New Mpls. City Council: Energetic political neophytes bring their own passions

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2013 - 11:50 AM

A passionate, diverse group of seven new members will be sworn in on Jan. 6, joining new Mayor Betsy Hodges in a big political makeover.

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From left, Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson, Linea Palmisano, Blong Yang, Jacob Frey and Lisa Bender with her 2-month-old baby, Isabel.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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The new generation of the Minneapolis City Council is a diverse bunch of political neophytes who embrace more racial equity, denser housing and improved transportation options.

But the seven new council members also bring different backgrounds and passions to the job, making it hard to predict just how city politics will change this January.

In interviews with the Star Tribune, their ideas ran the gamut from reforming police accountability to providing more public data online.

The new class won’t be sworn in until Jan. 6, but City Hall is already in a state of transition. Moving boxes litter the halls of council offices, while new members sit in a nearby office learning about everything from the location of bathrooms to the state’s open-meetings law.

Everyone wants a piece of their ear.

“I never knew my voice mail could get full,” said Linea Palmisano, who will soon succeed Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges in representing southwest Minneapolis.

One of their first votes, to select a new council president, will be a tough one. The president often acts as the public voice of the body and holds sway over committee leadership.

Several new members and incumbent Cam Gordon had rallied behind Elizabeth Glidden, but it appears they may not be able to secure enough votes to defeat the current president, Barb Johnson. Johnson said last week she has secured a majority of the council’s support.

Nonetheless, more than 100 activists intend to pack the council chambers on Jan. 6 to call for “a change in leadership from a City Council that has prioritized the needs of billionaires and corporations over the needs of low-income communities of color,” according to an online invitation.

The rally was originally sponsored by supporters of Glidden’s bid, though the group later changed the sponsor to Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.

Other issues on the council’s plate next year include local approval of the Southwest Corridor light-rail line; the redevelopment of the Kmart site at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue S.; a rebidding of the city’s more than $143 million information technology contract with Unisys; and finding funding for a $200 million streetcar line.

A key difference from the current council may be that more policy debates will occur in public view, rather than behind closed doors.

“Are we going to see much more disagreement? Are we going to see much more of ­— I guess ­— the drama?” asked Blong Yang, who will represent the North Side. “Those things aren’t necessarily bad things. If folks are fighting for what they believe in [and] folks are doing what they need to do, that’s OK.”

 

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732

Twitter: @StribRoper















 

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