According to the process laid out by Minnesota State law, the resolution that Minneapolis Energy Options campaigned for has to get at least 7 votes on the Minneapolis City Council to make it onto the ballot for an election (a bare majority given that the chamber has 13 voting members). The voters of Minneapolis would have the ultimate say on whether the resolution passes. As described earlier, this crucial city council vote has to take place at least 60 days before Election Day. In addition state law also requires there be 30-day notice of a public hearing about such a resolution. These steps that state law lays out for the process set up the basic time table for the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign of 2013.
In anticipation of this time table, Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon drafted the resolution that would allow the city to form a municipal power utility if a required feasibility study can prove that a municipal system can deliver energy as affordably and reliably as the existing utilities.
After being publicly silent until after the 2012 elections, Minneapolis Energy Options formally launched in January 2013. In late 2012, Minneapolis Energy Options hired Dylan Bradford Kesti as a campaign manager with the mission of getting the ballot initiative passed.
One of the first news items to give Minneapolis Energy Options a burst of early momentum was when Xcel initially requested the Public Utilities Commission for a 10.7% rate increase for Minnesota's customers for 2013 in part due to the fact that Minnesotans were using less energy! In a December 13, 2012 Star Tribune Article,
“Xcel says the increase is needed to recoup investments in its two nuclear power plants, counter a drop in electric sales and pay for other power plant and transmission upgrades as well as higher property taxes.” NOTE 1
Minneapolis Energy Options spoke on WCCO in January of 2013 to make the case that Minneapolis residents shouldn’t have to be paying more in rates to use less energy but instead should get rewarded for using less energy. That is why the trajectory of raising rates in response to energy efficiency can’t be tenable forever as it cancels out our aggregate financial rewards for victories with energy conservation.
NOTE 1 CITATION NEEDED http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/02/11/interim-xcel-rate-hike-showing-up-in-electricity-bills/
WINNING ENDORSEMENTS AMONG NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZATIONS, CANDIDATES AND SITTING COUNCILMEMBERS
In early 2013, Minneapolis Energy Options began the necessary actively building relationships with the City Council Members in office.
By May of 2013, there were three sitting council members who were endorsing supporters for Minneapolis Energy Options: They included mayoral candidates Gary Schiff & Betsy Hodges as well as the resolution’s author Cam Gordon. Much of the remaining council members were classified as on the fence. According to the Minnesota Daily, Gary Schiff as a mayoral candidate endorsed the campaign because “it will educate people about the city’s need to fight for its interests and generate more renewable energy…If we don’t stand up for renewable energy sources, then it’s not going to happen,” he said. NOTE 1
It brings strategic victory for any issue campaign in general for a big name public figure to show their endorsements on their campaign websites and literature. That is why Minneapolis Energy Options ran a parallel campaign to seek endorsements among non-office-holding candidates for city council and mayor.
In addition to the new Mayor Betsy Hodges having endorsed the campaign as a candidate in 2013, a majority of the members who sit on the new city council (Gordon, Frey, Yang, Cano, Bender, Andrew Johnson and Palmisano) had endorsed Minneapolis Energy Options the campaign as candidates.
Minneapolis Energy Options strategically hosted a couple of candidate forums for City Council candidates. One of these included a forum for 5th Ward candidates on April 9th, 2013 at the Minneapolis Urban League.
Minneapolis Energy Options also sponsored a forum for Ward 9 City Council Candidates on May 1st, 2013. Minneapolis Energy Options received unanimous endorsements among all candidates at both forums.
Yet another track for the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign was to seek endorsements from neighborhood organizations. The Powerful Conversations Tour did not yet exist in early 2013 but there was a predecessor to Powerful Conversations that was given in front of neighborhood organizations and candidate forums we were trying to secure endorsements from.
At the same time period when Minneapolis Energy Options was elevating the issue of energy among candidates for office, the campaign received gracious help from MPIRG for door-to-door and phone canvassing.
In the first half of 2013, MPIRG devoted a lot of their field canvas to this issue. They knocked on 55,000 doors in Minneapolis requesting residents who answered to sign a green endorsement postcard asking their city council members to vote in favor of advancing the ballot initiative. Minneapolis Energy Options collected and submitted the cards to each respective city council member they were addressed to.
In March through July Minneapolis Energy Options did outreach at multiple community events, the biggest being Pridefest and MayDay. We eventually secured about another 2,000 contacts.
By April 2013, this outpouring of support encouraged the City Council to start commissioning a $250,000 study to examine the pathways of varying degrees of influence and control Minneapolis can take to reach desirable outcomes that fulfill a vision of clean, affordable, reliable and local energy. The measure to pursue the Energy Pathways study was approved in committee on April 4th, then the full City Council voted April 12 to spend up to $250,000 for the Energy Pathways Study over the following nine months.
On behalf of the Energy Pathways Study, 8th ward City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden stated “We want to let our current utility providers know these are our goals and we are serious about trying to find a path to better achieve our goals,” NOTE 2
The Energy Pathways Study was eventually released in February 2014 and has served as a political roadmap for that years utility franchise negotiations.
However success with getting the Energy Pathways Study was not yet accepted by the campaign as a substitute for mobilizing the sitting City Council Members to support advancing the ballot initiative.
As Stated earlier, the resolution has 3 early endorsers among City Council Members which included Cam Gordon and the mayoral candidates Hodges and Schiff.
Minneapolis Energy Options needed 4 additional yes votes in order to hold the public hearing about whether to put the resolution on the ballot. Many of the council members who were undecided at the time said they would determine their votes on the issue based on their trust in the opinion and knowledge of two particular council members who were also on the fence.
The big turning point (explosion!!) in the campaign was a June 3rd 2013 social media day of action focusing on getting commitments from council members Elizabeth Glidden and Lisa Goodman. Campaign supporters were also leaving phone messages for both Glidden and Goodman the previous weekend of June 1st and June 2nd.
After 7 hours of flooding their social media pages on June 3rd, both council members communicated to Minneapolis Energy Options they would be advocates for setting up the public hearing in their upcoming council meetings. Because of the trust other council members has in the options of Glidden and Goodman, June 3rd was considered the tipping points when we finally hit the critical number of city council members tentatively agreeing to vote yes for advancing Minneapolis Energy Options to a public hearing.
During this time period we had a lot of conversations with council members about “the power calculus” on whether we can win. There was a big question on whether putting the initiative on the ballot would enhance Minneapolis’ ability to get its clean energy goals achieved or it the risk of having the ballot measure losing would pose too much of a risk for the city’s leverage in the 2014 franchise negotiations.