Naomi (naomikritzer) wrote,

Election 2013, Volume 1, Issue 5: Hanna, Hartwig, Hodges, Iverson, Kahn

We're finally getting to one of the pirates -- not Captain Jack Sparrow (he comes rather late in the alphabet) but Kurtis W. Hanna of the Pirate party.

Kurtis W. Hanna (Pirate)
John Leslie Hartwig (Independent)
Betsy Hodges (DFL), City Councilmember, Ward 13
Gregg A. Iverson (DFL)
Bill Kahn (Last Minneapolis Mayor)

Kurtis W. Hanna (Pirate)

Weirdly, in the small picture, he looks insufferably smug; in the larger version (which pops up for me if I hover -- that may be a Social Fixer feature, not a Facebook feature) he looks like someone who's very uncomfortable having his picture taken in a tie and is making the best of it.

So, apparently the Pirate Party is an actual thing and not just this one guy being goofy. Here is their website: And their values statement:

Kurtis's main value, though, based on what he highlights on his Facebook page, is that he wants to be able to smoke weed, given that he put "Against Cannabis Prohibition" as the first thing after "Mayoral Candidate." He also has a Q&A on his Facebook page, which includes this exchange:

Q. Are you going to address the lack of school funding in gang territories?
A. As a rule, I hope to decentralize as many government services as possible. This will include decision making, but it also will include resources. As Mayor, I would advocate first and foremost for local people to gather together to try to solve local problems in a way that doesn't require the need to depend upon government funding. If this can not be achieved, I would make sure the distribution of funds aren't unequally distributed due to the number of gangs in certain areas., apparently, he's in favor of the poorest residents of Minneapolis gathering together to solve the problem of educating children in a way that "doesn't require the need to depend on government funding." The awesome thing about being a bullshit candidate with no chance of being elected is that you can spout bullshit answers like this and not have to worry about the potential consequences of actually enacting policies based on this idea.

The Pirate Party website reminded me of the Libertarians a few years ago, when they were younger and cooler. (There was a joke I heard, ages back, that went, "What's the definition of a Libertarian? A Republican who wants to sleep with pro-choice girls.") The idea that we should abolish public education in favor of having town-hall meetings in Phillips so that everyone can brainstorm ways to teach the kids how to read when all the adults in their household need to work full time to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table....yeah, that totally sounds like a Libertarian variety of bullshit, only completely untouched by age and maturity (the Pirate Party website talks about how they're totally younger than most political parties. I AM SHOCKED. SHOCKED.)

Also, WEED.

1. Is there any reason to think he could plausibly do the job? No.
2. Could he plausibly win? No.
3. Is there any other reason to vote for him? If you think the Pirate Party is TOTALLY AWESOME and want to give them a boost. I suppose there's a dim possibility that votes for him will be interpreted as "whoo, weed should be legal!" votes, but given that he's running as a Pirate candidate and not as a Grassroots candidate, I think that message would be thoroughly diluted if it got through at all.

FTR, I totally think we should legalize weed. However, I ALSO THINK WE SHOULD HAVE PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Jesus H. Christ.

John Leslie Hartwig (Independent)

I found literally nothing about this guy online other than his affidavit of candidacy. Based on that: he lives in South Minneapolis and his printing is pretty marginal in terms of legibility. MinnPost says he ran for school board in 2009.

1. Is there any reason to think he could plausibly do the job? No.
2. Could he plausibly win? No. He's not even making a pretense of running.
3. Is there any other reason to vote for him? To force him out of hiding? No.

Betsy Hodges (DFL), City Councilmember, Ward 13

1. Is there any reason to think she could plausibly do the job? Yes. She's served for eight years on the City Council.
2. Could she plausibly win? Yes.
3. Should you vote for her? Maybe.

I have a friend who works in city government who is supporting Betsy and assures me that she's totally awesome. This absolutely biases me in her favor, because our preferences in politicians tend to align pretty well. So, there's that. She's got a wide range of endorsements, including former opponent Gary Schiff (who endorsed her for mayor when he dropped out of the race), various small business owners from town (including the guy who owns the Gandhi Mahal restaurant, which I find intriguing), and the Sierra Club. I was a little startled that the Sierra Club didn't endorse Mark Andrews considering that environmentalism is kind of his schtick (SOLAR PANELS FOR EVERYONE!) ... but I went back over to his website and he actually has no endorsements from environmental organizations that I spotted, despite the environmentalist schtick. Interesting.

Her Issues page leads to a beautifully-laid-out PDF, which annoys me; you can give me the option of downloading a PDF, but when I'm reading you on the web, I would prefer it if you'd just give me a web page. For one thing, web pages let me C&P your positions to my blog post, which makes it easier for me to critique them. (Weirdly, this PDF does let me copy and paste stuff. It's just that I think I'm copying something about creating clean-energy jobs and what comes out when I paste is "5ISQVO5QVVMIXWTQ[ITMILMZQVKTMIVMVMZOaRWJ." Not super helpful.)

I guess I will have to summarize. Her positions are an interesting mix of stuff I like, and stuff I dislike, and I'm going to be diving back into the municipalization stuff again, so this is going to run long.

Betsy's first set of issues are environmental. She wants to block increased garbage burning (for the out-of-towners who read this -- Minneapolis disposes of much of its solid waste by burning it, and actually generates power by burning the garbage); expand recycling and composting to the whole city; and support Minneapolis Energy Options in renegotiating with Xcel and Centerpoint.

So, not burning more garbage is fine with me. Citywide compost collection is great. (Minneapolis already has citywide recycling, and has for years and years, though they improved things significantly by switching to single-sort right after we moved to St. Paul. Anyway, I'm not sure what she's saying Minneapolis needs, there.) But I stand by my assessment that municipalization is a stupid idea.

Here's the website for Minneapolis Energy Options. They actually let me C&P so let me just go through a few points from their FAQ.

Q. How does the process of a municipal ballot initiative work?

A: First, the City Council must vote on a resolution to create a municipal power utility, if the City can prove that it can deliver energy as cheaply and reliably as the existing utilities while achieving its renewable energy and efficiency goals. Within sixty days, this will be put to a vote of the people of Minneapolis. If the referendum passes, the City will be authorized to purchase the electric and/or gas utility infrastructure in Minneapolis. The City will then investigate whether it can purchase and operate the utility infrastructure as cheaply, reliably and more cleanly than the current utilities.

So here's the thing. Minneapolis Energy Options was pushing for the City Council to resolve to create a municipal power utility and have Minneapolis residents vote on whether to proceed with an authorization....after which the City will investigate whether they can actually improve on (or at least meet the standards of) the current utility provider. This seems utterly backwards to me. I think municipalization is a stupid idea for various reasons but I'm open to being persuaded otherwise but I want the due diligence to happen first. Maybe the city could appoint a citizen's committee to investigate the feasibility of this, etc., instead of voting first and then checking on feasibility after.

Q. Will this raise energy rates?

A. No. The referendum the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign is advocating would require the City to prove that it will not raise rates. If the City can’t prove that, the authorization will not take effect. And remember, rates have been going up under the current utilities. Xcel has raised rates four times since 2006.

...which is not surprising given that the price of every fossil fuel has been going up, and it's not as if Minneapolis will overnight be equipped with a herd of magical unicorns that fart electricity, if they buy out Xcel. Even if you assume that they will put a high priority on constructing wind farms and solar arrays (I'm sure they would intend to put a high priority on constructing wind farms and solar arrays, I'm just not convinced it would happen), it will take a long time to build capacity. (I mean MY GOD the Central Corridor light rail line won't be operating until something like a year from now, despite the fact that I look at it and think, "your RAILS are down and your STATIONS are done, how much more can you even need to do? really, not until 2014?")

Anyway. I am deeply skeptical about the idea that the city "proving" that they won't raise rates will actually result in them not raising rates. I am willing to believe that the city will not raise rates more than Xcel would, although building the green energy capacity that everyone wants will take money. They have an advantage of not needing to turn a profit, but they do need to break even.

Q. What will this mean for reliability?

A. The City provides highly reliable utility services today: drinking water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, garbage and recycling. In the most recent customer satisfaction survey, no Minneapolis utility service received less than 80% favorable ratings from residents. And again, the enabling referendum will require the City to prove that it can keep reliability as good or better than the incumbent utilities.

I love that again, the city will PROVE, in advance, that they will TOTALLY be reliable. For the record, Minneapolis is mostly awesome at drinking water -- but there were two separate massive floods in town this year caused by water mains that broke abruptly after years of neglect (my recollection was that when downtown flooded, that was the explanation: a water main that should have been re-done years ago). Sanitary sewer mostly works fine, but STORM sewers have been chronically problematic over the years, with probably the most dramatic failure involving a guy who got killed by a flying manhole cover (I looked for the news story about that and couldn't find it, but I did find a City Pages blog piece about a storm sewer turning into a geyser and a video of similar issues.

Q. Will this impact jobs and people employed by the utilities?

A. On average, municipal utilities employ more local people than investor-­owned utilities.

On average? That is the most breathtakingly disingenuous response in the entire FAQ, I think. Xcel is headquartered in Minneapolis. They made it clear that if Minneapolis went forward with municipalization, they'd move, and I really don't think that's unreasonable blackmail. You don't keep your headquarters in a city that doesn't want to buy your product.


Betsy doesn't actually say that she wants to municipalize the city power; she says she wants to renegotiate a better (and shorter) agreement, and I think that's reasonable, although the idea of holding a citywide referendum (which I think died last month) that would authorize the city to acquire the lines and open a utility company.... SERIOUSLY, there is SURELY a less insane way to negotiate with the utility companies than this. (Also, let's say you DID hold the election and a majority of Minneapolitans said, "are you fucking kidding me? after that guy never turned up to inspect my stupid dishwasher?" Your leverage is then instantly gone!)

Her next big issues is "Creating Jobs in Every Neighborhood." My take-away from this is that there's yet another mayoral candidate who wants to streamline regulatory processes for small businesses. Maybe that means it'll actually happen? Then "Making the City Work For You," where she talks about a balanced budget, investing in distressed neighborhoods, and getting the City Council to coordinate with the Park Board and School Board and the Metro Council and so on, which seems like a self-evidently good idea that is apparently not currently happening (I wish that surprised me, but I bet no one wants to deal with the School Board. Including the people on the School Board, who have a tendency not to run for re-election. I wonder how the lady who never sleeps is doing these days?)

"Moving Jobs to People" is about transit and she talks about how we should be doing everything, including modern streetcars. So here's what I don't understand; I googled modern streetcars, and I'm kind of at a loss as to how they're an improvement over buses. I mean, okay, they do cite one major advantage in an article I found: because streetcars run on tracks, you can't CONSTANTLY CHANGE THE ROUTES, you have to pick a route and STICK WITH IT. Um, guys, I don't know if you've noticed this, but you are the ones who are constantly changing the bus routes. I suppose at this point, no one would believe them if they said they were going to knock that off; they are forced by their past record to build rails to show that THIS TIME THEY MEAN IT.

I mean, honestly, I was also genuinely doubtful about Light Rail. It turns out that lots of people who hate buses, love trains. Light Rail works almost as a gateway drug for public transit, and maybe streetcars will be like that.

Anyway, in addition to streetcars, she's in favor of light rail, improved buses, nice bike trails, and other stuff I like, so you know, whatever.

"Making Sure Our Children Thrive" mentions having the Health Department do more outreach to pregnant mothers. I think that's a good idea if it's done intelligently. When I was pregnant with Molly I got a call from the Health Department (I think) to enroll me in a program where they'd track Molly's vaccinations and send us ... I don't even remember. They'd help us find free immunizations if we lost health coverage, though, that was one of the benefits. The lady calling cheerfully told me that there were incentives to signing people up in my zip code, and I remember trying to think of a way to say delicately, "look, I'm middle class. GO FIND A POOR PERSON TO OFFER THIS TO."

Of course now I'd say that they were totally after the idiot hippies who don't vaccinate because OMG CHEMICALS TOXINS AUTISM. But back in 2000, that wasn't on the radar.

Anyway. Outreach to pregnant women is a good idea and heck, now that I think about it, enrolling the middle-class mothers in programs to encourage them to vaccinate their children is probably a good idea, too.

"A City That Welcomes All" includes workforce goals for women and minority hiring in city projects (good, IMO); she points out that she opposed the stadium deal and says she's trying to make it fairer; she wants immigrants to feel like they can call the police if they're victims of a crime without feeling like they'll be deported.

"A Safer City" talks about 911 response times, and how she helped to increase the number of 911 operators. You want enough operators but you also need enough cops, something she doesn't really talk about there.

I'm going to tell my frustrating story. We had some neighbors down the block from our old house who occasionally had really loud arguments. They were not usually physical, but on one occasion a physical altercation was brewing, very late at night, in the back yard; they'd gone from shouting to shoving. The shover was trying to get the shove-ee to leave, and I was pretty sure that a sight of a cop car would de-escalate things and everyone would go in separate directions. I called 911, explained that a shouting argument had turned to shoves, and said exactly that: "I think if a cop car would just come and drive down the alley, it will break things up." No one ever came. And really, WTF? WHY would you ignore a request like this? I am still baffled.

Anyway. Betsy then talks about increased civilian oversight of the Police Department. The police in Minneapolis are a PROBLEM. There are some really, really racist cops, and there is some really, really racist policing that happens, and this has been an issue the entire time I've lived in Minneapolis and THEY NEED TO FIX IT. Betsy's specific goal struck me as weak and inadequate, although marginally better than nothing. She also wants to recruit more minority police officers.

"A Place to Call Home" mentions something that slipped by me last spring, probably because I was so thoroughly distracted by marriage equality. Minnesota passed a "Ban the Box" law, which prohibits employers from asking about your criminal record on the job application:

The new law requires private employers to wait until a job applicant has been selected for an interview, or a conditional offer of employment has been extended, before asking a job applicant about criminal records or conducting a criminal background check. This requirement has applied to public employers since 2009.

Existing laws will continue to protect vulnerable adults and children from people with violent or sexual criminal histories. Additionally, employers may exclude applicants if a crime is relevant to the position's job duties.

I'm kind of amazed that passed with so little controversy. Anyway, Betsy's in favor of enforcing it.

Having looked at the whole document (which is here, FYI, if you want to take a look yourself -- obviously, I left a lot out of my discussion), I am ... undecided about what I think. I like her ideology, but I have to admit that I am taking her pragmatism on faith. My friend who supports her is pragmatic, and values pragmatism in politicians.

Part of the problem may just be that I didn't live near Ward 13. (I lived in Ward 12, which is nowhere near Ward 13. Go figure.) I did live near Ward 9, Gary Schiff's ward, and part of my draw to Gary Schiff was that he had a solidly liberal ideology but I also had personal confirmation of his pragmatism from my many, many friends who lived in the ward. Gary Schiff was also pretty good at making sure his name got mentioned in the newspaper articles about the small businesses he helped out (I vaguely remember him being involved in something beer-related but I can't remember if it had to do with Surly, or Lake Harriet Brewing, or something else entirely. BUT HIS NAME WAS DEFINITELY IN THE ARTICLE ABOUT IT.)

Anyway. If you're a Hodges constituent, or a supporter, or a detractor, please feel free to share in the comments what you love / hate about her.

Gregg A. Iverson (DFL)

Doesn't appear to have a website. I know his name from prior runs for various offices. I went looking through my own archive to see if I'd ever found out anything of interest about him. Nope. Apparently his hobby is filing for office. He once got endorsed by Dick Franson, who has the same hobby.

1. Is there any reason to think he could plausibly do the job? No.
2. Could he plausibly win? No.
3. Is there any other reason to vote for him? No.

Bill Kahn (Last Minneapolis Mayor)

He's not an end-times nut or under the delusion that he's Sharon Sayles-Belton; his platform is that the office of mayor should be abolished, and replaced with a City Executive Manager who'd be hired (by the City Council, presumably; under his plan, they'd cut the number of wards to 4 or 5, but the Council Members would still be elected).

1. Is there any reason to think he could plausibly do the job? No, but he's not actually offering to do the job.
2. Could he plausibly win? No.
3. Is there any other reason to vote for him? Sure: if you think that the office of mayor should be abolished and replaced with a city manager, this is a fine symbolic vote.

It's so much more entertaining to snipe at the weirdos than to actually summarize and respond to substantive policy positions on stuff. I'm glad the legit candidates are spread out.

Election 2013 Index of Posts.
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