Ward 11 City Council Candidate Q&A

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 Erica Mauter, left, and Jeremy Schroeder, right, are challenging Council Member John Quincy.

Instructions to candidates:

NOC is a black led community based organization with a powerful and growing multicultural base. We value the leadership, courage and sacrifice of our elected officials. We’re honored to present our 2017 questionnaire for the Minneapolis City Council.

Please answer with 150 words or less for each question. The answers to this questionnaire will be made available on our website.

Editor's note: John Quincy declined to return our survey prior to the April 29 Ward 11 convention.

Minimum Wage

Minneapolis is well known for having some of the worst racial disparities in the country. One path towards addressing that gap is to raise wages. Do you support raising the minimum wage in Minneapolis to $15 dollars per hour as a way to bridge the racial and economic divide? Should any workers be exempted from a wage increase?

Erica Mauter: I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, with no exceptions. Minneapolis must be accessible and affordable for all its residents, and one way to help make it more affordable is to pay people a decent wage for their work. Not only does this make housing and other necessities more affordable, it puts more money back into the local economy, as low-wage workers are highly likely to spend this incremental income.

Jeremy Schroeder: Our city must ensure that everyone’s basic human needs are met. We can, and should, do this in a responsible way that benefits all who live and work in Minneapolis.  We must ensure a minimum wage that allows the city’s workers to not only get by, but to be dynamic participants in our vibrant local economy.  Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour will help workers address rising costs in many aspects of their lives. The one exception to raising the minimum wage should be for youth employees, in order to allow these first-time workers to build needed skills while they grow into the responsibilities other workers shoulder.  As part of the minimum wage discussion, city leaders must continue to acknowledge and factor in the burden of rising costs elsewhere, including for necessary expenses like housing, healthcare, childcare, education, and transportation. 

Tip Penalty

The Minnesota Restaurant Association is pushing for a tip penalty, which would set a lower minimum wage for tipped workers and require them to count their tips toward their base wage. Studies have shown that tip penalties hit women hardest and lead to higher rates of poverty and sexual harassment in the workplace. Passing a tip penalty in Minneapolis would also open the door to a subminimum wage for tipped workers statewide. Will you make sure that a $15 minimum wage increase includes tipped workers without a tip penalty?

Mauter: Yes, I oppose the tip penalty. MInnesota is one of the few states that doesn’t have a tip penalty and we shouldn’t introduce one now.

Schroeder: Yes.   

Secure Scheduling

In 2015, Minneapolis considered a policy to address the unstable work hours experienced by many hourly workers. Low wage workers in particular are often given little or no advance notice of their work schedule; others are required to work erratic weekly hours. Do you support the creation of a policy to help stabilize the work schedules of low wage workers in Minneapolis? What would your fair hours policy look like?

Mauter: I do support a fair scheduling ordinance in Minneapolis. Such an ordinance should require at least two weeks’ notice of scheduling, prevent penalties to workers for declining last-minute changes, provide modest compensation to workers for voluntarily accepting last-minute changes, includes reporting pay for employees who show up to work for a scheduled shift and then are sent home early, allows employees to set reasonable limits on their availability to work, guarantees at least one day off per week, requires adequate rest time between shifts, and promotes equal pay for equal work. This is my starting point for a fair hours policy, and it’s informed by workers who have been organizing for such a policy.

Schroeder: I support the creation of a policy to help stabilize work schedules.  Everyone, but especially working families, deserves to know, for certain and ahead of time, when they are expected to be at their jobs. This enables them to be able to plan for their other important aspects of their lives.  I envision a process for establishing a fair scheduling policy anchored by a thorough analysis of the approaches of other cities with similar policies. I would also communicate directly with businesses and workers about what their needs are, to help ensure easy and efficient implementation.

Banking

Banks like Wells Fargo and US Bank, which have a major presence in the city of Minneapolis and downtown lobby groups, have a well documented history of redlining communities of color. Baltimore, Memphis and Los Angeles have sued Wells Fargo, and won hundreds of millions in damages, in response to their racist foreclosure policies. How can and should the city of Minneapolis hold big banks accountable for their lending practices? What city regulations can be created to produce a more equitable lending environment and prevent the theft of generational wealth in communities of color?

Mauter: Access to credit is the first step in establishing good credit. The city could support the formation or continued health of community banks and credit unions that are responsive to the communities they serve. Perhaps the city could be a partner to such an institution for the purposes of serving people who are currently underbanked or need support to qualify for loans (business loans, mortgages, car loans, student loans, etc.). Should the city eventually form a municipal bank as an outcome of divestment from Wells Fargo, that could be a strong platform for pursuing these policies, with the city as the lender. However, I don’t have enough information on the full scope and structure of a municipal bank to suggest that as the right path forward. The city could join or pursue legal action against lenders with a history of discrimination. The city should also make public the data it collects about lending practices via the Responsible Banking ordinance.

Schroeder: Minneapolis must recognize and leverage its financial power to ensure any big bank partners employ equitable, responsible business practices in the city. Other cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, have crafted ordinances to encourage banks to boost lending to city residents, with a focus on low-income communities. Minneapolis could also target rules like this, which require any bank under consideration for a city contract to submit plans and set goals for how they will specifically benefit low- and moderate-income neighborhoods through their home and small business loan programs. Along with this, we could encourage banks to periodically report their progress to the city, which could be used to inform the selection of financial partners. Our financial choices must reflect our values wherever possible.

Access to Democracy

Minnesota has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation. Yet voter participation in neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color is among the lowest in Minneapolis. How would you leverage your position on the city council to ensure that more people are given voting access in Minneapolis? What are some specific voter engagement strategies can you initiate as a city councilperson?

Mauter: One thing I’ve spoken consistently about in my campaign is the role of a council member in connecting residents to the city, and my commitment to making these connections and to facilitating education for residents. Canvassing efforts on a variety of topics can and should take place in both election and non-election years, and I commit to working as a candidate, as a council member, and in partnership with community organizations to engage people more broadly. Longer-term relationship-building is a foundation to engaging people specifically to vote. And while I’m committed to doing this in my own Ward, the just thing to do is to prioritize investment now in communities that have historically been denied this investment, so I will show up where it’s needed most. I would also support efforts at the state legislature to restore voting rights for people who have served their time.

Schroeder: As the former executive director for Common Cause Minnesota, I look forward to continuing the efforts I started there to make our democracy more inclusive.  Specifically, I worked to Restore the Vote for 40,000 Minnesotans with a felony conviction. I would continue my push to get the influence of big money interests out of local politics by advocating for municipal public financing. Finally, I would work to make voting more accessible by implementing some form of automatic voter registration in Minneapolis. For years, I collaborated with the Secretary of State’s office to implement voter-friendly reforms, and as a City Council member, I would use this relationship to make our democracy more open, inclusive, and functional.

Education

Nationally, the cost of childcare is exceeding college tuition, and we are seeing the impacts on the local level. The ability to access high quality, affordable childcare is increasingly slim. The MN Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP, has a waitlist of 7,000 kids, and new corporate-run centers are charging twice as much as independent centers. Do you support using City resources to fund childcare services for low income residents?

Mauter: The city has a vested interest in the health and well-being of all its residents. Access to quality, affordable child care provides a healthy developmental environment for children and supports working parents. I can’t help but imagine if we hadn’t committed half a billion dollars over the next few decades to a new stadium for the Vikings, we might use that money for a purpose like this. I do support consideration of providing supplemental funds to existing county, state, and federal resources, and I would need to take a closer look at the city budget to propose how we might fund it.

Schroeder: As the parent of two young boys in childcare, this affects my family directly.  Raising the minimum wage is just one part of the holistic strategy needed to ensure Minneapolis is livable for everyone, with opportunities for everyone.  We must also directly address the rising costs of childcare.  Investing city dollars in this is a clear way that the city can help increase access to important childcare resources.

Transportation and Development

Public transportation in Minneapolis is unaffordable for many low income residents. Poor and working families pay a disproportionate percentage of their monthly income for public transportation. Meanwhile, billion dollar light rail lines are being developed and low-income residents are at risk of displacement and gentrification. How would you ensure that any new light rail development will ensure sustainable housing and job creation for local residents? Would you support subsidized or free fare options for low income riders on bus and light rail?

Mauter: First and foremost, we should ask the people affected by the construction how they would like to be supported through it and how they envision their neighborhoods when the construction is complete. New housing developed as a response to LRT expansion could be required to include a higher percentage of affordable housing units. We could prioritize projects submitted by community organizations or local businesses who make commitments to hire workers from the neighborhood. We should support locally-owned and minority-owned businesses now so that they’re in a position to take on construction contracts when the time comes. We should have a robust plan to support existing businesses and residents along the line during the construction period so that no one is displaced. I would support subsidized or free fare options for low-income transit riders, perhaps through an expansion of the TAP program.

Schroeder: Transportation planning decisions must always consider the needs of low-income residents, particularly those who depend on our transit system to get where they need to go. I support subsidized fares for low-income riders, in addition to more comprehensive evaluation of transit-oriented development. My work to advance affordable housing policy statewide gives me the expertise to identify problem areas as well as opportunities in this realm. A proven strategy, for example, is to ensure affordable housing projects rise within a block of transit stations and stops -- this way, we can build mixed-income communities while also explicitly ensuring that low-income households benefit from our transit network.

Housing

Minneapolis is quickly becoming unaffordable for working people. In the last few years there have been rapid rent increases and the provision of affordable housing does not meet the need. How do you plan to make sure Minneapolis retains and grows affordable housing as the region is changing?

Mauter: To retain existing affordable housing that is safe and healthy, we need strong inspection enforcement for rental housing, and policies that strengthen renters’ rights, such as a Just Cause Eviction ordinance and a Right of First Refusal ordinance. We should make it easier to build and create cooperative housing arrangements, and invest in a community land trust to make home ownership affordable and to retain that affordability in the long term. We also need to radically expand the amount of housing we have. This means changing zoning in some neighborhoods to allow for many more small- and medium-sized apartment buildings. I’m committed to this work in particular because I think we need to reckon with the history of racial covenants in Minneapolis that were particularly prevalent in Ward 11, that have been enshrined with zoning for single family housing.

Schroeder: In order for our city to chart a future of growth without leaving low-income residents behind, we need to take decisive action now to support affordable housing. There is a notable opportunity today to enact equitable, wide-reaching housing policy because policymakers are recognizing the importance of affordable housing. This spotlight on affordable housing must translate into greater financial resources for preserving and building affordable units, including through a tax increase. The city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is an important piece of my strategy for increasing our supply of affordable housing. While city leaders have taken steps in recent years to expand this important funding pool, closing the significant gaps in our local housing economy will require bolder action and deeper reserves. I am also supportive of innovative efforts like Hennepin County’s multimillion-dollar fund formed specifically to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing, which is particularly vulnerable in today’s market.

Immigration

During the Trump administration our immigrant communities will be subjected to ever increasing levels of scrutiny. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), for example, is a government program designed to profile and surveille Black Muslim immigrants - specifically Somali Americans. How will you leverage your position in the council to reject or promote programs like CVE? Please provide specific strategies to resist or support a presidential order to use local law enforcement to deport undocumented immigrants.

Mauter: The city needs to have a legal strategy to challenge state or federal legislation that threatens our sanctuary city ordinance. While MPD is currently legally barred from carrying out ICE’s work, Hennepin County still runs the jail in Minneapolis; we should leverage our relationship with Hennepin County to urge adoption of a similar separation policy for the county. Strong relationships between council members and community organizations can help in having honest and transparent dialogue about the implications of programs like CVE. I’ve said throughout my campaign that engaging community members is critical; engaging community organizations is similarly vital.

Schroeder: It is important to resist harmful, discriminatory policies enacted at the state and federal levels, and that work demands our vigilance.  These policies threaten to undermine the strength of our city at at large. Minneapolis needs to be ready to defend against these misguided federal plays, including any government programs that unfairly target certain community members, and I am prepared -- and eager -- to lead that charge.  Specifically, we need to reach out to other sanctuary cities to create a unified, legal front against the Trump administration, which was suggested it will force local law enforcement to enforce problematic orders, and withhold federal funding.  Across the country, cities are in different positions legally to resist the loss of federal funds and unless work is done soon to unite all sanctuary cities together, these different positions could be exploited to make individual cities -- and their residents -- especially vulnerable.

Environment

We believe Minneapolis must play a leading role in finding environmental justice solutions for climate change. We believe that recycling our waste is not only better for the environment, it can also create community based jobs. What do you see as the path to creating a Zero Waste city in Minneapolis? How can this be done in a way that prioritizes environmental justice? Do you support closing the HERC? How should the city use the money from the Northern Metals settlement for reparations for North and Northeast Minneapolis?

Mauter: I support closing the HERC. I support moving forward towards our Zero Waste goal in the existing framework of the Clean Energy Partnership. The city’s investments in combating climate change should create and maintain access for low-income people for any mitigation programs. We should require (or at least incentivize) participation in recycling and composting for commercial and large apartment buildings. The city should invest in its own operations and property, e.g., converting the city’s fleet to electric vehicles, striving for LEED certification for city property, and hosting community solar gardens on city property. We should adopt a Green Zones policy to prioritize investment in communities that have historically suffered disinvestment and environmental injustice. There should be a community-driven process to self-determine the greatest needs for the Northern Metals reparations settlement. I would suggest a dedicated health care fund for pollution victims.

Schroeder: A successful plan for making Minneapolis a Zero Waste city must have racial equity woven through it -- environmental justice is about our people (and combatting white privilege) as much as it is being good stewards of the earth. City leaders must acknowledge economic development opportunities that come with a responsible waste plan, including the potential for job creation at recycling and compost facilities, and localize those benefits to Minneapolis communities that need a boost. I applaud efforts so far to usher Minneapolis into the clean energy future, but there’s still work to do in lowering emissions and supporting renewables. I support closing the HERC, and using the Northern Metals settlement to the long-term benefit of North and Northeast Minneapolis residents, potentially through the use of inclusionary financing for environmental upgrades to homes and apartments and supporting community solar garden development.

4th Precinct

What lessons have you learned from the death of Jamar Clark and the related occupation of the 4th Precinct? What would you change about the city’s response to the occupation?

Mauter: It was shockingly clear how many Minneapolis police officers do not feel like a part of the communities they work in. It was clear how people across Minneapolis care about the wellbeing of residents of North Minneapolis, even if they have no idea how to help. It was also clear that we need all of our city’s leaders to care about what happens on the Northside and across the city, and step up to do that work instead of retreating to their own wards. I’m still appalled by MPD’s repeated attempts to provoke people, through their words, through obvious surveillance, through escalation, and by demolishing the encampment. More transparency as to what conversations and negotiations were ongoing at the time could have helped the public trust that progress was being made.

Schroeder: The city’s response to this tragedy left the community on the sidelines, which is unacceptable but historically common. While the city talked about the need for more community-oriented policing, especially in the area served by the 4th Precinct, the proposed addition of more than $600,000 dollars to the city budget for “safety and accessibility improvements” at the police station called into question the city’s sincerity. Because the legal process plays out more slowly than the necessarily rapid community response to these crises, the city needs to assure community members they will be heard when conflict arises, and more importantly that they will be at the table to help develop and implement better standards for policing in our city.

Public Safety

How can Minneapolis better support needs related to mental health, employment, and youth development outside of the current punitive law enforcement model? How would you work to develop new public safety models outside the policing system to prioritize these needs?

Mauter: We need to think about our public health and public safety beyond calling police to restore order. I strongly support the Safety Beyond Policing framework. We should increase the capacity of our public safety and health response by connecting social workers, youth workers, and mental health professionals to our 911 response. We should also focus on improving the conditions of residents’ lives in ways that reduce encounters with the police, by making sure everyone gets their housing, transportation, health, work, and other needs met. We should invest in communities self-determining what strategies would meet their own health and safety needs. I also support adopting restorative justice practices wherever possible, and working with Hennepin County to do so.

Schroeder: A community policing model would embrace employment and youth development policies as pathways to improving safety across Minneapolis. Minneapolis leaders have talked about implementing a community policing model for far too long without meaningful action. Additionally, Minneapolis needs its first responders to have more training to deal with mental health. Making changes such as these requires more than simply adjusting policies. It requires changing the police union’s behavior so these policies can be effectively implemented. I am uniquely qualified to tackle this work because I have vast experience building coalitions and partnerships to bridge widely disparate viewpoints, skills, education levels, and strategic visions. An example of this is legislation that I championed and helped write, which abolished the Illinois death penalty and re-allocated cost savings to law enforcement training and services for murder victim families.

Governance

Super Bowl LII  is coming to Minneapolis in 2018. How will you ensure that the multi-billion dollar event will benefit the most marginalized residents of Minneapolis, not just major corporations downtown?

Mauter: We should be hiring event workers from targeted communities in Minneapolis, and we should prioritize our most marginalized residents for paid jobs over volunteering. We should be intentionally locating Super Bowl related events in our most marginalized communities, and staffing or subcontracting those events with businesses from those communities as well. Law enforcement should be prepared to address sex trafficking activity. Any philanthropic activity associated with the event should be guided towards benefiting organizations in our most marginalized communities. Ideally we would have had a Community Benefits Agreement when we gave all this money to the Vikings stadium in the first place that would guide these investments when major events like this take place in the building.

Schroeder: Numerous financial promises have been made to the people of Minneapolis regarding the spending of taxpayer dollars for the stadium, as well as the effort to secure the Super Bowl.  We need to create a public agreement, such as a Community Benefits Agreement, which we can use to hold accountable those who have received city funding for delivering benefits to all residents of Minneapolis. An agreement could include hiring local contractors for services as well as ensuring that a portion of the profits are directed to community efforts.

Gender and LGBTQ Justice

At the federal and state level, drastic cuts have been threatened to women’s health programs, protections for transgender community members have been rolled back, and the LGBTQ community is facing renewed attack. How would you as a city council member stand up against these attacks on women and the LGBTQ community?

Mauter: As a queer person of color, it’s critically important to me to continue this fight. We can continue to stand up by investing in our health department and continuing to work with state and county resources and community organizations to provide dignified, quality health care for our LGBTQ community members. Similarly, if Minneapolis is a sanctuary in every sense of the word, we can especially lift up LGBTQ community members - especially queer and trans people of color - with a $15 minimum wage and workers’ protections, affordable housing and protections for renters, and safe and welcoming school and work environments. I already have relationships with some community organizations doing this work and would be happy to continue that work in partnership with them or others.

Schroeder: Minneapolis must lead by example.  Fostering an equitable society is the key to defeating the challenges of our time, from our impact on the environment to creating an economy where everyone’s work is valued.  Supporting women’s health, our transgender community, and LGBTQ+ residents in another important piece of this. The city needs to work together with Hennepin County to ensure those who are without healthcare can access health services and related legal protection. As a network of many decision-making entities, Minneapolis tends to create policies developed in siloes and implemented in pieces. City leadership needs to streamline those efforts to make sure all Minneapolis residents get the help they need, with an eye toward long-marginalized groups like transgender and LGBTQ+ people. While the county handles publicly-funded healthcare benefits and oversees the only public hospital in the area, there are various community-based organizations whose missions support LGBTQ+ and trans-specific healthcare.

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