We sat down with Zach Metzger, candidate for City Council in Ward 13, to talk about his background, why he decided to run, where he stands on a couple major issues like climate, public safety, transit, housing, and more. This is part of a series of interviews of people running for City Council – if you have any questions or feedback, use the “Add Context” box at the bottom of this piece.
Southwest Voices: Why did you decide to run for office?
Zach Metzger: Supreme question. I'm running to serve alongside the residents of Ward 13 To really be the change that so many of us have been asking for for the past three years that no one seems to be getting. Current leadership is so disconnected. And clearly it is not listening to the community. In an area that is historically the most discriminatory part of the city, I will be the first non white city council member of Ward 13.
SWV: What has surprised you so far about the process of running for office since you announced?
ZM: What's really surprised me is how excited people were for a young candidate to be running. When I'm knocking on doors talking to people, I’m surprised by how grateful they are when they see that I don't look and sound like them or their neighbors. Overwhelmingly, the people have been extremely happy that they have another amazing option. That took me by surprise, for sure.
SWV: How do you feel about the Minneapolis Police Department?
ZM: I feel the same way the United States Department of Justice does. We just have to look at the data, which is telling us what Black and Indigenous people have been telling us for so long. Right now, we have 300 fewer police than we did in 2020. Even if somebody wanted to call the police, they wouldn't get a response often times.
We have alternatives to traditional police, which are so often extremely dangerous to our neighbors. However, the city is not prioritizing funding or utilizing these teams even though they’re fully capable and ready, whether it’s mental health responders, whether it's domestic abuse, whether it's first responders, whether it's traffic control. So there's so many opportunities to have a public safety system that's actually safe for everyone. And the city does seem to be so negligent in moving forward. Even though it's been three years since the biggest civil rights movement since the Civil Rights era.
SWV: What would your approach be to housing policy in the city?
ZM: I'm running in Ward 13. The house that my grandfather grew up in is in Ward 13. Up until 1968, the house that my Dad grew up in, which is the same house that my Grandpa later bought, non-white people would not have been able to live in it because of racially restrictive covenants in the deeds that most homes in Southwest Minneapolis had.
That being said, housing is a human right. But in Ward 13 it once wasn't. Everyone deserves a home that is safe and secure, and that they can afford. We need to create pathways to home ownership, while also making rent deeply affordable for so many people that are currently in a housing crisis.
SWV: What would you as a council member do about transportation and transit in the city?
ZM: Okay, so I grew up taking the bus in the city, the 21 and the 17. Then when I went to St. Louis Park High School, I relied on the 17. So I think our transit is extremely important for so many people that are dependent on it.
But it's in trouble right now. They say they're prioritizing climate, and public transportation. But 78% of this new state transportation bill was spent just on roads, highways and bridges, with over 2 billion of that just being on highways and the I-94 expansion.
We already have one of the largest overbuilt road networks in the United States. And Minnesota is expanding, instead of fixing existing infrastructure. People in Ward 13 are often opposed to buses out of fear of who will come into their neighborhood, which speaks directly to the area's racist and discriminatory history. We need a transit system that allows all people access to the entirety of the city with ease of getting across the city. A system where you can trust the transit system to get you to school to work and pick up your kids, whatever it may be.
SWV: What else would you do as a councilmember to fight climate change?
ZM: Oftentimes people don't look at their local politicians for climate change. But it starts right here with things as simple as not having a grass yard. What I've been talking to a lot of residents about is the effects the 2040 plan will have on mitigating the effects of climate change. And I think that that is a bold step forward that no other city has really done.
Climate change is so critically important, because without our planet, we don't have anything else. Scientists recently stopped calling it a climate crisis. They started calling it a boiling crisis, because the oceans are literally getting so hot. So we have areas in the city that are experiencing heating. Where I'd be a councilmember in Ward 13, that's not the case.
We need to move forward with equitable policies that allow for areas that are most disproportionately affected by the climate crisis to be the ones getting the aid or getting the resources needed most. First, that's what equity looks like. Globally, people that are not contributing to climate change are the ones that are being affected by it. So within the city, we have industry in the lowest income area. Industrial waste is in the highest pollution areas. The hottest areas in the city are the lowest income areas. So that policy needs to be geared around implementing changes to affect those most affected.
SWV: What specifically would you do differently than what Councilmember Palmisano has done?
ZM: First, she was not transparent with the meeting around Eid. So I'd like to start with transparency.
I will be someone that people can trust, to actually get to what they want. I'll be transparent, and I'll be connected with the people. Current leadership is not getting people where they want that change that so many people have been asking for. Where is it? You know, when you have leadership that's been in this long, oftentimes they're disconnected. And I will be from the people, for the people by the people, one of the people. I won't be this person that seems to be maybe in a political class or almost untouchable, doing things that seem self-serving.
Votes go 12 to 1 with her being the only person saying no to something, and not giving a real answer why. So I will be absolutely connected to the community and transparent.
SWV: What would you bring from your background outside of politics and government into this job?
ZM: This is the key right here. I've worked deeply with the community in the Capitol and as a legislative aide, putting on pressure and having that energy to actually get things done.
Even when I was just a community organizer or an activist, I organized school walkouts at Prior Lake after a ninth grader, a young Black woman, gracefully failed at trying to take her own life because of racist bullying. We even got the superintendent to resign and garnered international media attention. And this is just one example. Which then resulted in the major policy win of the Beyond Bullying bill, which ensures our schools are safe learning environments for every Minnesotan no matter their race, religion, sexuality, gender, or disability.
You know, anybody can get these things done. People think you’ve got to have a job or a title, or you have to have a position. No, you don't. You just put that pressure on these people. And things change. Unfortunately, right now people are having to pressure the current councilmember just to do her job. So I would say my deep connection to the community and just that tenacity, strength, and getting after it.
SWV: What's something about you as a person that you think most people don't know?
ZM: I did a 731 mile walk from Minneapolis where George Floyd was murdered to Louisville where Breonna Taylor was murdered. And I, as well as the people I was on the trip with, met with over 30 families that lost their loved ones to police. That was pretty insane. It took almost two months.
Any other issues or anything else you'd like to cover?
ZM: I guess we could address homelessness and evictions of houseless people. I feel that the way the Frey administration is doing it is unbelievably inhumane and it's extremely expensive and it doesn't work. In the past four years, the city has spent up to seven and a half million dollars on evictions alone with the Near North encampment that happened a while back being $270,000. So just to get my two cents in on homelessness, we need a holistic comprehensive approach to criminalized poverty.