The biggest upset in this week's Minneapolis elections belongs to Phillipe Cunningham, a former staffer for outgoing Mayor Betsy Hodges. His triumph over 20-year City Councilwoman Barb Johnson means Cunningham will represent residents of the northwest quadrant, which includes the Folwell, Webber-Camden, and Shingle Creek neighborhoods.
Cunningham overcame an opponent with name recognition that goes back decades, as well as Johnson's three to one fundraising advantage. By successfully pushing issues like community health, greater access to physical and mental healthcare and community wealth, Cunningham became a pioneer along with newly-elected Andrea Jenkins. They are the first transgender city council members in history.
On Wednesday, Sawyer took to the North Vent Facebook page to quick piss on said triumph. North Vent is a group page with more than 8,000 members, a forum where people can vent about problems "unique to the north side." North Vent's slogan: "Complaining our way to prosperity."
Sawyer, one of North Vents' admins, writes in an initial post: "We now have a city council representative who moved here from Chicago. How apropos. Feel free to give Phillipe Cunningham a good, old fashioned North Vent welcome."
According to Sawyer, Minneapolis suffers "a lot of problems because of criminals that move here from Chicago." Sawyer isn't calling Cunningham a lawbreaker. But he does say that Cunningham came "to use" the city, declining to elaborate. "I don't think he's qualified for the job."
Cunningham did come to Minneapolis from Illinois, where worked he worked as a special ed teacher in the Chicago schools. In 2015, Hodges hired him as a senior policy aid, with a focus on education and youth. He was required to step down from his city post in order to run for the council seat.
Sawyer is big on holding politicians "accountable" and being "critical." The North Vent page has a reputation for being "tough on our elected officials," he says.
Yet Sawyer's second post went further: "He's bringing Betsy Hodges-style leadership directly to us," it read. "I hope he gets shot instead of my family."
Literally wishing harm upon Cunningham isn't the intent of the latter sentence, Sawyer says. Instead, it was his reckless way of saying he fears more of the same kind of Hodges' governance "emphasizing community relations over policing."
"We've seen an uptick in crime and a reduction in arrests under Betsy Hodges, and I see nothing but unabashed praise for Betsy Hodges from Cunningham," he says. "So it's safe to assume we're going to get a lot of what Betsy was doing now in our ward."
In other words, Sawyer prefers more police boots on the ground and higher arrest totals over talk about "One Minneapolis," a campaign theme from Hodges' first mayoral election. In it, Hodges promised to address the city's entrenched socio-economic and racial inequities.
Sawyer thinks Cunningham will speak in terms "racial inequity," and by doing so, nullifiy the hope for safer, healthier neighborhoods.
Cunningham could not be reached for comment.
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