Our Revolution MN Candidate Questionnaire
I'm running for Minneapolis Park Board At-Large. I'm running for Minneapolis Park Board because our parks represent the greatest untapped potential to uplift people's lives and protect the environment.
Why is an Our Revolution MN endorsement important to you?
Because Bernie Sanders was the best presidential candidate I've ever supported. I volunteered with Our Revolution MN and door knocked and caucused for Bernie. I share a passion for equitable governance and healthy communities with people involved in Our Revolution and I see Our Revolution as a focused community that can help grow positive change in local governments.
What are your top 3 priorities once elected?
Transition to Pesticide Free Park System = I'll work to set up a transition committee to guide a move off of pesticides and toward organic management in all parks.
More and Better Community Engagement = I'll work to remove barriers to community engagement and open up more and more genuine engagement opportunities for residents who want to be a part of making a better park system.
Equitable Parks Spending = Open and transparent park system budgets with maintenance, programing, and facilities accounted for in each neighborhood and a process to prioritize spending in low-income neighborhoods.
What local issue is most important to your consituents and why are you the best person to address it?
Many people are concerned with pesticide use in public areas. As the owner of an organic landscaping company I'm ready to find organic / pesticide free solutions to the pest issues faced by the park board. As a community organizer and policy advocate for 5 years with the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, I'm ready to make sure that the Minneapolis park system stops polluting water, making toxic land, and harming people, pets, and pollinators with pesticides. As a longtime community engaged activist, I'm ready to bring forward and uplift community voices in parks decision making processes.
Describe the experience and skill-set that will help you be effective in office:
I'm hard working, rooted in restorative justice, and well practiced at community engaged policy making. I'm a father, a business owner, and a local activist. I've managed and grown an organic landscaping company for 12 years where I learned the skills required to grow beautiful, pesticide free landscapes. I've worked on policy that empowers people and grows the local food system for the last 9 years. I've been at the head of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council for 5 years where I've engaged communities and neighbors to make new park, city, and state policies. I've worked on pollinator protection, seed library legalization, policies for leasing city owned land to urban farmers, and policies for supporting backyard food producers and urban composters. I was a volunteer restorative justice facilitator for 3 years where I learned how restoration and justice are two sides of the same coin.
How will you use your candidate/elected official position to engage more citizens into the political process?
I'll work to uplift people's voices, give people a platform to weigh in on decision making, and remove barriers to participation that have been implemented by the current board of commissioners.
- At Park Board meetings people are allowed 2-3 minutes to weigh in on important issues. I'd take away the time limits for community members to weigh in so that staff and commissioners are forced to make sure community members are on board and engaged with policy processes before they come for a vote at the board.
- The parks operate Community Advisory Committees (CAC's) in order to help community members engage in decision making. There are many ways we can improve the communities ability to influence decision making processes of CAC's including making sure they are led by residents, as well as ensuring that there are more votes in community members than there are in staff, and making sure CAC's include staff relevant to the policies being worked on.
- Open data. The Minneapolis Park Board needs to present a full budget on its website. This public budget data needs to include operations, management, and capitol improvements and also needs to include a neighborhood by neighborhood accounting of park dollars spent so we can see where park investments can be more equitable.
Voters over Donors
Democracy can't function unless people are in charge of decision making. High buck donors have undue influence in elections and policy making. I'm advocating for public financing of political campaigns in order to remove donated money from the political process entirely.
Citizens before Corporations
Corporations aren't people and we need to stop treating them like people legally. People have inalienable rights, under the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision, corporations were granted the same rights such as freedom of speech that citizens of the US enjoy. This is wrong. I'm advocating to stop spending our public dollars on multi-national corporations and start spending it on lasting neighborhood solutions. Our big American problems show up at our little park board. Recently the Minneapolis Park Board voted to spend $4 Million over 4 years to spray Roundup (glyphosate), a toxic chemical defoliant onto the cattails in Loring Pond. This $4 Million could have gone to protecting habitat, community programming, or park building improvements. Instead we spent money to have a multi-national corporation spray toxins all over one of our bodies of water.
It's time to kick the giant corporations out of our parks and spend Minneapolis tax payer money on Minneapolis tax payers.
People, Planet, and Peace before Profits
I'm working on a pesticide free Minneapolis. Pesticides are often made of petroleum or other mined and extracted products. Removing pesticides from parks is one part of a multi-front divestment strategy: Pesticide Free Minneapolis.
First I worked with Beez Kneez, Pollinate MN, and many other groups to get the City of Minneapolis to pass the pollinator friendly resolution, then I worked with school board members and local activists to design the Public Schools Pesticide Elimination team, and now it's time to take this movement to Minneapolis Parks.
When we start to grow pesticide free, organic parks we'll be an inspiration to the rest of the nation. We can lead the way at eliminating pesticides in the US. France recently banned pesticides in all public spaces, it's possible to do, it's inevitable. It's time to transition to a pesticide free Minneapolis!
Dignity, Equity and Justice for All Persons
Minneapolis doesn't have an equitable park system. Equity is more than using nice words, it's about equal access to resources. Currently our park system partially funds neighborhood park programming with private money which creates a park system that is robustly serving wealthy people and struggling to serve low income people. It's time to change the way we fund neighborhood parks and parks programming so that low income neighborhoods have robust programming that is equitable with wealthy neighborhoods.
Justice requires restoration. I'll work to implement a restorative justice approach to crimes that happen in Minneapolis Parks. By partnering with restorative justice organizations in Minneapolis we can design a system where people found guilty of misdemeanor crimes sit down with neighbors, those impacted by their crime, and police to design restorative contracts. These contracts can guide offenders toward a path of becoming community members who value people, public space, and neighborhoods. These contracts will get people volunteering in the parks and neighborhood where they offended. When people take part in restorative justice programs they can transform criminal behavior while building community and growing healthier neighborhoods.
Violence grows violence. If we want to grow peace and justice, we've got to start taking a look at some difficult questions. In order to grow a more peaceful community, it's time to start talking about disarming police. The first weapons I'd like to negotiate with police to remove from their arsenal are rifles, armored vehicles, and explosives. These weapons are irresponsible in an urban environment as they can cause much more harm than just to the intended target. There's no justifiable reason for police to have rifles, explosives, and armored vehicles in Minneapolis.
Describe your experiences and skill sets that will help you be effective in office.
As a father I learned that patience, kindness, and boundaries promote healthy relationships. As an activist I've learned that process, engagement, and empathy result in lasting and effective policies. As a business owner I've learned that dedication and hard work are key to unlocking potential.
As a restorative justice facilitator I learned how to mediate, mitigate, and grow beyond conflict. As a landscaper I've learned to care for and nurture the most vulnerable lives because they grow into the most potent beauty. As a volunteer I've learned that organizing is the way to grow sustainable change. As a candidate I'm learning how to balance my passion with patience and persistence.
As a human being I've learned that all cultures come from and share the culture of the landscape. As an earthling I've learned that ultimately all we have is each other and the this little planet we call home.
CARBON SEQUESTRATION IN PARK SOILS:
With 14.8% of Minneapolis land under their management, the MPRB can be a leader on carbon sequestration in soils. Healthy soil that is properly managed and free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers will sequester increasing amounts of carbon over time. If we're innovative, this carbon storage can then be used to fund park programming.
Carbon credits have been developed in California in order to help finance and encourage carbon sequestration. Working with the State of MN, the Minneapolis Park Board can innovate in the marketplace to create a system of carbon credits which will encourage carbon sequestration throughout all MN soils. If we us our park soils to monitor and capture atmospheric carbon, we could be a leader in both the methods and benefits of carbon storage by selling our carbon credits to fund parks programming throughout the city.
We can lead the way on carbon sequestration in soils by monitoring and aiming at improvements in carbon levels throughout our park system. MPRB has a responsibility to respond to climate change and utilize tax payer owned assets to innovate the marketplace, methods, and management tools required to sequester carbon in soils.
As park commissioner I will connect soil scientists to staff so we can train ourselves and the rest of Minnesota on how to use soil health to fight climate change.
POLLINATOR FRIENDLY LANDSCAPING:
Pollinators and other insects are the backbone of the ecological food web. Pollinators ensure plants will be able to fruit and reproduce by sharing pollen between plants. Pollinators and other insects also themselves are eaten by birds, fish, frogs, and other animals to provide sustenance to a wide range of wildlife. Pollinators are also extremely vulnerable to chemical pesticides.
In order to protect and promote pollinators throughout Minneapolis parks we need to plant more native pollinator habitat plant species and transition away from the use of pesticides throughout our park system.
As park commissioner I will work with scientists and bee keepers to count and quantify the current pollinator populations in Minneapolis parks. Then I'd work with maintenance staff to develop and implement a Pollinator Action Plan for each type of parkland we manage including premier sports fields and golf courses. As our Pollinator Action Plan is developed and implemented, I'd work with park communications staff to grow a public education campaign aimed at sharing our pollinator friendly methods with homeowners and landscapers so that we can start protecting pollinators city wide.
USES OF PESTICIDES ON PARK PROPERTY:
It is time to transition away from the use of pesticides and herbicides on all park property. According to the definition used by the Minneapolis Park Board, pesticides include every type of insecticide, fungicide, and herbicide and according the the parks own record keeping, pesticides were used on our park land over 1400 times during the last 7 years.
People ask me why I'm anti-pesticide and the answer is simple, I'm pro kid. We have no idea what the combined health effects of the many types of pesticides used in the city are on the kids of Minneapolis. The Precautionary Principle is a tool that policy makers can use which states that when the health of humans and the environment is at stake, policy makers don't need to wait for scientific certainty to be achieved before taking steps to protect the public.
DDT and Roundup were promised by the manufacturers and retailers of these products to be safe for people and environments. Much like we've learned about DDT and Roundup, many of the other pesticides used by the MPRB have multiple bad effects on human and environmental health.
If elected commissioner I will work to set up a pesticide transition committee to examine the many current uses of pesticides within our park system and transition away from all pesticide uses within 3 years. As an organic landscaper with almost 20 years of experience in growing without pesticides I am certain that we can successfully transition away from pesticides while saving the Minneapolis tax payer's money while growing a healthier park system and city.
SUSTAINABLE WATER PRACTICES:
It's time for the city of lakes to take a long, hard look at the state of our bodies of water. From public beach closures to shorelines covered in garbage to micropollutants entering our water ways from our roads, there are several areas in which we can and must improve our city's relationship to water. The Minneapolis Park Board has a responsibility implement programs and practices that will start to protect the bodies of water in and around Minneapolis for generations to come.
As park commissioner I'd enlist the help of watershed management organizations and independent scientists to update our water quality monitoring methods to include monitoring of solid waste pollution such as garbage from our street sewers along with micropollutants including road salt and common landscaping chemicals. Then I'd work with city, county, state, and watershed government organizations to plan for and implement water protecting solutions over all of our park system. It is time to get the garbage, landscaping chemicals, and road salts out of our bodies of water.
From restored wetlands that can filter water and remove pollution to a public engagement campaign to uplift water protection as a community responsibility, to a complete overhaul of our soil management to prevent erosion and pollution, I'd work to protect the amazing bodies of water with which Minneapolis is blessed.
How would you support equal access for all people regardless of documentation and socioeconomic status?
The Minneapolis Park Board requires that youth participating in programs and activities show a picture ID prior to participation. This ID requirement unfairly excludes youth from low income families and recently immigrated families from participation in MPRB programs and activities.
If elected park commissioner, I will introduce a Walk Up and Play policy that will drop the requirement for photo ID for program participation.
How would you advance equity of access to recreational programming throughout the cities in all city parks
1. I'll work towards fully staffed neighborhood parks.
2. I'll work with staff to promote a conversation with Minneapolis residents and park employees to present the current truths of racial demographics in hiring and promoting people of color for MPRB jobs.
3. I'll work with community activists and park commissioners to develop hiring directives that will result in more Minneapolis residents of color working in Minneapolis parks.
4. I'll work to grow more program options for families in low income neighborhoods.
5. I'll work with activists, park staff, and commissioners to examine the budgets and facilities for each neighborhood in Minneapolis. We're often told that Minneapolis parks are already "equitable" from current commissioners. However, equity is about more than using some nice words, equity is about equal access to resources. I'll work to open a full and honest dialogue between the MPRB, equity activists, and residents to determine where our park resources are being spent in terms of neighborhood, income level, and racial / ethnic demographic. At the same time I'll work to develop a set of equity standards for parks spending, hiring, and resource allocation.
Would you like to add any context to your policy specific responses?
I am a dad, I'm a small business owner, and I'm a local policy activist. I raised my son in Minneapolis and we played and adventured at the parks all the time while he was growing up. Now my son is a young man and he works with me at our family run organic landscaping company.
I've been a local food policy activist for 5 years while I served as co-chair of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council. I've been a restorative justice volunteer for almost 5 years in Minneapolis.
Creating good policies on behalf of good causes has become one of my favorite passions. My experience as a father, a landscaper, a business owner, and a volunteer have prepared me to be an effective commissioner who listens to community and leads by uplifting the communities needs and voices.
Together we can grow an equitable, fully staffed, pesticide free park system!
Our Revolution MN is a 100% volunteer group of Minnesotans whose goal is to bring people together to stay connected and motivated to enact progressive policy, get authentic representation in our local government, and create a better future here in Minnesota. Learn more here: ourrevolutionmn.org