b>I first encountered Dean Zimmermann during his first run for City Council in 2001, when I attended the candidates’ debate before the primary. I had some knowledge of politics. In fact, in 1985, as a young single mother, I had been elected associate chair of my suburban senate district, which comprised Robbinsdale, Crystal and New Hope. I soon learned I had no stomach for it. The political in-fighting and backroom deals, especially when I was elected state delegate, were painful and in my opinion, counterproductive. While watching Dean debate that day I had a similar feeling to the first time I sat in a meeting circa early 80s and an unusual figure named Paul Wellstone spoke out. I thought Paul was eccentric, somewhat odd for Minnesota, but he made me want to roll up my shirtsleeves and solve a problem. That day in 2001 when Dean spoke I felt the same way.
had already been working in the 6th Ward serving the homeless population as a
program coordinator at a day shelter and the AIDS population as a certified caregiver.
I had left banking because I wanted to roll up my own shirtsleeves. Dean spoke
of his years, first as a teacher, and then a carpenter. I thought that was somewhat
wry and humorous. He seemed a cross between Red Green and Grizzly Adams. I could
not vote in the primary because I did not live in the city, so it was with a bit
of dismay that I felt he had little chance of winning. I began to hear from the
homeless people I served that they had met this person Dean that they really liked
and wanted help getting registered to vote, so they could vote for him. He succeeded
in winning partly from their votes, and partly from that same in-fighting that
may have split the other candidates’ support. I wondered when I heard he’d
won, if he would be there for the poor. I wondered if this time when we needed
help for the homeless would there finally be a politician who would respond?
I remember a day when the people who worked with me at the homeless shelter were
afraid to go by the property located one lot down. A stolen car was being used
by a 6’4” drug dealer to terrorize the people walking by. After no
response from the police, we called Dean. He came by himself. Within a half hour,
the car was gone before we served lunch and the fragile peace on Franklin Avenue
was restored. I was extremely impressed. More than that, I was grateful. One other
time, as block club leader on the beleaguered block where I worked, I sought help
for an elderly man. He’d owned his home for over 50 years. As I left work,
I saw him being forcibly removed because the property owed back taxes, had become
run-down, and the city said he had to go. There was no plan, however, as to where
he would go, and no one had given any thought about his dog, to which he was deeply
attached. The otherwise gentle man threatened to cause harm if his dog was mistreated.
It was a tragic and volatile situation. I felt helpless. I called friends in the
neighborhood. I called Dean. Dean’s involvement gave us some power and the
man was able to eventually remove his belongings, sell his home, and relocate
in a timely fashion, without leaving his dog. I gave thanks then for an eccentric
man on a bicycle with a simple manner and a heart of gold.
I have taken a leave from the day shelter. In many ways, burned out. I had
hoped that Dean Zimmermann would wage a good campaign. I felt bad he had to
run against Bob Lilligren, another individual I know strives to do good work.
I knew, though, Dean had his own motley crew of backers. They were the downtrodden,
voiceless faces I’ve come to love. They were the individuals desperately
in need of a spokesperson at City Hall. Dean didn’t let them down.
These charges have even the most apolitical of us crying foul. The timing is
nothing short of Machiavellian. I think we must question a system that would,
five days before a primary, invade a man’s home, offering little in evidence.
Follow the money has been a 90s catch phrase. I would say follow the tactics.
Follow the tactics, when a longtime, deeply entrenched, “one political
party” city has to put up with a real man of the people, who happens to
not be one of their own. Follow the tactics.
For the past week, the Katrina disaster has weighed heavily on my mind.
Not only have numerous people died, but some of these people lived in utter
poverty. It is an example of how institutional racism and public policies have
prevented the majority of certain groups from creating wealth.
we all struggle to reach out to the people of New Orleans and offer our assistance
in any way we can, we must also look at the politics that have prevented these
people from obtaining the assistance they so desperately needed. Cuba generously
offered to send volunteer doctors, and they were refused not because their help
isn't desperately needed but because of politics. Venezuela's president, Hugo
Chavez, offered to send his national guard to help restore order, and he was
I listened to Democracy Now on September 5th, and they reported that Walmart
had shipped bottled water to be distributed and the water had been refused by
FEMA with the statement that it was not needed. But it was needed!
There is something seriously wrong in our country, and we all need to wake
up to this. We need to become active citizens. Our country is proud of its equal
opportunity for all ideals, but that isn't the reality. The reality is that
there is very unequal opportunity in America. We need to work together, across
party lines, to affect systems change so that we can be proud, so that we can
be a country that actually walks the walk and doesn't just talk the talk.
And right now there are people in a desperate situation down south that will
need our ongoing support and assistance to rebuild their lives and recover from
their losses, whether it was friends and family members, pets, their homes,
their baby pictures, family pictures, heirlooms, etc. Please help in any way