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Minneapolis’ New Generation

Much has been said about the upheaval in the Republican Party. But there may be just as much change happening in the Democratic Party, at least if the Minneapolis City Council election this year is representative of any trends. The generational turnover in the Council has dropped the average age from 52 to 41, by my reckoning, and increased the non-white membership from 1 to 3 of 13 – all of whom are foreign-born.

Is this the future of the Democratic Party? The short answer is yes, but it starts small. Leadership is developed at the local level, and there’s no better place to develop it than the City Council. Minneapolis has a Weak Mayor system, so it’s the council that actually runs things. And not only is the new council much younger, it was generally elected on a platform of social justice and neighborhood development – not downtown.

I may have to stop making fun of our younger sister city.

The Minneapolis Skyline.  They like to show off.

The Minneapolis Skyline. They like to show off. Photo Credit Charles Abbot http://99cnaclasses.com http://99cnaclasses.com/mn-minnesota-minneapolis/

It’s important to note that Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), the elections are not all officially decided at this time. But we can tell who will win, even if the final counting takes a few days. It’s worth the wait to get it right. No matter what, we know that the 13 seats will be filled by 1 Green and 12 DFLers (that’s the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to non-Minnesotans – we don’t just have Democrats here!).

The ages of each council member is hard to find without a lot of digging, but in most cases I can be at least close. Here is the new council and its 7 of 13 new faces, with their ages:

  Old Council   New Council
1 Kevin Reich 45 Kevin Reich 45
2 Can Gordon 58 Can Gordon 58
3 Diane Hofstede 62 Jacob Frey 32
4 Barbara Johnson 57 Barbara Johnson 57
5 Don Samuels 53 Blong Yang 35
6 Robert Lilligren 53 Abdi Warsame 32
7 Lisa Goodman 46 Lisa Goodman 46
8 Elizabeth Glidden 45 Elizabeth Glidden 45
9 Gary Schiff 41 Alandra Cano 32
10 Meg Tuthill 62 Lisa Bender 35
11 John Quincy 51 John Quincy 51
12 Sandy Colvin Roy 63 Andrew Johnson 32
13 Betsy Hodges 39 Linea Palmisano 37
Average 52 41

If you look at them by their generation the results become even more stark. In one election the council went form a majority of Baby Boomers (8) to a plurality of Gen-X (6):


More importantly, the three new council members who are foreign born – Blong Yang (Hmong), Abdi Warsame (Somali) and Alandra Cano (Mexican) will bring a very different perspective to this diverse city. They are still in the minority, but the leadership development and inclusion of new voices changes not just the city but the entire state. As we become more diverse there are finally new faces at the table, and as the old saying goes, “If you aren’t at the table, you are on it”.

It would really help if the Vikings weren't 1-7 so far.

It would really help if the Vikings weren’t 1-7 so far.

Much was made during the election at the voter rage at being forced to pick upwards of  $675M of the tab for the $1B Vikings Stadium. It’s far more than that. Minneapolis has always been a city ruled by the wealthy in one way or the other, funding big civic improvements primarily Downtown. Those days are now over. The new council is going to be much more neighborhood oriented, given what the new members campaigned on. It will be a different city in 4 years, no matter what.

It’s possible to make too much of this generational shift, especially since we haven’t seen what they have done yet. But one thing is clear – there is new leadership being developed and it includes younger and more diverse people than ever before. The DFL is re-invigorating itself without going through the painful process of tearing itself apart first. This can only be a good thing.

9 thoughts on “Minneapolis’ New Generation

  1. Now that it’s official, it’s worth pointing out that outgoing Mayor RT Rybak is 57 years old (Boomer) and Mayor-Elect Betsy Hodges is 44 (GenX) for a similar drop of 13 years.

    • The city has ALWAYS, from the beginning, been run by the corporate interests. They’ve had mayors with names like Pillsbury, etc. Even Hubert Humphrey was regularly accused of being a tool by the more progressive Farmer-Labor Party. This is a big change.

    • We will have to say. I didn’t write too much on the progressive politics because they will be under a lot of pressure. We won’t know until the first big issue comes up requiring a lot of money. So I do partially agree with you here. Ha! 🙂

  2. The Vikings stadium is a gift for Zygi who saw his team value double without a dime spent by him. Pure genius on his part but voters are right to be outraged. Its about time Minneapolis voters stood up to corporate welfare and finally said no more.

    • I do think that is what this is about, yes. The lesson here, I think, can be for (drumroll) … the Tea Party! People on the Left / Progressive side of politics are just as frustrated as they are. If people just put down the partisan labels I think we could have real progress against the big money people who have set up a system of socialized risk and regressive tax rates.
      But no, those labels are useful for dividing people. It’s very sad.

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