One of the most fun elements of the recent 5th Ward candidate forum was when each candidate performed either karaoke or an artistic endeavor of their own creation. We got to see a different side of everyone, as each of the possible next council members let their hair down and have some fun.
If a better video of Ian Alexander's performance exists, I'll use that instead of what's embedded here. I received a phone call in the middle of that, and the video turned off momentarily. I think that was my camera saying "Finally! An excuse to do something OTHER than film this!" And yet I want--nay, I am compelled--to publish these videos. Such is the burden that citizen-journalists must bear.
The other three videos, as well as a belated post-debate analysis are after the jump...
For what it's worth--which is probably about the same value as each candidate's four minutes of caterwauling--here is my post-forum analysis. I'll give it in the same way I think most people would talk about the debate; they'd attend or watch the videos once and then chat about their reactions. (Besides, who has time to pick apart these things over and over again?)
Like most people who already support a candidate, I'm inclined to say that my guy won. Both Blong Yang and Ian Alexander seemed to have the best grasp on the issues. In fact, I'd go so far as to say Ian probably was a step ahead of anyone else in that category. But Blong, I thought, came across as more relatable and his stories connected more with both the audience and the questions at hand. Being personable matters, both in elections and after a candidate takes office. And with Blong as the only candidate in the running who has children, he can speak more directly to certain issues than anyone else.
So Ian and Blong were the front-runners, and I thought Brett Buckner performed the worst. Not badly, just not as well as anyone else on stage. Buckner has a habit of going into "preacher mode" and speaking in grandiose platitudes instead of getting to the heart of the matter. Granted, his "preacher mode" can't hold a candle to our current council member, who has been an actual preacher. Still, I have had plenty of good conversations with Buckner about northside issues. But when he gets in front of a crowd, he can take on a different persona. Some people, as evidenced by audience reactions, really like that. I wanted more of the nitty-gritty.
Finally we get to Kale Severson. In debates like this, one measurement of who "won" is who surprised people and surpassed the most expectations. In this sense, the award goes to Kale. I didn't know what to expect from him, and I was definitely impressed. My guess is that Kale may have gained the most ground out of anyone, although I would still put him behind Ian and Blong in terms of overall readiness to be our city council member.
The other pleasant surprise was how well NOC ran the forum. Granted, their views lean more than a little to the left; perhaps more so than the community as a whole. That showed in some of the ways that questions were asked, but overall they ran a tight ship, kept candidates within time limits, and got in a few good audience questions to boot. Although the karaoke was not technically karaoke, as the original tracks still had audible vocals that the candidates had to sing over.
There was, however, one question that was just so dumb it has to be specifically called out. That's the eminent domain query. I guess they are getting at some harebrained proposal to have local government take control of vacant or foreclosed houses and give them back to original owners or the homeless or whoever at market-rate (or lower) prices. The question was so bad that I am baffled about where to even begin--and so were all four candidates for that matter.
Let's start at the beginning of why this idea, even if one thinks it is good or at least well-intentioned, is inherently unworkable. In 2005, the United States Supreme Court essentially stated in Kelo vs. City of New London that government could use eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another. Unless, of course, states passed their own laws to keep that from happening. As a result, a lot of states very rapidly passed laws preventing exactly this kind of action.
Minnesota was one of them, and in 2006 passed legislation that restricts eminent domain to public use. The statute reads in part,
The public benefits of economic development, including an increase in tax base, tax revenues, employment, or general economic health, do not by themselves constitute a public use or public purpose.So even if the use of eminent domain in this way were seen as favorable, there is no way that I can see the government-forced transfer of real property from one private party (a bank or financial entity) to another private party (a person).
Even if some legal genius found a way around that obstacle, we're still left with the question of who the intermediary owner would be. The city of Minneapolis? They'd be just as likely to tear a house down as they would be to transfer it to another person. Hennepin County? Count on those houses being sold to the likes of Mahmood Khan. So yeah, this question was seven kinds of stupid.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's a Friday night, and I think I can do a better rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'".