Election 2017 is over. The final vote counts have been tabulated in most races. Many of the people we amplified at New Hughes – Old Shoes did not win, but the Minneapolis City Council and Park Board will be run by new Presidents and will likely feature new voting majorities. The defeat of conservative stalwart Barb Johnson in Ward 4 not only brought another progressive voice to the Council, Philippe Cunningham unseated the Council President. Cunningham joined Andrea Jenkins, who won Ward 8 in the first round, as the second transgender person on the Minneapolis City Council. Using Our Revolution TC endorsement as a marker of progressive DFLers, that is a 9 to 4 majority on the Council. By the same measure, the new MPRB favors progressives 5 to 4. Mayor-elect Frey has been passed the centrist torch from the out-going Hodges. Not quite the shift I had hoped, but a solid showing by the progressive wing. Congratulations!
I spent some time digging into the election results. Did I miss the tally of spoiled and defective ballots? One of the more striking results was the much higher proportion of undervotes in all the Park Board races relative to Mayor of City Council. If I understand the definition correctly, undervotes are blank ballots. The implication is that a number of voters for Mayor or Council skipped the Park Board races. Races for Mayor and Council are often personality contests, so it may not be surprising that the voters they turnout tend to vote for a particular candidate and not down ticket races. That Park Districts and city Wards are distinct and overlapping does not help. My rough calculation, made when results for City Council were not complete, suggests the typical Council race has 2% undervotes and Mayor had 1.5%. The lowest ratio was 13.5% in Park District 3; the highest 34.4% in District 4. The differential was significant. Park Board candidates that were able to reap the benefits of party-line voting from Mayor and/or City Council avoided this pitfall and got more votes. That was the purpose of Save Our #1 Parks PAC and they were somewhat effective.
More than a few of the newly elected have taken positions on, and made promises about, addressing racial and economic inequities in the Parks and in our Neighborhoods. Likewise about removing pesticides from our Parks and other public spaces, as well as growing more food in the Parks. I expect the new MPRB to get serious about implementing the Urban Agriculture Plan. I urge the new Park Board to follow-up on the Public Forum on Park Police and Equity organized by Russ Henry and featuring many of the people targeted by the previous Board and current Administration. Invite the NAACP to work with the MPRB to understand the results of their research into employment practices at the Parks that suggest a racist and retaliatory culture. Pay attention to Devin Hogan and investigate the potential of Urban Park Rangers and/or restorative justice initiatives with the Park Police. I suggest the newly elected officials from every branch start the new era with something they all agree on- even if it has to be symbolic. A letter. A statement of intent. Whatever it takes to get everyone on board in a positive way. Start positive to move forward together.