The Minneapolis mayoral election of 2013 might be remembered as the day a part-time pirate, or a man who worships Laura Ingalls Wilder as God, shocked the world.
More likely, it will be seen as a watershed that leads to some semblance of common sense to contain a runaway system in which every conceivable ideology is represented on the ballot.
After all, among the 35 candidates are: a man who emerged from the water like some Creature from the Black Lagoon in his Speedo to warn the populace, a guy who said he’s using money gained from suing this newspaper to fund his run, a man who wears a marching band outfit to rallies and a candidate who wants part of the state to secede from the union.
Perhaps the only surprise in this contest is that the zombie contingent has offered no serious contender. There’s always next time.
Unless the filing fee is raised and/or candidates are forced to collect a significant number of signatures to be included in the mayoral race, expect future elections to become even more quixotic.
That’s not to say the media-dubbed “fringe” candidates don’t have something important to say, however.
Take Jaymie Kelly, for example, who has gotten little coverage but remains a living reminder that the great real estate recovery has not reached everyone.
While home sales and property values have climbed in the past couple of years, Kelly has fought eviction by lender Freddie Mac. Kelly won a temporary victory last Friday when members of OccupyHomesMn helped her stop an eviction by filling her home in Powderhorn with volunteers ready to chain themselves to concrete to stop her removal.
She has a reprieve this week, but the bank is threatening to come back for the house. Activists spend nights in the house, ready to respond, in case that happens.
I have interviewed many people in foreclosure, as well as organizations trying to help them settle with banks, and as is often the case the math on Kelly’s situation is cloudy.
There is plenty of evidence over the years, however, of banks being everything from foolish to exploitive in loans and refinancing done many years ago. There is also ample evidence that many homeowners took cheap loans they shouldn’t have, and put themselves into a financial bind.
Most stories fall somewhere in between.
I’d need an accountant to do the math, but Kelly contends she has paid for her house four times over after being talked into a second mortgage when her husband died, by a financial planner who stood to gain in her investments.
“Part of it was my own ignorance, I admit that,” said Kelly, who has lived all of her 63 years on the same block. “I know I should have had a lawyer.”
“Remember back when they were calling you every night to refinance [before the crash]? It’s a huge embarrassment issue. You don’t want people to know how dumb you are,” Kelly said. “You feel pretty worthless.”
It’s a typical story, said Nick Espinosa of OccupyHomesMn, which has successfully convinced banks to renegotiate with owners in foreclosure, saving several homes.
“It’s been a long campaign,” said Espinosa. “People in the neighborhood [south Minneapolis] have been very supportive.”
Kelly admits she filed for mayor, borrowing the $20 filing fee from candidate Capt. Jack Sparrow, to highlight an issue.
Recovery ‘tenuous at best’
According the Ed Nelson of the Minnesota Homeownership Center, Minnesota had “twin peaks” of foreclosures in 2008 and 2010, when there were 25,000 foreclosures each year. This year, assuming we avoid another financial crisis, we’re on track to see around 12,000 foreclosures by year end.
“That said, the modest economic recovery we’re experiencing is tenuous at best and the numbers could quickly turn around again,” said Nelson. “Thousands of Minnesota families continue to struggle with payments and thousands more could easily fall behind if the recovery falters.”
I asked Kelly if she thought she should be mayor.
“Heck no,” she said. “I’m the 35th choice for myself.”
When I told Kelly I didn’t think a bogus mayoral campaign was necessarily the best way to discuss an issue, and that requirements for mayor should be strengthened to shrink the pool of candidates, she agreed.
“This was a single opportunity in an election year to bring more awareness to this issue, because it’s wrong,” Kelly said.
Interestingly, both candidates Betsy Hodges and Mark Andrew have voiced support for Kelly’s case. Yet, an occupied-affiliated candidate in the Ninth Ward is running against the DFL endorsed candidate there.
Espinosa hopes a new mayor and a rapidly changing City Council could raise the foreclosure issue to new heights, perhaps even pushing the city to consider eminent domain actions to stop foreclosures, as has been discussed in other cities.
That would be fine with Kelly.
“This is my neighborhood and community, not the bank’s,” she said. “I belong here.”