A climate champion for Minneapolis

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Minneapolis is in a tough spot right now. After the murder of George Floyd last year, our city became the center of a worldwide uprising for racial justice and a demand for new models of public safety. The pandemic has exacerbated a housing crisis. Our kids have some of the most extreme educational disparities in the country. Poor people and people of color here are bearing the brunt of harsher weather. And our mayor is actively making it all worse.

In short, we need to change everything. And fast.

Today, Kate Knuth announced her candidacy to become the next mayor of Minneapolis with a plan that I can only describe as transformative.

I get it: In a city with such a visible and ongoing trauma, a white woman may not be a great choice for a leader. But of nearly every single person I’ve ever met, Kate is prepared to help steward the city into its multiracial future.

I’m not neutral. Before the pandemic, our kids played together on play dates. I wrote my book in coffee shops with her while she was writing her dissertation. I donated to her campaign today a few minutes after it launched. She’s a good friend.

But —there’s no way to say this without sounding really really excited — Kate is going to be an amazing mayor.

Kate is one of the most caring people I know. She listens. She fights. She understands that no good plan will ever happen without consultation, without consent, without democracy in the grandest sense of that word. But I’d be saying all this about her plan for the city even if I didn’t know her.

Kate’s platform begins with the words: “Building a truly just future requires courageous, bold action – from all of us.”

The rest of her plans outline what a Green New Deal for Minneapolis would be:

  • Putting racial justice at the center of everything the city does

  • Replacing the police department with a totally new model of safety

  • Universal, quality, stable housing for all as a human right

  • Making climate action a defining priority in line with science and justice

Kate’s PhD research was spent studying how to create transformational change, specifically in big public institutions, and specifically on climate change. She knows exactly what it will take to make all this happen.

Kate calls herself a ‘climate citizen’ — someone who relentlessly pushes for systemic changes, someone who understands that climate affects everything, and someone who believes that a thriving democracy is the best way that every single person can help collectively build a world we’re all worthy of. She’s previously served as the chief resilience officer of Minneapolis after being one of the youngest people in history elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives — a campaign she ran based on climate change way back in 2006. If Kate’s plans for Minneapolis gets anywhere close to how Anne Hidalgo has transformed Paris, she’ll be a model for the world.

If there was ever a candidate that was specifically equipped to lead a major American city through the decade of the Green New Deal and have it become a model for the entire world in the middle of this climate emergency, it’s Kate.

After tonight’s campaign launch event, I asked Kate how she’d make that happen. Here’s what she told me:

We are at a moment when we can feel deeply that the old systems aren't working to keep every person safe, to make sure each person can live with dignity and act with power in public life. We can feel the planet responding to our actions in ways that surprise us and make us anxious. Some of our most foundational systems are showing their cracks and breaking. It feels unsteady, it's uncomfortable. Yet it's also what potentially transformative moments feel like.

It's in just these kinds of moments that stepping forward with purpose and courage really matters.

I believe that together the people of Minneapolis can do the work this moment calls for to build a city that works for everyone - regardless of race, zip code, gender, faith, and more. Minneapolis can show what it means to build a real multiracial democracy that delivers on the promise of a more perfect union.

Minneapolis, now is the time to build a city where every single person has a chance to thrive.

Partial transcript of tonight’s Kate for Minneapolis campaign launch:

So just to start my name is Kate Knuth and I am running for mayor of Minneapolis.

When I think about this moment, and why I'm running, it is really tied to what I think all of us can feel is happening in our city: things feel unsteady. They feel uncertain. It's a transformative moment.

And it's not surprising. We feel this way when, when it's becoming achingly clear that the systems that we've been operating under — with our public safety, with our climate with the way we get around with the way our housing is set up — they're just not working for people, and so they're breaking. We can feel that, and it feels unsteady and uncertain.

But the thing that I think is exciting — recognizing the grief and the trauma and the challenge we've all felt in the last year — is that now is the moment where we can really have the opportunity to build systems that actually work for each of us. Black, Brown, Immigrant, Indigenous, white, old, young. There's this opportunity to build something wonderful together.

The word I come back to again and again in this is courage, not courage from leaders, but courage from everyone in the city to genuinely listen to each other and step forward boldly together.

I worked for the city of Minneapolis as a chief resilience officer which gave me a really deep grounding and thinking about what do we need to do as a city.

We might be healing but the trauma is actually still happening. It's an expression of grief and trauma and anger, that's grown over decades and generations. And when I talk about this vision and these specific ideas, I hope people see it as helping us imagine a bold courageous path forward.

At the most basic level, I value people, and I value a healthy planet that supports people and the full diversity of life. When I look at the science of climate change, I've literally been brought to tears reading the 1.5 degree report about what we need to do. Climate change is just going to rip through the systemic injustices in our society and, and not just hurt people but literally kill them.

What I want people to understand is that I will come into this role with that sense of urgency and the need to act boldly and in multiple ways and across multiple sectors to reduce emissions, quickly. When we talk about the Green New Deal, the exciting part to me is that it combines emissions reductions with this huge need for economic justice so it's making sure we have pathways for Black and Brown and Native people,  actively building resilience in communities that are more vulnerable to climate change.

We're in a moment that requires us to do multiple things with public safety, with housing, with climate, and I am going to to approach this job in a way that that helps us imagine and dream that really bold path and ask the people of Minneapolis to show up with courage and with commitment and with genuinely being able to hear and listen to what their neighbors are saying, because I'm not sure how else to move forward from this moment in a way that will bring about the city that each of us know we can have and that each of us deserve.

I will tell you, I'm sure I'm gonna mess this up at some point, but I'm going to stay in this work. That is one of my deepest commitments to the people of Minneapolis as we move through this campaign: I'm going to keep showing up and keep being held accountable.

We can't live the lives that we’re meant to live without being fully of and for our community. Life is best and most fully lived in relationship and in community with others.

Today is a campaign launch but it's part of the long journey of our country and our city, doing the work of becoming a true multiracial democracy.

This is something that really the world has not seen much, and I think we in the city of Minneapolis can build it. We have all of the pieces we need and we need to commit to each other.

You have to want it. You have to believe in it. You have to believe in each other and show up with your best selves and with your hopes and your dreams and your fears and your frustrations and keep working on it together.