What do you think the story of this election was?
Linea Palmisano: I think the story of this election is that there are a lot of people paying attention to local government in a way that a lot of people have not been, historically. I think that’s a product of a lot of things, but really starts back in 2016 when Trump was elected. I noticed that in my time here, between my first term and my second term, in the level of anger directed at government.
I truly am not sure how I arrived at this conclusion, but I believe that some of that was the Trump presidency, and his different way of speaking. It was a vitriol that was being promoted at the very top of our country’s government, and it trickled down all the way into local government when he was President. I am hoping to get us back to good, and I think a lot of people have reinvested in making sure that they are informed and they have a voice at all levels of government.
I think we saw that in this election, at least in my own community, in the form of voter turnout.
How do you think this Council will be materially different than the last one?
LP: I’m still getting to know seven of my new colleagues. I’m really enjoying that process. I’m working hard to meet them in their spaces and in their communities. I didn’t necessarily learn about them during this very busy year. I have a bit of catching up to do with Robin Wonsley Worlobah and Aisha Chughtai. I didn’t have space to learn about them as they were refining themselves as candidates.
I think it’s still too early to tell how it will be different from this past Council. I'm working to make this better by investing a lot of time making sure that we are very cohesive. For example, last term, the day after the election it was pretty clear that the new Council President was the Council President, had everything locked up, and it felt like a taking – this is how it’s going to be and this is how it’s going to be for four years, so, tough.
I'm working to be very deliberate in starting conversations in a different place with newly electeds. A lot of people don’t realize what goes on during this time between terms. People don't realize that everything is up for total changes. We don’t have any standing committees that necessarily have to survive term after term. People assume that I’m assigned to certain committees because I'm the 13th Ward Council member. That's not true. To reform, how are we going to do our work of governing, how are we going to organize our work based on what people ran on, how are we looking at new ideas that we're going to work on and implement together… well, hopefully together.
How do people want to participate, and how do we share that responsibility? I’m trying to start with all of those conversations that, at some point in time, will end with Council leadership, but that’s really not where we should start. I’m really trying to get new people oriented. I hope that the way that this is beginning, new Council to previous Council, is just going to start us in a different place of collaboration that I didn’t necessarily feel existed last term.
If you could only tackle one issue this term, what would it be?
LP: Of primary importance is going to be how we evolve our public safety systems. That’s top of mind for everyone across the city, I think. It’s only a two year term, so putting in long-term fixes aren’t necessarily going to bear fruit by the end of this term, but I think we need to be able to pin down how we’re going to move forward. I fear we haven’t done that yet, at least in a way that the public understands, and we have more work there.
We have a golden opportunity right now as to how we build back our law enforcement system. I know that’s different from where people are at who don’t want law enforcement in our city. I don’t think that the size of force that we have today is sustainable, but I think we have a golden opportunity in how we rebuild this very depleted department.
If you could snap your fingers and make one change to our public safety system in the city, what would it be?
LP: I would immediately have a fully trained, adequately staffed police force. People don’t realize how much time that takes. We don’t order officers off of Amazon Prime. Even just recruiting is hard, the way we want to do recruiting. I fear that this past year and a half has made it that much more difficult.
You’ve been pretty clear about the idea that the city needs more officers. Given the state of the city and the department’s budget, how do you think we should fund that?
LP: We do have capacity for that in our budget. I don’t see these things in conflict, because we have five full recruiting classes of officers in there for next year, so it is funded right now. Unlike what the Council President keeps saying in public, which is frankly irresponsible, the legal debts that we’ve incurred with pensions, disability payments, and lawsuits, are being paid for in increments and in a financially responsible way, just like any city or corporation would do.
These are not in conflict, and it is irresponsible how she goes around publicly wringing her hands that we’re going into some sort of crazy debt. That’s just not true.
Are you worried about the “Strong Mayor” system making it more difficult for individual Council Members like yourself to be responsive to their constituents?
LP: I am mostly concerned that people call it a strong mayor system and stop there. I see it as a strong mayor, strong council system. I think that if we do this right, if we invest the time and energy to restructure our government well, then we will have provided strategic focus to every elected official and department head in an approved capacity.
So no, I don’t. If we do this well – and there are a lot of ways to get caught up in ourselves and not – I think we can actually remove barriers to participation. This gets to some of the systemic racism in our city. We have to look beyond the police department to see how people have been left out of our local government, and one of those ways is by looking at ourselves in the mirror.
One of the ways of doing that is by showing people how to participate when decisions are being made on their behalf, and if we can reduce those barriers so people know who is making those decisions, and when, I hope people will be more inclined to participate. Maybe that means increasing voter turnout in the city and getting people information on projects in a timely way.
Where would you have the E Line travel through and stop in Linden Hills?
LP: Two years ago, when we were deciding on the route of the E Line, which is set and not changing, I was concerned about where our transit-dependent riders were. My primary concern was about reducing the 6 on upper France Avenue, because there were a lot of transit-dependent riders there. I still have that concern, but I think we need to respect that the advisory committee landed with this alignment. If you look at the 2040 Plan and where density is allowed, I think that maps to 44th Street and this little downtown Linden Hills community that we’re sitting in.
I don’t know that the routing of it should be different, because it was data-informed and advisory board-approved two years ago. 40% of the feedback that Metro Transit got about the whole line, which is very long, was from this neighborhood. That doesn’t surprise me at all [laughs]. Welcome to my life.
What is special about Ward 13?
LP: I think what's special about Ward 13 and what makes me proud to be their local Council representative is that people in the 13th Ward have a big city vision. What I mean by that is that we have a vision that we want every part of the city to enjoy all the benefits that we have down here.
We pay for it, in terms of our share of property taxes, and we don’t want things that other people don’t have. It sometimes surprises people that we all have the same goal of supporting equity across this city, and I think that’s something people often miss when they want to poke fun at Southwest Minneapolis. We have some of the most amazing public servants here. Whether you’re a retired teacher aging-in-place in the Fulton neighborhood, or a researcher, or one of the people that lead non-profits and started non-profits here, they have all oriented their time and life’s work toward making our world a better place.
Before moving here, I’ve never lived in a community of such outwardly-focused people, and I think that’s what’s special about Southwest. There’s a high concentration of people here that want so much good, and are so proud of where we can go as a city right now.
Are there policies or ideas that Mike Norton pushed during his campaign that you’d like to adopt during your term?
LP: Can you remind me of any policies he pushed? He was running a campaign against me, but I don’t know that he was for other things. I think he wanted to invest in electric vehicle charging stations, and he didn’t know where they were.
I'm honestly trying to think about it. He had allegations against me, he had votes he says he would have taken differently than me, but I don’t know that he had new ideas that held any water.
What’s your message to the people that voted for you?
LP: I’m grateful that they put their trust in me. I promise to be very deliberate and work very hard with that trust to push our city to a better place. I think often times, the work of local officials isn’t really obvious. You don’t see me Tweet out what I’m doing every day, that would take away time from the work I’m doing in City Hall every day to try to right the ship called Minneapolis.
The new brewery down the street, Wooden Ship, had this sign out front while they were getting ready and doing all of their stuff inside, that said “Don’t Give Up The Ship.” That is exactly what I saw on my runs every day right after the civil unrest in our city, and that is exactly how I feel about the future of Minneapolis. We’re going to right the ship, we’re going to rewrite our city’s future. We’re not going to be talked about in national news starting with “Minneapolis is the place where this awful murder of George Floyd by police officers happened.”
We’re going to be able to show people in this country the way to a more equitable future. It’s a hopeful message.
What’s your message to the people that didn’t vote for you?
LP: Like my past two elections, I work to represent everybody. I hope I’ve had an opportunity to talk to you. If not, I welcome that conversation. All of my elections are that conversation with the public, and I really seek to represent everybody, and I’ll continue to work to do that.
What’s something about you as a person that you wish more people knew?
LP: I try to remind people that, just like everyone around here, I’m a flawed human being. Just like other people, I have blind spots that I need pointed out to me. I welcome feedback. I hope people know that. I truly welcome criticism and feedback, hopefully in appropriate ways.
I really am a raging optimist. I might come across as shy – I am! I am a very brave, shy person. I know you can be introvert and still have this job, because I have for the past eight years.