Ward 7 City Council Candidate Q&A

Janne Flisrand and Lisa Goodman

Janne Flisrand, left, is challenging Council Member Lisa Goodman, right.

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: Lisa Goodman declined to return our survey prior to the April 22 Ward 7 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?

Janne Flisrand: Yes, I support raising wages with no exemption for tipped workers. I am one of the many Minneapolitans who signed the 15 Now petition. As a City Council Member, I will partner with this growing movement to make Minneapolis a leader in fighting racism and poverty, with the $15/hour minimum wage as an essential step in that fight.

I will note that my opponent has never publicly supported a local increase in the minimum wage, has voted against even studying a local minimum wage, and has instead publicly complained about what a local increase in the minimum wage will do to the cost of an ice cream cone.

We need different leadership for Ward 7: a leader who cares about, will listen to, and will fight for working people, especially the lowest-paid workers.

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?

Flisrand: Yes, absolutely. Adopting a tip penalty in Minneapolis would not just be a step backwards for Minnesota, for workers, and for women workers particularly, it would be a step backwards for labor. Advocates for workers have defended against the adoption of a tip penalty at the state level for too long to see Minneapolis undermine that work.

As I have noted above, my opponent has not taken a position on the tip penalty. I have taken a clear, public position on this question, as I have on raising the wage.

The incumbent’s lack of support for one fair wage is part of a pattern of turning a blind eye to the struggles of working women. As we’re learning, employees in downtown strip clubs - whose owners have given her thousands of dollars in campaign contributions - are subject to abuse, wage theft, and sexual assault.

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?

Flisrand: I support a local fair scheduling ordinance. I was disappointed to see the Council vote to kill that ordinance in 2015, due in large part to my opponent. Let’s be clear: she does not support local action to protect workers, and sides reflexively with employers, many of whom contribute to her campaign. Even on the Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance, it is clear that it passed unanimously despite her, not because of her.

I think that there is a fair scheduling ordinance that could win broad support from the public in Minneapolis. It would have to exempt the smallest employers, and it’s clear that that line will be one of the most important points of contention. My philosophy is that the fair scheduling ordinance should cover as many workers as possible, so I would work to set that number as low as we can and still pass the ordinance.

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?

Flisrand: I would support the City of Minneapolis taking a much more aggressive stance against these big banks than it has in the past. Not only did the people of Minneapolis suffer from the destruction caused by the banks’ lending practices prior to the Great Recession, the City as an enterprise saw a large portion of its property tax base destroyed.

I would also support taking regulatory action against predatory lenders, like “payday loan” entities.

This issue is one where my approach would be to listen - to advocates like NOC, to the real experiences of people in our community, and to leaders from other cities that have implemented solutions that we could use here. I know the limits of my own knowledge and experience. But my primary concern would be protecting Minneapolis residents, not big banks.

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 and Indigenous folks (POCI) are 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?

Flisrand: My campaign is engaging people who have historically been less engaged in the political process. A first step is to make policy where people are found, in community centers, in neighborhoods, and in multiple languages. To be frank, I will succeed most as a candidate if we increase the number of people who are engaged in the local political process. I understand and respect the value of organizing and of building power for political change, whether that’s resisting oppression, negotiating a contract, or winning an election as a progressive candidate against a longtime conservative incumbent. Even before running for office, my work has been about bringing more voices into the process, and I continue to be committed to that goal on the council. I favor public financing for local elections, because we can see the toxic effect that money has on our politics in this very race.

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?

Flisrand: I’m intrigued by this idea, and inclined to support it. We know that lack of access to high quality, affordable childcare is one of the biggest impediments to many people’s success in the workforce. We also know that this burden falls disproportionately on women, low income people, and POCI.

There will be resistance to the City taking on a new responsibility. But it’s clear that we can’t expect progressive action from the state or federal governments at this time. And “we haven’t done that in the past” is not a good enough reason not to consider taking action.

Lastly, like affordable housing, this is not just an issue of high costs, but of low wages. If we increase the pay of the lowest-income workers, they will be more able to afford the cost of living.

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?

Flisrand: I support subsidized or free fare options for low income riders. I support and will advocate for significant improvements in bus service, starting where the service is most used and most needed. One of those options is Arterial BRT, which speeds up bus service and makes it much more reliable.

Again, there are major differences between my opponent and me on transit. She has repeatedly voted against transit projects. When powerful downtown interests were pushing to reroute the 5 around downtown, the principled pushback came not from the downtown Council Member, but from the mayor’s office. As a bus rider since 1996, I do not see transit riders as a problem.

And she opposed making Olson highway a more human-scale street, with more development opportunity directly adjacent to the proposed Bottineau LRT. To prevent displacement, the City has to identify places where growth should occur near transit projects.

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?

Flisrand: My vision for Minneapolis is that everyone should have an affordable place to live, whether they have a lot of money or very little, whether they rent or own. But the City’s current approach to housing development works only for the wealthy. We’re losing 1,000 apartments that are affordable every year in Minneapolis. The City’s pathway for affordable housing projects is blocked by obstacles that make developing new projects unnecessarily difficult. The current council member actively opposes using tools that have worked in other cities, like inclusionary zoning.

As council member, I will work to keep Minneapolis affordable for everyone, by:

  • Allowing and encouraging more housing to be built

  • Exploring new financing options to lock in rents on existing housing that’s affordable

  • Investing more money in affordable housing development projects and making those funds easier, more predictable and more transparent to use

  • Supporting proven strategies like inclusionary zoning

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.

Flisrand: I support and will defend the Minneapolis separation ordinance, and will look for ways that it can be strengthened. I will defend our neighbors, whether undocumented immigrants, Muslims, or any other targeted group.

I do not support the CVE program, and reject its use in Minneapolis. That said, I do believe we need to provide a counterweight to recruitment by violent entities, whether Al Shabaab or street gangs. That counterweight is social connectedness, education, empowerment, decent work for fair wages, and other ways to give young people hope. That’s what government should invest in rather than counterproductive profiling and surveillance.

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?

Flisrand: I support a Zero Waste policy, support closing HERC, and will work to decrease waste while increasing recycling and composting. The current Ward 7 council member opposed creating the compost collection program. I am eager to reduce waste in the sectors the City currently doesn’t serve, like multifamily residential and commercial.

I support a Green Zones policy to invest in green jobs and environmental remediation in areas that have borne the brunt of historic environmental racism. The Northern Metals settlement is a good opportunity to jump-start that work. I hope that some of it will be used to directly address healthy housing concerns like lead and asthma in northside residential buildings. It’s worth noting that my opponent opposed funding for Green Zones.

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?

Flisrand: The current approach to policing has not only failed, but has made things worse. Trying to arrest our way to safety will never work. We need new approaches to rebuild trust.

There is real and legitimate pain in communities of color and Indigenous communities; City government should expect residents to express that pain when police kill Black men.

It’s critically important for City leaders - especially white leaders representing majority-white wards - to speak the truth that Black lives matter. The Council Members (my opponent not among them) who stood with protesters did a real service to everyone involved. We would benefit from having more elected officials show that same courage. I joined protesters at the 4th Precinct and would do the same as a council member.

It is wrong, in the aftermath of that sort of crisis, to start talking about fortifying police stations.

Police officers must stop killing Black men.

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?

Flisrand: We need safe neighborhoods for everyone, especially those most at risk -- POCI and/or LGBTQ residents. That means a police department that reflects, works well with, respects and is accountable to our diverse communities every day. Twenty-plus years of trying to arrest our way to safe streets has backfired, and police are no longer effective—even in times of crisis—because they are not trusted. Relations between the police and the POCI and/or LGBTQ communities are strained at best, fatal at worst. And the current council member consistently opposes police accountability efforts and proactive interventions to reduce violence. For example, she voted to scrap the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) and replace it with a police-dominated panel. She also takes contributions from the Police Federation, which opposes any accountability for officers. I will work to build new, more constructive and more effective public safety approaches - the kind that my opponent consistently opposes.

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?

Flisrand: One of the key differences between my opponent and me is who we listen to: I listen to everyone. It’s clear that she listens primarily to the wealthy and powerful interests who have contributed to her campaign. On Super Bowl issues, I will be looking for the broadest possible benefit, and listen to organizations like NOC about how to achieve it, rather than listening to a small group of powerful downtown business owners.

One of the real concerns I have about the Super Bowl is sex trafficking. We have seen the current Ward 7 council member take thousands of dollars from the owners of downtown strip clubs where workers are abused, sexually assaulted, and have their wages stolen. I am concerned that she will bring the same blind-eye approach to sex trafficking issues related to the Super Bowl. I will work to protect women, not those who would exploit them.

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?

Flisrand: With a federal government so determined to attack the rights of the most vulnerable, it becomes urgently important for states and cities to step up and defend those rights. I will help ensure Minneapolis remains a backstop against discriminatory federal policies. I am endorsed by OutFront Minnesota, and as a representative of Minneapolis I will oppose efforts by the legislature to weaken the protections in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, or to preempt the city’s ability to protect and serve our city’s residents, especially women, LGBTQ and/or POCI residents who have faced historic discrimination.

There are significant issues of gender justice in Minneapolis. The tip penalty—which I oppose and my opponent is silent on—is terrible for female workers. The treatment of women in the adult entertainment industry really concerns me, and my opponent not only has done nothing, but has taken maximum donations from the club owners.

Ward 7 map
Map of Minneapolis Ward 7.

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