Our country is handing more and more wealth and power to those who already have both, at the expense of workers, the environment, and communities of color. My life’s work is standing up against this economic exploitation and inequality. I have done this work as a lawyer prosecuting white collar criminals, with my union, and with the City’s Workplace Advisory Committee. I want to work with all of you to bring this work to the State Capitol. We need to make sure that all jobs offer living wages with paid family leave. We need single-payer health care or a Minnesota public health care option so that everyone in our state gets the care they need at a price they can afford. We need more effective measures to end wage theft. And we need to make sure that the wealthy pay their fair share. We can make real progress on all of these priorities, and I will work to make that happen.
My wife and I were both public school kids; I grew up in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul and was lucky to get a great education from passionate and talented teachers at Central High School. My children, Theo and Emmie, will also be public school kids. I am committed to ensuring that all children in Minnesota get a great public education with the resources to meet their learning needs. But right now our state is failing to live up to its commitments, and the system is falling short for too many kids in Minnesota. We need a comprehensive effort to address the racial disparities in our education system, with a significant increase in state funding. I also see education as one part of a life continuum that starts from birth and extends to adulthood. I don’t believe we can provide every child full educational opportunity without also investing in parental leave, early childhood, universal pre-k, and, at the other end of the continuum, strong support for our public universities and tuition-free college for those who cannot pay.
Criminal justice reform
For the past five years, I have been an advocate at the State Capitol for reform of our criminal justice system. I helped to write and pass the 2016 Drug Sentencing Reform Act, which is turning the tide on mass incarceration in our state. But we still have a lot of work to do. Our state still imprisons black people at a rate nine times higher than white people, and the resulting criminal records can make it hard for people to get jobs, housing, and education, even years after their cases have been resolved. We need to change this. And we can start with passing the Restore the Vote bill, to give voting rights back to people living and working in our communities while on probation and parole.
I believe housing is a human right and that every person in Minnesota should be able to afford quality housing. And I believe that people should not be forced out of their neighborhoods as prices rise. I worked on affordable housing projects for two years with community developers in Philadelphia, and I know that achieving these goals will require a multifaceted approach. Most urgently, the State should establish a significant new fund to preserve private sector (so-called “naturally occurring”) affordable housing in neighborhoods facing the pressure of gentrification. We have an opportunity right now, before the affordability crisis gets work, to make a significant impact with this strategy, but we will lose that opportunity if we don’t act quickly. The State must also increase its investment in construction of new affordable housing. And the State should encourage affordable housing policies in cities and municipalities, such as through increased local investment and regulations such as inclusionary zoning policies, which would require developers to include affordable housing in new developments. The State should also improve the rights of tenants and adopt a “ban the box” law related to housing, under which a landlord cannot ask about a prospective tenant’s criminal history until after a conditional approval of his or her rental application.
I have two little kids and I am committed to preserving the environment for them, for their children, and for all children in Minnesota. This work has been an important part of my activism and work for years, including with Our Streets (formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition). I am committed to significant new investments in our transit system in Minnesota and increasing support for biking and pedestrian infrastructure. As a lawyer, I work with Hennepin County to expand transit options in the county, and this work will be an important part of my work in the Legislature, as well. We also need a major shift toward renewable energy in our state. We need to do more to protect our waterways from pollution by agriculture and resource extraction. And because all of our environmental challenges disproportionately harm communities of color, I will bring an environmental justice lens to every energy, transportation, or environmental initiative I pursue at the Capitol.
These values of sustainability are a part of my daily life. I am a bike and transit commuter. My family of four has only one car, and we are proud to live in a place where being “car-lite” is a viable choice. More people in Minnesota should have that option.
Gun Violence Prevention
During the five years that I helped to represent Hennepin County at the State Capitol, I worked each year to advance legislation to stop gun violence, and that work will continue. First, we must close the private-sale loophole for gun purchases, ensuring that everyone who buys a gun undergoes a background check. Second, we should pass the Gun Violence Protection Order bill, creating a mechanism for courts to remove guns from persons who have shown themselves to be dangers to themselves or others. And third, we should oppose all efforts to expand the rights of people to kill with their guns, whether the so called “Stand Your Ground” proposals, the so called “Castle Doctrine” proposals, or any similar effort.
Someday, I believe that we'll all see the American acceptance of widespread access to the machinery of death as the social pathology it is, and we will regulate guns the way we regulate cars. Cars are legal and useful, but they also kill people. And so we regulate them: We license their operators. We track their sale. We establish requirements for their safe design. We should do no less for devices designed to take human life.
Our state needs a significant rethinking of our transportation priorities and significant new investment in a more sustainable future. Our economic future and the future health of our planet requires us to reduce our car dependency with new investments in transit, bike infrastructure, and walkable neighborhoods. Young people want to use cars less, and they are moving to places where that is possible. And many low-income people in our community face a choice between inefficient and slow transit or accepting the significant financial burden of car ownership. We don’t need to accept this. Investing in transportation alternatives is healthier for our economy, healthier for people, healthier for neighborhoods, and healthier for the planet. This has been an important part of my activism and work for years, including with Our Streets (formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition). As a lawyer, I work with Hennepin County to expand transit options in the county, and this work will be an important part of my work in the Legislature, as well. And I live my values in this area. I am a bike and transit commuter. My family of four has only one car, and we are proud to live in a place where being “car-lite” is a viable choice. More people in Minnesota should have that option.