Leaders in progressive urban politics from around the country are converging in Minneapolis Friday to strategize on affordable housing, immigrant rights, criminal justice reform and other issues.
The two-day conference, called the Local Progress Convening, promotes the development of “blue city” — or Democratic — political agendas, and will include panels of city-level politicians and organizers from Philadelphia, Denver and New York.
The choice to hold the convention in Minneapolis came after seeing an activist push in the city, including a wave of progressives winning office in City Hall last fall, said Helen Gym, a Philadelphia City Council member and vice chair of Local Progress.
The 2017 Minneapolis election brought a new mayor and five new City Council members, many of whom ran on platforms of affordable housing and police reform. The city elected two black transgender council members — Phillipe Cunningham and Andrea Jenkins — both of whom have received national attention as political pioneers.
The wave of first-time elected officials marked a new day for Democrats in Minneapolis, replacing old-guard politicians such as Barb Johnson, who served on the council for two decades.
“We’ve been observing what’s been happening in Minneapolis,” said Asya Pikovsky, spokeswoman for Local Progress. “It’s clear that there’s a lot of progressive energy in Minneapolis, so it really felt like the right place.”
The purpose of the annual convention is to get municipally elected people from different parts of the country in the same room to talk about how to make change in their respective cities. Topics include public education, political messaging and climate change. One session is titled, “What do we do about Amazon?” Others look at income equity, renter protection and government budgeting.
“These are all policies and practices that we see as happening locally but having a huge impact nationally,” said Gym.
About 150 people are expected to participate, said Pikovsky. This will be the seventh convention. Local speakers include U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Cunningham.
Bender said she’s been attending the conference since taking office in 2014, and she sees it as an increasingly important gathering as local governments like Minneapolis begin to lead on national issues, such as protecting immigrants.
“Cities across the country are under pressure to take on issues that used to be handled at the state or federal level,” Bender said. “This is a chance for us who are facing this nationwide to get together to share ideas, to talk about how to govern in this new context.”