When you listen to candidates for city council, you’re guaranteed to hear a few familiar refrains: I’m personally invested in this area. I’ll listen to people in the neighborhood. I’ll balance the interests of residents and businesses.
Predictably, there were plenty of those sound bites at last week’s Minneapolis Ward 10 city council forum. But there were also a few telltale moments that illustrated why Lisa Bender is the best candidate for our ward, and why – as a young professional, a recent grad, and a renter – I’m most excited by her vision for the future of our city.
One of those moments came in response to a question about past examples of serving the community. Lisa shared a story about founding the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition when she moved back to Minneapolis from San Francisco. She began, “We didn’t have a bicycle advocacy organization. I saw a gap, so I organized people.”
Why was this significant to me? Because her anecdote demonstrated that Lisa has the essential traits that make for an effective leader. First, she identified an issue that has a large impact on our quality of life. As someone who relies on biking for transportation, I can personally attest to that. Second, her approach to addressing the issue was centered on people, rather than policymakers. Everyone supports biking in theory, but the instinct to organize people to help them effectively advocate for their own interests is the type of bottom-up mindset I want my city council representative to have when thinking about the future of our ward.
I don’t get that sensibility from her opponent, Meg Tuthill. For instance, when asked about safety, Tuthill mentioned increasing bike cop patrols and landscape design that eliminates “places for people to hide.” I too believe there are benefits to getting officers out of cars and onto bikes, and everyone supports smart urban design. But there was a clear contrast between the candidates’ answers to that question.
Lisa’s response illustrated that her instinct is to start by looking to the community. She spoke of the changing demographics of our city, and the need to increase diversity in the police force to reflect that. She spoke of increasing civilian oversight of the police – which Tuthill opposes – to not only increase police accountability to residents, but also foster community trust in officers. Listening to their answers, I felt there was no question that Lisa would do a better job of representing my interests.
I want to be represented by someone who can organize residents to advocate for their beliefs, and also engage constructively with people who don’t share those beliefs. I want to be represented by someone who has a progressive and people-centered vision for our ward and our city. I want to be represented by Lisa Bender, and I hope you join me in voting for her.