Sunday, July 27, 2014

Minneapolis artists, others: Vote for Rep. Phyllis Kahn in August 12 primary election

Minneapolis, Minnesota

A shibboleth of politics that also applies to life, business, and love holds that “You dance with the ones that brought you.”

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, center, with Rep. Karen Clark, left.
Minneapolis voters in Legislative District 60B have an interesting choice in the DFL Party primary election, August 12. Interesting, but clear. Voters – particularly artists – should mark their ballots for Phyllis Kahn.

Kahn has organized the dance, engaged the orchestra, mailed the invitations, and beat the bushes to make sure folks attend the party. Born in Brooklyn, New York, educated at Cornell, Yale, and Harvard, and now living on Nicollet Island, she has led with intellectual vigor, political savvy, and fierce engagement on the district's major issues since her first election in 1972.

In 1974, during her campaign for re-election, she could be found at the campaign office of Wes Skoglund, a candidate for the Minnesota Legislature whose opponent was the former mayor, Charlie Stenvig. On one occasion, we were stuffing envelopes together when she told me "Either smoke that cigarette or put it out!" I quickly took a final drag and snuffed it out.

Kahn and Skoglund both won that year and, in 1975, she served successfully as chief author of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act that restricted smoking in public places.

Since then, she has shepherded laws into existence to protect the environment; promote rights and opportunities for women, the dispossessed, and the marginalized; prohibit discrimination based on age and disability; establish gender equity in athletics; and much more.

In 1983, my roommates – Larry Mathias and Jon Hove – and I hosted a canvassing event for Brian Coyle's campaign for the Minneapolis City Council from our 23rd floor apartment in the West Bank neighborhood. Kahn organized and showed up with food to feed the political foot soldiers who went door-to-door delivering campaign literature. Coyle won his first of three terms that year, becoming the council's first openly gay member.

Among other committee assignments, Kahn chairs the House Legacy Committee, providing oversight and maintaining enabling legislation for the constitutional amendment passed by Minnesota voters in 2008 to fund arts and culture, the environment and natural resources, clean water, outdoor heritage, and parks and trails.

Her support for the arts has been second to none among her legislative peers. Personally, she and her family have patronized the Walker Art Center, Weisman Museum, Mixed Blood Theater, "and many more." The many more include long-standing patronage of The Southern Theater and its artists in the Seven Corners District of the West Bank neighborhood.

In 2011, when I served as the Southern's director amid a financial meltdown resulting from years of mismanagement, some of the Southern's friends ducked for cover while others spit tacks of blame. Phyllis and Donald Kahn stood by us strongly, asking only how they could help. They responded promptly and generously, as they had before that crisis and as they have since.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn
I do not need newcomers telling me that Phyllis Kahn is out of touch or ineffective. They simply do not know what they are talking about. Her legislative seniority alone provides more power for progressive minded people – and the issues important to them – than do all of her opponent's good intentions to hit the ground running if elected.

There is much to like about her opponent, Mohamud Noor. A native of Somalia who arrived in Minneapolis 15 years ago, Noor set about earning a degree in computer science from Metropolitan State University and resides with his family, currently, in the Seward neighborhood. 

He serves as interim executive director of the Confederation of Somalia Community in Minnesota, located in the West Bank's Brian Coyle Community Center, and gained his first foothold in public office by appointment to fill a vacancy on the Minneapolis School Board only last December. 

I do not live or have a vote in District 60B, and would welcome an opportunity to vote for Mr. Noor for another office in days to come.

That said, the best candidate to represent the DFL Party in November's general election is Phyllis Kahn. The primary election happens Tuesday, August 12, at the polls. No-excuse-absentee-voting is happening now. People can register online or by mail. Find more information here.

If you live in District 60B, vote for the one who brought you: Phyllis Kahn. If you do not live there, pass the word to your friends who do.