City, county and state representatives gathered in Cedar-Riverside Wednesday to outline their policy priorities and answer constituent questions.
Topping the list of concerns were safety, public housing and the need for youth programming in the area. The listening session, held at the Brian Coyle Center, provided an opportunity for West Bank residents to hear from several newly elected representatives for the first time.
The all-black panel featured Minneapolis Ward 6 City Council member Abdi Warsame, Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, among others.
Noor acknowledged the importance of having immigrant and minority voices in policy discussions, especially in the state Legislature.
“By sitting at the table, we are starting to change the narratives happening at the state level. That’s a great accomplishment,” Noor said.
Several audience members asked the panel about public housing. Ladan Yusuf of the Defend Glendale and Public Housing Coalition said each representative should be held responsible for privatization of local public housing.
“People are being pushed out of their homes in public housing and all of you guys are responsible,” Yusuf said. “You should be all ashamed of this crisis.”
Warsame said he values the public housing in his ward and plans to defend it at the City level.
“The public housing units are the most important entities that I represent,” Warsame said. “The people who have supported me, who have stood by me, who have fought for me most are people who live in public housing. I will not neglect them. I will not throw them out and there is no agenda to throw out people from public housing.”
Audience members also addressed racial profiling of local individuals and businesses.
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley said she has personally experienced racial bias and understands the role it plays in the city. She said more needs to be done to address racial bias in the Minneapolis Police Department.
“You cannot train away bias. You have to shift the culture within the entire department,” Conley said.
Minneapolis resident Hassan Ahmed came to the meeting to discuss his concerns about MPD’s accountability in criminal investigations.
“There’s no answer. The only answer [the police] have is, ‘We are investigating and when we find out we will let you know.’ And for years and years, no answer,” Ahmed said.
Several Cedar-Riverside mothers spoke about safety concerns for their teenage children. Saynab Mohamed, one of the mothers in attendance, said more youth programming is needed to keep local teens out of trouble.
“Teenagers, they need a place to play. See, if they don’t have a place to play, that’s when mostly they start to take drugs,” she said.
Some attendees doubted the meeting’s real impact. Adan Ali, a member of Cedar-Riverside’s youth board, called the session a “political PR stunt.”