Rumors abound that the President of the Minneapolis City Council, Lisa Bender, the voice and face of the Defund the Police movement (whether she likes it or not), is moving to Duluth.
The instant gut reaction this burps up is something I learned from an experience while fundraising for an elementary school walk-a-thon decades ago, back when it was still safe to send your kids door-to-door in the neighborhood without a chaperone. While most people that didn’t want to give just didn’t come to the door, one particular house offered a bit of shock for a young 9-year-old just out trying to raise enough money-per-mile to get the reward – a fuzzy colored cotton ball creature with googly eyes and a gumball.
With hand innocently poised, ready to knock, an old lady voice bellowed through the door “We don’t want any!”.
“I’m not selling anything!”, shocked, I shouted back.
“Then we really don’t want it”, said the voice. “Get off my stoop.”
What was an unforgettable moment for a child has become quite a handy mantra in life.
Now that Lisa Bender appears to be poised to knock on Duluth’s door, the instinct is to yell “We don’t want any!”.
Lisa Bender, born and raised in Minnesota, earned a Masters Degree at U of CA – Berkley and worked for a short time as a planner for San Francisco before moving back to Minnesota. She was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in Ward 10 in 2014, becoming council president in 2018.
In an email to supporters, Bender carries on about all she has accomplished in her time on the council – passing Minnesota’s first ESST (Earned Safe and Sick Time) which Duluth quickly duplicated, passing a $15 minimum wage, re-orienting street design, reconnecting Nicollet Ave to the now destroyed Lake Street, and her pièce de resistance, the Minneapolis 2040 plan.
In her new book, “How to Make a Racist” (aka Minneapolis 2040 Plan), Bender drops bombs all over the housing and zoning plans in Minneapolis, stating, “We’ve inherited a system that for decades has privileged those with the most and forgotten the people that we really have left behind. Housing is inextricably linked with income… failing people of color.” Her plan relaxes single-family zoning and permits more multi-family home construction in an attempt to remove racist policies in the city’s zoning code.
While housing is certainly an issue in Minneapolis, much like it is in Duluth, tying it to racism is virtue signaling best. The plan came from the city’s white progressive leadership: the council and Mayor Jacob Frey, not from black leaders in Minneapolis or even black groups or communities.
What those elected officials failed to realize is that their plan, while providing more housing, removes the opportunity for all families to build generational wealth because it serves developers and renters while reducing homeowners. Ironically, the single-family neighborhoods in Minneapolis are quite liberal and diverse. When Bender’s plan reached the comfortable front steps of their modest single-family homes the conclusion was simple… they, as homeowners in single-family zoned parts of the city were brazenly perpetuating racist policies in Minneapolis. Gasp! A whole new type of racist was born – a diverse, middle-class, progressive, often activist group of unsuspecting racists.
Bender proudly pointing out privilege had made what should have been a simple housing and zoning issue void of dramatic, national newsworthy emotion into a seething mess that most pale-skinned Minnesotan’s wouldn’t touch with a 10-ft pole.
Bender’s 2040 plan also requires affordable housing in every new development, legalized homeless shelters and tiny homes, and created renter laws that prevent landlords from using parts of background checks and reducing credit score minimums of who they can rent to, as well as requiring landlords to provide the city with a written reason asking for permission to remove a tenant from their property. The plan also provides legal services for renters facing eviction. In one swoop, it provides the perfect avenue for multi-family and high-density housing developers to move in, and with the other makes it impossible to profit from and protect their investment, this, on top of Lisa Bender’s call to defund the police has left developers looking outside of Minneapolis for their next investment at the worst possible time – while Lake Street is still smoking.
Just last week, the Minneapolis City Council, including Bender, voted to cut $8 million dollars from the Minneapolis Police Department and instead spend that money on mental health response, enhanced gun violence prevention, and having other PD staff deal with theft and burglary reporting/paperwork. Bender has said that she has never used the words “Defund the Police”, even though she spoke on a stage bearing the slogan in big white letters. While she sticks to her phrasing: “complete reimagining of public safety”, she is happy with the conversations the Defund the Police movement has brought to life. Bender’s plan is to demilitarize the police, reducing the department in numbers and budget in order to fund other departments that focus on different approaches to public safety, like mental health. She wants the Police department removed from the city charter, which specifies the number of police required per person, with the ultimate goal of disbanding the department.
Bender claims that those who have reached out to her with fears about the reduction of police are speaking from a “place of privilege for those of us for whom the system is working.” She tweeted that those who look like her (white) and are for reimagining or defunding the police should put that in action and not call the police if, for example, their garage is broken into.
More irony, a short while later in a moment of privilege, Bender called the police herself to report that her garage had been vandalized during the George Floyd riots, making the report for insurance purposes.
The rumor mill suggests that Lisa Bender will move to Duluth for a few potential reasons. Some say she will be taking over as the Director at CHUM in downtown. An organization that, at heart, is necessary, but in action creates endless problems for the people and businesses around it. Or, she is moving this way for political aspirations – the “old average size” fish moving to a smaller pond to get a bigger seat in the next election cycle, some say that could the one under Representative Pete Stauber’s butt.
Regardless of her reason: “We don’t want any” of her progressive problem-making or insidious virtue signaling. “Get off our stoop.”