And they burned the bridges behind them.
A new generation came to take their place, so they fought back. They wore the machinery down; ground the process to dust; exhausted them; outlasted them, and they remained intact.
The DFL establishment that ran the City DFL Convention was the older generation in drag, scolding the delegates like a third grade teacher, bragging about grandchildren, and they even had a self-deprecating dad telling bad jokes—wonderful people, really, but the old were reluctant to turn over the machinery of political power in this city to the millennials.
Ray Dehn had the support of Our Revolution (OR), the veterans of the Bernie Sanders campaign. He was the radical against the limousine liberals. He wanted racial justice and economic equity. The old guard wanted “patient progress”—which meant doing next to nothing. OR sweated out almost a third of the delegates for Dehn. He got 32.44%. His closest competitor got 27.82%. The old guard dragged it out until everyone fell down exhausted. They had to be out of the hall before midnight. It was one ballot and done.
They could have had only one ballot and still have had an endorsement if they would have used Ranked Choice voting: Vote for three and if your first choice gets eliminated then your second or third choice might win. And the franchise could have been broadened even beyond the more than 1,200 delegates who voted at the Convention. Everyone who attended their precinct caucuses could have voted from their living rooms if they had been assigned an ID and password. They could have plugged into a convention website and emailed their vote.
The Old Guard denied an endorsement for mayor, but they threw OR a rather juicy, large bone—control of the Park Board. OR-endorsed candidates won all three of the at-large Park Board seats and four of the six District seats. They tied in one district and lost the other. That means OR-endorsed candidates, if they all get elected, would control seven of the nine Park Board seats.
What would an Our Revolution Park Board do differently from the present Park Board? There’s a lot of talk about People-Powered Parks—which seems to mean better programming and facilities for parks in poorer neighborhoods—and stricter environmental controls.
It’s not clear what this will mean for the future of Hiawatha Park and Golf Course. The new Board may want it to go back to being a wetland. Lake Hiawatha was called Mud Lake on early territorial maps and Rice Lake on later maps. It became Lake Hiawatha when Theodore Wirth dredged the lake to create the park and golf course in 1929. Every street storm sewer drain from Lake Street to 43rd Street, from 28th Avenue over to Chicago Avenue, dumps water, sand and debris into Lake Hiawatha. All the pesticides and herbicides on everybody’s lawns that wash into street drains go into the lake and create a toxic stew that flows down Minnehaha Creek into the Mississippi River and ultimately into the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. This year the Dead Zone, caused by pesticide and herbicide runoff from Minnesota and every state that borders the Mississippi River down to New Orleans, is expected to be 8,185 square miles, about the size of New Jersey.
Something should be done about the use of chemicals at Hiawatha Park and Golf Course. The Golf Course should be more welcoming to the community; they could put gates in the fences and let people walk around the lake.
Golf Convergence, the Park Board consultant, said in its 2014 study that 8,300 golfers live within 5 miles of Hiawatha. They said Hiawatha was the only municipal course that could make money, if they could solve their drainage problems, and the drainage problems could be very much improved by removing the dams holding back 2 and 4 feet of water at 27th Avenue and Hiawatha Avenue.
Our Revolution-endorsed candidates, if they get elected, could control the Park Board and the City Council. If Dehn gets elected they could get a lot done. The fact that the most viable candidate for mayor will be campaigning in the 1st, 4th, 7th and and 11th Wards, where OR candidates fought incumbents to a draw for the DFL endorsement, means OR has a better chance to pick up at least two of those seats. If OR could pick up two more seats they would have enough votes to override a veto of an unfriendly mayor.
Lara Norkus Crampton, active with the Minnesota Nurses Association, said, “I was blown away by the enthusiasm and diversity of his supporters at the DFL Convention. In politics it seems like the two choices on strategies to win elections are to either pit groups against each other or to build and expand coalitions around commonly held core values. From all appearances, Dehn has embraced building bridges to make the city we all love work for everyone.
“I have watched a white, male, recovered addict, Bush Fellowship recipient, Northside state legislator capture the hopes and enthusiasm of a growing and diverse constituency.
“In a time that politics seem so broken, Ray Dehn gives me hope for our city.”