Minneapolis is going to have a very different municipal government in 2014. We’ll have a new mayor for the first time since 2001. There are 13 councilpeople in our weak mayor-council government, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a majority of its members will be first termers come next January. Three councilpeople decided to join the mayoral race, and another dropped out after failing to secure the DFL endorsement. So we’ve got four there. There are also several competitive races elsewhere in the city. Fun fact: It’s also not outside the realm of possibility that we’ll elect a Republican mayor and a Socialist councilperson. What a city!
In general, you could say this turnover is surprising, because the city is doing great right now. Property taxes will most likely drop next year, construction is booming, and we’ll probably pop back up above 400,000 residents in the next year or so. Which isn’t to say everything is perfect, of course, but we’re a long way from the 2010 midterm massacre in terms of voter mood. Interestingly, there’s very little Vikings stadium-related drama anywhere outside of anonymous comments on the Star Tribune’s website. Two of the competitive races involve incumbent candidates (Diane Hofstede in Ward 3 & Meg Tuthill in Ward 10) who voted for the Vikings stadium, but that doesn’t appear to be much of an issue.
One thing is for sure, though: The average age of the Minneapolis City Council will be considerably lower next year. I point this out not in an awful, mocking Millennial way (I still get paper issues of magazines) but because it represents the kind of shift in opinion and politics in Minneapolis that we’ve avoided for some time. The city has been staunchly Democratic for decades, however, we haven’t necessarily done a ton of progressive things that matter. When I emphasize matter, I prioritize infill development over Iraq War resolutions.
Some very good arguments have been made elsewhere about how the DFL process in Minneapolis has typically turned out very liberal voters at caucuses, conventions, and elections, with the catch that those voters are people who are concerned with national issues, not local ones. So think the person with the “Keep Abortion Legal” button having strong opinions about City Council candidates in a local election, but not necessarily understanding the finer points of municipal finance and transportation planning–you know, the things that City Councilpeople would probably want to be familiar with.
However, this is probably changing. And it’s represented by those younger City Council candidates and their supporters. Which, obviously, isn’t to exclude anyone of a certain age from any movement–there are lots of great urbanists who are senior citizens and lots of surface parking enthusiasts who had cell phones in middle school. But now we have potential decision makers who are asking questions like, “Why does it take half an hour to get from Uptown to Downtown during rush hour?” and “Why do suburbanities get free park and rides and Northsiders get standing room only buses?”. And most importantly, people are turning out to vote for those candidates. While not a resident of the ward, I was at the Ward 10 DFL Convention in April, and you know who else was at the convention?
Renters! A bunch of ‘em! (And cyclists! And college students! And young parents choosing to raise their kids in the city! And carless people!)
There were a great many convention delegates from groups that, at least anecdotally, complain a lot but don’t actually participate in the [very complicated] process. Ward 10 covers most of what is considered Uptown. It’s a ward that has gone through tremendous change in the past decade, and at times has struggled with those changes. The convention was full of people who gave up a beautiful Spring day to sit in an elementary school auditorium, because they were passionate about the issues.
Across the city, we have candidates who understand and are willing to talk about more nuanced issues, like how we have a city built for 500,000 people (our 1950s peak) but only 390,000 people paying to keep the lights on. That’s a complicated point to make, and it often clashes with the status quo, but it absolutely has to be made. This difference in this cycle is that it appears enough urban-minded voters are interested and engaged that we may well get some of these folks elected. The Minneapolis of 1972 isn’t preserved in amber, nor should it be.
Everyone says this about every election ever–but this election is important. There’s a lot on the horizon for the City of Lakes. The remaking of Downtown East, the transformation of University of Minnesota neighborhoods into urban ones, the redevelopment of the K-Mart site at Lake and Nicollet, and more. Election Day is November 5th. It’s time to build a city for our future.