Activist “Lavish Mack” is among those challenging Council member Linea Palmisano
Zach Metzger made headlines three years ago when he took off on foot, on a 720-mile journey from Minneapolis to Louisville, Kentucky, to protest the police-involved killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Now, he’s back in the news as he makes a run for political office.
Known in the community as “Lavish Mack,” Metzger has been a highly visible activist in the Minneapolis community on issues surrounding social justice. Often seen donning his own “Police the Police” clothing, Metzger’s main focus over the years has been to curtail violence stemming from the Minneapolis Police Department.
Prior to his run for office, Metzger worked as a legislative aide in the Minnesota House of Representatives where he worked on the “Beyond Bullying” bill, which ensured that schools are harassment-free, safe learning environments for students.
Having seen the failures in the city’s leadership on the issue of police reform and social justice, and its direct impact on residents, Metzger was inspired to run.
In a long-shot campaign, he has made a bid to represent Minneapolis’s 13th Ward on the city council, a seat currently held by City Council Vice-President Linea Palmisano.
Ward 13 is made up of the Armatage, East Harriet, Fulton, Kenny, Linden Hills, and Lynnhurst neighborhoods. The area is a predominately White part of the city with a median household income ranging around $150,000. If elected, Metzger would be the first non-White city council member representing Ward 13.
Metzger has criticized Palmisano’s leadership and said that her actions have not matched her progressive rhetoric. “She said racism is the biggest problem that Minneapolis faces, but her voting record is literally allowing for systemic racism to be sustained in Minneapolis,” he said.
Metzger believes that Palmisano and other leaders have fallen short in their responsibility toward constituents by failing to connect with community members in need. “How can these people who are so disconnected make policies about people that they don’t know anything about?” he questioned. “It’s almost predatory.”
While knocking on doors, Metzger passes well-manicured lawns with signs planted firmly in the soil, many of them declaring that “Black Lives Matter.” He uses that as a conversation starter with voters to see whether their actions match their beliefs. The signs indicate that these residents may be more than willing to have tough conversations.
As a Black man, Metzger has been told by some that despite agreeing with his platform, he won’t fare well in the area because of his age and background. He says that won’t deter him from representing voters in this neighborhood, since Metzger’s family shares a long history in the area.
Both Metzger’s father and grandfather were raised in a home located in Ward 13. But at one time, they would not have been able to purchase a home in this area because of racial covenants.
Given that history, affordable housing and pathways to homeownership are a significant focus of Metzger’s campaign.
“We need to utilize everything at our disposal to help our residents. Half are renters, like myself,” he said.
Metzger criticized the City’s approach to housing and its 2040 plan, stating that it lacked safeguards for residents and work to help developers increase their profits. He also called for a change in Mayor Jacob Frey’s approach to the number of encampments across Minneapolis.
“We have a mayor who is not only inhumane in his treatment of encampments but also very ineffective at what we’re doing with our most vulnerable residents,” Metzger said. “I think we need a housing-first approach for our unhoused neighbors, getting people off the streets and helping them with the care that they need. On the other end are homeowners that are literally being taxed out of their homes.”
Although Metzger supports a rent-control measure, he sees it as a temporary solution for a deeper issue in the housing market. He proposes giving tenants the option to purchase their homes and curtailing price-gouging from developers.
On public safety
Metzger put forth three policies he believes will help address MPD’s history of violating civil rights and impede more officers from deploying violent tactics and thereby bring accountability.
The first policy he shared was restricting police officers from joining the city’s oversight board. Having the police investigate themselves is how systemic racism is upheld, according to Metzger.
The second policy he put forth was to expand the behavioral crisis response team, which he described as “wildly successful.”
The third policy approach he would take, said Metzger, is to require MPD officers to carry their own professional liability insurance given the large sums paid out to the families of victims killed by MPD officers.
This approach would help the city save millions according to Metzger, who referred to the fact that his own mother uses liability insurance as a hairstylist.
As many look for ways to reallocate resources towards a broader public safety approach, Metzger believes that it would be best to create a police rebate, where money not spent on the police department can be used in other departments or simply given back to residents.
“We have 300 fewer officers in Minneapolis today than we did in 2020. But the budget is up $36 million,” he said. “The money being spent like that is why the average officer in Minneapolis makes $140,000. You’ve never seen a company in your life where they cut employment, and the employees money goes up by 20 percent.”
All 13 seats on the Minneapolis City Council are up for election as voters prepare to head to the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7.