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Trailblazer & Changemakers

Miranda Pacheco

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Duluth City Council At-Large Candidate Miranda Pacheco

Introduction

Miranda Pacheco, a Women Winning endorsed candidate, is running a tenacious campaign for an At-Large Seat on the Duluth City Council. She recently advanced to the General Election after the recent Duluth Primary Election. Women Winning spoke with Miranda about her time on the campaign trail, solutions to the issues affecting her community, and her love for Duluth. 

Women Winning

You’re a first-time candidate for office and running for an At-Large Seat on the Duluth City Council. As a pro-choice candidate, what inspired you to run for office, and what have been some of the successes and challenges of the campaign trail so far?

Miranda Pacheco

Yeah, so... what inspired me to run? I recently got off probation and of course there’s a backstory. I was in active addiction for many years and homeless. I came to Duluth for treatment in 2015 and just decided to stay here. I got my life together for the most part. (laughs) Yeah, for the most part. I had spent many years on probation. I was on the other side of the law. My life has changed since I’ve been in recovery. I started schooling and working as an alcohol and drug counselor. I am going to graduate with a social work degree. I’m a first-time home buyer. All these good things I did in the healing process. I found my voice. I found the things that are important to me. As soon as I got the letter in the mail that said that I could vote again and could run for office, I was like, “That’s the next step”. It was funny because at the same time my friend had messaged me and asked if I wanted to run for something. And I was like, “Yup. I do actually”. And so it happened.

Then I had to ask, “Why do you want to run?” Well, we need representation, you know we absolutely need representation. As a Native person, and especially as a person with a past, a felon, a person in recovery, just a working class person, we need that representation on City Council. I went to one of the city meetings. When I looked at the City Council members, I was like “Whoah, that does not represent all of Duluth”. Representation was the number one reason.

Challenges? I think about the learning curve of what it means to be running and serving. What are the things I need to know? The zoning, the details, I need to catch up with that and fast. That's been the challenge. Also really getting my name out there because nobody knew who I was. I came out of the woodwork. (laughs) And so that’s been a challenge as well.

We made it through the primary, so we are doing something right. One of the best strengths in the campaign has been doorknocking, because I love talking to people! I have the best campaign manager. She’s like, “Do this,” and I just jump on it, and we figure it out as we go.

Women Winning

Reproductive Justice includes more than just access to abortion healthcare. Your campaign platform outlines the need for more culturally-specific healthcare, and you currently work as a drug and alcohol counselor. Tell us more about this campaign, and how access to quality, culturally-specific mental health care is essential in realizing reproductive justice for our communities. What would access to culturally-specific healthcare mean for Duluth?

Miranda Pacheco

I want to start with mental healthcare. I work with mostly women and you know mental health and substance abuse go hand-in-hand. Sometimes it's more mental health issues and sometimes I have felt like my hands have been tied. We don’t have many options - either call the police or go to the ER, you know? And that’s not right. Women deserve the best care. I work at a culturally-specific treatment facility, so it’s Native women. And now we’re calling the police, which we’ve been traumatized and traumatized and traumatized. Even at the ER, they treat us badly, people in poverty, people with substance use, people with mental health issues. There’s a stigma out there and we just haven’t been treated the best. I really don’t like that.

I wish there was some place I could call where I knew it was going to be safe for the women we serve. I want to realize that and I put that wish out into the universe. We deserve the best care. These women have already been through so much trauma, you know? It needs to start there. We want to be treated like humans. We want to be seen. We want to be heard and we want to be supported by our community, which is usually not the case.

Women Winning

Thank you for sharing. That answer really highlights the way systems are supposed to help people and oftentimes don’t and can even make everything in a person’s life worse.

This is a question about lead pipes. Governor Walz signed a budget that included $240 million in funding to replace lead pipes in Minnesota. The City of Duluth has identified homes with lead service lines and is currently working on a pilot project to replace these service lines along East 8th Street in Duluth. However, according to the City, lead service line replacement projects are dependent on funding, and there is no concrete timeline for these projects. How does lead-free infrastructure connect to healthy communities and the ability to raise children in safe environments, like lead-free housing, which is an important aspect of Reproductive Justice? What can the City do differently in approaching this issue?

Miranda Pacheco

We need to make it a priority. My house currently has lead pipes and I didn’t know that when I bought it. Some guy from the utility company came in last year and he was checking the meter and he was like, “Oh you have lead pipes”. What? Wait what? And then he just left. He didn’t laugh, but I felt like he was dismissive. And then he left. What am I supposed to do? My first thought was my kids. They’ve been drinking this water. East Superior Street is probably going to get funding first. West Duluth should be a priority. I don’t understand how Duluth is letting this happen. It should be a priority. I know I’m going to fight for that because of my kids. I think that's another barrier to having safe and healthy communities. I’m raising a family in West Duluth.

The fact is East Duluth has more money. West Duluth continues to be second. Are they going to do East Duluth first? What’s the plan? I don’t even know what the plan is. I’ve heard there’s going to be funding. We need to make this a priority. People are drinking the water. That’s my answer. What can be done? When I get elected, I’m going to just keep bringing it up. I don’t care how many people get sick of what I have to say, you know? What are we doing? Let’s figure this out.

Women Winning

You’ve identified addressing Duluth’s housing crisis as one of your top priorities. Reproductive Justice means that all people are able to parent children in safe, affordable housing. Last year, the median rent increased by 6% in Duluth, with affordable apartments and affordables homes becoming increasingly difficult to find. There are an estimated 600 people experiencing homelessness currently in Duluth. Addressing the housing crisis is critical to creating an equitable city. What solutions will you bring to addressing the housing crisis? What can we do on a personal and policy level to recognize the rights of all people to be safely housed?

Miranda Pacheco

Reproductive Justice means access to housing too, right? If we’re in the streets, we’re not getting the care we need. I know because I’ve been homeless. When I started the campaign, I knew people’s sobriety relies on if they have safe housing to return to after they’re at treatment for 45 days. Sometimes that's just not the case. I want to see sober beds and mental health beds. I want to see that come to life.

Since I’ve been out knocking on doors, stories really hit me. One woman was living with her dad, and she had a college degree, and she has a job in Two Harbors and she commutes back and forth. She’s like, “I have the means, I just can’t find affordable housing”.

I’ve talked to people who are on the wealthier side and they’re complaining about their taxes going up. It’s affecting all Duluthians right now, the housing crisis.

So, what are we going to do? I just can’t see kids that are homeless. It breaks my heart. Everyone deserves a safe place to lay their head at night. Everybody deserves that.

We need to invest in something else, because what we’re doing right now is not working. It’s not working. And it’s not just private housing. Guess what? Not all people have access to loans or wealth. I’m sure it’s in their dreams, but right now they’re just worried about where they’re going to sleep tonight, you know? I want to make housing a priority. That’s my number one priority.

Just looking at my story, I was homeless and in active addiction. When I moved to Duluth, I could stay at a shelter for a little while, then I got my first rental. I worked my way up to buying a house. I know what that has done for me and the dreams I’ve been able to attain. I feel safe and I feel comfortable and I’m happy for my kids. Everybody deserves that, you know?

Women Winning

Your answer touched on different solutions and the ways people experience the housing crisis. There’s not one solution that will fix everything.

I wanted to ask you a follow up question because you previously shared that door knocking is one of your campaign strengths and you shared a little bit about talking to people while door knocking and hearing their stories. Have some of your approaches to issues changed as you've campaigned?

Miranda Pacheco

Well, not really. I just really appreciate people who have different views than me because that’s realistic. We all have different stories and we all think differently. We all experience this world differently, so just finding a common ground is critical. I was out on doors and there was this older man, and we didn’t really see eye to eye on many things. We both lost a brother and we’ve both experienced grief. And guess what? We both love Duluth. Finding common grounds between the DFL and Republicans. We’re all just humans. We all just want to change a little something about our cities. We just want a little bit of change.

Women Winning

Speaking of love for Duluth, this is the last question - your love for Duluth - both the place and the people who live there - has been clear in your campaign from the start. How has your story uniquely resonated with people? What do you want people to know most about your connection with Duluth and how you will govern on the City Council? Is there anything else you would like to share with the Women Winning audience?

Miranda Pacheco

I’m able to talk to different people from different walks of life. If they support me or if they don’t, there’s just respect. Being respectful, standing in my values, I want to protect the water. I’m an advocate for people. As women, we should have the right to choose what we want to do with our own body. Those things are clear. Sometimes people open the door and are like, “Hey, I voted for you!”. So it’s just a wide array of different things, and you just meet people where they’re at and have conversations.

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