We sat down with Katie Cashman, candidate for City Council in Ward 7, to talk about her background, why she decided to run, where she stands on a couple major issues like climate, housing, public safety, the Hennepin Avenue redesign, 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: What made you decide to run for office?
Katie Cashman: I've been working in the policy space for a while. I’ve been working on sustainable development in urban planning and environmental protections at the state level.
I feel that Minneapolis deserves to have that voice on the City Council as well, with all of the environmental and social challenges that we’re facing, including the unique challenges faced by my generation in trying to access economy opportunities and good housing while managing multiple jobs and facing the fear and dread that can come with the climate crisis and facing our future. I think Ward 7 deserves someone that can represent those interests.
SWV: What has surprised you so far about the process of running?
KC: One thing that’s surprised me is that the political sphere is so much about who you know. The connections I have in organizing spaces and advocacy spaces and young people are not the same connections that other political leaders may have. I’m trying to bring those voices to this race as well and engage them in the caucus process, the endorsement process, and in the election in general.
SWV: In your announcement, you focused a lot on climate. Can you talk about what a Ward-level or City-level approach to climate policy looks like?
KC: We really need to talk about climate justice. If you’re purely talking to people about electrifying their homes and investing in heat pumps and other clean energy technologies, it can kind of turn people off from this process.
When I think about climate justice, I think about improving our quality of life across the board and preparing ourselves for the impacts of the future due to climate change. I think we have this huge opportunity right now because there are these huge federal and state dollars for climate investments and we can channel those into quality of life improvements in our homes, in our public spaces, improving our parks and the quality of our water, improving our transit, and improving equity across the city to make sure climate investments go to those that most need it or are most impacted by pollution right now.
SWV: What would your approach be in this job to housing policy?
KC: I definitely think we need to focus on improving housing supply. There are a lot of developers that are interested in building housing downtown, which I think is great because downtown is an awesome place to live. I think there are many buildings and block-by-block spaces in downtown Minneapolis that could be supplied with affordable housing. I think we should always prioritize 30% AMI (Area Median Income) in our housing supply. I also think we should support renters so we aren’t saddled with rising rent costs amidst all the other inflation and cost-of-living expenses we have.
I also want to talk a little bit about homelessness and finding housing for our unhoused neighbors. I think a social strategy that works with communities that are currently unhoused, provides them the services they need, and gets them into housing while helping them access social services, health services, and jobs is the first step to improving the lives of people.
A housing-first approach was something I learned when I was at the United Nations, when we worked with several cities to make sure everyone has a place to live from the get-go.
SWV: Would you support rent control in Minneapolis?
KC: A lot of folks are working on that right now. The city voted in 2021 to look into different rent control measures. The working group has put forward a recommendation on that. I think that after considering all of the voices on rent control, we can come to a policy that works well for Minneapolis.
SWV: What would that policy look like?
KC: I don’t want to get into too many specifics on the rent control policy. Renter protections are the most important thing so that people can stay in their homes. We can support different rent control options, and we can look to what other cities have done to model our rent control based on that.
SWV: How do you feel about the Minneapolis Police Department?
KC: As a city, I think we’ve come to realize that we need reform in the police department over the last few years. I think everyone agrees on that, including the lieutenant I spoke to the other day who is very eager for the new police chief [Brian O’Hara] to start implementing reform. Once the police department institutes reform, they’ll be able to recruit and retain more employees.
I also think that our public safety approach needs to be comprehensive so that the right professionals with the right skills respond to safety crises, whether that’s domestic violence, sexual misconduct, theft, or people having a mental health crisis. We need to make sure the right responders are there.
I think the study that the city commissioned which showed that 17% of 911 calls could be diverted to other departments should be implemented. I think we’re working towards that.
SWV: What would you take from your background at the United Nations and bring to this job?
KC: When I was working at the U.N., I got to work with so many different cities, so I understand the wide range of urban laws that can be applied to address different issues, whether its economic development, or taxation policies, or city financing mechanisms, or transportation development through public or private partnerships.
I also learned a lot of best cases from different cities, so I think I would be able to bring a vision of what’s possible in cities from my experience working with cities around the world.
SWV: How do you feel about the Hennepin Avenue redesign?
KC: I’m really glad that the Hennepin Avenue redesign is now including bike lanes and bus lanes. As someone who worked on Hennepin Avenue for many years and didn’t have a car, I had to get there on my bike or the bus. Having those options to get across town so we can work on Hennepin Avenue and get between our homes and our jobs using Hennepin Avenue is really important to me.
SWV: What parts of how Lisa Goodman approached the job would you try to copy?
KC: Councilmember Lisa Goodman is amazing at responding to constituents. I would also bring that. Always answering your emails and your phone calls, going to neighborhood association meetings, being active in the community, that’s all really important to me. I would love to replicate that and to be open and willing to hearing from constituents about the issues that are important to them, and connecting them with city services and resources to help them resolve any issues that they have.
SWV: What would you do differently than Lisa Goodman?
KC: I would center my City Council votes in the needs of residents who are the most impacted by policy. Centering the voices of marginalized and underrepresented communities would be very important to me.
SWV: An issue that doesn’t totally fall under the council’s purview, and as a result ends up being one that often gets ignored, is schools. If you could change something about the city’s schools, what would you change?
KC: I spoke to some teachers this morning who are working at the bilingual schools. They’re part of a consortium of three bilingual schools that are working on environmental justice programming. I think that’s incredible. As someone that speaks Spanish, French, and German, I would’ve loved to grow up with more language education.
I also think we need to embed climate and environmental education into our schools by teaching about composting, air quality, different environmental issues, and empowering students to create community projects that are related to those issues. I’ve worked in the climate education space as well. We always took a project-based learning approach so students can really lead and develop leadership skills. I think that’s really important in our changing world, that students are empowered to design their own projects and work on teams to implement solutions to real community problems that we face.
SWV: We’re sitting here in the aftermath of a large snowstorm. What would you change about the way the city handles snow removal from either streets or sidewalks?
KC: I know that right now, the city is launching a study on municipal snow clearing, and I think it’s a great idea. People with wheelchairs or using strollers to travel on sidewalks with their children need to be able to access the sidewalks. Sometimes a sidewalk that one property owner didn’t plow can make all the difference there. Investing in those services at the city level will help make our streets more accessible to all types of people in this city.
I also think that climate change is going to bring wetter winters, so we need to prepare for more snowfall, and also more fluctuation in temperatures each winter, which will cause more ice and thaw and ice and thaw. Our public works department needs to be able to respond to that.
SWV: Are there any other issues we haven’t talked about that you’d like to make a priority in your time in office?
KC: We haven’t yet talked about downtown revitalization. I’m actually very excited about this opportunity as someone that goes downtown to go grocery shopping, go to the theater, and go to the gym. I’m really excited about developing more resident-based services downtown. Using vacant surface parking lots, for example, for housing that also has commercial uses.
Engaging youth and all types of residents in commercial opportunities. I think the youth in this city have a lot of great ideas. We should be channeling their ideas into commercial opportunities.
SWV: What’s something about you as a person that you think a lot of people probably don’t know?
KC: A lot of people I work with are surprised to hear that I’m a rock climber. Sometimes on the weekends, I travel to national and state parks to go rock climbing with my friends. I’ve really enjoyed using the bouldering gyms and rock climbing gyms around the city. I also got into climbing in the last couple of years, which is a great way to enjoy Minnesota winters and be outside.
I’ve also been going to the Boundary Waters since I was little, and have led all-female trips to the Boundary Water the last two summers, which is a great way to experience the outdoors. It’s just my favorite place in the whole world.
SWV: Favorite National Park?
KC: Arches National Park. I was able to go rock climbing there over Thanksgiving. I just love the colors in Utah.