Letter: Why Ward 3 matters

Bruce Braun

Why has the Ward 3 city council race become so contentious? Because the ward stands at the crossroads — geographically and politically — of the future of Minneapolis. The stakes have been sharply drawn: should this city be run and built by and for developers and the city’s powerful elite, or should it be a city where students and workers can thrive? In the past week, wealthy outside donors under the umbrella of a PAC called Minneapolis Works have flooded the ward with fliers attacking the one candidate — Ginger Jentzen — who, in the vein of Seattle’s Kshama Sawant, has articulated a vision for a livable city that includes all of its residents. Developers are rallying against Jentzen for a reason: she has an established track record of success, including the recent 15 Now movement that successfully increased wages for low-wage workers across Minneapolis.

A defining issue in this election is affordable housing, an urgent concern for students, staff and faculty alike. This is especially the case in Ward 3, where gentrification is out of control, vacancy rates are allegedly up to 30 percent in luxury apartment buildings, and it is increasingly difficult for students and workers to find adequate housing. For students, the high cost of university education has become even more prohibitive. Jentzen has put forward real solutions, including a development tax to fund affordable housing, a renters’ bill of rights and rent control as a means of allowing workers and students to live where they work and study. These are not outrageous ideas: they have been deployed successfully in other major U.S. cities. What millionaire developers like Steve Minn fear is that Jentzen represents a growing movement to take back the city.

As faculty with strong progressive commitments, we support efforts to increase citizen control of city politics, whether it concerns housing, policing or racial justice. Jentzen represents this effort, as does Cam Gordon in neighboring Ward 2, which also has a large student population. Jentzen and Gordon have demonstrated that they are effective leaders and will place the interests of students and workers over those of powerful elites. We believe they will be a stronger, more principled voice on the council than the DFL-endorsed centrist candidate — Steve Fletcher — in Ward 3, who appears far less willing to push an urgently needed progressive agenda on key issues like affordable housing.

Jentzen and Gordon are not alone: other wards also have candidates with strong progressive visions for the future of Minneapolis. Several are building explicitly on the ideals and strategies of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, which energized young voters nationwide. We encourage students, staff and faculty to educate themselves on the issues that affect day-to-day life in the city. Municipal elections matter, perhaps now more than ever, yet only 7 percent of Dinkytown residents voted in the last local elections in 2013. Wherever you live in the Twin Cities, we encourage you to look closely at the electoral information you’re getting, and most importantly, to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Bruce Braun is the professor chair in the University of Minnesota school of Geography, Environment & Society and served as the lead writer on this letter. It was co-signed by University faculty members Mark Borrello, Teri Caraway, Giancarlo Casale, Sumanth Gopinath, Rick McCormick, Mary Pogatshnik, Arun Saldanha and Roozbeh Shirazi.