Ward 3 DFL City Council Candidate Q&A

Steve Fletcher and Cordelia Pierson

Steve Fletcher, left, and Cordelia Pierson, right, are running for the DFL endorsement in Ward 3.

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: Q&A with all Ward 3 candidates can be found at www.mnnoc.org/ward3.

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? 

Steve Fletcher: I have been a long-time, consistent supporter of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers without exemptions. In my past work with NOC, MN 2020, and SEIU, I’ve played a role both in organizing in the streets and establishing the policy foundation for the fight for $15, as well as the statewide increase to $9.50, indexed to inflation, before that. The smartest economic development policy for our city is to keep our wage policy consistent and simple, phase it in gradually enough for everyone to budget and plan, and index it to inflation so that workers don’t fall behind again in the future. Putting money into the hands of workers guarantees it will be spent and re-circulated in our community, and raising the minimum wage is the cleanest, most straightforward way to close a persistent income gap in our city.

Cordelia Pierson: I support a $15 minimum wage for all workers. A fair wage is an effective path to closing the opportunity gap for people of color and alleviating the struggles of working families. Minneapolis can be a model for other cities and states to raise their minimum wage, and I want to ensure our implementation is effective and comprehensive. We should be thoughtful in our implementation of a minimum wage and take the time to get it right- ensuring it is effective in helping the residents we intend to help—workers, small business owners, and residents of color. Raising the minimum wage will not be enough. We must also pursue other strategies to help people pay their rent, take care of their families, and be healthy. I want to find ways to reduce residents’ costs by increasing access to affordable housing, transportation, child care and health care. 

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?

Fletcher: Yes, I support one fair wage for all Minneapolis workers. It’s smart policy to establish a simple, straightforward minimum wage that is easy for employers and workers to understand and enforce.

Pierson: I want to ensure that tipped workers make the best living wage possible. We should not implement a fair wage that decreases tipped workers’ wages or penalizes workers who make tips. Further, the history of tipping and the issues many tipped workers face are clearly troubling. We need to ensure that all employees are safe at work and are not vulnerable to harassment, and that means listening to their ideas about what policy they would like to see. I want to create a living wage policy that helps workers and low-income residents in the most effective way. We should increase the minimum wage in a way that ensures the best living standards for residents, while ensuring that employees are not vulnerable to harassment.

Secure Scheduling

In 2015, Minneapolis considered a policy to address the unstable work hours experienced bymany 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? 

Fletcher: The issues workers have raised around fair scheduling are serious ones that need to be addressed, and underscore a more fundamental problem: a lack of full-time jobs in low-wage industries that have been deliberately “part-timed”. Workers need to be able to make a genuine choice between full- and part-time work, plan their budgets around relatively predictable hours, and plan their lives without constraint from making plans during their non-working hours because they’re worried about missing last-minute opportunities to earn. Right now, workers bear all of the costs of unpredictable scheduling.  A fair scheduling proposal asks employers to share in the cost of disrupting work schedule on short notice. A good fair scheduling bill will provide workers more power over their schedules while addressing the concerns raised in 2015 about the disproportionate burden an overly broad law could place on small and seasonal local businesses. We need to, and we can listen to local business owners and maintain a strong local business economy at the same time we improve quality of life for workers.

Pierson: I believe that workers should have work schedules that are consistent, fair, and stable—residents should not have to worry about paying rent because of a cut in their hours. A fair schedule would ensure that employers set consistent days and times, workers are given fair notice for any scheduling changes, and employees have the opportunity to make up hours. Ultimately, this policy should be influenced by those most affected. I plan to listen to workers affected by inconsistent schedules, and collaborate with employers to find the most effective way to implement a fair schedule policy. We should involve employees and employers in developing a policy, rather than mandating practices that could hurt low-wage workers.

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?

Fletcher: The consolidation of banks into two major players that control a majority of the market has not been good for banking customers, for our communities, or for our democracy. When I worked at NOC, I led a successful divestment campaign to move Minneapolis Public Schools’ money out of Wells Fargo in response to their racist foreclosure practices in North Minneapolis. I support continuing to pursue strategies to diversify banking options, adding community impact as a factor in any RFPs around city banking needs, breaking up our banking business into manageable pieces for smaller banks to bid on, and exploring a municipal bank. It’s important that we incentivize behaviors that benefit our community, and establish the leverage to impose real consequences for banking practices that target people of color and people living in poverty.

Pierson: Minneapolis must stand up to big banks and pass legislation against subprime lending. Unless we are purposeful about working to empower communities of color and pushing banks to maintain equal lending practices, we cannot build generational wealth. Banks should also be accountable to the public. We should be tracking banks’ lending practices and ensure that banks are transparent and open to the public when lending to communities. We should examine what local regulations are or can be effective in producing a more equitable lending environment. 

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?

Fletcher: There’s a lot we can do to make voting easier. I’ve knocked thousands of doors to encourage voting because that outreach works and is worth the effort. Including voter registration information with apartment leases and automate registration at the DMV are all good ideas. Restoring voting rights to people with criminal records would help simplify the system and invite more people back into civic engagement, and I strongly support that. None of that does as much, though, as debating policies that could actually improve people’s lives in neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color. Low participation is an indictment of our government, not of the people not voting. If nobody seems willing to address your concerns, not voting is a perfectly reasonable response, and we need to overcome an entirely justified cynicism in communities of color by demonstrating our ability to walk the walk of economic and racial justice.

Pierson: Our city is stronger with the contributions of all residents and communities—we need to reduce barriers to voting and actively engage with residents historically left out of our democracy. City-wide early voting locations have helped voter turnout. I support prioritizing early voting outreach and expanding early voting locations where more low-income and residents of color live. I support recruiting more election judges from low-income areas and communities of color. I have served as a head election judge and know that we can improve opportunities for residents to participate. Landlords are required to provide voter registration information to renters; let’s evaluate where that is working to increase both registration and voter turn-out. We must engage with communities year-round, not only during elections. As a candidate, I have invited our community to share ideas and shape my priorities. On the council, I will listen to residents’ ideas and co-govern with communities.

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? 

Fletcher: Yes. This is an investment that addresses two of the most important predictors of early childhood success: access to high quality early childhood education, and parents earning living wages. When childcare isn’t accessible, parents often are forced to make a choice between disrupting their careers and earning potential, or putting their children in low-quality childcare situations that don’t provide the educational and social/emotional foundation for success in school. If we’re serious about closing the opportunity gap in our K-12 system, and closing the income gap for adults, an investment in childcare is a good way to make real progress.

Pierson: Childcare is an essential right for all people. However, the accessibility and quality of childcare often fall based on economic lines—childcare is often far too expensive and inaccessible for low-income residents. Our city should prioritize funding childcare services for low income residents, and the city can play many roles to implement policy that is easy and effective. However, we should also advocate for increased county and state support; our city should not alone shoulder the costs for childcare services. 

Transportation and Development

Public transportation in Minneapolis is un-affordable 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?

Fletcher: I want more people to use buses and light rail to reduce traffic, make the city more accessible, and reduce carbon emissions. To get there, we’re going to need more frequent buses on more routes, and new routes to connect neighborhoods better and make the city more accessible. We heavily subsidize car travel with tax money, and should be willing to do the same for public transit. Fares cover less than 30% of the cost of transit, and were it in my power, I’d support eliminating fares altogether for local buses and trains. In the absence of transportation support in the legislature, I’d support city investment in reducing the cost of transit for low-income riders. I also support the use of metro cards for multi-modal transportation payments (like HourCar), so that unbanked riders can use multiple transportation methods without a credit card, and receive subsidies for multi-modal transit on one simple stored value card.

Pierson: I support providing subsidies for low-income riders, like the city’s public transit program for high school students. The city should work with Met Council to provide an effective program for communities that need affordable transit options. To ensure that transit developments are contributing to communities where they are built, I support prioritizing light-rail transit station areas and other areas well-served by transit for the city’s affordable and non-profit housing grants and subsidies. New developments near transit stations/stops should address community needs for affordable and mixed income housing, and not serve only affluent residents.To stimulate job creation in LRT station areas, I support mixed use development in those areas. Where public subsidies are involved, the city should establish local hiring requirements. I support targeting job training and recruitment in those areas, ensuring that new transit services contribute to existing communities, residents, and businesses, rather than displacing residents and gentrifying neighborhoods.

Housing

Minneapolis is quickly becoming un-affordable 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?

Fletcher: This is huge priority for me that requires multiple solutions. First, we need to keep people in already-affordable housing. That means foreclosure prevention, incentivizing landlords to maintain properties with upmarket improvements, and it means giving city inspectors new leverage to require resolutions to code violations besides a condemned sticker. Second, we need to build more housing density in transit corridors to lower the affordability gap by letting people more easily eliminate car ownership from their budgets, and to fix the scarcity that is driving up market-rate rents. Third, I support inclusionary zoning to make sure that new development must include affordable units, and subsidies and height bonuses to encourage affordable housing development. Finally, increased investment in the affordable housing trust to explore added public housing options can round out a balanced approach that captures public and private capacity to contribute to meeting our affordable housing needs.

Pierson: We must set city goals for affordable housing, including improving existing and building new housing. Nonprofit, private, and public housing partners are all critical to meeting our residents’ affordable housing needs. We should provide regular reporting on affordable housing supply and conditions, while setting goals for increasing units. We need to support consistent inspections so that existing affordable housing is safe and healthy. The city should ensure that low-income residents have access to social services, helping them thrive. The city should encourage new affordable housing near transit service, providing residents with affordable job access. Setting clear guidelines for housing developers will ensure that new development is designed with health and sustainability in mind, and development review is transparent. Environmental quality and energy efficiency are important for all people. New developments are then more likely to contribute to community vitality. This is particularly important in areas with health disparities.

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.

Fletcher: Opposing the Trump administration’s attacks on our community will be one of the most important roles of the next council. I support the separation order that prevents Minneapolis police from enforcing immigration policy, and I’d like to see us be a more complete sanctuary city. I also support emphasizing non-jail consequences to non-violent offenses, until/unless Hennepin County joins us in our commitment to sanctuary. The Trump administration’s commitment to stereotyping and targeting Somali Americans is unjustifiable as an effective strategy for preventing terrorism. It’s an unacceptably racist intrusion into people’s lives, and a distraction from the important work of preventing actual violence. I will oppose any participation by the MPD in programs that broadly target Black Muslim immigrants in our city.

Pierson: Listening to community members, I hear that the CVE starts with fear. Our law enforcement should not start with the presumption that individuals are likely to engage in terrorism; rather we should focus on the development of young people. As a councilmember, I want to engage with communities throughout our city that are affected and listen to their concerns about existing practices and ideas about programs that would help individuals, rather than target them. Any program affecting terrorism enforcement should be community-driven. I plan on maintaining and monitoring the city’s guidance for police not to work with ICE. We must be vigilant about the federal government removing funding for cities that don’t share immigration information. We can work to leverage local, state, private and nonprofit funds. Our city should actively challenge federal policy targeting immigrants and lead efforts in legal resistance. 

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?

Fletcher: The HERC is a potent symbol of the environmental racism that has led to disproportionate negative health consequences on the North Side. I support closing it. I support expanding single-sort recycling and organic waste removal for multi-unit apartment buildings so that more people can participate, and I support the city ensuring that its recycling contracts go to organizations that prioritize diverse hiring in our community. I would like to see the Northern Metals settlement money used to fund green zones that clean toxic sites and create green space and pedestrian connections that better connect neighborhoods to both sides of the river. We should also fund residential properties replacement of contaminated topsoil in yards. We can create new jobs and opportunities for local ownership by investing in local clean energy generation and recycling. The city can achieve racial equity objectives by focusing investment, workforce development, and resources in predominantly POCI neighborhoods.

Pierson: To create a Zero Waste city, we must target communities that currently have low participation in recycling and composting and have greater health disparities. We can provide resources and education to these areas, and highlight that recycling is a social justice action and that reducing waste benefits low income and people of color. I support creating local ambassadors who can engage community members to implement programs. I support reducing air pollution by increasing renewable energy and closing HERC. We can decrease reliance on incineration by investing in clean energy, especially solar. We should make air quality monitoring more accessible to residents. Job creation is one of the most effective paths to health; creating jobs helps decrease health disparities and improves sustainability. We can use funds from the Northern Metals settlement to invest in economic development, job training, incentives for small business and entrepreneurs, and other catalysts for job creation.

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?

Fletcher: The events that followed Jamar Clark’s tragic death were publicly revealing of a long-simmering mutual mistrust between city residents and the MPD. The failure to bring charges and examine the facts of Clark’s death in open court vividly exposed a system that has always featured too high a tolerance for police violence, and too little respect for black lives. The city’s response to the shooting and the protests revealed a governing culture that defaulted to trusting police over community members, that feared transparency, and that lacked sufficient influence with MPD to align police with the city’s values. The community that rallied to support each other, grieve together, feed and clothe each other, and express outrage collectively was evidence of an underlying strength that gives our city something hopeful to build on. Our government only works well when it trusts and respects the community it serves.

Pierson: The 4th Precinct occupation was a clear lesson that we must be more proactive in our policing. We cannot wait until the next crisis to build trust between police officers and the residents they serve. Our residents’ first interaction with police officers should not occur during arrests—these relationships must already be in place. The 4th Precinct displayed the negative consequences resulting from lacking mutual relationships between officers and residents. I would have changed the city’s response to the protest—city leaders should have prioritized open communication, instead of a militarized response. I believe our city would have benefitted from listening to our communities and inviting collaboration with residents for a safe public protest environment. With police reform, we cannot hold an “us vs. them” mentality, pitting police against residents. We must work together, invest in community relations, and listen to residents’ concerns before crises occur. 

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?

Fletcher: We are calling on police to solve too many problems, and it has to stop. The solution to kids having nowhere to be on Summer days used to be to fund programming and free meal programs at our neighborhood parks. Now, the Park Board has cut the funds for that programming, and kids with nowhere to be are being policed instead of being educated, fed, and having a safe place to be. That’s wrong. We need to establish a mindset as a city that views non-violent crimes as symptoms of larger community problems to be addressed, rather than occasions for punitive policing. If we view minor offenses in that light, police often aren’t even the right people to respond in those situations. What we need are community outreach workers, educators, and mental health professionals who can assess people’s needs and connect them with the right programs and services to meet those needs and address the underlying causes of problematic behavior.

Pierson: I would like to increase social services provided to areas with high densities of affordable housing, including mental health and physical wellbeing resources and job access and training services. Additionally, we should provide more funding for job training and new business startup support for communities of color and low-income residents—services that prioritize economic development in communities that have lacked resources. I support tracking data for youth, residents of color, and low-income individuals as the city increases minimum wage. We can then work to improve policies, especially to ensure that youth employment opportunities are not reduced. We should prioritize investments to diversify engagement with communities. Local organizations, like NOC, and community groups are key resources for residents to engage others and enact change. I want to strengthen our local capacity to address issues by providing community development training for community groups and neighborhoods associations. 

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?

Fletcher: I don’t assume I know what the best benefits would be for the most marginalized residents, and I’d like to hear from more people in the community about what they’d like to see, and what kind of community benefit would feel fair for this kind of event. The community won’t see significant benefits without some organizing, so it’s important to get clear about a vision and move on it soon. There will be infrastructure spending to prepare for the event, an influx of short-term jobs the month of the event, increased tips in the downtown service sector, and a one-time sales tax revenue surge that should produce some resources that could be invested in the community, just to name a few opportunities worth exploring. I’ll work with NOC and other community groups to identify an appropriate policy agenda that helps under-resourced residents see some benefit from the Super Bowl.

Pierson: Our city must utilize the opportunities Super Bowl LII provides and work to decrease possible negative effects of the event. I support increased training for police and community members to combat human and sex trafficking— issues that are not new, but may rise in conjunction with the Super Bowl. I understand various committees are making decisions about grants and contracts. Criteria for funding should include investing in areas of our city where disparities are greatest. The Superbowl Sustainability committee has invited selected nonprofits to compete for grants for tree planting statewide; these funds should directly support greening in parts of our city and region with less vegetation now, places the most vulnerable to climate change. Leaders should also create a committee that provides opportunities for communities of color and low income individuals, particularly for small businesses and communities outside of the downtown area. 

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?

Fletcher: One of the important jobs of the next council will be to find a way to fill the most critical gaps the Trump administration creates in our safety net.  Women’s health is one of the items under attack that we simply have to find some resources in the budget to subsidize if it’s cut out of federal and state funding. The City Council is an important platform from which to speak out for gender equality and transgender rights, and I won’t hesitate to use it. Just as we’re committed to being a sanctuary city, even when it has consequences, we need to be committed to being a safe city for LGBTQ residents to fully express their identities and be welcomed.  Pay equity, an increased minimum wage, and an explicit local commitment to gender equality are important ways to counteract attacks on women and LGBTQ people in our community.

Pierson: As a council member and community leader, I will continue being a vocal and present advocate who speaks out against injustice targeted at individuals and groups. We cannot allow attacks against women and members of the LGBTQIA community to go unanswered. We must go beyond advocacy, and promote these values in our policy making. The Minneapolis Department of Health can track results of healthcare access. I plan to utilize tracking to highlight negative consequences of bad policy and funding cuts. This helps to identify harms and would ensure that we are not simply backfilling and accepting reductions in funding. I plan on expanding access to health care and fighting plans to defund health care organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. These groups provide invaluable health care that is affordable and available for low-income individuals, women, and LGBTQIA members. We should provide communities with access to housing, healthcare, and mental health. 

 

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