By Kristen Ingle and Elianna Lippold-Johnson, Ward 13 residents and founding members of Southwest Alliance for Equity
At last Wednesday’s Ward 13 City Council forum, Council Vice President Linea Palmisano was waging a bet: that voters would pay attention to her carefully crafted language, but not her voting record. Palmisano made overtures to prioritizing race and equity and working on social justice. “I have the benefit of serving on a council with a…majority minority council…it is important to listen to my colleagues,” Palmisano said at the forum. “It is important to hear where they’re coming from, to lift up and support the work that they’re trying to do in their communities, and I do that in every way that I can, from my perspective and through my lens.”
Palmisano’s solemn vow would come as a surprise to her five progressive colleagues on the Council, all of whom are people of color who represent racially diverse wards in Minneapolis. According to local parliamentarian Josh Martin, when council has a divided vote, Palmisano votes about 90% of the time with two of her most conservative white colleagues, Council Members Michael Rainville and Emily Koski.
Here are a few examples of Palmisano’s recent votes that demonstrate her utter lack of commitment to racial and social justice:
- Voting not to eliminate the former third precinct site from consideration for a new police precinct, against the will of the people who live there as well as every single one of her colleagues
- Voting to demolish the Roof Depot building in East Phillips, against the will of the people who live there
- Voting against an ordinance for increased wages for Uber/Lyft drivers, which the majority of her colleagues supported
- Voting to allow police officers to sit on review panels to judge police misconduct claims, a split vote where she cast the deciding ballot
- Voting to confirm a City Coordinator whom dozens of BIPOC city staffers accused of creating a toxic, racist work environment, a confirmation that all of her progressive colleagues of color did not support
- Voting against elevating the City’s racial equity department to an executive office, which all of her progressive colleagues of color supported
- Voting against a 2023 budget amendment to use $200,000 in police funds for a Victims Services Pilot, a split vote where she cast the deciding ballot that made it fail
- Voting against a resolution to protect the First Amendment rights of environmental activists
- Voting not to condemn the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on protestors, against every single one of her colleagues
City Council takes hundreds and hundreds of votes a year. It’s incredibly easy to talk around your actual voting record. While we don’t have space to describe all of these votes in detail, here are two poignant examples that fall outside of Ward 13. During the forum, candidates were asked about balancing ward and city-wide interests, so this is also a look into how Palmisano approaches city-wide interests.
The Third Precinct
In May, 13 neighborhood organizations within the area of the Third Precinct came out in opposition to constructing a new police precinct on the site. They called for a community-led process based in restorative justice to determine the best use of the space. Many people noted that rebuilding the police precinct where Derek Chauvin had worked would be tone deaf, given that the City will soon be under two consent decrees, and that it would increase tensions between police and community. The Third Precinct had been a violent ‘playground’ for renegade cops, according to Paul Applebaum, an attorney who specializes in civil police misconduct cases. In July, all twelve of Palmisano’s colleagues agreed, and voted to block the site from future consideration as a new police precinct. Palmisano was the lone no vote (12-1).
The Roof Depot
East Phillips is Minnesota’s most diverse neighborhood, and one of its most polluted–a prime example of environmental racism. The community had been entrenched in a decade-long fight with the City over the proposed demolition of the Roof Depot, which sits on a 7.6 acre parcel of land located in an area known as “the Arsenic triangle.”
In 2021, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy issued a report in response to the City’s desire to demolish the Roof Depot site for a public works facility and vehicle storage area, stating that “the City's [Environmental Assessment Worksheet] failed to address key environmental effects…and failed to examine the impact its proposal would have on existing pollution in the neighborhood as required by law.”
In January 2023, when voting on whether or not to proceed with demolition – despite the environmental warning – Palmisano voted in favor, in a 7-6 vote, allowing the plans for demolition to proceed.
In May 2023, the State finally interjected, providing a path forward for the East Phillips community to acquire the Roof Depot site, halt the city’s plans for demolition, and work to create a mixed-use development for indoor urban farming and community services.
When asked about East Phillips at the candidate forum, Palmisano spun her position on the Roof Depot to make it seem as if she were actually supportive of ridding East Phillips of environmental hazards.
“It’s also important that we work to remediate the lands, like the arsenic in the East Phillips neighborhood, and that has been one of the driving forces of my work on that project,” she said. However, that is in direct opposition to her actual votes on this matter. This is an example of Palmisano voting one way and spinning it to an audience who may not be tracking all the council votes that got us here.
What We Can Do
At the forum, Palmisano said, “I have taken some lonely votes on council because I have stood up for you.” As residents of Ward 13, we wholly reject that she is standing up for us. We feel heartbroken and embarrassed by her voting record and the reputation that rubs off on us as residents of Ward 13.
But all is not hopeless. Far from it. We have found ways to get involved in city politics, and make it clear that we want racial, social, and economic justice for our city. In spite of Palmisano, there have been big wins for the people of Minneapolis lately. The Third Precinct will not be rebuilt where it once existed. East Phillips won the ten year battle for control of the Roof Depot site.
One thing we’ve learned is that it’s easier to stay engaged with what’s happening in Minneapolis politics and to make our voices heard when we work together with other residents across the city. We’ve connected with so many amazing folks across Southwest Minneapolis – lawyers, writers, businesspeople, scientists, musicians, teachers, parents – who have joined us as founding members of Southwest Alliance for Equity, otherwise known as SWAE.
Together, we pay close attention to what’s happening at City Hall and advocate for progressive change. Members of SWAE go to City Council meetings (and sometimes testify), attend rallies, meet with organizers from all over Minneapolis, connect with elected officials, and co-sponsor events for racial justice and environmental justice. If you feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to follow city politics but want to make Minneapolis more just and equitable, follow @swaempls on Instagram and Twitter, join our
We find it helpful to read Minneapolis Documenters for a summary of City and County meetings, watch City Council meetings on YouTube, and sign up for councilmembers’ e-newsletters to compare the way political issues are framed across the city.
Once you start to pay close attention to city politics, the reasons for the deep, persistent inequality in Minneapolis become much clearer. But so do the opportunities to change it.
Opinion articles published by Southwest Voices are not a representation of the views of Southwest Voices. We encourage people to submit articles and opinion pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org.