Ward 9 City Council Candidate Q&A

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Alondra Cano is the incumbent 9th Ward City Council Member. She faces challenges from Mohamed Farah and Gary Schiff.

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: Mohamed Farah and Gary Schiff did not respond to our questionnaire.

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?

Cano: I was the first City Council member to come out publicly in support of a $15 minimum wage with no tip penalty, no exemptions, and no carve-outs. Inside City Hall, I have established myself as a fearless and powerful voice for workers and have successfully protected the viability of this policy proposal since day one. I was one of only two Council Members who voted in favor of allowing the people to vote on a minimum wage charter amendment.

The most conservative members of the Council and the Mayor, who opposed 15 vociferously, are now all supporting a raise in the wage. It is because of the community mobilization that our city policies will change. Low wage workers, Latinx workers, Black workers, NOC, CTUL, 15 Now, and many other supporters ensured we achieved that. It’s been an honor to stand up with you on this issue.

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?

Cano: I have always supported a $15 wage and was the first Council Member to take a public stance against any tip penalty. I am proud that Minnesota is one of only a few states across the country that does not create a two-tiered system by counting tips as wages. In addition to the issues raised above I worry about the rate of wage theft that accompanies the tip penalty- the communities that I represent already suffer with unacceptable rates of wage theft and a two-tier system opens the door to more of this abuse and worker exploitation. Minneapolis adopting a tip penalty would set a dangerous precedent and threatens all the work done statewide to ensure one fair wage for all workers.

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?

Cano: I understand the struggle of trying to coordinate childcare, schooling, transportation, doctor’s appointments, and other needs without a predictable schedule. I believe the City of Minneapolis can help provide relief for many of our working families by doing a better job of engaging all city policy makers to implement regulations that impact this sector. San Francisco and Seattle have scheduling ordinances that regulate retail and fast food respectively. I believe there’s a strong need to co-create a fair scheduling policy with the direct input of immigrant workers, multilingual families, and low-wage workers as well as with the input of our micro and small businesses including the restaurant industry and others who might have less predictable personnel needs. We can pass a fair scheduling ordinance if we put together a collaborative action plan and timeline that leads us to the strongest in the country scheduling policy.

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?

Cano: I was the lead author of a unanimously approved staff direction to explore divesting from Wells-Fargo due to their investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wells-Fargo, US Bank, and others have engaged in predatory lending practices taking us into the 2008 financial crisis resulting in the extraction of billions of dollars of wealth from communities of color. Their practices hit the Northside and the Phillips/Central areas the hardest. The Center for Metropolitan Opportunity has outlined this exploitation in a 2014 report which the City should use to explore suing the banks and hold them accountable. I’m following the outcome of Bank of America v. City of Miami to see whether cities through the Fair Housing Act can sue banks for damages associated with redlining and predatory lending. Lastly, I want to establish a workgroup of City staff and community experts to co-create recommendations that help regulate the 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?

Cano: I have supported investment in many innovative programs and policies that expand access to voting for underrepresented residents including:

  • Dramatic expansion of early voting opportunities

  • Investment in hiring immigrant and POCI elections staff to do culturally specific voter outreach

  • Approving regulations requiring landlords provide voter registration materials to tenants upon signing a lease

  • Placement of a creative Citymaking team in elections to pursue innovative, arts-based, community engagement strategies.

I believe we should further invest resources focused in the lowest voter turnout precincts of our city to amplify voter turnout of people of color.

I am also interested in:

  • Exploring automatic voter registration as some states and municipalities have done

  • Working to overcome transportation-based barriers through partnerships with Metro Transit

  • Strengthening our multi-lingual and ethnic media communications efforts to augment voter outreach to underrepresented 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?

Cano: We must address the burden that caring for young kids and babies create for families - particularly low-income and POCI families. As a single mother of three, I know first hand about the financial strain that high quality daycare has has on family budgets. I want to leverage city resources for direct child-care subsidies that add to County and State subsidy dollars. I want to support more affordable child care centers through the City’s business development tool to lower daycare costs using a cooperative economics model. We also need to be very active in lobbying our State and County partners to grow their investments in this area. We have to push aggressively at the state for paid family leave, childcare subsidies, and Pre-K. If we can’t get to universal programs we must find ways to provide these services to the residents of our city.

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?

Cano: I support reduced and free fares for low-income residents. Our low-income and POCI families are the most reliable public transit customers, they utilize buses and LRT day in and day out. Yet these communities often get passed over when transit improvements or infrastructure investments are made. This is why I led the advocacy on the Council to pass a streets and parking funding formula that integrated a racial equity lens which directed millions of dollars to our low-income and POCI neighborhoods. I would like to approve a City Council racial equity funding formula that applies to CLIC projects, and the City’s Public Works, Transportation, and Bike/Ped improvement priorities.

I also want community benefits agreements integrated into development projects to ensure low-income communities are not displaced. These must be anchored by the proactive development vision of the communities impacted by the neoliberal agenda of gentrification.

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?

Cano: The amount of money that we are investing in affordable housing is inadequate to meet the growing demand of affordable housing in our city, especially for those with very low incomes. Currently, we only require 15 years of affordability where there is a City subsidy and I believe that needs to be extended into perpetuity like the City of Lakes Land Trust model. I also think that we need to work with our partners to develop innovative and more aggressive strategies to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.

I am also in support of implementing the Rent Escrow Account program (reserving rent from landlords until proper fixing of housing issues have been taken care of) and the Just Cause protection from eviction for renters and other aspects of rent control as allowed by state law.

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.

Cano: I oppose the CVE program. We need to take an official IGR policy position against it. I’m currently working to strengthen the protections of our existing separation ordinance that is now outdated. This refresh includes renewed training for our police officers and employees. I also established a Sanctuary City Task Force that is creating recommendations that further protect and defend our immigrant and refugee populations. I’ve been active in promoting this movement statewide and presented on Sanctuary Cities in Duluth and Mankato since Trump’s inauguration. However, as the daughter of undocumented immigrants I’m weary of the false sense of hope this language can create. A city becomes a true sanctuary through social movements, not ordinances. True sanctuary happens when the community puts their bodies on the line to stop the raids and deportations. When and if that happens, I’ll be there standing shoulder to shoulder with you to fight back.

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?

Cano: Yes, I support closing the HERC. The communities most disproportionately impacted by the negative health effects of the Northern Metals operations should decide how to use that money.

We reach a Zero Waste city by first focusing on thoroughly funding the community groups who will be seated to design the programmatic, policy, and budget changes needed to implement Green Zones. I have been the leading voice on advancing our Green Zones vision for the low-income, high-pollution areas of our city. After three years of hard work on that front we finally approved the north and south Minneapolis Green Zones. Next we will create place based workgroups that guide the recommendations of what should happen within a Green Zone. It is up to the community in that workgroup to push to phase out the industrial polluters in our city, as a sitting Council Member I am supportive of this position.

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?

Cano: On a few nights, I stood with the community outside the Fourth Precinct to support the occupation. I witnessed police using inappropriate force against peaceful residents and I requested to the Mayor and Chief of Police that we not deploy mace or tear gas, shoot projectiles, or hit our taxpayers with clubs.

I know that if more of my colleagues had spent time at the precinct, they could’ve been a part of the beautiful community that was forged in the streets during those cold nights - the way that people were fed and clothed and how we cared for one another. Being present in this action may have prevented CM Yang from staging the most anti-democratic farcical public hearing in the Public Safety committee for which he did not give proper public notice. Only he invited a handful of pre-selected anti-occupation neighbors and Police Federation President Bob Kroll.

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?

Cano: I believe that we are asking police to do too much within a framework that does not acknowledge - and therefore cannot dismantle - the negative legacies of colonization and slavery in our policing systems. As we have cut resources for mental health and chemical dependency, as we have allowed wealth and income disparities to expand, police have been expected to fill in the gaps. I was happy to support the mental health co-responder plot program in last year’s City budget as well as funding for group violence intervention, social services to end commercial sexual exploitation. In the future I would like to do a longitudinal pilot program that funds and tracks the progress of community policing models that improve safety across Minneapolis.

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?

Cano: I’m in favor of creating a Community Benefits Agreement to ensure those who have received city funding are hiring local contractors for services and funding critical city services for the most marginalized in our city. We have already given away hundreds of millions of public dollars to the Vikings stadium and it’s time our city’s most vulnerable start to see some of the benefits, not just billionaire owners or those who can afford luxury suites.

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?

Cano: We must ensure we are working efficiently with state and county officials to provide relevant and appropriate health care for our LGBTQ community members. By working to eliminate disparities in our wages, increasing affordable housing, creating a welcoming school system and ensuring all have access to quality healthcare, LGBTQ community members - especially queer and trans people of color will see increases in quality of life across the board. By continuing to partner with the amazing LGBTQ led organizations in our city, we can make this vision a reality - this includes investing in community centers and business models like Cafe SouthSide and resourcing the community leaders who run these operations to stabilize, grow, and sustain.

 

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