by Todd Nelson
in the Capitol Report on Sunday, June 12, 2016
Joshua Crosson’s pursuit of public policy and social justice has taken him from his native Washington state to Washington, D.C., and the Minnesota State Capitol.
Crosson worked for more than four years as a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, before he and his partner moved to the Twin Cities. Crosson has been advocacy manager for MinnCAN (the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now) for 2½ years.
MinnCAN’s mission is to “ensure that every child in our state has access to a great public school.”
“Kids that come from more affluent backgrounds, but also kids who are just white, have a better education system and better education outcomes than kids of color and kids who are low-income,” Crosson said. “To stop the cycles of poverty, to stop the cycles of racism, we need to tackle the foundation, which is our public education system.”
Crosson’s experience also includes working for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization.
Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A. I love talking public policy. Whether it’s to provoke me with something like, “Trump has a lot of great things to say,” or something to inspire me, if it’s around public policy and social justice I’m able to be completely engaged.
Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?
A. The first president I voted for was Bill Clinton, in a Nickelodeon poll. They gave it to us in elementary school. He just seemed like the coolest candidate at the time, way cooler than George Bush.
Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?
A. One is the OLA [Office of Legislative Audits] report on teacher licensure. The other is “The Kite Runner.” I would say “The Kite Runner” is kicking up a lot more dust.
Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?
A. In second grade, I remember lending my pencil to a girl named Ashley. At the end of the day I asked for my pencil back, and she said that it was her pencil and that I never lent her the pencil. I screamed and cried for the rest of the day. That summarizes my pet peeve: I get super indignant around any sort of injustice, any sort of mistreatment of somebody, including myself. I will kick and scream if something is being done wrong.
Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?
A. Especially right now, I love to play tennis and sit on rooftops — a rooftop bar, enjoying the scenery. It feels like you’re still in the city but it’s quiet.
Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what is something you always take them to see or do?
A. My hometown is still the Seattle area. But my mom and a few of my cousins came to visit here, and whenever friends come to visit I take them to Parlour [in Minneapolis] to get one of their renowned burgers. If have not had their burger, run, don’t walk.
Q. What’s an event or person that inspired you to get into public policy and social justice work?
A. I got into it early on when I learned about apartheid. I was about 10. Apartheid was a horrible way to conduct a country. I linked public policy to injustices and saw that you’d have to fix public policy to fix the injustice.
Q. What is one way to end partisan polarization?
A. One is, making new friends — thinking about members of Congress and members of the Legislature. When we’re only passing bills and policies and not spending more time playing baseball games or going out for walks or having conversations about each other’s families, we’re only painting each other as our political parties or as our political stances and not so much as people. If we allowed more free time, if we actually go to recess on recess, that would create more friendships and more conversations to create better policy.
Getting money out of the electoral process also is key. There’s an arms race when it comes to how much can you spend compared to your competitor and then the allegiances that come from that.
Q. What is the highlight or lowlight of your daily commute to work?
A. The highlight would be when I’m in the car I like to catch up on celebrity gossip on celebrity talk radio. The lowlight would be feeling guilty I’m not listening to MPR.
Q. What’s something very few people know about you?
A. I’m trying to start a kickball league. I was part of one in D.C., an LGBT and allies kickball league. I’m really hoping to use any revenue from that to advance LGBT issues in the state of Minnesota.