MinnPost will be regularly publishing profiles of candidates running for Minneapolis City Council. Up first: Chris Parsons, who is running for the open seat representing Ward 10. Also in the Ward 10 race so far: Katie Jones, Aisha Chughtai, David Wheeler, and Alicia Gibson.
After two terms, Council President Lisa Bender decided not to seek reelection in Ward 10, creating an open race for her seat, which represents the neighborhoods of East Harriet, ECCO, Lowry Hill East, South Uptown, and Whittier.
Among the first to jump in the race was Chris Parsons, a St. Paul firefighter and president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters union. “I want to bring more of a worker-centric voice to City Hall,” he said.
Parsons, 46, was raised in Minneapolis and graduated from South High School and then the University of Wisconsin-River Falls before beginning a 20-year career with St. Paul as a firefighter and emergency medical technician. He currently lives in South Uptown.
Parsons said he’s running because he believes “regular working folks” need more of a voice on the council. If elected, he said he’d work to increase the minimum wage, which will rise to $15 for large employers in the city in 2022, and increase paid and sick time minimums, which currently accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.
But Parsons’ top issue is public safety, which should involve two goals, he says: “dealing with the uptick in crime and changing the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
To address the first issue, Parsons said the city should trust the expertise of Chief Medaria Arradondo, and the chief’s plan to replace the more than 160 officers who have left or taken leave since the killing of George Floyd last year.
Though Parsons said firefighters and police are two “separate and distinct” professions, he noted there is some overlap when both are on the same calls, and that he has an understanding of police. “I know the vast majority of police officers are good people who want to do a good job and want to do the right thing,” said Parsons.
At the same time Parsons also believes the MPD needs to be reformed. “There does need to be serious cultural change, but I don’t think we need to sacrifice law enforcement and the level of policing to achieve that,” he said.
One way to influence MPD culture, he said, is to train more diverse recruiting classes and give hiring preference to people who live in the city.
Police culture is not the only thing Parsons wishes to remake. He said people who struggle with drug addiction, particularly those of color, are being criminalized instead of clinically treated. “I know we can’t get afoul of state law, but we can look at the ways we police low-level drug offenses,” said Parsons.
Parsons also named affordable housing as a priority, especially housing that addresses the needs of those experiencing homelessness, and environmental sustainability: making the city more walkable, and building a transit grid that allows residents to be less reliant on personal cars. “I’ve always prided myself on the results and not the rhetoric,” he said. “I’ll roll up my sleeves and work to get things done.”
Candidate snapshot: Chris Parsons
Occupation: St. Paul firefighter
Political or civic experience: president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters union
Favorite place in Minneapolis: First Avenue
One-sentence reason for running: 20 years as a city employee and 15 years lobbying government on behalf of firefighters for increased fire department funding and firefighter health and safety