The future depends on progressive leadership

Progressive mayors translate a vision derived from the needs and aspirations of the people into specific actions.

Question: What do great progressive leaders Hubert H. Humphrey, Art Naftalin and Don Fraser have in common? Answer: They all graduated from the University and served as mayor of Minneapolis. I intend to follow in their footsteps.

I first came to Minnesota in 1975 to attend the University’s School of Public Affairs, now the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. My plan was to complete my master’s degree. Beyond that I had only dreams. I quickly learned that Minneapolis is a great place to live, combining the lakes and the majestic Mississippi and a vibrant urban core with progressive activism. Moreover, I wanted to find new ways to use government, working with people, to build an even stronger community. So after graduation, I stayed on.

Twenty-eight years later, I remain delighted with my choice. I started working for the Urban Coalition, where one of my first projects created a union apprenticeship program for unemployed residents. I helped create an affordable housing co-op in an abandoned school that still exists today. I pursued my progressive political interests by winning a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where I authored the state’s groundbreaking parental leave law. I was later elected Hennepin County commissioner, representing the campus, and I lead the charge to finally get light rail transit constructed after decades of gridlock.

I’ve entered the race for mayor because we must keep alive the reality of progressive change in Minneapolis. We must go beyond rhetoric and photo-op politics to successfully making real change. That is the true progressive tradition. I believe, especially in hard times, that we need leadership at the local level that will take responsibility rather than lay blame, to make gains rather than just “cut our losses.” Invention of our political and policy future will occur at the local level. And I am convinced that some of the most profound changes will have little to do with money and everything to do with inspiring our community to act for the good of the whole.

I started this campaign proposing a three-pronged progressive agenda:

(1) Strengthen support for our public school system. The mayor is uniquely positioned to bring the full support of our community behind our students, teachers and the entire public school system. In the last year, plans have been made to close a large number of public schools. At the University, General College has been slated to close. Our future clearly depends on everyone having reasonable access to high quality educational opportunities.

(2) Make public safety a top priority of city government. Every neighborhood must be safe enough to retain families and businesses and invite new investment. The recent threefold increase in violent crime in certain neighborhoods is a burden on all city residents, not simply those directly affected. The city’s fire department remains unaccredited because of staffing shortfalls. We’ve become, in the words of one expert, “a one-fire town.” Public safety is a fundamental responsibility of government that must be fulfilled for the entire city. As I did during the crime wave of the 1980s, I will again make public safety a reality for all of our residents.

(3) Keep residents and neighborhoods involved in key decisions affecting them. Although it might be slower and messier, allowing neighborhoods to have a say in development decisions creates greater buy-in by residents. Critical to the success of any city is citizen participation. We must assure that Minneapolis’ commitment to it is not sacrificed at the new city development agency under the guise of imaginary savings and efficiencies.

Progressive mayors translate a vision derived from the needs and aspirations of the people into specific actions. I ask you to examine my lifetime of community service and my vision for our future (www.petermclaughlin.org). Our future depends on solid progressive leadership from city government.

Peter McLaughlin is a candidate for mayor in Minneapolis. Please send comments to [email protected]