A wide array of candidates are currently running for the Ward 6 City Council seat, which has been open since Abdi Warsame left the council to lead the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority earlier this year.
The Minnesota Daily interviewed six candidates in May, before the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent actions by the City Council.
Ten candidates have partaken in recent candidate forums.
Alex Palacios, DFL:
Alex Palacios came to Minneapolis around four years ago after living in New York City for most of their life. Palacios works at the Aliveness Project in Minneapolis, a nonprofit focusing on providing resources for people living with HIV.
Palacios said their experience at the Aliveness Project can help them navigate the COVID-19 pandemic at the council level.
“I know the history of the HIV epidemic really well, and I thought I could bring that to the table and be this really intersectional person that can connect with just about anyone in the ward,” Palacios said.
Public health should also be a bigger role in public safety, Palacios said. Moving forward with reform efforts, including the charter change, should include increased funding for social services rather than armed officers, they said.
As conversations continue about what a public safety department will look like, Palacios said one of their priorities will also be to work more with neighborhood organizations.
“It really is not about my vision but what the community sees as their vision for safety,” Palacios said. “I absolutely want to make sure the community is centered from beginning to end with this charter.”
Mike Dougherty, DFL:
Mike Dougherty has owned historic Thomson-Dougherty Funeral Home in the Phillips neighborhood for almost 20 years. Dougherty said he wants to act as a council member who can work with the mayor and other council members on police reform and COVID-19 relief.
Dougherty said he sees himself as a more short-term candidate to address the immediate issues facing the city. Once the 2021 municipal elections come around, Dougherty said he would not necessarily run again but would be open to supporting another candidate who shares his views.
“I'm running on the platform … to inspire pragmatism, meaning that candidates that aren't so ideological. Ideology, I think has kind of gotten in the way of our local politics,” he said.
Unlike the other interviewed candidates for the seat, Dougherty does not support dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department or changing the city charter. Instead, he said moves by the city to ban chokeholds and other reforms have been a step in the right direction.
Dougherty said affordable housing presents another opportunity to create more immediate change. As money from the city’s budget goes toward rebuilding damaged areas on Lake Street, more money could go toward building affordable units, he said.
Nebiha Mohammed, DFL:
Nebiha Mohammed is originally from New York City but moved to Minneapolis after she graduated college in search of a place to raise a family and start a business. While Mohammed said she did not expect to get into politics so soon, the police killing of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic inspired her to run for the Ward 6 seat.
While Mohammed’s South Minneapolis business was not damaged during the unrest following Floyd’s death, she knows many residents of the ward who were affected.
But the pandemic has impacted her business financially. Mohammed said while state and city resources exist for struggling businesses, they are not accessible enough to the community.
“There needs to be more awareness of these different programs that are out there,” she said. “I did not know half of the stuff when I first started my business.”
Mohammed said she supports efforts by the City Council to amend the city charter and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.
While she is open to continued conversations about what a new public safety department will look like, changing the charter will eliminate barriers to reform, including the police union contract, she said.
“The contract is currently being used as a cover to protect cops who are not properly carrying out their duties,” Mohammed said.
Saciido Shaie, DFL:
Saciido Shaie came to the United States as a young girl from Somalia. As a child, she helped her family navigate a new country, which she said inspired her to help provide more resources for young people, especially those from immigrant backgrounds.
Shaie is the founder of the Ummah Project, a nonprofit geared toward social justice, including providing resources for young people and families in Minnesota.
Shaie said her experience can help her address the need for more youth programming in Cedar-Riverside and throughout the ward. Culturally-sensitive programming for both parents and children is especially important in Cedar-Riverside, she said.
“The parents need training, specific programs,” Shaie said. “How do you raise … an American child?”
Shaie said she supports the charter amendment change and is open to conversations about public safety reform. She also believes her experience on former Gov. Mark Dayton’s juvenile justice committee can help her envision alternatives to policing in youth circles.
“We understand the police department we have is not working. Everyone knows that,” Shaie said. “What I want to see is everyone at the table.”
Sara Mae Engberg, Humanity Forward:
Sara Mae Engberg said George Floyd’s killing and challenges with the city’s homeless population pushed her to enter the race. Engberg has a background working on political campaigns, but her current job in retail gives her a unique perspective, she said.
Engberg said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light wealth disparities that the city should better address.
“I really think that … as leaders in Minneapolis, that we need to be ready to step up and make changes when these other bureaucracies do not come through for us,” Engberg said.
One of the best ways to protect vulnerable populations during the pandemic is to guarantee a home for all residents, she said. Engberg is also a third-party candidate, representing the Humanity Forward party, which is inspired by the platform of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Engberg supports the proposed Africa Village development in Cedar-Riverside, but the local community should ultimately have the say in what the project will look like, she said.
“I'm really committed to ... bringing in the community on that project and coming up with a use for that lot that fits what the community wants and not what elected officials or outside developers [want],” Engberg said.