Imagine you’re interviewing candidates for a very important job. A job where the decisions they make will impact thousands and the ramifications of those decisions will be felt for years to come. As part of the hiring process, you can review their referrals. One candidate provides a referral from their brother, the other from a respected local business person.
Whose endorsement has more credibility?
This is a question we should all be asking ourselves as we head to the polls in August and November.
Candidates work to rack up endorsements for exposure, credibility, and sometimes financial support for their campaigns. Endorsements clue voters in on a candidate’s priorities, but they also show what circles candidates run in and the special interest groups that could influence their decision making.
When it comes to candidates there’s a Mexican proverb that explains the relationship between candidates and those that endorse them, it says: “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”
In Duluth/St. Louis County, some local candidates have been endorsed by a Twin Cities activist organization that should give voters pause.
The group, Take Action Minnesota, has endorsed four local candidates, as well as others around the state, including Ilhan Omar.
Take Action MN bills itself as a “statewide multicultural, multigenerational, grassroots membership organization” and a “people-powered movement across the state for a government and economy that works for all of us.” If you visit their website, takeactionmn.org, you’ll find that they have one priority – abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, and if that succeeds, most likely a police department near you.
Their “Take Action” dropdown lists Black Lives Matter and Change the Charter as their key issues. Change the Charter is their initiative to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with the “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” (CSVP). On their website, both their Black Lives Matter page suggests people read the “MPD150 – a powerful report of the history and current-day MPD” as “a great introduction to the fight for abolition.” And they suggest that people can help by calling on “elected officials to defund the police”.
The MPD Change the Charter initiative removes the Mayor’s power over the city’s police department. It also removes the Chief of Police, the powers of police officers, the Mayor’s ability to appoint temporary police in cases of emergency, and all police funding. Instead, the new city charter would enlist the city council to create and fund the “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention”. The new department would promote a “public safety service that promotes a holistic, health-oriented approach”.
Snickers Bar commercials come to mind – where someone is acting ornery and awful until their friend gives them a Snickers Bar and they return to their lovely, normal self. Perhaps the new CSVP Department will carry around a basket of apples, greens, and multivitamins handing them to rapists, rioters, and petty thieves, magically turning them into worthwhile citizens.
Take Action Minnesota proposes that the Mayor nominate a director for the new department – but that acceptable director would only have “non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” I’m sure this will make the people of Minneapolis feel really safe.
The Charter does allow for the city council to maintain a division of law enforcement services with licensed peace officers who are supervised by the CSVP – the CSVP director will appoint the director of the division of law enforcement services.
If Take Action Minnesota believes that removing the power of the police department will reduce crime and violence in Minneapolis, they’ve got a bad case of “Magical Thinking”. The idea that a non-law enforcement person should appoint and manage peace officer services in Minneapolis is like putting kids in charge of protecting your home from an intruder.
Take Action Minnesota’s plan for Minneapolis is unrealistic and dangerous. Their plan to abolish/defund the MPD is their single focus despite their claim to be about statewide government – so why are they endorsing Duluth area candidates?
Why would Ashley Grimm (St. Louis County Commissioner – District 3), Jen McEwen (State Senate 7), Liz Olson (House 7B), and Jennifer Schultz (House 7A) proudly display the Take Action Minnesota endorsement on their websites if they didn’t believe in the group’s vision? And why would this activist group endorse local candidates unless they hope to bring their outrageous initiatives here?
Even more disturbing is that some of the candidates stand to gain professionally if police department funds are moved from law enforcement services to social services. Three of these candidates have or currently work or are involved with social service organizations that serve people struggling with poverty and homelessness, Ashley Grimm works for the Damiano Center, Jen McEwen is the President-Elect for the Damiano Center Board, and Liz Olson’s bio says she’s worked in public service helping the homeless as well. Jennifer Schultz’s livelihood comes from the state as well, she is a UMD college professor.
AFSCME, the public union representing state, county, and municipal workers including many that work in social services and public health, stands to gain the most by defunding the police. If the Minneapolis Police Department is changed to a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention it stands to reason that many new social service jobs will be created at the state and city levels. Grimm, Olson, and Schultz have all been endorsed by AFSCME. In their professional lives, it is likely they work closely with members of this union brotherhood.
Hmm… Maybe the candidates’ willingness to promote their Take Action MN endorsement isn’t so strange after all.
It’s pretty clear that Duluth and St. Louis County need less of the same. The economy, public safety, opportunity, growth, roads, and infrastructure have all gone downhill over the last two decades. Encouraging the people that commit the 4,286 (per 100,000) non-violent crimes each year in Duluth to behave better with sticker charts and lollipops is going to work about as well as it does with the school-aged kids that disrupt class and torment classmates. In other, words not at all.
And how many community safety and violence prevention staff will it take to prevent the annual 328 (per 100,000) violent crimes in Duluth each year? One can only imagine an army of public servants holistically stopping violent crime with essential oil sprays hanging off their belt where a taser should be.
All endorsements aren’t equal. Public union endorsements like those from AFSCME are self-serving in that they promote more for government by taking more from citizens. Private union endorsements more often have the public’s best interest at heart, these include endorsements from the Teamsters, Duluth Building and Construction Trades, and their affiliates. They are the unions pushing for good-paying jobs, fair treatment of employees, and growth and development in our state.
Candidates that proudly display PACs and activist group endorsements are giving those groups their approval and an endorsement right back. If you’re a fan of that group, then you know you’ve found the right candidate, if not, you know to look at the other options.
If you’re going to pay attention to endorsements this election season, consider what they represent. Find the candidates that promote the future you’re hoping for, not those that will give us more of the same dismal reality we’ve been struggling in for years.