Andrea Jenkins (DFL, left) and Terry White (Green, right) are running for the open seat in Ward 8.
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?
Andrea Jenkins: I support all workers earning a minimum of $15.00 per/hr.
Terry White: I support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour with no tip penalty. Wages are not keeping up with the cost of education, child care, and housing. The city council undermined the voice of Minneapolis residents when they prevented the minimum wage Charter Amendment from being placed on the ballot. In addition, I believe the city needs to use its budget to support companies that pay workers a minimum of $15/hour, offer health care, child care, education, and sick leave time. Wage increases are one step toward reducing racial disparities, but not the only one. Companies that hire people of color, convicted felons and the disabled should be given preference with contracts to provide goods and services for the city. I would institute a Social Responsibility scorecard to track city contracts and the companies with which it does business.
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?
Jenkins: Yes, I support a wage increase without the tip penalty.
White: I am against a tip penalty. My preference would be to raise the minimum wage gradually over the course of several years to give businesses a chance to adjust to the increase. Once we reach a $15 minimum, however, we need to focus on a living wage that is adjusted for the cost of living. By my calculations, a living wage is $23.55. This wage accounts for the cost for housing, transportation, education, child care and developing a saving for emergencies. If Minneapolis is going to break the cycle of poverty that exists today, bold steps are needed to lift up those that are being left out.
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?
White: Yes, I support a policy of fair scheduling. I know the difficulties that a changing schedule can place on a family. For example, scrambling for child care causes an enormous amount of stress and expense. My policy would require a work schedule be provided at least 10 business days prior to a shift. Businesses that treat employees with respect and consideration will find that employees respond favorably. These businesses will see less turn over and greater employee loyalty.
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?
Jenkins: The council needs to have serious discussions with Wells Fargo and other financial institutions, about the harm done to people of color through their policies and determine redress for those issues. If a fair settlement is not reached then legal recourse should be considered.
White: I would support the creation of a municipal bank in order to move city business away from banks that are clearly exploitative. Wells Fargo has proven itself over and over again to be such a bank. A gradual unwinding of city business with Wells Fargo is entirely appropriate. The city business should be directed to banks that have shown their commitment to treating all members of the community fairly. The city procurement policy should be updated to prioritize banks that are working to allow equitable lending. Banks with a history of supporting people of color should be supported with a greater share of city business. It is my understanding that TCF Bank was one of the first to extend home loans to people of color in South Minneapolis. When elected, I will support the Responsible Banking ordinance that requires banks to provide information about their lending practices.
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?
Jenkins: One of my key campaign messages is access, I believe that folks can get engaged during the governing process they will more likely vote.
White: One of the biggest actions the city council can take toward increasing voter turnout is to allow people to vote on issues of significance. For example, a ballot initiative on the U.S. Bank Stadium should have gone to a vote. When the city council takes actions like it did on this issue, and ignores voters, they dishearten residents and drive people away from participating. Unfortunately, the council is run by one party, and one-party rule increases the opportunity to abuse power. With ranked choice voting, there is no reason more people shouldn’t be running for the council to ensure a range of voices are heard. The establishment is failing a large segment of city residents. As a Green, I am in a unique position that will enlarge the conversation and prevent the backroom dealing that is discouraging voters from participating. As a council member I will support early voting centers, distributing a voter guide to all residents, and public financing for municipal 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?
Jenkins: We need to work with state and federal agencies to better fund childcare.
White: One of my main priorities as a council member will be to promote using city resources to create a child care program modeled after the one currently being considered in Canada (http://www.10aday.ca/our_plan). This plan calls for $10 day child care. Too many residents are being shut out of education and employment opportunities due to the cost of childcare. A recent report indicates it costs over $16,000/year on average for full-time care. The U. S. spends the least amount of GDP on child care of all industrialized nations and the evidence shows that each $1 invested in child care results in a $7 return based on greater employment, reduced crime, and better health. Before I would spend $500 million on a stadium I would invest in child care. Once the city has essential services available it can begin to look at what I would consider ‘nice to have’ amenities like stadiums.
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?
Jenkins: I would work with foundations and other governing bodies to subsidize transit.
White: Yes, I fully support subsidized or free fare options for low income riders. My vision for the future transportation system in Minneapolis promotes public transportation, walking, and biking as a means of giving seniors, youth, and workers a viable means of getting around the city. It’s short sighted not to promote Complete Streets, which prioritizes walkers, bikers, and people riding public transit. Other cities are making massive investments in these things as they prepare for the future. Cities with a robust transportation system are going to attract and keep businesses, which will in turn provide economic opportunities for everyone in the city. Many people, particularly youth, are growing more accustomed to living without cars. Minneapolis needs to provide the infrastructure to allow them to do so. In accordance with the city’s Climate Action Plan, Minneapolis needs to double regional transit ridership by 2025.
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?
Jenkins: Look at different options, i.e., multi-family housing, incentivizing high developments to contribute to affordable housing fund.
White: The city’s latest budget includes $14.5 million ‘investment’ in affordable housing. The overall budget is $1.5 billion. This investment equals .1% of the budget. By way of comparison, we are spending 4% on the Minneapolis Convention Center and 9% on debt service. More can be done by the city and it should. The current establishment has let this issue linger unaddressed for too long. I support more funds be allocated to the Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing fund and that new development only be approved if it provides affordable housing in its plan. There are enough luxury apartments in the city, what the city needs is a true commitment to building new affordable housing that is located near public transportation. In addition, the city needs to invest in upgrading its current stock of housing to make them more energy efficient. By doing so, it will lower the utility costs for residents and also bring the city closer to being able to achieve the 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 to which it has committed.
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.
Jenkins: I will stand strong against these policies and work with local advocacy groups to determine the best solutions.
White: I am opposed to government programs like Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). The city council needs to protect people from unwarranted persecution and unfair deportation. I would resist any efforts to turn back or limit the current policy preventing police from checking the immigration status of individuals. Setting up a legal defense fund to assist individuals targeted by federal profiling programs will show the country that Minneapolis believes in protecting civil rights and truly embraces a policy of inclusion and fairness.
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?
Jenkins: Education is the path to zero-waste, starting in low income communities. I do support the closing of HERC, and I will work with community residents from the northside to determine how to best use settlement funds.
White: I will be a leader on environmental issues. Expanding the city council to include more Greens will keep environmental issues at the forefront of council policy. I support the full funding of our Green Zone Policy because too many impacts of environmental destruction are falling on the most vulnerable populations, namely, the elderly, children, and low income individuals. Jobs in the renewable energy sector are growing and represent a true alternative for the future. HERC exists because of the enormous amount of waste generated by residents. The current Climate Action Plan calls for holding waste generation flat and recycling half of all citywide waste by 2025. The goal for composting is 15% of the entire waste stream. Each of us will need to change our consumption habits to make these goals possible. I will support an ordinance to eliminate single-use plastic bags. As for HERC, a plan for its removal is needed.
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?
Jenkins: Trust the people.
White: One of my fundamental beliefs is that nonviolence is the best solution for solving problems. The policy, having been given a tremendous amount of authority, need to be held to a high level of accountability. The shooting of unarmed people of color happens entirely too often and more often than not there are no consequences, no real change because of it, except in the lives of the families who must carry on. The police should have modeled nonviolence and de-escalation tactics in their response to the 4th precinct occupation. By forcibly removing the occupiers the police further enflamed the deep distrust held in the community. It will be a difficult road building back trust, but I think it can be done and I want to play a substantial role in bridging the divide.
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?
Jenkins: More training on implicit bias, M.I., partner with social workers. Develop opportunities for youth employment.
White: Minneapolis needs to invest in affordable housing, $10 per day child care, education, and a living wage. Alleviating poverty-induced desperation is how we move people from being a risk for violence to people committed to seeing their communities thrive. When people feel empowered, when they have money to feed, cloth, and house their families, the inclination for violence drops. Economic justice will ultimately lead to a less violent city. I do not think it is a problem that can be solved with arrests. In fact, sending people back into the world with a felony record only makes the problem more difficult to solve. The amount of lives being damaged and limited because of our current policing strategy is a grotesque injustice. Many of the youth being processed through the penal system are getting medical and mental health services for the first time. The current budget funds 12 community policing officers and three mental health co-responders.
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?
Jenkins: We must be at the table when these discussions are being had, which is now, call your current council member, as I will be doing.
White: Unfortunately, the stadium, and coming Super Bowl LII, are an example of how the wealthy increase their wealth. Major corporations are going to reap the benefits and take the money out of Minneapolis. Some restaurants, taxi drivers, and local businesses will certainly see a boost, but the vast majority of the money spent will go to the corporate chain hotels and vendors downtown. The responsibility for showing how this event will benefit Minneapolis tax-payers and marginalized residents falls to the Vikings. I would require the NFL and Zygi Wilf produce detailed reporting on where the money is spent and how it benefits Minneapolis. One of my campaign priorities is to have annual audits of the stadium conducted to ensure that the city does not spend more than it has already committed. The city council circumvented the residents when they invested in the stadium and left much more pressing needs go ignored or underfunded.
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?
Jenkins: Speaking up at every opportunity I get, connecting all of the issues above to women and LGBTQ folks. Partnering with advocacy groups to determine the best solutions. I know that I don't have all the answers, I am depending on groups like NOC and others to help develop the best policies that make sense for the most people.
White: My goal as a city council person is to fight against all forms of injustice, particularly when it involves the most vulnerable and historically marginalized members of society. I believe how we treat others is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Women’s health is a fundamental right and it is short-sighted if we don’t push for a city that supports their rights and protects them from abusive partners. I support the Trans Equity Council and would seek their advice as the city addresses their concerns. Economic and Social Justice are core Green values and ones that I believe should be the basis for all city policy.