Minneapolis is in the spotlight during this election cycle for the Hennepin County Board.
Officials on the seven-member board serve staggered terms, and 2018 is the year the seats in district 2, 3 and 4 — each representing a portion of Minneapolis — appear together on the ballot. It’s also a year when several candidates are vying for an historic first for the board: the election of a person of color.
Top issues in the three races include efforts to eliminate disparities, the county’s significant commitment to expanding the regional transit network and its role in counteracting a housing crisis.
Current job: Talent lead for church solutions group, Thrivent Financial
Money raised/spent: $72,928 (added to $11,921 cash balance)/$61,767 in 2018 (as of Aug. 7)
The daughter of Filipino immigrants, Irene Fernando said she was motivated to run for office at least in part by the chance to be the first person of color to ever serve on the Hennepin County Board.
Priorities for Fernando include increasing the transparency and accessibility of county government. She would also foreground the issue of stable housing for all individuals and families who access county services, which she said promote better outcomes for those seeking county assistance.
Fernando said she would also make the county’s child welfare system a priority. She said she would be an advocate for a district that sees high rates of both evictions, which destabilize families, and foster care placements.
Fernando said she and her opponent have a “fundamental” difference in their approach to leadership, and that she is “willing to imagine drawing new lines” about what a county board can and cannot do.
Current job: Attorney, former City Council member
Money raised/spent: $20,698/$11,760 in 2018 (as of Aug. 7)
A former City Council member for North Minneapolis, Blong Yang said his experience in office prepared him to help manage the county’s $2.4 billion annual budget while efficiently delivering services to county residents.
Yang said the board needs a budget watchdog as it carries out an expensive overhaul of its child protection system while also funding major regional transportation projects, including the Southwest and Bottineau light-rail extensions. He said the board also needs to prepare for demographic shifts as the number of county residents who are seniors or people of color grow.
Yang said he has a more “realistic” understand of the county’s role compared to his opponent and will focus on the objectives the county can accomplish. He said he would also reject an “us-versus-them” approach to policymaking and emphasize solutions that work for all county residents.
Marion Greene (incumbent)
Neighborhood: East Calhoun
Current job: County commissioner
Money raised/spent: $6,140 (added to $51,293 cash balance)/$20,651 in 2018 (as of Aug. 7)
A former state representative who won a 2014 special election to the county board, Marion Greene said the top priority for her next term, if re-elected, would be to reform the cash-bail system. She said that priority aligns with her larger goal: ending the school-to-prison pipeline that particularly harms men of color and their families.
Greene would explore transitioning at least a portion of the county fleet from gas and diesel to electric to help the county achieve its greenhouse gas emission goals. (Exceptions would have to be made for emergency response and public works vehicles, she added.)
Greene said Hennepin Healthcare must continue to innovate, adding that she is interested in positioning the county-run HMO as a public option for Hennepin residents.
Greene noted her accomplishments in office include leading the push to create a legal defense fund for immigrants fighting deportation and adding legal resources to investigate and prosecute youth sex-trafficking crimes.
Current job: Diversity and community engagement manager, Seward Community Co-op
Money raised/spent: No report filed in 2018
A longtime activist and organizer making her first run for public office, LaDonna Redmond paused all campaign activity in September after the death of her 20-year-old son, Wade Redmond. She did not respond to the request for a Voters Guide interview.
Speaking this summer, Redmond said her priorities if elected included equitable access to transit. She said the county should pause and reconsider its growing stake in funding the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, especially considering the cuts to regular bus service Metro Transit made over the summer.
Redmond said she would make recognizing and responding to police brutality a county priority, recommending that the county shift some of its public safety budget into public health initiatives to address mental health and substance abuse issues.
Redmond said she also planned to convene a civilian board to consult with the county on promoting equity and reducing racial disparities.
Current job: Operations coordinator for the Minnesota Family Investment Program, Hennepin County
Money raised/spent: $28,222 (added to $1,700 cash balance)/$24,768 in 2018 (as of Aug. 7)
Angela Conley said she would bring an insider’s perspective to the role of county commissioner. Not only does she work for the county — monitoring outcomes for benefit recipients — she herself relied on food, emergency housing and childcare assistance from the county as a young woman.
Conley said homelessness and housing would be a “primary focus” for her if elected. She said the county should be doing more now to counteract a crisis that, while not new, has been made more visible by a growing homeless encampment near Franklin & Hiawatha.
Conley would seek to enhance the county’s presence on the University of Minnesota campus to engage with students who need food support and assistance dealing with predatory landlords.
Conley has made reforming the county’s cash-bail system a priority. She said she would convene a racial equity advisory council to guide the board in targeting disparities.
Peter McLaughlin (incumbent)
Current job: County commissioner
Money raised/spent: $101,405 (added to $23,496 cash balance)/$78,372 in 2018 (as of Aug. 7)
Peter McLaughlin said he has a record of delivering on housing and jobs, which he described as two key levers for reducing disparities across the county. Eliminating those disparities entirely, he said, “is the no.1 issue going forward.”
McLaughlin noted he has sought an additional $2 million for the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority in the 2019 budget. He said critics of the county’s efforts to address a growing Minneapolis homeless encampment ignore the staff time committed to the issue on a daily basis, adding that the county should be focused on a long-term, sustainable solution, not a temporary, short-term fix.
He said equitable access to a “modern transit system” is another key piece to reducing disparities and noted his leadership role in advancing the county’s transit priorities.
Noting that the board this year initiated a plan to convert a former workhouse into a mental health facility, McLaughlin said he would push for more resources to relieve a “jammed-up” county mental health system.