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Confessions of a Minneapolis mayoral candidate
by Christopher Robin Zimmerman
You can't be taken seriously until you're covered, but you can't be covered until you're taken seriously.
Hi, I'm a candidate for mayor. There are lot of you who still don't know that, and for that I'm sorry. I have some other regrets I'd like to share with you which I've learned over the last 100 days...along with some non-regrets.
I'm sorry I didn't try harder to get your attention earlier. At the time, it didn't seem silly to hold off the actual start of my run for mayor until I had actually filed, unlike some folks who have been running since last year. Even back on August 15, I didn't think too many voters were really paying attention to this election except the ones more interested in making fun of the large pool of candidates instead of celebrating it, or starting to learn about the diverse opinions represented by the field. I now see that those folks who were unofficially running months before the filing period were carefully cultivating their media contacts for later in the race and ensuring exclusivity while shutting out and unfairly dismissing the wrongfully designated "minor" candidates. There has also been a steady encouragement of election fatigue, although I'm not sure to what end that helps which candidates. Seeing it achieve results in other countries, I briefly considered setting myself on fire to call attention to myself, but it looks really, really painful and not worth the long painful rehabilitation for what would likely only be, at best, 24 hours of (perhaps not even positive!) coverage anyway. There's also a risk of self-immolation, which would definitely cut short my campaign as I'd be dead.
I'm sorry I assumed more people felt like I did. It was naive to think that a majority of voters were tired of living in a one party town where hundreds of millions of dollars were being squandered on a stadium we didn't need, light rail we don't need, handouts to developers to make even more money for themselves to keep, raised tax rates for most in order to pay for tax breaks for few, and that those same voters would seek out and cast ballots for a candidate of change or even just a protest candidate rather than find the candidate who best represents more of the same for Minneapolis. It was also somewhat idealistic of me to believe that every candidate had the chance to win and to convince others that that's the case when so many others have been beating down on their audiences that only two candidates (or six or seven or eight) have that chance to win...even with Ranked Choice Voting. At the same time...
I'm sorry I didn't get those people who do feel as I do to make more noise encouraging everyone they knew to check me out. I still feel like there are more of us than you'll ever read about who are dissatisfied with the way things are and hungry for real, radical change in how government works...or doesn't work...not bought and paid for and later beholden to special interests, wealthy developers, unions or political kingmakers, but truly representative of ALL of the people of Minneapolis. We're not a "silent majority" (yet) but by and large we've surely got the "silent" part down - and I understand that most people want to live and let live, keep their heads down and not be bothered while not bothering anyone, but if in the process we're leaving folks to misrepresent and unfairly misallocate the biggest pie pieces, benefitting the few when they should be working for everybody - it shouldn't go on and it can't go on with the tacit approval of our collective silence.
I'm sorry I couldn't get you interested in the stuff I care about. My top issues are openness, transparency and accountability. But as we've learned recently, and maybe always known, way too many people don't want to know how the sausage is made... so long as they get some of that sausage. Curiosity only gets you into trouble. Demanding accountability is more likely to get the demander scrutinized rather than those who need to be held accountable.
I'm sorry I didn't appear as interested in the stuff you care about. I might have been, but I see now that it may not have appeared that way. I DO have opinions on shutting down the HERC, closing education gaps for minorities and the underprivileged, dealing with counterproductive foreclosures, helping out bicyclists, encouraging improvement at the neighborhood level, getting the bad cops terminated, decriminalizing marijuana, and dozens of other things - many of which have nothing to do with the mayor or which the mayor can affect - but it's almost impossible for you to find out what they are unless you ask me point blank - and why would you?
I'm not sorry I annoyed my "party" to the point where they won't even mention me on their website as a candidate, much less endorse me. Actually, I'm a LITTLE sorry about that one, but given that mayor is ostensibly a non-partisan office, I don't mind coming off as non-partisan as possible...especially given the folks in this race who ARE so partisan, no matter how well they believe they may be cloaking it.
I'm not sorry I didn't find a more media friendly gimmick. I did make a promise to try to bring WrestleMania to the Metrodome but it didn't quite get the traction that I had hoped. The problem with media friendly gimmicks is the friendly media makes it way too easy to reduce you to that gimmick. Jeff Wagner has some important things to say about a variety of issues and concerns, stuff that might actually resonate with you and spur you to action, but City Pages knows that what will really bring the hits is if you can see him half-naked and hear him swear.
Having said that...even at the risk of it being a reductive gimmick, I'm sorry I didn't buy the biggest "Don't laugh...it's paid for" bumper sticker in the world and affix it to the Metrodome, then stand in front of it waiting for the press to show up. I hear they do that when you use goofy enough props.
I'm not sorry I didn't go out and knock on your door. I'm still unconvinced that anybody actually welcomes a knock on their door, only to find a candidate or their representative waiting on the other side. Nobody's ever tweeted about how happy they were to encounter a door knocker...although there sure have been a lot of tweets from people who were eager to let the world know they were interrupting everyone's day by knocking on their doors! All these tweets and retweets seem to have come from candidates, however. In fact, it's possible that they were only tweeting about doing it while they were REALLY staying inside their campaign office eating pizza and playing video games. (DISCLAIMER: Bob Fine really did knock on my door. We had a nice chat.)
I'm not sorry I didn't crash the "debates." Nobody who attended those things would have had their opinion of me, or any other candidate, swayed either way. I'm not sure a single substantive answer was given in any of the debates by any of the "major" candidates, and it's a shame there wasn't someone there to just say "man, this is such bullshit" at least once.
I'm not sorry I didn't spend any real money on this campaign. This might not be the election where the candidates who spend six or, God help us, seven figures are repudiated at the polls, but I still believe that election is coming soon. The problem is that anybody you've actually heard of through a TV commercial, radio spot, or mailed flyer has probably spent enough money for me to disqualify them as a potential mayor. That leaves "free" online presences, which almost every candidate has in one form or another, but unfortunately the Twitter/Facebook effect on this election hasn't been as strong as I would have hoped.
I'm not sorry I ran. I have learned way more about Minneapolis, its people, its issues and concerns, its place in the nation and the world and its unique greatness in the past three months that in the rest of my years living here. I've also been heartened to learn that there are a lot of people doing great things and it won't matter who is elected mayor for them to continue making Minneapolis better. Besides, I would have spent all this time playing Candy Crush Saga anyway - this was PROBABLY a better use of my time. Probably.