Reflection on the “2017 DFL Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Forum” at the University of Minnesota Law School


On March 30, 2017, I had the great honor and fortune of moderating one of the few 2017 DFL Minneapolis mayoral candidate forums. When my fellow Law Democrats gave me this responsibility, I took it very seriously. Because this was my first time moderating a political forum, I spent weeks revising my opening remarks, researching the candidates, and thinking about how to distinguish our forum from what I derisively call “soft ball.” If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right, and I’m going to make it count.

While our forum didn’t receive as much media attention as I would’ve liked (though here’s a piece from Fox 9 News), I’m proud of what we accomplished. A lot of good information came out of it, and the candidates really distinguished themselves from one another. In all, we covered topics like the minimum wage, inter-city partnerships, policing, etc. Impressively, in one question regarding “sanctuary cities,” I got three of the candidates (Dehn, Frey, Hodges) to commit to using the mayor’s office to undermine Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If these individuals follow through (and I hope they do), it would signal that Minneapolis will protect all of its communities–at any cost, even by committing what surely has to be a federal crime. That’s huge.

For those interested in knowing where the candidates stand but cannot afford to watch a 90-minute video, fortunately, I had it transcribed. The transcript is available here: 2017 DFL Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Forum at University of Minnesota Law School [TRANSCRIPT]. As noted in the .pdf, I did not review it for total accuracy and so before quoting specific language, I suggest verifying it with the video. Additionally, just to get a taste of how the forum began, here’s an excerpt from my opening remarks:

We should not hide from the fact that there is much to be worried about on the national level. But as we look up to the Congress, the Presidency, and the federal courts, we must not do so at the expense of what exists around us. For on a day-to-day basis we live, work, and operate here on the local level. It is, after all, through our city’s ordinances that we may safely ride a bicycle on our streets or have access to affordable housing or a living wage. It is by our city’s tax and budget priorities whether we have greenspace or, equally important, a pantheon of micro-breweries. It is here on the local level where we can shape policing priorities and training, to ensure that drug laws don’t become a club smashed over the head of teenagers or that people of color don’t have to fear for their own safety when they themselves reach out for help. All of this—from bicycles to brutality—are within the influence of we citizenry and under the control of our elected, local leaders.

So where there is on the national level a threat to the well-being of our communities, let us resist. But where it is likely we will have a DFL city council and DFL mayor, let us do more—let us thrive and let this city be the envy of the nation.

Perhaps my remarks were a little aggressive (it comes off this way in the video), but local politics are important. It affects our daily lives, and more so than what goes on in Washington, DC, it is something we can shape directly. If we were just one-quarter as passionate about what goes on in city hall as we are about what goes on at a White House Press Conference, our cities would change overnight.

So to all of my fellow students and community members who attended last month’s forum, thank you all. The turnout was much higher than I anticipated, and overall it went very well. Remember to register to vote and don’t forget that Minneapolis’ municipal elections are on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

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