When Minneapolis voters elected seven new City Council members late last year, many saw it as a sign that they wanted a more progressive city government.
Since taking office, the freshmen members of the council have wasted no time in exercising their newfound power -- and they've occasionally gotten burned as they learned the ropes at City Hall.
The most controversial move so far this year was the moratorium the city council placed on building new houses in five southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods, where some residents there were concerned about giant, "monster homes" and they were fed up with constant construction.
Although the moratorium was initially scheduled to last up to a year, the council lifted it after one month, following furious opposition from businesses and residents who denounced it as government overreach.
Newly elected Council Member Linea Palmisano, who sponsored the moratorium, said it brought builders to the bargaining table, and resulted in new rules aimed at keeping contractors conscientious -- even if it left her with some battle scars.
"Well it sort of feels like you're standing in front of a train, and to some extent you know what you're getting into, right? It's always hard to take, but it's why I love my job," she said.
Palmisano said the episode reminded her of what a mentor who has been around the city for a long time once told her: "You don't lead to be loved all the time."
At 37, Palmisano is one of the oldest members of the council's freshman class. Andrew Johnson, 29, is the youngest.
With a background in information technology, he has pushed to make the city's databases available online. Armed with data, he's raised questions about how long it takes the city to answer 911 calls. But Johnson said he's found some people at City Hall are uncomfortable airing those issues in public.
"I think occasionally there's this mentality of 'you don't want something to embarrass the city of Minneapolis,'" he said. "I'm not here to make the City of Minneapolis look good, to make the government look good. I'm here to stand up for my constituents."
Johnson has also been publicly scolded by more senior council members for violating parliamentary customs. But he hasn't let it get him down.
"There are so many different things to get involved with, and so many passionate people you run into," he said. "And what's not to love about that? It's such a fun job!"
But the job hasn't been fun for all of the newcomers. Council Member Blong Yang said he's found the work less a joy than a burden, with an endless succession of meetings.
Earlier this year, Yang found himself on the losing side of a fight over the city's Civil Rights Department. Two former employees testified Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel created a hostile work environment. Yang, who once worked for Korbel, said those accusations didn't surprise him and he voted not to confirm her for a second term. But Yang couldn't marshal enough votes to block the nomination.
"I don't think anybody want to be on City Council and lose on votes, but I'd rather lose and keep my values or principles than vote to win just to win," he said.
Minneapolis hasn't had this many first-term council members since the 2002 class took office during the recession that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Council President Barbara Johnson said its agenda was dominated by painful budget choices.
"You know, you'd wake up in the middle of the night and think, 'I'm going to have to lay off firefighters,'" she recalled. "That's draining, and so it does take away from your thinking about more extraneous things."
Johnson notes that this year, the council renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous People's Day. It also mandated night clubs give out free earplugs and is poised to ban plastic foam food containers from restaurants.
Johnson, who has served on the council since 1997, said new members need to learn that people pay attention to what they're doing, and that reflects on the city.
"I think that there are a lot of people," she said, "who are watching us and saying 'what is important?'"
Johnson said she's shared those concerns with the new members, and hopes she can head off "the really fringy stuff" before it makes the news.