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Posting Politics to the People: Meet the Man Behind Wedge LIVE!

John Edwards built a mini media network around hyper-local Twin Cities politics.


John Edwards

Eleven years ago, when John Edwards decided to bolt from his hometown of Boca Raton, Florida, he scrolled through endless walkability and affordability lists online, eventually picking out Minneapolis's Wedge neighborhood on a literal map. A Google Map, one that demonstrated sufficient grocery stores, bike lanes, and bus stops in the area.

“It always comes back to cars," Edwards says. "I wanted to live some place where I’d be able to not drive, but was also affordable. Ended up here.”

He and his partner didn't know anyone when they arrived in 2012, but the social stereotypes of Minnesotans—that we're icy and insular around transplants—didn't ring true for Edwards. He dove right in to local political meetings, made friends via Twitter, and generally found the community welcoming.

But, in 2014, his adopted city "deeply" pissed him off. Edwards had decided to enter "the ultimate Minneapolis local political venue"—neighborhood association meetings. And the amount of pushback around the development of a parking lot at Franklin & Lyndale inspired the density-loving resident to start tweeting about hyper-local political sausage-making. Wary of boring his personal followers, he created the Wedge LIVE! account to broadcast his on-the-ground gripes and observations.

“It was not an overnight success, if it is a success," says Edwards, who these days splits his time between graphic design work and Wedge LIVE! "I’m just a normal person experiencing this, reacting to it. I made it accessible, and I kept coming back to more meetings."

“Very slowly and without a plan," the scope of Wedge LIVE! would broaden beyond neighborhood to-dos and expand to political issues all over Minneapolis. A website popped up, a podcast launched, and a tongue-in-cheek annual cat walking tour even demanded the attention of the Star Tribune. (The cat tour is meant as a meta-critique of historical architecture tours that fetishize single-family properties, Edwards explains, plus: "People like cat photos on Twitter.")

"John has a way of digging deep into local politics that can normally be mundane, but he does it with a sense of humor and attention to detail that keeps it interesting to watch," says Taylor Dahlin, a frequent guest on the Wedge LIVE! podcast. "Wedge LIVE! was my gateway into following city politics... Without his work, I think there would be less interest in city politics and we wouldn’t have a cat tour."

That accessibility element is central to the Wedge LIVE! experience. As newsrooms wither across the U.S., journalism proponents bemoan the resulting lack of scrutiny applied to institutions like city councils and neighborhood groups. Unstated, of course, is how boring that genre of pro-forma newspaper reporting can be to general audiences. When Edwards documents blow-by-blow accounts of councilmembers clashing to his 16,000 Twitter followers, the typically dry churn of civic politics takes on a kinetic, thread-scrolling appeal. Woven into all of it are off-the-cuff celebrations of Minneapolis culture, whether it's photos of an arty bus shelter or videos of the MayDay parade.

Edwards says the podcast, which launched in 2021, has pushed him out of his comfort zone. Over the course of 120+ episodes, guests have included likeminded politicians like Minneapolis City Council Member Aisha Chughtai and Saint Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali, and topics that range from wonky 2040 Plan analysis to media criticism to debating the best urban beaches. Dream pod guests include potential sparring partners like Minneapolis City Council Members Linea Palmisano and Andrea Jenkins, though Edwards says they've declined invitations.

Edwards has yet to extend an invite to vocal anti-bike zealot Carol Becker, who's perhaps the top villain in the Wedge LIVE! universe. “I don’t know if there’s anyone as mad at me as Carol Becker," Edwards says with a chuckle. When Becker was serving on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, she tried to trademark "Wedge Live" for herself, and Edwards sued, saying she was trying to silence him. According to a Strib story at the time, "Becker said she planned to use it as the name of a national political podcast on wedge issues, and it had nothing to do with Edwards’ blog." They eventually reached a settlement, with Becker abandoning her claims on the name.

Edwards says Wedge LIVE! is "not lucrative at all," and he encourages fans and followers to check out the Patreon pledge page. The modest Floridian is willing to accept some credit for helping expand awareness of local politics. When asked about the mission statement of Wedge LIVE!, he pauses briefly and then answers with purpose.

“To get more people involved thinking about local government, especially when national politics can feel so useless. Send an email, attend a meeting, tell your friends to do the same," he says. "What I dread is that we’re structurally unable to throw off the control of the Chamber of Commerce, that we’re so distracted by police and crime politics. What makes me hopeful? The people. This sounds like a very political answer. This is a great community, and there are a lot of people who care a ton about the future.”

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