Our democracy works best when everyone can participate, yet corporate power and special interests dominate our elections and, all too often, our policymaking agenda. This influence has crept into the Ward 11 election this year, with cash-flush political action committees formed to support the interests of downtown players pumping thousands of dollars into a mailer for the incumbent. It probably found its way to your mailbox.
The outsize influence of special interests like these comes at the expense of everyday voters, whose lives are impacted by the decisions making City Hall -- and who deserve the loudest voice when it comes to deciding who represents them there. My progressive vision is all about improving our democracy from the inside, and that includes our electoral process. The good news is, we can get that work done -- and I have a head start. I’ve been talking about this for years.
I’m the only Ward 11 candidate with a track record of fighting for clean elections, campaign finance reform, and expanded opportunities for public participation. If we want our city to truly reflect our progressive values, we need to address gaps in the electoral process. Local action is important on every issue, and we can’t overlook the potential for local control to improve the fundamental building blocks of our democracy.
As executive director of Common Cause Minnesota, I led local efforts as part of a national network of watchdog groups fighting for a better system. I advocated for increased transparency -- both in campaigns and after officials take office -- and res
toring the voting rights of ex-felons because I believe our shared success hinges on empowering all people to get involved and hold elected officials accountable. That’s exactly the vision I will bring to City Hall. I plan to implement reforms to set that tone for anyone eyeing a seat in Council Chambers.
Equity is the marquee issue this election year. It should be -- for too long, Minneapolis officials have sidestepped swift and meaningful action to center diverse voices and work toward closing racial and economic gaps that have plagued our city for generations. I believe that making our government more transparent, and by extension more inclusive, is a pivotal step in creating a system that works with all people and for all people. The integrity of our democracy depends on it.
At a state level, I’m proud that Minnesota offers a Political Contribution Refund program. As of last year, anyone can donate $50 (or $100 per couple) and receive a full refund if that money goes to a candidate for a state-level position who agrees to limit campaign expenditures. It’s a model provision that guarantees every resident an opportunity to buy into a campaign, offering smaller-scale contributors a leg up in a system that has often left them on the sidelines.
I’m also inspired by city-led efforts to curtail big-ticket campaign contributions and support wider engagement. In Tallahassee, after wealthy donors drove the most expensive midterm election season ever, the city capped individual campaign contributions at $250 and instituted a program that provides a tax rebate to voters who contribute to campaigns. Seattle’s landmark democracy voucher program provides $100 in vouchers to residents that they can distribute how they wish among candidates for municipal office. If we want to restore public faith in our government, and see new faces at City Hall, these reforms are key.
Indeed, I have chosen to run a grassroots campaign -- powered by volunteers and smaller individual donations -- because I believe in a bottom-up approach to change. We may not be the flashiest or the wealthiest campaign out there, but Team Schroeder is a reflection of the progressive values I will carry with me as your City Council member.