"Here's the problem we have," L.A. Nik begins.
"Say Betsy [Hodges] has been a terrible a terrible mayor.… But every… choice of the other people that are running are even worse."
Make that were even worse: On August 15, the final day for candidates to file for various offices up for grabs in November, Nik officially threw his trademark black hat into the mayoral fray.
A part-time rocker and full-time scenester, Nik, AKA Nickolas Pilotta, is the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Minneapolis After Dark," author of the book “Life is Short, Then You’re Dead Forever,” and most recently has hosted the Minneapolis 911 podcast.
A self-avowed "true moderate… with no political ladder-climbing ambitions," Nik is running running as an independent. (Back in March 2016, Nik made the cover of the Star Tribune as a supporter of Donald Trump: "Would I hang out with [Trump]? Probably not. Would I like to see him beat Hillary Clinton? Absolutely.”)
"I really had no plan of running for mayor, but every single person that I know is either getting crushed on property taxes or dealing with the crime in the city of Minneapolis or not being treated equally," he says. "These people all came to me and said, 'You gotta run. You have to. You're the only choice left… you have your ear to the ground.'"
Nik looks at the current cast of mayoral candidates and the city council incumbents running for re-election. What he possesses, he thinks, is street cred, which they all lack. The self-styled downtown "celebrity" of Minneapolis walks the naked city after dark. He knows its players, the wannabees, the disposable people in the city. Nik believes he knows their suffering unlike anyone else in the field.
Nik says he's spoken to some unnamed city council members, and shotgunned them with questions.
How many drug dealers do they know? How many "street drunks" do they know? How many prostitutes?
"I asked them, 'Tell me what do you know about the city that you're governing, one thing,'" Nik says. "They can't. Instead, they'll spout off something about Target or the Mayo Clinic. They're not our problems. We need to fix our problems.
"I think the biggest issue with our current [city] council [is] too many of them are self serving. I don't think anybody on the city council now knows the city as a whole. They know their little bubble areas, the areas that their constituents are in.… [They] do not want to talk about drug addiction or the drug infestation. We have so much heroin here right now. But they don't want to talk about it. I want to talk about it."
Nik also wants to talk downtown violence, an issue he was harping on long before ever submitting his $500 candidate filing fee.
"Look at this Saturday night," he says. "It's ridiculous. We had four people shot within one hour. This behavior is starting to be romanticized and glorified. Everybody in government doesn't understand this because they're not on the streets like I am. They act as if these people are criminals. These people are thugs. They're not, actually... It's because these kids have nothing else better."
Nik says he's already talking to "these kids." He claims he's helped some get jobs at downtown restaurants and at other businesses.
"We gotten them jobs, getting them to believe in themselves. It's not a quick fix that will have happen overnight," he says. "This is a problem over three generations. It's going to take a lot of work, but to do nothing?! That's what [Hodges and the city council] have done. Literally not one thing has been done to help these kids. Not one!"
Instead, Nik argues they've fixated on issues like banning menthol cigarettes and plastic bags.
"I just want to pull my head off thinking about the things they come up with," he says. "We have so many issues and problems. Menthol cigarettes is at the bottom of the list."
At the top of Nik's to-do list as mayor is an integrated city.
"The black community doesn't have a chance in this city right now," he says. "They just don't. A black person in this city has a really hard time. We need to get that fixed first and foremost. By getting that fixed, that will help fix our second biggest problem in the city of Minneapolis, which is crime."
Candidates and voters are sleeping on a looming problem, according to Nik. That would be property taxes. Renters beware, he says, "a rude awakening" is just around the corner.
"All these rental property are in for a huge increases in property taxes, and all these big apartment complexes that have been built, they're taxes are going to get jacked," Nik says. "Who's going to pay for it? Renters."
Nik wants people to know he isn't running for mayor as a shtick. In a city where there's so much fear, he is doing this out of love.
Nik says his only ambitions "for the city that I live in, the city I love, that I have nine years in, is for Minneapolis to be a good place to live."
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