The Star Tribune Editorial Board has endorsed outcomes or candidates in more than 30 of the ballot choices Minneapolis and St. Paul voters will face on Tuesday. Here, in summary form, is a recap of those endorsements with brief excerpts from the editorials that explained the board's reasoning. Online readers will also find links to the original editorials, as well as to the websites of individual candidates. The Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process.
City Question 1: Yes
The so-called "strong mayor" question offers Minneapolis voters a chance to rectify a century-old problem in the city charter. A "yes" vote would bring Minneapolis' system of governance more in line with that of comparable cities around the country. It would establish the mayor as the executive in control of day-to-day operations, and reserve to the City Council the power of the purse, the development of policy and the council's traditional role in providing constituent service.
"But, and this is crucial, council members would be prohibited from 'publicly or privately, directly or indirectly' attempting to direct or supervise city employees," we noted in our editorial.
"These are sensible changes that would move the city forward."
City Question 2: No
There is no doubt that Minneapolis needs police reform. The murder of George Floyd by a police officer generated a justifiable groundswell in favor of accountability, transparency and humane behavior among those who are charged with keeping the city safe.
But in the rush to "defund the police," Minneapolis missed a chance to implement comprehensive reform. Question 2 promises to delete the Police Department, of a defined minimum size, from the city charter's list of required public services and replace it with a "Department of Public Safety" that would include police officers "if necessary" — a caveat that has an ominous ring in a city with an already understaffed police force and a crime wave in progress.
We wrote that the city can accomplish much of the necessary reform without amending the city charter, and that the proposal as written "is intended to accomplish two aims: Shrink the police force — hence the fierce battle to include the phrase 'if necessary' regarding the inclusion of officers — and wrest control from the mayor, who would become only one of 14 voices on public safety." In its further dilution of the mayor's authority, the adoption of Question 2 would worsen the problem being addressed in Question 1.
Rent control, Minneapolis and St. Paul: No and no
Proposals to limit the permissible rent increases that landlords could impose are on the ballot both in Minneapolis, as City Question 3, and in St. Paul, as City Question 1. We wrote that "voters should reject both initiatives — in St. Paul because the ballot question tells voters exactly what it would do, and it's worrisome; in Minneapolis because it doesn't, which is worrisome; and in both cities because any short-term benefits are likely to be undermined in the long run by the larger forces of economics."
Rent control, we wrote, "discourages investment, leading to less new rental housing where it's most needed and less upkeep for existing units. It gives landlords an incentive to convert rental units into owner-occupied housing. It's market distortion."
For Minneapolis mayor: Jacob Frey
As a young mayor serving his first term, it fell to Jacob Frey to handle two of the most difficult crises imaginable: a pandemic that virtually emptied downtown of workers and visitors, and the murder of a Black man whose death under the knee of a white police officer became worldwide news. George Floyd's murder galvanized both legitimate protesters and an opportunistic mob of looters and arsonists, and the resulting damage to hundreds of city businesses remains evident 17 months later.
To his credit, Frey did not yield to demands that he join the movement to defund the police. That campaign, which was publicly proclaimed by nine members of the City Council, has given rise to a city charter amendment that voters will be asked to approve in the coming election. Frey opposes the amendment; we see such opposition as a necessary qualification for anyone who seeks to be mayor.
"The future of the state's largest and most valuable city is at risk," we wrote. "Minneapolis will follow one of two paths. It can let itself be guided toward prudent reforms by traditional progressive values, or it can go in reckless pursuit of radical visions detached from reality."
As Minneapolis and the rest of the country proceed on the slow road to recovery from COVID-19, Frey deserves a second term to pursue the vision he has articulated for his city. And the city deserves a mayor who will make a realistic approach to public safety his priority.
For St. Paul mayor: Melvin Carter
The incumbent mayor, Melvin Carter, has vindicated those who supported him when he first ran for office. His first-term accomplishments are notable. He has taken steps to start a college account for every child born in St. Paul and has begun a pilot program to establish a guaranteed income for people in need.
Carter has presided over an impressive increase in new development. New housing has been built and more is on the way. "During the past four years, he has started initiatives to meet his first-term campaign pledge to make St. Paul work for all citizens," we wrote.
Given his solid record on housing, it is distressing that Carter has signaled support for his city's ballot Question 1, which would impose one of the nation's least flexible caps on rent increases. Such a cap is likely to discourage investment and cause other economic mischief.
If he wins a second term, Carter must focus on public safety. St. Paul is reeling from a surge in homicides and gunplay. The mayor needs to improve his working relationship with whoever succeeds Police Chief Todd Axtell, who announced last week that he is stepping down in June.
Minneapolis City Council, First Ward: Kevin Reich
Constituent service and pragmatic politics characterize the record of Kevin Reich, who seeks re-election for a fourth term. Reich grew up in northeast Minneapolis, which he has helped guide along its path from industrial area to arts district and dining/living destination.
Transportation, infrastructure, clean water: Reich's areas of focus demand dedicated public servants with his kind of diligence and expertise. The strongest of his challengers, Elliott Payne, criticizes Reich for his refusal to join the "defund the police" movement, a refusal that we believe works in his favor.
Second Ward: Yusra Arab
Council Member Cam Gordon, whose four terms are a significant achievement for the Green Party, has served his constituents ably. But we fear he has become too enamored with the "weak mayor, strong council" structure that characterizes city government in Minneapolis. Gordon's support for Question 2, which would give the council supervisory authority over an as-yet-undefined Department of Public Safety, does not serve the city's best interests.
We hope voters will support Yusra Arab, a mental health practitioner and former City Council aide. We admire her reasoned analysis of city issues, as well as her perspective as an immigrant and a single mother. She favors City Question 1, which would redraw the lines of authority for the mayor and City Council, and opposes Question 2.
"As an aide to former Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame, she saw firsthand that a council-dominated power structure works poorly," we wrote.
"She rightly faults the council for failing to thoroughly plan for a proposed new Department of Public Safety before asking voters to rewrite the public safety provisions of the city charter."
Third Ward: Michael Rainville
Steve Fletcher, the incumbent City Council member representing the Third Ward, has been insufficiently attentive to the pressing problem of crime in downtown Minneapolis. Fortunately, his constituents have an excellent alternative in the person of Michael Rainville, whose 35 years with the Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association have positioned him well for a run at elected office. He knows the issues that confront downtown.
"Rainville hails from a family with a long history of city service," we wrote, "and is well known in his own right for leadership on projects including saving the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis and creating a memorial for survivors of sexual violence at Boom Island Park." He can serve as the effective voice the Third Ward needs.
Fourth Ward: LaTrisha Vetaw
Although Phillipe Cunningham has made progress in his first term on the City Council, he remains a divisive voice. His positions on the structure of city government and the future of public safety would lead Minneapolis in the wrong direction. Challenger LaTrisha Vetaw is the better choice.
Vetaw's service on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has established her as a credible public servant. She has been an effective director of health policy at NorthPoint Health and Wellness, a community clinic.
"During the past four years, Vetaw has served admirably as a moderate, thoughtful voice on the Park Board," we wrote, "and she would bring a much-needed spirit of collaboration to the City Council."
Fifth Ward: Kristel Porter
First-term incumbent Jeremiah Ellison hasn't lived up to his promise as an agent of progressive change, and his positions on police reform and city government structure put him at odds with what's best for Minneapolis. We favor one of his challengers, Kristel Porter.
A single mother who knows what it's like to experience homelessness, Porter has the background to help others navigate social services. As owner of a duplex, she has the perspective of both homeowner and landlord. She has coached gymnastics at three high schools and soccer for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
"Smart and personable, her priorities include public safety, economic stability, affordable renting and homeownership, and environmental change," we wrote. "And she offers practical ideas to address those issues."
Sixth Ward: Jamal Osman
The incumbent Jamal Osman disagrees with the Editorial Board on all three ballot questions facing Minneapolis voters, but we trust his ability to represent the Sixth Ward. He has said he sees his role on the City Council as that of a mediator between competing factions. That's essential to the city's ability to function.
Osman joined the council only in 2020. Despite that brief service, "he has already proved to be a pragmatic voice for the city's smallest and densest district," we wrote.
Seventh Ward: Lisa Goodman
No one on the City Council has more experience than Lisa Goodman, who has served the Seventh Ward for 24 years. She brings a wealth of institutional memory the council could ill afford to lose. Goodman is known for constituent service and a practical approach to governing, and she has established solid relationships with neighborhood groups, businesses, social service agencies and nonprofits.
"Grounded, well-informed leadership is needed," we wrote, adding that Goodman "has repeatedly been re-elected because she does her homework, engages with residents and is deeply knowledgeable about city operations." She is particularly impressive on issues of public safety, favoring an enlarged and reformed Police Department over the shrunken one envisioned in City Question 2.
Eighth Ward: Andrea Jenkins
George Floyd's murder happened in the Eighth Ward. The incumbent council member, Andrea Jenkins, represented her constituents with empathy and passion in the traumatic days that followed, and she brings a similar passion to other issues that confront the city. Jenkins has earned a leadership position on the council, where she serves as vice president, and is likely to continue in a prominent role.
She disagrees with the Editorial Board on all three ballot questions, including the new Public Safety Department envisioned in Question 2. Yet her views are nuanced and thoughtful, and we note her commitment to a "well-trained, accountable police force as an integral part of a public safety continuum." We wrote: "That pledge, and Jenkins' experience, will be necessary if voters pass Question 2, and even if they don't, since the force is currently so depleted."
Ninth Ward: No endorsement
10th Ward: Alicia Gibson
City Council President Lisa Bender is not running for re-election. Our recommendation for her replacement is Alicia Gibson, a lawyer and former college professor. She has served as president of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association and on several boards.
Gibson's views on the Minneapolis ballot questions align with those of the Editorial Board.
"Through her community work, she has demonstrated an ability to bring people together, navigate systems and develop pragmatic solutions to problems," we wrote.
"She rejects what she calls the 'leadership through division' approach she's seen on the current council."
11th Ward: Emily Koski
The incumbent in this ward, Jeremy Schroeder, has been a knowledgeable and energetic advocate on housing issues. But his ill-considered support for a rent-control ordinance envisioned by City Question 3 undercuts his effectiveness, as does his support for replacing the police with a Public Safety Department as proposed in Question 2. Those shortcomings lead us to recommend his replacement by challenger Emily Koski.
"Koski's skills, temperament, sensible approach to key issues and focus on service make her the clear choice in the 11th Ward," we wrote.
12th Ward: Andrew Johnson
The priorities of incumbent City Council Member Andrew Johnson are emblematic of the office he holds: He prides himself on constituent service and a pragmatic approach to governance. His performance in the job has justified the two terms voters have given him, and merit his election to another.
"He plans to make the council's working relationships a focus of the new term," we wrote.
"This is crucial; the city's reputation has suffered not just because of the events of recent years but also because of the dysfunction of its politics."
Johnson has taken no position on City Question 1, which would adjust the balance of power between the Minneapolis mayor and City Council. Regrettably, he supports the Question 2 proposal to replace the police with a Department of Public Safety. He also supports opening the door to rent control, as envisioned in Question 3, another point on which we disagree.
13th Ward: Linea Palmisano
For years, incumbent Linea Palmisano has been right about the crucial question regarding the Minneapolis police: She wants to get serious about reform. This year, with replacement of the police on the table in City Question 2, she gets something else right: She's against it.
Palmisano was one of three council members (along with Lisa Goodman and Kevin Reich) who refused to join their grandstanding colleagues in calling for police to be defunded in 2020. Instead, she advocated "fundamental changes in our police department, from top to bottom."
"It should be noted that like Goodman and Reich, Palmisano is strongly committed to reforming policing in the city while maintaining an appropriately sized department," we wrote. "… Palmisano also deserves re-election for standing up to her colleagues on this and other issues that would set the city on the wrong course."
Minneapolis Park Board
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has had some tumultuous episodes recently, including the ill-considered choice to allow homeless encampments in some of the parks and the petty decision, later vetoed, to expel members of the Minnesota State Patrol from park facilities. Now the board is about to see some turnover, with four of its nine commissioners choosing not to run for re-election.
We wrote that we backed the three because of their volunteer and other work in the community and because they understand that the role of an elected, policy-setting public official is to work collaboratively to set an agenda and solve problems."
For the six seats that represent geographic districts, we prefer these candidates:
Becka Thompson for District 2. We wrote: "She vows to strive to keep the park board 'in its lane' on policy matters. That focus is needed."
Becky Alper for District 3. We wrote: "She's a promising newcomer who is keen to adapt the parks to a changing climate."
Elizabeth Shaffer for District 4. We wrote: "A former teacher and retail manager, Shaffer says she learned the value of public-private partnerships for parks as the head of the Friends of Thomas Lowry Park."
Steffanie Musich, incumbent, in District 5. We wrote: "In a year that's sure to bring substantial turnover, the stability and institutional memory she can bring to a third term will be assets to the board."
Cathy Abene in District 6. We wrote: "Abene … is exceptionally qualified to shoulder the board's resource management responsibilities."
Billy Menz, the sole candidate for District 1, did not seek our endorsement.
St. Paul school board:
Four seats are open on the board that oversees the St. Paul Public Schools, which face declining enrollment and the continuing effects of the pandemic. The Editorial Board prefers two incumbents and two newcomers.
Board Chair Jeanelle "Jeannie" Foster is running in a special election for a two-year term. We wrote: "She has been a steady, thoughtful presence on the board."
The other incumbent is Jim Vue, who replaced former Chair Marny Xiong after she died of COVID-19 in 2020. We wrote: "The Hmong parent of four SPPS students, cultural educator and military veteran does his homework and is well prepared on district issues."
James Farnsworth would be a newcomer to the board but is hardly new to public service or education. He is a University of Minnesota regent and director of the Highland Business Association whose experience, we wrote, "would be an asset to the board."
Halla Henderson, policy director for an organization that helps students advocate on their own behalf, was born in Minneapolis but points to her experience as a first-generation Eritrean and Arab American. We wrote: "She would bring an important perspective to a district with a substantial population of immigrant families."