Public safety and racial justice set the stage for North Minneapolis Council contests


Council member Phillipe Cunningham faced a skeptical audience at a candidates ‘forum on Wednesday when he claimed 600 of Minneapolis’ most active gang members had vowed not to commit acts of violence last year as part of a program he was defending.

Privacy rights make it impossible to verify, but case managers have assured her that the group violence intervention program has prevented shootings and carjackings, Cunningham said. A woman in the audience commented, “You say you’ve made significant changes, I don’t see it. “

In north Minneapolis, two first-term council members vying for re-election – Cunningham in Ward Four and Jeremiah Ellison in Ward Fifth – are defending their pledge to replace the Minneapolis Police Department amid a wave of gun violence felt most deeply in their wards. Across the city, more than 500 people have been gunned down and 78 killed so far, according to police data. About 80% of homicide victims are black.

A host of challengers are hitting incumbents hard over their public safety records, the plight of malls on the north side and their responsiveness to voters. No one is in favor of removing the minimum staffing requirement.

Some have argued that the ballot question is much more popular with south of minneapolis‘White voters, who – despite the racial calculation that followed George Floyd’s murder – want to overhaul a public safety system without the consent of the community most affected.

“We are talking about improving the lives of black people. How many people are voting yes on this? [public safety ballot question] really live in a black neighborhood? ”said Kristel Porter, who is running for Ellison’s seat.

According to the latest Star Tribune / KARE 11 / MPR News / FRONTLINE poll of voters in Minneapolis, 75% of black respondents opposed the removal of cops, compared to 51% of white voters.

Ellison reconciles this disconnect with a warning to council candidates: They might be surprised at their lack of power to reform the Minneapolis Police Department. The city attorney’s office told council members that they cannot regulate the use of Tasers and Chemical Weapons. When the mayor makes such changes to the department, the policies fall outside of public scrutiny of loopholes that allow behavior to continue.

“Even when the rest of the city isn’t thinking about gun violence, people in northern Minneapolis would go to funerals, bury loved ones, hear gunshots,” Ellison said. “To me that says if the system we have has never done a great job of keeping Minneapolis safe, then our approaches to public safety really need to move forward and diversify.”

Fourth quarter

Activist lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong, who organized a panel of virtual candidates for the Fourth Quarter, said people were looking for strong leaders.

“We’ve seen so much commotion at City Hall,” said Levy Armstrong, 2017 mayoral candidate. “It made me consider leaving Minneapolis, a city I love. That’s it. just too much, in terms of some of the chaos, some of the decisions that were made, and not really seeing an end in sight. “

Cunningham was elected in 2017 after serving as senior political adviser to former Mayor Betsy Hodges. Important business developments are underway despite the pandemic’s devastation on the local economy, he said, including a cafe and barber shop on 44th and Humboldt avenues as well as a new theater and cafe on Fremont Avenue.

Cunningham also pushed the $ 350 million Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment to the finish line. When he inherited the project, community members feared it would overwhelm long-time residents for the benefit of wealthy developers. The final plan would keep the 48 acres of land in the public domain while creating very affordable housing and an anti-displacement fund for the Northsiders.

“To undo generations of disenfranchisement and disinvestment in the community, it will take more than three and a half years to really be able to dismantle this,” Cunningham said.

Its main competitor is LaTrisha Vetaw, vice chair of the board of directors for Minneapolis Park and director of health policy at NorthPoint Health and Wellness.

Vetaw supports Chief Medaria Arradondo’s efforts to change the culture of the police service and believes that northern Minneapolis needs black police. She hopes to resurrect popular programs like the Police Activities League and Bike Cops for Kids, which disappeared with staff cuts. She boasts of having taken a tour with the police in each neighborhood.

“No matter the size of the decision, I will always make sure to consider how it will affect the black community and people of color,” Vetaw said. She called for “accountability within the police force, accountability within ourselves as a community”.

Vetaw criticized Cunningham for taking the “Defund Police” scene at Powderhorn Park without engaging the residents of northern Minneapolis. At a candidates’ forum last month, Cunningham distanced himself from the post, saying he didn’t realize those words were there when he took the stage last summer.

Leslie Davis is also on the ballot. It sends out mass emails, including to the Star Tribune, calling COVID-19 a hoax.

Fifth Quarter

Civil unrest has left a plethora of storefronts and land vacant along the West Broadway Avenue cultural corridor. Liquor stores and gas stations are hot spots for gun violence. Other than Sammy’s Eatery, there are no sit-down restaurants.

In the Near the North community, 43% of households – the largest income bracket – earn less than $ 35,000 per year, compared to South West, where most are at least six digits, according to MN Compass.

Ellison, artist and organizer, helped design the city’s Commercial Property Development Fund, which provides complementary funding for small businesses to purchase vacant buildings. A pilot project by mini-house developer Envision is also underway.

Ellison championed this year’s rent control charter amendment, which people called “impossible,” when he took office in 2017, he said. He supported other housing stability orders, including a measure to provide free legal aid to low-income tenants threatened with eviction.

“We’ve made progress, but certainly the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, these things set our communities back dramatically,” Ellison said.

Penn Avenue North is a forest of orange Victor Martinez country signs. The pastor knocks on the door every day in the fifth ward.

For West Broadway, Martinez “would keep it clean, keep it safe and market the space to attract people who want to be there.” There is graffiti that takes months to clean up, and piles of unshoveled snow adding to the trash, he said, promising to return calls and respond to complaints.

Martinez has been criticized in recent months for holding anti-abortion views and voting Republican in the past despite running for DFLer. He called his take on abortion a personal one, denying that he would ever protest a clinic or reduce access to abortion as a member of city council.

“I don’t believe in this culture of cancellation, that if your lifestyle is different from mine… your opinion is less so,” he said. “My job is to make a table for everyone.”

Another prominent candidate is Porter, executive director of MN Renewable Now, which installs solar panels on top of 24 properties in north Minneapolis, she said. Porter is also a high school gymnastics and soccer coach at Farview Park.

She said a close working relationship with the city’s economic development staff had already enabled her to do some of the work of a council member. With an email to the right person, she helped business owners place work orders to collect illegally dumped waste within 24 hours, Porter said.

In the past year, her car windows have been torn down while she was in her driveway, she said. Porter advocates improving the police service through new recruits.

Also in the running, Jordan Area Community Council director Cathy Spann, who has sued the city to demand an increase in the police force; Elijah Norris-Holliday, 25-year-old business owner who advocates for the legalization of marijuana; construction contractor James Seymour; and small business owner Suleiman Isse.

Susan From • 612-673-4028


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