Third Ward City Council Member Joe Biernat resigned last Thursday, following his conviction by a Minneapolis jury on six federal corruption charges. Third Ward City Council Member Joe Biernat resigned last Thursday, following his conviction by a Minneapolis jury on six federal corruption charges. Minneapolis City Council accepted the resignation Friday, and set a special primary election for the ward December 30th. A general election is set for February 3, 2003. The person elected will serve the remainder of Biernat’s term, which expires in 2005.
Biernat’s departure clears the way for a second African American to gain a seat in City Hall.
Shane Price, director of Hennepin County African American Men Project is expected to announce he will seek the office. Price challenged Biernat in the 2000 General Election. Price won 36% of the vote.
The Third Ward has precincts in North Minneapolis and in Northeast Minneapolis. Almost 50 percent of ward residents are persons of color, mostly Black. The North Minneapolis precincts are mostly Black, but increasing numbers of Black and other persons of color now live in the Northeast Minneapolis precincts.
Price ran as a Green Party candidate in the 2001 election. Natalie Johnson-Lee, 5th Ward, and Dean Zimmermann, 6th Ward, are also Green Party members. Robert Lilligren, 8th Ward DFL Party member, serves a ward that is predominantly Black.
The question of a Biernat conviction and resignation has been ruminating in political circles since the election, even before formal charges were filed against him. Some speculation suggests further federal investigations may implicate other former council members.
Kari Dziedzic, daughter of former 1st Ward Council Member Walt Dziedzic, and Michael Rainville, cousin to 4th Ward Council Member Barbara Johnson, and nephew of her predecessor, Alice Rainville, are being mentioned as possible DFL candidates for the 3rd seat.
But given the demographics, even DFL leaders are calling on their party to consider supporting Price, a proven vote getter in ward. Price’s presence on City Council would be the right step in beginning to reflect the ethnic diversity
of the city, they say.