City Council Member Cam Gordon is running unopposed for reelection in Ward 2.
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.
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?
Cam Gordon: Since my re-election campaign in 2013, I have been a strong and public supporter of raising the minimum wage in Minneapolis to $15 an hour. I voted to place the legitimate and lawful minimum wage Charter Amendment question on the ballot (this effort was killed by my colleagues on an 11-2 vote). I supported and would have voted for ordinances to prevent wage theft and ensure fair scheduling (these were killed by other members of the Council on a 10-3 vote). I strongly oppose exempted tipped workers. The only exception I would consider is a time limited (2-3 months) “training” wage for 14 and 15 years-olds who are entering the workforce as part of a city youth employment program. I oppose preemption by the state government on questions relating to the power of local government to make workers’ lives better.
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?
Gordon: Yes, I strongly and publicly oppose a tip penalty in Minneapolis. Organized labor has worked hard to prevent the adoption of a tip penalty at the state level. For Minneapolis and the benefits of that are undeniable. I will not allow us to undermine that effort on the local level. Adopting one fair wage for all is the right thing to do. Making employees economically dependent on tips provides a strong disincentive for them to stand up to inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment and adopting an ordinance with a tip credit but with a “guarantee” of $15 an hour would create a new opportunity for wage theft. Pressures on tipped workers may also lead to underreporting of instances in which the tipped wage did not rise to $15. It would be almost impossible to prevent employers from retaliating against such employees.
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?
Gordon: While I am open to making compromises to successfully pass an ordinance, I believe that a Fair Scheduling ordinance should cover all employees who are not covered by a collective bargaining agreement that clearly waives the law. It should also stipulate clear notice required of an initial schedule and changes, and that mutual consent is needed for any short notice of changes. I support a proposal that requires employees’ schedules to be put out 28 days in advance. Employees should be able to decline hours not included in their original schedule without retaliation, and volunteer for additional hours by consenting in writing. I also think that compensation for schedule changes, protection from last-minute changes and shift cancelations, the right to adequate rest, and no discrimination based on hours of work should be part of any proposal. Employers should also offer hours to existing employees before hiring new or temporary employees.
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?
Gordon: I support reviewing and strengthening our Responsible Banking ordinance that requires financial institutions to disclose more information about lending practices and policies. I support ending contracts with Wells Fargo, US Bank, and other banks with historic and current racist and environmentally irresponsible practices. I support investigating possible lawsuits against Wells Fargo and US Bank. I want to develop democratically-controlled, socially responsible public financial alternatives to the current system of for-profit corporate dominated banks. This includes pursuing initiatives like the creation of a municipal bank, credit union, or investment agency, to prevent public dollars from supporting socially irresponsible investments in things like fossil fuel extraction and distribution. I support increasing public investments in community beneficial things such as affordable housing, public infrastructure, and targeted economic development.
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?
Gordon: I shepherded the Blueprint for Equitable Engagement to enfranchise more people and ensure inclusive neighborhood organizations. I am working to implement Participatory Budgeting to provide a way for communities to directly decide how to spend portions of the city’s budget. I support amending the Charter to allow citizen-initiated ordinances to be put before the voters, while restricting its use on issues like the levy. I supported establishing early voting centers, and support their increased use. I have pushed for distributing a Voter’s Guide to all residents, including information about candidates, and how and where to vote. I helped lead the effort to adopt Ranked Choice Voting, and support upgrading voting machines to increase choices for voters and reduce vote counting time. I support strengthening local campaign finance and disclosure rules and developing public financing for city elections. I favor amending the state constitution and laws to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.
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?
Gordon: As a former Montessori teacher and childcare provider, I know that investing in our children is the smartest thing we can do to build healthier, more prosperous and more equitable communities. The City can do more to support early childhood education and child care by following the leads of Washington D. C., Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver and New York City in offering free universal pre-kindergarten programs for young children. The City could provide the gap funding necessary to cover all children within the city, supplementing the state, federal and other funding already available. City funding might come in the form property taxes, from general sales tax or a specific product tax. A focus on pre-kindergarten education for 3-and-4-year-olds to begin with could provide a pathway to neighborhood public schools. I support this as a collaborative effort between the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
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?
Gordon: I helped lead the effort to adopt a local Complete Streets policy to prioritizes pedestrians, bikes, and transit while ensuring the overall network works well for all modes. We need a multimodal transportation system to enable everyone - even people who don’t use a car - safe, comfortable, and convenient options. We need commuter and light rail transit, streetcars, enhanced bus routes and better standard bus service. We need improved pedestrian infrastructure all year long, and a network of protected bikeways. I will fight cuts to transit service and fare hikes. The partnership and model that got transit passes for all Minneapolis high school students could be expanded. And we need to build density near our light rail investments, with an equitable mix of market-rate and affordable housing and jobs. I am working to implement just such a vision in Prospect Park, led by and with the strong support of the community.
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?
Gordon: We need to do more to support and fund preservation of existing affordable housing and construction of new affordable housing and pass other policies to combat gentrification. I support finding effective ways to support the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority that serves those most in need, by making it eligible to receive Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars and restoring its capacity to levy for targeted rehabilitation and new construction. I support requiring that affordable housing be included in more new market-rate development. I have authored ordinances to give overnight and emergency shelters greater flexibility to meet unmet needs, and allow people to form intentional communities that decrease housing costs. And we need to remember that energy costs are part of housing costs, and target energy efficiency upgrades to low-income housing, with measures in place to prevent gentrification.
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.
Gordon: In light of actions taken at the federal level, we should strengthen city ordinances, policies, programs, and resources to protect and defend immigrant families and refugees from unfair deportation, acts of bigotry and hate, and unjust persecution. We should investigate, resist and expose programs using CVE to discourage its use in Minneapolis or Minnesota. I support the creation of a local immigration legal defense fund, and exploring litigation strategies to protect the rights of the City and its residents.
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?
Gordon: I have been a leader on environmental issues. I will push to fund and implement our Green Zone Policy to repair past environmental injustice, including in North Minneapolis where the Northern Metals funds should be used to address environmental health concerns. I support taking strong and immediate action on the climate, and will push the Clean Energy Partnership to deliver tangible results. I support cleaning up polluting businesses, encouraging adoption of pollinator-friendly pesticide-free practices, and prohibiting the use of toxic and polluting products, including plastic bags. I support creating a broad-based “healthy and efficient homes” program to reduce carbon emissions and increase health in all housing, starting in the most impacted communities. We need to conserve more energy and get all of our electricity from clean, renewable sources. I support adopting a Zero Waste Plan to reduce waste and increase recycling and composting, and setting a timeline for closing HERC.
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?
Gordon: The police killing of unarmed black men and woman must stop. I was proud to stand with the community at the fourth precinct. The occupation played a critically important role for the community by providing a way for people to come together, support one another, and share their feelings and concerns. It is likely that this helped prevent more violence and property damage. I would have liked to have seen the city government respond in a much more supportive and cooperative manner. I considered it a grave error to forcibly remove protesters from inside the precinct. That, and the ultimate end of the outdoor occupation could and should have been accomplished through discussion, negotiation and consensus. We should have been better equipped to welcome and support the protestors. It demonstrated that we need to have more open lines of communication and trusting cooperation between government and the organizers of such protests.
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?
Gordon: I have worked to change our model for addressing violence for a long time. I helped shift our focus on youth violence from a purely punitive policing model to a public health model starting in 2008, and more recently to bring forward the mental health co-responder model. I was proud to work with NOC to move the “safety beyond policing” amendment in the last budget process, because I think we need much more investment in proven, community-led interventions to prevent violence. We cannot arrest our way to safety - we need to invest in the lives of the people most at risk for violence.
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?
Gordon: While I welcome this event (as I would any other stadium sporting event), I do not believe that it will repay city taxpayers the hundreds of millions of dollars we have contribute to the privately-owned Vikings stadium. When I look at the unmet needs in our communities, I can’t help thinking about how much good we could do with those funds. One of the arguments I made against this investment is that I do not believe it is at all likely that the average Minneapolis resident or worker will ever get any benefit, even from such a major event as the Super Bowl. That said, I am open to hearing ideas for how the event can be leveraged to the extent possible to benefit Minneapolis residents, especially poor people and people of color, and how we can avoid seeing poor workers taken advantage of during the event.
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?
Gordon: I have a long history of supporting local action for women, the LGBTQ community, and trans people. I served on the board of the successful 2012 campaign for marriage. I was proud to stand with those who supported CeCe McDonald during her trial. I strongly support the formation of the Trans Equity Council. I am working on an ordinance right now to address rampant sexual assault and wage theft against women workers in downtown adult entertainment businesses. It is unacceptable to me that women doing legal work in our city are subject to that sort of economic and sexual abuse, and I will work to address it - led by the entertainers themselves. This is a key part of my approach to these issues. As a straight cis white man, I know the limits of my own personal experience, so I look to support and elevate the voices of members of these communities.