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Make Your Voice Heard

Make Your Voice Heard

My name is Brendan Van Alstyne,

and I’m running to be your representative in the Minnesota legislature.

I have always been public-minded and have had a spirit for service. When I was in highschool, I volunteered in numerous public service activities from working with Feed My Starving Children to providing aid to Minnesota’s indigenous communities. When I graduated from technical college and found a stable union job, I was soon elected as my workplace’s union steward. After I moved back to Shakopee, I quickly volunteered to serve on the Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Board. I strive to do all that I can to help those around me, and you can depend on me to bring that spirit of service with me into the State Legislature.

Join the Movement

Corruption has worked its way into every part of our society. Those at the top in business and in politics no longer serve the people. Billionaires pay lobbyists and PACs to fund politicians’ campaigns, and in return they get tax breaks and handouts paid for by our tax dollars. To speak plainly, the greed of the rich and powerful is killing us. Enough is enough. Now is the time to fight for a government elected by the people, that works for the people. I will fight to end the corrupting influence of money in politics and restore faith in good governance

"I will always strive to better understand the people I represent and the problems they face, not just assume I already know what's best. I will listen to the people and fight for change that benefits you. I will work to solve the crisis’ facing us now, and in the future. I will strive to bring people together and make changes for the betterment of Minnesota."
- Brendan VanAlstyne

Know The Issues

Those in office serve the interests of their donors, and of themselves, rather than the interests of the people. Your jobs are being shipped overseas and your wages stay stagnant while corporate profits and your cost of living soar.

The law always seems to be looking the other way whenever it’s broken by the rich and powerful. Your access to healthcare and education are constantly shrinking. Massive amounts of pollution are destroying Earth’s ecosystems and climate. The problems facing us can seem daunting. It can seem like there’s no way to solve them. I say we can solve them. We will make the world a better place.

But we need to act

As your representative, I pledge to fight for the issues that affect every-day Minnesotans, not private interests. I will fight for real justice and equal rights. I will fight dark money and corruption. I will fight climate change. I will fight for the future.

Climate Change is the single biggest issue of our time. At no other period in history has the whole of humanity been faced with such an overwhelming existential threat. The Cold War and the fear of nuclear winter was the first time humanity faced anything close to the threat we must now confront. Do not be deceived by the different natures of these two cataclysms. We narrowly avoided a nuclear holocaust because we were able to overcome our fear and our hatered, and so we did not take actions which would have resulted in the destruction of our planet. Now, in the face of a catastrophe in which the stakes are just as high, we must take action. We cannot sit still and pray that we will outlast this storm, for this is a storm without end. We must choose to do what is necessary to combat Climate Change.

Food shortages. Water scarcity. Natural disasters which are more frequent and more severe. The loss of thousands of miles of coastal lands which are home to the majority of the world’s population. The inevitable refugee crisis that will follow. Debilitating unrest in every country across the entire globe. All of this creates the perfect conditions for war, perhaps even between countries armed with nuclear weapons. When authoritarians inevitably tell the people “I alone can fix it”, who can blame the people for putting their trust in them, especially when democracy failed to save us from this calamity.

This isn’t the future I want. This isn’t the future you want. It isn’t too late to act. We need passionate leaders who will fight for real solutions to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. We must prohibit further destruction of our biosphere and make a rapid transition to renewable energy production. We must invest in transportation that is clean. We must make efforts to reduce energy use and to reduce emissions while we transition to clean energy. Finally, we must ensure that everyone has access to education and training so that we are not held back by the fear of what jobs will be lost and how the green revolution will disrupt the economy. Of course there will be a cost to creating a green future. There will also be a cost for failing to make the future green, and that price will be far higher. Let us overcome our fear and uncertainty, and work together towards a better future that will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a good life.

Make no mistake, it’s Democracy at stake. Across the country, legislators are passing bills that will make it harder for everyone to vote, especially for people that live in populated areas and work full-time jobs.  They justify this by lying about voter fraud and, terrifyingly, by lying about who won the presidential election. We know the truth and we have to fight for it. Your current representative, Eric Mortensen, is one of the  legislators who has proposed a law aimed at restricting your most basic and fundamental right to vote. Voting him out of office and replacing him with someone who will fight to defend our democracy is essential. As your representative I promise to uphold your most fundamental freedom. I will fight to ensure that everyone who is legally able to vote will have the ability to do so. I will aim to expand voting hours and early voting access. I will vote in favor of expanded access to mail-in ballots, which have been proven to be secure and to provide much needed access to voting for those who are otherwise unable to reach the polls.

To live without a home is to live without dignity, and it is a shame carried by all of society. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t see the weather-beaten face of someone who has had their life upended by instability. Struggling to merely survive, too many people are left to rely upon the uncertain generosity of those passing them on the street. When I stop to give whatever I can, I can’t help but think that if circumstances were different, it could be me in their shoes. When I listen to them share their stories, I feel the injustice of their situation. The young girl working for too little money, living out of her car after fleeing an abusive home, the middle-aged man whose failed business cost him his life savings, the veteran whose mental health problems keep him from holding down a steady job. They’re all human beings who deserve to live with dignity. Some have just fallen on hard times, some just need a bit of help, all of them are our responsibility, and we must ensure that they have the chance to live a fulfilling life. As your state representative, I will fight for legislation that will solve the homelessness crisis in Shakopee and across Minnesota. I will fight for fair and competitive wages, I will fight for well-funded mental health services, I will fight for affordable housing, and I will fight for facilities that will provide temporary housing that is safe and accessible.

In 2020, the George Floyd protests swept across not only our nation, but across the entire globe. The largest protests in history calling for justice and accountability in police departments started right here in Minnesota. When I marched in the George Floyd protests I was fighting for a world which practices real justice and equality before the law. The fight isn’t over, and the need to hold our police accountable for their actions is ever-present. It is not the job of the police to be judge, jury, and executioner. Their job is to protect and serve the people by upholding the law, which means they cannot be above the law. It is the duty of our government at every level to ensure that the police are able to do their jobs, not abuse their power. As your representative, I will fight for legislation that requires officers to live in the communities that they’re policing, to build relationships with those communities, and to address the problems in their communities instead of simply responding to incidents. I will fight to give police the tools they need to help people, not just to keep them in line. I will fight to end qualified immunity to ensure that officers are held accountable for violating your constitutional rights. I will fight for independent committees to investigate police violence.

For too long, the unjust criminalization of marijuana has destroyed the lives of countless people. This must end. The people demand that the government decriminalize the use of marijuana. As your state representative, that’s exactly what I’ll do. I will vote to pass legislation opening up marijuana for recreational use in addition to medicinal use. I will fight to free those in prison for non-violent drug offenses and to expunge the records of those who have been imprisoned for marijuana. I will seek compensation for those whose lives have been destroyed due to unjust imprisonment. Right now HF 600 is being stalled in the senate by the Republican majority who want to prevent legalization. As a member of the house, I will work to negotiate a bill that will make it past the Senate and end the criminalization of marijuana.

Investing in education is the most effective way to ensure a brighter future for our communities,  and for our country. College today is far too expensive when the benefit for most graduates is far too little. Many of my personal friends have been buried under mountains of debt in exchange for a degree that is still underqualified or is unnecessary for the job that they are pursuing after graduation. They have no competitive edge when applying for the “entry level” positions that require several years of experience, or the unskilled labor jobs which require a superfluous degree. We need to invest in alternatives to traditional four-year colleges, such as trade schools and technical colleges, which offer cheaper degrees that are faster to earn and teach the skills required to work in well-paid, middle class jobs. I believe we should be incentivising businesses to sponsor students by offering scholarships and by paying for the tuition of their employees. I will work to expand the network of technical colleges and educational boot camps that provide young adults with real-world skills that will increase their chances of finding gainful employment. Investing in more alternatives to higher education will reduce the costs of university education by providing much-needed competition among colleges, and it will better diversify the skills of the workforce, thereby increasing the employability of graduates from all institutions.

When I was in highschool, I was repeatedly told that college was the only path to success. Everyone around me believed that they had to go to a four year college if they wanted to work somewhere that paid them a livable wage. I was one of only three people in my graduating class who hadn’t already enrolled in college by the time that I graduated. Since then, I’ve watched HALF of my graduating class drop out of postsecondary programs for various reasons. They left with nothing to show except for a mountain of debt. The ones that saw it through are hardly any better off. They were lucky to find jobs, especially ones that paid a liveable wage after monthly dues were siphoned from them to pay back their student debt. College is still seen by many as “the golden ticket” into the middle class, but the truth is that it no longer fulfills the promise of a better future. Thanks to the support of my family, I was given the tremendous opportunity to enroll in a technical college and to receive a high quality education at a fraction of the cost of attending  a private or public university. Because of that opportunity, I was able to graduate debt-free and to get a good-paying job as a mechanic.. I would like to use my experiences to create educational opportunities that will enable young Minnesotas to succeed in our society. An important part of that mission is to make sure that young people have more paths to success available to them, and to make sure that they know the pros and cons of every path available to them after highschool. I will work to provide schools with the tools they need to teach students about all of the different ways that they can further their education and more accurately weigh the costs and the benefits of pursuing every possible type of higher education.

Right now, the student debt crisis is causing enormous damage to the economy. An entire generation of new workers is entering the American workforce, crippled by debt, and unable to contribute to stimulating small business, much less take the risk of starting their own. As a result, a large portion of our citizens are deprived from being able to afford basic comforts, necessities, and the chance of being able to invest in their future. I support easing the burden of student debt to foster a more rewarded workforce, to build a stronger community, and to create a more robust economy.

The most important thing about your healthcare is you. We need a health system that guarantees that you will get the care you need. A system that lets you choose which doctor is best for you. A system that doesn’t kick you off of your coverage the moment you need it most.  Our current method of paying way too much money for health insurance that doesn’t cover what you need simply doesn’t work. Your health care being tied directly to your job puts an enormous burden on businesses, and too often traps people in a job they wouldn’t otherwise choose to work. We need a robust public option that lets Minnesotans get the care they need without worrying about whether or not they’ll be able to afford it. I will always vote to support patients and their doctors rather than the pointless middlemen who make money from refusing you the care you need.

Right now we have a crisis of trust between patients and their healthcare providers. People don’t have confidence that their insurance will cover the cost of care, and they hesitate to go to the doctor because they doubt the cost will be worth the care. This is the result of health insurance companies lobbying the government to enact policies which allow the companies to engage in predatory practices to increase their profit margins. The opioid epidemic is causing tremendous harm to Minnesota, and it is a direct result of pharmaceutical companies lobbying for policies favorable to their bottom line. The real cost of those policies is the well-being, both physical and financial, of countless patients and their families. Now is the time for public policies that help doctors give you proper treatment, not just a bottle of pills. Now is the time to stand up for all Minnesotans and your right to receive the care you need.

Getting an abortion is never the ideal choice, regardless of your views. The decision to raise a child is a difficult one. It requires forethought, planning, stability, and commitment. Unfortunately, pregnancy can happen without any of these. I believe that the decision to follow through with the pregnancy cannot be decided by anyone who isn’t the parent.

There are many reasons why people may feel that getting an abortion is necessary. They may be in an abusive relationship or have been sexually assaulted. The pregnancy could be dangerous to the mother’s health or the fetus may not survive after birth. It could just not be the right time in their life to have a baby: they may be focusing on their school or work so that they can gain the stability necessary to raise a child later on. These factors will always be at play regardless of what the law says about abortion. When the right to abort an unwanted pregnancy is taken away, all that’s really been taken away is the ability to have an abortion safely. The factors that make the pregnancy untenable could very well outweigh the risk to the mother’s health posed by getting a black market abortion. I believe the priority should be to protect the freedom and safety of the mother, and the rights of the parents to be able to make the decision that is best for their families. Instead of focusing on preventing abortions by making them illegal, we should focus on contraception as  the best alternative to abortion. We must educate young people on how to practice safe sex, and we must ensure that pregnancy tests, birth control and other contraceptives are available without being subject to discrimination.

As a member of the Teamsters union, and having been elected as the steward for my workplace, I know first hand how powerful everyday people can be when we come together and stand up for each other. I promise to stand up for the rights of workers across our state by fighting for a minimum wage high enough to live off of. It’s time to stop finding excuses for why we have to keep so much of our community under the poverty line, and start taking action to raise them above it. Strengthening protections for unions and making sure that multibillion-dollar corporations can’t subvert the interests of their employees is essential for making our economy work for everyone.

Small business and self-employed entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of a healthy economy. The enterprising spirit must be encouraged and nurtured, and it is the duty of any responsible government to stoke the flame of enterprise as much as possible. Often it is difficult for people to take the risk of starting their own business because their success or failure may determine whether or not they can pay the bills. I believe that people who are self-employed and earning below a certain threshold should receive benefits similar to unemployment. This will give entrepreneurs the confidence and the resources they need to fully invest in their business. It will also enable people already on unemployment to pursue options which will actually pull them out of poverty instead of keeping them trapped in it. Right now, unemployment benefits disappear when you find a job, regardless of how little that job pays. This creates a poverty trap where people are unwilling to find work because their income will decrease when they lose their unemployment benefits.

There are some who believe that the only reason poverty exists is because the government puts regulations on what businesses can and can’t do. They think that, if allowed to do whatever they want, no business would subject their workers to inhumane conditions. No business would engage in practices which endanger their employees and the communities they operate in. No business would exploit the resources of the land with no thought to whom or what their operations would destroy. No business would pay their employees too little to live on or to raise a family on. Not only is this idea demonstrably false, it’s dangerous. History has proven that without oversight, unregulated capitalism inevitably leads to enormous inequality and the disempowerment of the vast majority of people. The endless greed of the wealthy and need to constantly expand to satisfy shareholders always leads to the exploitation of anything they can figure out how to exploit. When we allow businesses to dominate our lives, when unelected and unimpeachable billionaires make decisions that affect the whole nation and such decisions are – by design – aimed only at enriching themselves, then we subject ourselves to a tyranny worse than any monarchy. When profiteering monopolies seize life’s necessities, like food and water, we will succumb to a dictatorship where your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are determined by your ability to enrich your masters. Democracy exists to prevent the abuses that arise from unchecked power. We have to fight for the democratic methods which enable the people to fight for their rights , and to ensure that the decisions that affect you are made by you.

I love hiking and visiting the numerous beautiful parks in our state. Our forests and waterways make this state great, and they need to be protected and preserved. The destruction of our biosphere and the exploitation of its resources for profit is unacceptable. The current rate at which we are burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests to extract the minerals beneath them is destroying Earth’s ability to sustain life. 

It’s true that the economy requires raw resources to fuel it. The soil that grows the food you eat. The minerals in the ground that are made into your phone, your fridge, and the countless other things you use. All of this is powered by electricity produced by burning carbon-based fuels. The infrastructure of our economy requires vehicles to burn carbon-based fuels. That is why investment on the state level into cleaner energy sources is essential for a sustainable economy. We need substantial state-investment into wind and solar farms. We need state-investment into electric vehicles and other clean methods for transportation. Minnesota needs to continue to protect our valuable forests and wetlands, for their value as carbon sinks as well as their natural splendor.

Breweries are a big part of the culture of Minnesota, and it’s important to encourage them and to remove barriers that prevent them from being able to compete. The Growler is a big part of brewery business, but it’s illegal for some breweries to sell them. This is a pointless regulation which benefits nobody ought to be done away with. I will vote to free the growler.