For the first time since 2005, residents of Ward 13 in Southwest will vote in an open race for City Council. With incumbent Betsy Hodges running for mayor, two candidates are seeking the DFL endorsement at the May 11 convention: Linea Palmisano and Matt Perry.
Ward 13 includes the neighborhoods of Armatage, Kenny, Lynnhurst, Linden Hills, Fulton, West Calhoun and the southern half of East Harriet.
City elections no longer have a primary. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 5.
For a video of the recent Ward 13 candidate forum sponsored by the Journal and the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis, visit tinyurl.com/c9fss5e.
Whether she is pushing the city for more bike lanes, helping young immigrants get into college or dealing with developers, Linea Palmisano prides herself on her ability to listen and collaborate.
Palmisano, 36, is a Chicago native who moved here 14 years ago when her employer, IBM, transferred her to Minneapolis.
Since then she’s become active in the community, chairing the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, coaching long distance runners at Southwest High School, starting the Southwest Pedal Power bicycle advocacy group and joining the Linden Hills Farmers Market Board.
In 2007, Palmisano started a program called NAVIGATE. At first NAVIGATE was really just Palmisano helping undocumented high school kids fill out paperwork to take their ACTs and apply for college. She was even paying for tuition for some of the young immigrants, she said.
NAVIGATE has blossomed into a program that has counselors helping kids in Minneapolis high schools get into college through support from local foundations.
Palmisano is clearly proud of NAVIGATE alums, who have gone onto successful careers. But she also says the student taught her a lesson.
Palmisano had been putting off finishing her MBA for four years, despite having just one more class to finish.
She left her MBA program at Carlson School of Management early because she says she was sexually harassed by a professor. She was too embarrassed to finish the degree, she said.
“Eventually, I was like, jeez, I can help these kids overcome all of these barriers and all of these multiple levels of discrimination and all these financial barriers to get themselves into college. I thought, OK, it’s time to set the example myself and be big enough to walk into that building and finish this,” she said.
Palmisano has balanced community work with her job at United Health Group while her and her partner, Matthew Hitchin, have raised their 2-year-old son, Charlie.
One of Palmisano’s supporters, Joel Bergstrom, said a controversial development proposal in 2008 revealed to him that Palmisano would make a great City Council member.
In 2008, CVS Pharmacy wanted to develop what is now the Linden Hills Co-op site. It was a very contentious issue in the community. Palmisano, who was then chair of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, urged the developers to first meet with the neighborhood before submitting plans.
After meeting with the developers, CVS made several modifications to its plan, adding a door facing the neighborhood, more windows and a sidewalk.
The Planning Commission approved the plan with 16 conditions, like a bricked-in garbage dumpster and bicycle parking. City Council Member Betsy Hodges, at the time, praised the neighborhood group for its work, according to old issues of the Southwest Journal.
The property owner eventually had a change of heart and the Linden Hills Co-op moved in.
“She helped guide a really even handed public discussion about what we should do with that space,” said Bergstrom, a Linden Hills resident and active DFLer. “She showed her chops as a leader and a listener.”
Palmisano has been working with Linden Hills as the neighborhood develops a small area plan to guide future development. Building projects are often contentious in many of the Ward 13 neighborhoods, and Palmisano says having a defined plan will help guide development that keeps neighbors happy.
“I want to work closer with the people of this ward,” Palmisano said. “I think my volunteer experience has shown that I have the ability to bring lots of people together through difficult discussions and come to decisions that make sense.”
Palmisano did not oppose the Linden Corner development proposal last year.
Raising a zero waste baby, Palmisano uses cloth diapers and makes her own baby wipes and food. She’d like to see the curbside composing of Linden Hills spread across the city.
Palmisano says property taxes in Southwest are unsustainable, and she wants to get a better mix of housing in the Ward so that people in all stages of their life can live there.
“My priorities for property taxes for Ward 13 is to keep them stable, meaning no increase, or, if needed, a small increase,” she said.
At a glance: Linea Palmisano
Neighborhood: Linden Hills
Profession: Product development manager for United Health Group
Community involvement: Linden Hills Farmers Market board member, former chair of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council; former track and field coach at Southwest High School. She’s also a bicycling advocate, leading a group called Southwest Pedal Power that has successfully lobbied for bike lanes on Upton Avenue and 44th Street.
Family: Husband Matthew Hitchin and son Charlie.
Endorsements: Former City Council Member Lisa McDonald; Minneapolis Firefighters Local 82; Women Winning; Minnesota Young DFL; DFL African American Caucus; Minnesota Asian-Indian Democratic Association