In the most competitive 7th Ward race in years, three candidates are calling for a change to Council Member Lisa Goodman’s long-held seat, while Goodman is emphasizing her experience and reputation for effectiveness. Challengers have made council member outreach a central issue in the campaign: Janne Flisrand wants to see more inclusion of renters and other groups, and Teqen Zéa-Aida wants to use his identity and diverse connections to unite all corners of the ward.
Republican Joe Kovacs is campaigning to reverse the City Council decision to raise the minimum wage. Flisrand, by contrast, supported a wage raise without an exemption for tipped workers, and has highlighted Goodman’s skepticism while the issue was under study. While Goodman voted to approve the wage hike, she said the debate “could have used a lot more compromise and nuance,” and cautioned that the city may need to adjust if wages hurt small business.
The DFL couldn’t reach an endorsement in this race, which covers the neighborhoods surrounding Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles as well as Downtown West and Loring Park.
Goodman cites accomplishments throughout her 20-year council tenure that include founding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, authoring changes to allow food trucks, creating a partnership that built Gold Medal Park and expanding housing downtown.
Flisrand helped found the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (now Our Streets MPLS) and worked as a consultant to ensure that Minnesota’s affordable housing is green and healthy for residents. She also writes for streets.mn about topics like transit and the Hennepin Avenue streetscape.
Zéa-Aida founded the modeling agency Vision, where he worked to see diversity and inclusion in advertising. He later founded the City Wide Artists gallery, which is currently exhibiting emerging photographers of color at 15th & Nicollet.
Kovacs has a background in educational software training and worked as resident manager at the Ronald McDonald House of the Red River Valley.
One flash point in the race came at a candidate forum, when Goodman handed Zéa-Aida her chewed gum. She said it was an attempt at humor and not meant to be disrespectful; Zéa-Aida responded by calling her a “master of nasty politics.”
Regarding bikeways, Goodman, Kovacs and Zéa-Aida have called for a balance among stakeholders, while Flisrand calls for prioritizing the most vulnerable road users first.
All of the candidates have said they want to further reform the police department. All candidates also support more affordable housing: Goodman by offering landlord incentives to keep rents low; Kovacs by divesting assets rather than raising taxes; Flisrand through a policy proposal to preserve existing affordable housing; and Zéa-Aida through rent control and rent stabilization.
Neighborhood: Lowry Hill
Current job: Currently campaigning full time. Owner of Flisrand Consulting since 2001, where she convenes “diverse stakeholders to solve complex shared problems” with a focus on housing and the environment.
Endorsements: OutFront Minnesota, Take Action, DFL Environmental Caucus, Minnesota Young DFL (MYDFL), Our Revolution Twin Cities, Ward 10 Council Member Lisa Bender
Experience: co-founder of Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (now Our Streets MPLS); owner/occupant of rental property; Minneapolis Energy Vision Advisory Committee member; leader of Minnesota Green Communities; blogger for American Public Media’s “Marketplace”; streets.mn writer and board member; Lowry Hill neighborhood volunteer; Hawthorne neighborhood staffer
Fundraising total: $64,253.35 (January 1, 2016 through July 25, 2017)
Top priorities: Housing for all: Encourage construction of more housing, push for more investment in affordable housing projects, explore new financing options that lock in affordable rents.
Streets for people: Push for better walking and biking routes in every part of the city, fix zoning rules so new buildings add interest and activity to streets.
Racial justice and equity: Address the root causes of racial disparities, work toward a city where police are trusted in every community, encourage affordable housing, push for better police accountability and police who live in Minneapolis.
Candidate statement on why she is best for the job: “I think it’s clear that we could use more respect in City Hall. I am trained as an applied urban anthropologist, and have a deep appreciation for the value of people’s every-day experiences when solving problems. I know the value of showing up, as I have proven throughout this campaign. Our city can only live up to its potential if we have leaders who understand that no one person has all the answers, everyone’s viewpoint is valid, and our city has to work for everyone, not just those with wealth and power.”
Current job: 7th Ward council member
Key endorsements: Senator Al Franken, Governor Mark Dayton, WomenWinning, Firefighters Local 82, Stonewall DFL, AFSCME Council 5, Minnesota Nurses Association, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Teamsters Joint Council 32, Building Trades
Experience: Paul Wellstone campaign staffer; executive director, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota; five-term council member
Fundraising total: $159,830.41 (January 1, 2014 through July 25, 2017)
Top priorities: Affordable housing policy and development, as housing is the first step in addressing equity problems that face the region.
Economic development and jobs, sustainability, parks and infrastructure.
Candidate statement on why she is best for the job: “With the uncertainty of continued funding from the federal and state level, this is a time when experience matters and I am able to bridge the gap between budgetary constraints and progressive goals. I have a long track record of progressive accomplishments, and have incredible institutional memory and a commitment to the city as a force for change. Government at this very local level is also about serving constituents, solving their problems and finding solutions to pressing needs such as job creation and homelessness, and I have a reputation for answering the phone and getting things done.”
Neighborhood: Downtown West
Current job: Campaigning full-time
Key endorsements: MNGOP, Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Experience: Training specialist for educational software company; vice president of volunteer-based college organization; tutor for low-income students
Fundraising total: $817.21 through July 25
Top priorities: Undo business regulations including the $15 minimum wage.
Work with nonprofits to develop affordable housing.
Work with technical schools and community colleges to provide education for all income levels.
Revitalize the skyways.
Candidate statement on why he is best for the job: “He wants to help make Minneapolis the influential and thriving city he knows it can be by cutting back on business regulations, throwing more support behind the police department, and by reigning in frivolous spending.”
Neighborhood: Loring Park
Current job: Founding director of the contemporary art gallery City Wide Artists; semi-retired founding owner of Vision Management Group, Inc.
Experience: 20-plus years at the helm of small business Vision Management Group, a modeling agency
Fundraising total: No fundraising reported before July 25
Top priorities: Diversity, equity and inclusion — a vibrant city that is safe and livable.
Ensure access to good paying jobs, healthy affordable food options, education, green energy, transportation, affordable housing and homeownership for the underserved.
Stop gentrification as it is currently playing out in the city, advocate for rent control and rent stabilization.
Candidate statement on why he is best for the job: “To be frank, many of the hot button issues facing Minneapolis ultimately affect people who may not talk like me or dress like me — but who look like me. As a LGBTQ person of color and Latino immigrant (by way of adoption) I can speak directly to these concerns and act on them with authenticity and empathy. I am uniquely qualified due to my business/arts background and personal identity to take these issues head on. Where others simply provide tag lines and catch phrases about inequality and economic disparity facing communities of color, the indigenous, the disabled, immigrants and our elderly — I am the candidate that has a vested interest in actually solving these issues.”