 employees, so I’m connected with both sides of the job creation equation. I’ve been an active investor, a non-profit treasurer, and worked years as bookkeeper, which gives me a fiscal sense sorely lacking in City Hall.

2) I put my name on the ballot because I think our current Councilmember’s vote to bypass the City Charter was reprehensible. Those who ignore the will and specific intent of the people must be held to account. Further, the Vikings deal was simply bad finance. We can do so much better.

3) My top issue is community engagement. Everything about our city gets better the more the people are involved in the decisions that affect their lives.

Next in importance is better focus on the core services of City government. The fire department should be fully-staffed, our police must find new ways to build trust in our communities, and our infrastructure should be properly maintained. The attitude in City Hall has been to ignore the basics while chasing municipal status symbols, like streetcars. This must change.

Third, I want to see more community empowerment. Devolve authority to neighborhoods, giving them the support and resources needed to address very local needs. Civic participation flows from the people’s ability to make a difference, on the issues they choose and in the way the choose to address those issues.

===

I accuse Reich of excessive and obsessive focus on the few blocks around Edison. That’s where the vast majority of investment and attention has gone during his first term. Follow the backhoes. His lack of outreach and limited availability has been pathetic. Remember, this is his full-time job.

I say this because I pay attention and talk with a surprising variety of folks in all corners of the Ward. There is very much a bubble of insiders, separate from the rest of us. That’s how the people feel. When the public doesn’t even know the name of their representative after four years, it’s fair to call that officeholder a failure at outreach.

Mark Fox

Cameras on Cops

The City Council is considering outfitting our cops with wearable cameras. I have been following this issue, as it fits well with my desire to build more public trust for the police. I want this to happen.

I wondered where Councilmember Reich stands on the matter. I looked around and can’t find anything. It is less than three weeks to the election, and this sure seems to be an important part of two core issues; public safety and the City’s budget.

This is a failure of engagement. I saw the MPR link I used above on CM Schiff’s Facebook page. Schiff understands how to connect with his stakeholders. Reich, on the other hand, has a dismal record of outreach and communication.

Think of your top five City issues. Where does Kevin stand? Has he been out and about asking for a diversity of opinion? How can he represent a Ward he doesn’t talk to?

Maybe we need a camera on Kevin to see who he really represents.

Police Policy Questionnaire

Mark Fox responses on CFPP questionnaireThe Committee for Professional Policing  (CFPP) mailed candidates a questionnaire focused on police officer accountability. Click the thumbnail to read their questions and my responses.

Although the Police Officers Federation may not like what I wrote, I consider myself a friend and ally of the police. I appreciate more than many the difficulties that come with the job. I understand that policing implies sometimes using force.

Instead of seeing the police as an enemy or as a lesser evil, I want the public to come to trust the police to help keep us all safer. In order to build trust, the people will have to feel that they have some leverage against the worst cops. And even sometimes against good cops who make tough—but wrong—decisions.

I want the public and police to be in partnership and cooperation. Being partners means being more equal, with everyone having a say in decisions that affect their lives. Policing shouldn’t be something we do to each each other, but something we do with each other.

And that’s the spirit in which I answered these questions.

Daily Planet Forum

The Twin Cities Daily Planet is setting up an online candidate forum. To get things started they asked for a 250-word answer to the question, “What would be your top three priorities as a member of the Minneapolis City Council?”

Here’s what I submitted:

The first priority of every officeholder should be community engagement. This is means more than holding an occasional open house. It means going to the people where they are and asking them about their concerns. Outreach must be persistent and relentless.

When people have a say in the decisions that effect their lives, government works a servant instead of an obstacle. My job is to give everyone a voice in City Hall.

City government is charged with providing a set of basic services. These are listed in the City Charter. Keeping care of stuff like streets and sewers should be done before building new amenities like stadiums and streetcar lines. So my second priority is to re-establish priorities in City Hall.

Putting core services ahead of municipal imagineering is not sexy, but essential. Lives depend on it. That means a fully-staffed fire department, and a police department that works with the public to keep crime low. It also means building an environment where human needs are met and all people can live with dignity.

Our civic ethic should be service and cooperation. Which leads to my third priority: Community empowerment.

Let’s find and nourish the seeds of service inside our neighborhoods. This means shifting power—and money—away from City Hall. Let's embrace our own ability to solve the problems we see. This is what I have done as a community volunteer. It transformed my life. It would be an honor to pay that gift forward as a Council Member.

Campaign Finance

Since I am not actively campaigning, I haven’t raised or spent enough to be required to file a financing report. The essentially-unopposed incumbent has taken in over $11,000.

Wonder where that money is coming from? Looks like developers and business owners with an interest in Central Avenue real estate. And a chunk from the unions who will be building the stadium Reich didn’t think the people should get to vote on.

I say all of Ward 1 deserves to be represented. But, as they say, you get what you pay for.

Calling Out Cop Culture

I support the cops. Having spent thousands of hours on citizen patrol and working on problem properties, I have an unusual appreciation for the work they do every day.

At the same time, we need to have a deep and revealing conversation about cultural problems in the MPD:

While Ginder did not have exact data Wednesday, he estimated the city averaged 32 new cases of police misconduct annually since 2009. The number appears to be increasing slightly since 2009, he said.

From 2006 to 2012, the city paid out about $14 million in police misconduct cases, the Star Tribune reported in June. In May, it agreed to pay out $3 million for the 2010 death of a black homeless man restrained by police at the downtown YMCA that the medical examiner ruled a homicide.

In two incidents that have garnered much publicity in recent weeks — one in Apple Valley, the other in Green Bay, Wis. — white officers made racist remarks and got into fights with blacks, according to police reports. But many other incidents of alleged Minneapolis police misbehavior have drawn no headlines.

A City Councilmember would have standing to start such a conversation. Yes, it will be difficult and controversial. But that’s what genuine representation and an independent voice is called to do. What is our current Councilmember doing?

Priorities

I prefer Minneapolis be first in emergency response times over being first in bicycle infrastructure.

I prefer a police department that protects and serves to one that intimidates and incarcerates.

I prefer a city that fosters every home as a sanctuary of nature instead of separating people from our green environment.

(This list will grow…)

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