A friend of mine visiting from Connecticut last weekend was appalled when I told her that all you need do to run for mayor of Minneapolis is plunk down $20 and fill out a one-page form.
In Norwalk (population 86,000) where she’s a political activist, a candidate for mayor (or first selectman, as it’s called) must collect 775 verifiable signatures. That takes real effort and organization because only a portion of those who willingly offer their signatures turn out to be Norwalk residents or registered voters.
“You must get a lot of nuts running for office,” she said.
I could not let that slur on our municipal electoral system go undefended.
It was true, I replied, that some of our candidates sound a wee bit incoherent. (I didn’t tell her about the guy who thinks that Laura Ingalls Wilder is God.)
I explained that by setting the bar so low, the citizens of Minneapolis would be able to hear bold, ground-breaking ideas from people who might not otherwise have a political platform. And if any them comes in second or third in ranked-choice voting, the new mayor, most likely one of the eight favorites, would have to take notice.
“Uh-huh,” she said, sounding unconvinced.
To show her up, I decided to comb through the views of those whom I am calling the Lesser Known 27. (They exclude the frontrunners: Mark Andrew, Jackie Cherryhomes, Dan Cohen, Bob Fine, Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels, Cam Winton and Stephanie Woodruff.) Surely I would find some ideas that the people of Minneapolis should know about.
Well, folks. I didn’t find a whole lot, but here are some things you might want to know about:
Mark V. Anderson, a CPA for 30 years with for-profit companies, has his eye on the bottom line. He thinks the city should stick to its traditional functions — police, firefighting, street repair and so on.
One idea that caught my eye: He believes that, in some cases, the city’s occupational licensing program replicates the state’s. He gives the example of retail food handler. He writes: “We obviously don’t want anyone to get food poisoning. But if I become mayor, I plan to ask a lot of questions as to why the city needs such licenses in addition to the state. Do towns without food licenses have less safe food than Minneapolis? I doubt it.” He adds: “Plumbers that practice in the city must have both Minnesota and Minneapolis licenses.” Presumably, making life easier for business (thus stimulating more jobs, commerce and taxes) would offset the decreased revenues from licensing fees.
Another cost-saving idea from him: The police should stop arresting perpetrators of what he regards as victimless crimes, such as prostitution, drugs and gambling, especially when, he claims, such people are rarely prosecuted.
Anderson is also against tax increment financing, a program that has local government helping to fund private projects that are then supposedly paid off from the projected (sometimes imaginary) increases in property taxes in future years. If there’s a real financial rationale for a project, it will likely be built without TIF help, he says.
Edmund Bruyere has degrees in psychology, criminal justice and special education. Many of his ideas echo those of mainstream candidates (closing the gap between rich and poor, for example) but he offers a few I hadn’t seen.
For example, he suggests that the city run a mentorship program that pairs its workers with city kids. The idea needs much more fleshing out, but it might inspire some kids to occupations as public servants.
He also wants the school curricula to include material on financial literacy. (Having served as finance editor at Consumer Reports, I say “amen” to that. I can’t tell you how many educated folks I’ve encountered over the years, people with degrees in advanced engineering and physics and even business who had no clue about the workings of their credit card or mortgage.)
Lastly, he argues that people should receive refunds for parking tickets they receive in poorly marked areas where the rules are unclear.
Kurtis W. Hanna has no website, but you can find material about him on Facebook, or Google his YouTube videos. He says he belongs to the Pirate Party, which, by the way, is no joke in Germany where it gained traction among free-wheeling tech-heads to combat the government’s campaign to block child porn websites. (They’re against any political censorship of the web.) Before you scoff, you should know that the party won real seats in regional elections. Hanna’s true cause, however, is legalizing marijuana. Hanna may be what Anthony Weiner would call “an imperfect messenger,” but given what happened in Washington and Colorado, legalization does seem to be an idea that we’ll be hearing more about this year. Probably from the state Legislature.
Bill Kahn has degrees in anthropology and environmental studies that amounted to what he describes as a kind of planning degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara. “I can draft the various planning documents necessary for local to federal government, stuff that bores most to tears, even me,” he writes.
He moved here after losing his job in a recession and hasn’t been doing much in the way of city planning since. I thought his campaign mantra “The Last Mayor of Minneapolis” was about the Rapture or End of Days, but instead it’s a meat-and-potatoes proposal to simplify government. He suggests that Minneapolis eliminate its mayor and create five council districts representing five districts, North, Northeast, South, Southeast and Southwest. The other eight council members would be elected by the entire city. The council would then hire a professional executive to run the government, at the behest of the elected officials. Kahn claims that the modified council would curtail the parochialism of the current council and save the mayor’s $106,000 salary.
Doug Mann, whom you can find on Facebook, is a former Green Party candidate for Board of Education. His latest foray into the public arena is a lawsuit filed against the city for its failure to hold a referendum on its contribution to the construction and operation of the new Vikings stadium, an amount that should total around $300 milllion. The City Charter specifies that residents vote on any expenditure on sports facilities that tops $10 million. State legislation for the stadium allowed an “override” of that provision, and supposedly, Minneapolis isn’t spending the money because it will go directly to the stadium and never enter the city’s coffers. Nobody knows what the judge in this case will decide, but voters who think the arrangement is pretty sketchy might want to consider Mann for one of their choices.
And that’s pretty much what I found of interest among the Lesser Knowns.
As for some of the other candidates — those who want to stop foreclosure or end poverty but have no plan, the guy who thinks that personal hygiene should be a personal choice (and wonders why he’s not invited to debates) and the one who thinks that everybody should run for mayor, not to mention the candidates who don’t even live here — you folks should take up some useful hobby and stop wasting voters’ time.
To the new city council, I would say, the minute elections are over and you’ve taken your oath of office, the first order of business should be raising the requirements for candidates. Keeping the fee low is fine, but a mayoral candidate for a city the size of Minneapolis should have to rustle up signatures from maybe 1,500 registered voters to get on the ballot.
And maybe each council member should be required to collect 250 signatures. Running the city is a serious job; we need candidates who treat it that way.