A strong platform requires a broad, solid foundation. The platform of my hypothetical run for Minneapolis City Council will be built together with people that are drawn, recruited, and brought to the endeavor. In fact, construction has already begun and many of you have already contributed. See how that worked? All you did was take a few moments to tell the rest of us what you thought and felt about my exploratory foray into a campaign for office in Minneapolis. I listened, ruminated, then used that information to calculate the next steps. Meanwhile, let’s take some time to talk about governance, constituencies, and how those might impact the renewal of Minneapolis. That is, how the government works, for whom it should work, and what we will do with it.
I believe that power of all forms and varieties should be dispersed as widely and evenly as possible. Financial, electrical, educational, healthcare – all of it. Political power, too. This is not about the size of the government, it is about decentralizing it’s power and more fairly distributing it’s resources. And by “it’s”, I really mean “ours”. I propose that we spread city governance across more independently administered public service providers, as well as geographically throughout the city. The main benefit of a dispersed power structure is that it creates an organizational barrier against the more dictatorial/oligarchal minded seekers of power taking control of our city. More precisely, dispersing the power to control city services, land, and resources through more community-led organizations and independently elected boards, will protect the people from non-profits, oligarchs, and hidden interest groups retaking centralized control of our city. In some measure and in particular parts of Minneapolis, some power has already been returned to the people. For example, power that was centralized to a few city departments has been reclaimed by the volunteer medics that have been at work from day 1 of the uprising, the effective community patrols formed to protect communities, numerous neighborhood groups lifting up and sheltering the unhoused human beings that our society has left out in the cold, and the independent media outlets that bring all these stories forward and amplify the voices of the people that tell them. All of these, and others I’m sure each of you can add to the list, are the direct action of concerned and motivated residents. That is the kind of service we respect and honor; the kind of people our municipal government should support and stand with in solidarity.
If I held a seat in the government of Minneapolis, I would be organizing regular meetings/hearings/workshops with people from the groups that stepped up when the government stepped back or froze in place. I would listen to them and find out how to support their work for their community. I would bring the groups together and encourage them to work with each other, not necessarily through the government, but directly. When it is not feasible for groups to directly collaborate or connect, I would urge solidarity. Share and cross-promote events, reports, and messaging. Amplify each others work. Instead of simply trying to tinker with and modify the existing municipal ordinances and rule books, I think government should promote alternatives such as the on-going work of community groups that are moving Minneapolis toward justice and healing. When I say “promote” I do not mean “co-opt”. Imagine a government acting in solidarity with the movement to liberate Black, Native, Latino, Asian, LGBTQI, and other lives oppressed because of the body in which they were born. Reimagine Minneapolis as Ground Zero – all over again. This time for the wave of healing and reparations. Acknowledgement and back-pay for Native people from whom this land was stolen and for Blacks enslaved to build a nation for the benefit of those that held them in bondage with shackles so enduring that their descendants still feel their weight, every day. It may be true that one city, let alone single council member, cannot heal the festered wounds that white supremacy, manifest destiny, and decades of denial have slashed across our society and culture. But we know that the protests spread from Minneapolis Ground Zero to other cities, towns, and around the world – and so may the waves of our atonement and healing.
I do not know how to bridge racial divides, but I know that it requires me and my skin folk to step down from our pedestal and accept all human beings as equal partners, none of whom should be left out or held down. I believe that city government has a role in demonstrating how this is done. The city will also educate residents on why it is important to regrow Minneapolis from a maximally diverse foundation of people, and why reparations for particular communities are an essential part of our work to begin healing as we renew Minneapolis.
Professional politicians identify particular constituencies and calculate how to attract them to support their campaign so that they can win a seat and serve those constituents. Identifying which constituencies a candidate represents is critical because that is the ground on which they will begin to try and build the society; community; city pictured in their mind on a very good day. The MPLS initiative will connect those people and organizations that already nourish the residents, communities, and neighborhoods of our city, and create conditions for more public input, initiative, and action. These will be our constituency; the foundation on which our platform will be built. This is the enriched soil in which our new Minneapolis will be rooted, by which it will be nourished, and from which it will feed, shelter, and protect all residents.
Whether I run for City Council Ward 12 or not, my campaign will be aligned with the newly formulating Minneapolis People for Liberation and Solidarity (MPLS) initiative. Liberation because we intend to free up resources, infrastructure, land, city services, money, and oppressed people. Solidarity because that is how small, narrowly focused, groups align with others and begin to reconnect the dispersed power structure into a network of community-led programs that do the real work of maintaining a city. The city officials should accept that, in many cases, the people-organized and community-led initiatives in the neighborhoods have found a way forward without city government. Instead of trying to reestablish central control, the municipality should stand for those already doing the work. Back up their efforts with cash, municipal infrastructure, and other city resources. I want to create a government that will nurture and support efforts and action undertaken by grass roots or community interest groups, and cultivate an alignment of interests with the movements for racial justice and to hold authority accountable for violent abuse, oppression, and murder.
Impact on Minneapolis Renewal
Every previous version of Minneapolis, truly of any ‘Merican city, has been hamstrung from the outset by the unacknowledged white supremacy that informs every aspect of our collective society. Whether through ignorance or intent, we continue to try and build a stable society on ground made unstable by the undercover legacies of genocide, slavery, and white nationalism. It is time to take off the blinders and shore up our foundation. The race-based divides are cracks and crevices in the bridges connecting our human lives. The first step is to recognize that it is broken, or was designed for another era; another agenda. Then we can assess how many other parts of our city are in the same condition and find out what the people want to do about it. An essential service of government is to assess public opinion and accept input through direct voting, or representative voting by elected boards, commissions, and councils, on many issues and proposed solutions. Each time the city government listens to the residents, every time it takes their collective advice, it is an act of faith and an exercise in trust. I trust the residents of our city and I have faith that they will use their money and their minds to renew Minneapolis. Imagine a Minneapolis where the faith of its residents in the city government is fulfilled and where the public sector stands with the people to make room at the table for those with whom we have allied.
Imagine the city we could build from these ashes. If only we would fully acknowledge all the blood and destruction that made way for every business, small, large, or super-sized, whether it was torched, ransacked, or untouched by the uprising, then we might have a serious discussion about looting, crime, incarceration, forced labor, racism, and the slave trades. If I sat in the Ward 12 City Council seat, I would hold public forums all across the city. Start with a breakdown of the racist history of Minneapolis from the time Europeans stole and settled the land all the way until today. Along the way bring forward the people directly impacted by the heavy hand of centralized power and their collaborators, to remind us that their loved one was a human being with a name and a family that loved them. I would encourage people that have worked for and benefited from these systems to come forward and tell their stories, too. This specifically includes members of law enforcement, the justice system, and prison complex, including contractors and medical staff. Reach out to the good people stuck doing their job for the corrupt, racist, counter-productive systems of oppression. Listen to what the people want to to do about the injustice and racism uncovered and discussed in the public squares. I’m pretty sure an initiative like this could be facilitated by a city council member with the connections to make it a reality, and access a public platform capable of launching it into the mainstream currents.