Monday, March 2, 2009

Ward 10 Precinct Caucus (Un) Endorsements

Those of you involved in Ward politics know what March 3 means: the first step towards selecting the official DFL-endorsed Ward 10 City Council candidate. Given the one-party dominance of this neighborhood, the endorsement of a candidate will in all likelihood mean that the contest is over, especially if the other Democratic candidates in the running step aside if they don't receive the endorsement.

Those not involved with politics at the local level might be lulled into thinking that one candidate is as good as the next; they're all Democrats, right? And yes, certainly at some level there are shared values. But the reality is that these candidates have very different approaches and visions, and the general public (and local delegates) deserve the opportunity to understand what each candidate brings to the table.

Before I go any further, let me fully disclose that there's still a lot that I have yet to learn about the candidates. Things are starting to move along quickly, though, so I'm sure we'll all have the opportunity to get more questions answered in the coming month. I don't, however, feel ready at this time to make a formal decision about where to throw my support. That said, I do know enough to be able to state definitively that there is one candidate that the Uptown Urbanist and the Uptown Musings blog will NOT be endorsing: Lara Norkus-Crampton.

Lara "I like to be able to see the sky" Norkus-Crampton is not the right person to represent Ward 10. Her record to-date has shown her to be an active NIMBY, focusing on issues of height at the expense of providing a broader, more useful vision for Uptown. I don't know Norkus-Crampton, and assume that's she's a nice, caring person who does passionately care about the community, but she is not the right person for this job at this time.

Rather than embrace Uptown for what it is - an exciting urban neighborhood - Norkus-Crampton instead all-to-often focuses her energies on the dangers of building height and excess traffic, with the goal of shoehorning Uptown into a quieter, different kind of place. Yes, there are some in Ward 10 who share her (tunnel) vision, but a great many others do not. Her platform also includes references to engaging the community in city affairs, but her stated approach - attending all neighborhood board meetings - fails to acknowledge that the neighborhood organizations do not necessarily reflect the majority of neighborhood residents.

Minneapolis and Ward 10 are facing more pressing issues right now than whether or not a building two blocks from Lake Calhoun is three, four, or even five stories tall. Yes, of course these topics are important to local residents, and do need to be discussed. But we also need someone who both shares a love of Uptown and Ward 10 for what it is now, as well as what it can be in the future. We need a representative who can better balance the many nuances of city life. Lara Norkus-Crampton represents only a small percentage of the Ward and therefore receives the official Uptown Musings un-endorsement.

Meg Tuthill versus Matt Filner: I haven't made up my mind between these two candidates yet. I've heard great things about Filner, and especially appreciate both his acknowledgement that there are many in the Ward whose voices are seldom heard, as well as his knowledge and understanding of the larger Minneapolis and Twin Cities political situation. He's a smart guy who knows his way around the political landscape, and I believe he would serve both Ward 10 and Minneapolis well. His references to the issue of Minneapolis and Ward 10 poverty and political exclusion highlights Norkus-Crampton's lack of commentary on those same subjects, furthering my impression that Norkus-Crampton, while undoubtedly well-meaning, will not represent all the people or be as in-tune with some of the serious issues facing many Minneapolis residents.

While Filner hasn't been around long as a local community force, his educational and professional experiences are impressive and completely relevant to the job. I feel comfortable that he understands Ward 10 - and not just one small subgroup of Ward 10 residents - and would make a true effort to put his skills and knowledge to work on behalf of all Minneapolis residents.

Meg Tuthill also seems like a solid candidate. She's been actively involved in the community for decades. Her experience as both a resident and a small-business owner would serve her well. I'd like to know more about her vision for Uptown - as well as her take on changes and development - but I feel comfortable that she understands the balancing act between "character" (and NOT simply the character=height arguments of Norkus-Crampton and the NIMBYs) and change necessary to keep the neighborhood thriving. I like that she's been long been active in the schools, and I also appreciate her interest in and work on behalf of the preservation of Uptown's historic housing stock. I think she'll work hard, get things done, and do what it takes to make both Uptown and Minneapolis a better place to live and work.

I'd like to see Meg Tuthill and Matt Filner have the opportunity to continue to discuss their opinions on issues (and solutions) relevant to both Ward 10 and to the city as a whole, while I'd like Lara Norkus-Crampton to find another outlet for her service to the community. (I'm thinking official City ornithologist might be right up her - low-rise and quiet - alley...)

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