Concerns about crime, policing, jobs and economic development are top of mind for voters in the Fourth and Fifth Wards of Minneapolis.
The racially diverse wards have higher rates of unemployment and poverty and need leaders who can collaborate to help reform policing, work with youth, expand business and job creation, and create more affordable housing.
In 2017, both wards voted out more experienced council leaders in favor of candidates who were thought to be more progressive change agents. But what constituents got were representatives who often do not work well with council colleagues, the mayor, the administration or department heads. They've been especially divisive on the council and, in our view, have consistently taken positions that would lead the city in the wrong direction.
First-term incumbents Phillipe Cunningham, 34, in the Fourth Ward and Jeremiah Ellison, 31, in the Fifth have come a long way in terms of knowledge and understanding of city operations in four years. Both have increased voter participation in their usually low-turnout precincts and have helped bring needed investments to their part of the city.
Still, they have been criticized for poor constituent service and not listening or responding to those who disagree with them. Both also are opposed to City Question 1, which would rightly give the mayor clear authority over city departments, and both support Question 2, which would create a Department of Public Safety that may or may not include law enforcement. Neither of those positions serve the best interests of Minneapolis city governance.
The Editorial Board endorsements go to challengers LaTrisha Vetaw, 45, in the Fourth Ward, and Kristel Porter, 38, in the Fifth. Like the Star Tribune Editorial Board, both oppose Question 2 and advocate a both/and approach, meaning significant police reform along with violence prevention efforts that include policing. Both support Question 1 — as does the Editorial Board — and are prepared to work collaboratively with the mayor and police chief to make necessary changes in the Police Department.
Vetaw knows the community well and has a history of working with government, residents and other partners to get things done. She's currently vice president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board — one of three at-large directors elected citywide. She's also director of health policy and advocacy at NorthPoint Health & Wellness community clinic, has helped to manage food drives for seniors and was key organizer of anti-smoking efforts for youth.
Vetaw said she supports Question 1 because she would rather talk with constituents and deliberate over policy than "fight with the mayor over who has the power to do what." She says she opposes Question 2 because the possible abolishment of MPD would be more harmful than helpful to North Siders. She also opposes Question 3 on rent control — a measure the Editorial Board argues could lead to a counterproductive city ordinance.
During the past four years, Vetaw has served admirably as a moderate, thoughtful voice on the Park Board, and she would bring a much-needed spirit of collaboration to the City Council.
Perennial candidate Leslie Davis, 84, is also on the ballot.
Like Vetaw, Porter has ties to the North Side and the proven ability to collaborate with various interests in her ward and beyond. She experienced homelessness while raising her children and attending college and can help others navigate social service systems because she has done it herself.
Porter went on to lead several nonprofit efforts and she now owns and lives in a duplex, which gives her an understanding of both homeowner and landlord issues. She says she opposes Question 2 because too many lives have been lost to gun violence and reckless driving in her ward, and police don't have adequate resources to investigate domestic violence cases.
Smart and personable, her priorities include public safety, economic stability, affordable renting and homeownership, and environmental change. And she offers practical ideas to address those issues. While she agrees with the Editorial Board's positions on Questions 1 and 2, it's unclear where she stands on Question 3.
Porter has coached gymnastics at three Minneapolis high schools and coaches soccer for the Park and Recreation Board, giving her valuable insights about youth issues. She is executive director of MN Renewable Now and is well-versed in climate and environmental issues and their impact on communities color.
Victor Martinez, 35, came closest to earning the DFL endorsement in this race, with 58% of the vote. He has been a pastor on the North Side for 17 years and through his work has helped restore lives and build unity — skills that are needed to improve governance in a divided city.
Still, Porter has a more impressive list of accomplishments and has the best combination of skills, experience and ideas to help her ward and the city overall with the various serious challenges it faces.
Opinion editor's note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process. To read all of our endorsements, go to startribune.com/package-opinion-endorsements/.