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Candidates ask: How much is the Minneapolis DFL doing for people of color?

Nekima Levy-Pounds, Raeisha Williams
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Minneapolis City Council Ward 5 candidate Raeisha Williams, right, addressing a crowd of dozens at City Hall last Thursday during a rally for mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds, center.

Several candidates vying for public office in Minneapolis lambasted the city’s current leadership and the Democratic Party at a rally last week, criticizing both for not doing enough to address the state’s persistent racial disparities and calling for a “massive, demonstrable paradigm shift in the city.”

The rally, organized at the City Hall rotunda by mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds and attended by dozens of her supporters, aimed to act as an alternative State of the City address, one focused on Minneapolis’ communities of color. Levy-Pounds said she believed such an address was needed after witnessing what she called nearly four years of dysfunction and a “government not living up to its responsibilities.”

Besides Levy-Pounds, speakers included City Council hopefuls Raeisha Williams, Tiffini Flynn-Forslund and Samantha Pree-Stinson, all of whom chastised the city for the disunity within its leadership, and for inadequately addressing issues that most affect its communities of color: affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, closing the state’s achievement gap and pushing for stronger police reforms.

“The ongoing miscommunication and lack of strong leadership, which was exposed by the report from the Department of Justice recently, has been a hallmark of this current administration,” Levy-Pounds told the crowd, “especially when dealing with issues that impact communities of color.”

Fourth precinct fallout

The city’s handling of the occupation of the Fourth Precinct after the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark was emblematic of deeper shortcomings within city leadership, said Levy-Pounds. “[The occupation] should have been a signal to the current mayor, police chief and City Council members that our community is fed up with business-as-usual politics,” she said.

Instead, Levy-Pounds said, after the encampment was disbanded, Mayor Hodges and Council Member Blong Yang attempted to allocate more than $600,000 to help fortify the Fourth Precinct police department — a move that received strong pushback from activists, who said more funding for the status quo wasn’t the answer.

The fallout from Clark’s death has led to stronger pushes for police reform and helped to unify several civil rights groups last year in calling for more state funding to address Minnesota’s racial disparities.

But Clark’s death also acted as a catalyst for many people of color getting more involved in city politics. It's one of the reasons Raeisha Williams decided to run this year for the city’s Ward 5 spot — and why she wants to see the city’s current leadership ousted. “I’m happy to see more candidates of color getting out here, but what I really want to know is your track record,” she said at Thursday’s rally. “Were you out there fighting for us when we were out there fighting, or is it popular to do so now?”

Bucking the DFL

Like Levy-Pounds, the City Council challengers also blasted the DFL Party on Thursday for using people of color as “tokens” to push the party’s favorability among voters, while not doing enough for their communities.

“That’s why Raeisha and I bucked the DFL system, because we are tired of business as usual,” Levy-Pounds said, referring to her decision not to vie for the party's endorsement. “We are not going to seek the endorsement from a party that does not treat people of color the way they deserve to be treated.”

Nekima Levy-Pounds, Samantha Pree-Stinson
MinnPost photo by Kristoffer Tigue
Samantha Pree-Stinson, right, Green Party candidate for Ward 3, with mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds, left, speaking at the rally.

Green Party candidate Samantha Pree-Stinson, who’s vying for the city’s Ward 3 council seat, agreed, saying she’d like to see candidates of color get elected into public office in the city without relying on the DFL to do so.

Most of the people running for mayor and the council are seeking the party endorsement, however. Last month, wards in north Minneapolis and downtown saw strong turnout among those supporting candidates hoping to secure the DFL endorsement over incumbent council members.

Among them is Tiffini Flynn-Forslund, who’s seeking DFL endorsement in Ward 6, where there’s a contentious fight for the seat among herself and two other candidates, incumbent Abdi Warsame and challenger Mohamud Noor. Flynn-Forslund said though she’s seeking the endorsement, she can understand why candidates like Levy-Pounds don’t care to based on her own experience. “Never have I felt so wiped out from my own party,” she said.

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Comments (13)

What exactly are they supposed to be "doing for me"?

As a black person who was born and raised in Minneapolis, I don't understand what some of the self proclaimed leaders of "people of color " are talking about. As a young man I was disappointed with people in the DFL who had an attitude that people of color always "need help". I found it to be very offensive and condescending. This was actually promoted by mostly white people, and was the catalyst for me earlier political leanings (conservative). This image how disappointing it is to see people of color calling on their own communities to be " fixed" or in perpetual "need help" situations. These self proclaimed leaders really need to speak for their selves, and only their selves. I know someone looking for a vote when they open their mouths. Nekima Levy-Pound, I would not leave you in charge of emptying the trash at City Hall. So, you can forget about being Mayor of Minneapolis - that's laughable at best.

We Expect Fair Treatment and Access to Opportunity

Sir, I find it interesting that the first time that I have ever heard of you was when you posted your comment on this page. It matters nary to me that you claim to black, conservative, a resident of North Minneapolis, and using these so-called "credentials" to make yourself and your comments appear more credible. I can rattle off the names of numerous individuals who are black and conservative and who espouse prejudicial views about their own community. The bottom line is that we, as leaders and candidates of color, are not asking for anything other than what we are entitled to: equal treatment within these systems, including the political system.

We will not continue to dole out our votes to political candidates who do not have the best interests of our community in mind. We have the intellect, the leadership capabilities, community connections, and wisdom, to speak for ourselves and to hold elected officials accountable for living up to their campaign promises. Sadly, attitudes like yours, that attempt to deflect from the real systemic challenges and inequities that exist, are often used a justification to do absolutely nothing about the problems that our communities face. Well, I won't stand for it. I won't sit back on the sidelines and pretend that these issues don't exist. And thankfully, I don't need your approval to demonstrate what real leadership is all about, identifying problems, thinking outside the box, crafting solutions with stakeholders, using the tools at my disposal, and then fighting like hell to bring about the changes that are needed. For the record, when I am the next Mayor, I won't be taking out the trash at City Hall, but I will ensure that competent, capable people are hired to do so.

Your self serving statement

As a black person who was born and raised in Minneapolis, I don't understand what some of the self proclaimed leaders of "people of color " are talking about. As a young man I was disappointed with people in the DFL who had an attitude that people of color always "need help". I found it to be very offensive and condescending. This was actually promoted by mostly white people, and was the catalyst for me earlier political leanings (conservative). This image how disappointing it is to see people of color calling on their own communities to be " fixed" or in perpetual "need help" situations. These self proclaimed leaders really need to speak for their selves, and only their selves. I know someone looking for a vote when they open their mouths. Nekima Levy-Pound, I would not leave you in charge of emptying the trash at City Hall. So, you can forget about being Mayor of Minneapolis - that's laughable at best.

You really need to re-read my comment. I never claimed to be a Northside resident or a conservative. I'm willing to meet you face to face and discuss my concerns with your approach to serving our community, if that's what you call it. Just so you know who you communicating with next time.

Cornel Culp
Direct Support Professional
Opportunity Partners

Access

Ms. Levy-Pounds, I believe in fair treatment and access, too. But I don't believe that pushing away current and potential allies, even if they're not black and/or female, is helpful. Personally, I find the charges being hurled against the city council baffling. Minimum wage is something they haven't addressed? Horse pucky! You need to take that up with the state legislature. Police relations with the community is something that's being ignored? C'mon! Are you intentionally ignoring the news? Sure, it isn't fixed, but no one has a magic wand.

Further, Ms. Levy-Pounds, why would you virtually sneer at the man you're replying to? He has some very valid points. Just because you haven't heard of him does not mean that he is not speaking the truth about who he is and his experiences. Just because he thinks you are using the issue as personal gain (I happen to firmly agree with him), doesn't mean his comments aren't legitimate.

Don't get me wrong--I believe that there are significant issues that you four women running want to address. Good on you for running for elected positions. I hope that one of more of you are elected. However, tell me why it must be at the cost of tearing apart the most likely allies in the fight for equal treatment under the law? Huh? Why pretend that everyone is against you in order to try to justify your position? It's already a real thing that lots of other people want to help you fix. Or are you honestly trying to spit into the wind just so you can take all the credit if the wind stops and have someone to blame if it doesn't?

Repubs do far less

Maybe the Dems could improve, but do you really think repubs will help on this issue?
I remember talking with a neighbor who was complaining about the high cost of healthcare, perhaps thinking trump would fix it...but as we saw with their program...the repub plan was just cruel for people...really cruel.

You've got to appeal to all the voters, though!

I wish the candidates for North Side Council seats good luck--they have a chance, but only if they get the vote out. Getting people on the North Side to vote is one of the biggest, most embarrassing failures of all our politicians and parties.

A mayoral candidate has to be able to carry the south and southwest of Minneapolis to be elected mayor. I don't believe Ms. Levy-Pounds is addressing any of those areas, especially when she starts out by admitting that she can't even get the progressive DFL party to consider her. for endorsement. Plus, a candidate has to be more than a complainer, and explain what they themselves would do to improve the city. I don't hear any of that from Ms. Levy-Pounds.

Shifting the Paradigm in Minneapolis Concerns All Voters

I find it to be disturbing that the moment that a woman of color steps up to the plate to raise concerns about well-documented racial inequities in our city, she is labeled a complainer. I understand that some folks would prefer to ignore the systemic issues that plague our most vulnerable communities,while going about their daily lives. However, the reality is that what happens to the "least of these" has had and will continue to have significant impacts on our entire system, impacting budgetary priorities, community livability, our regional economic competitiveness, our criminal justice and public education systems, employment rates, feelings of safety, and quality control f life, to name a few. It's both ignorant and unwise to assume that these issues will not impact the entire city and surrounding suburbs. Indeed, they already have.

Minneapolis needs a leader like me with a proven track record for solving problems, excellent credentials, and courage in the face of adversity. In case you were unaware, I ran a civil rights legal clinic at UST Law for over a decade, challenging laws and policies (and recommending evidenced-based approaches) at the city and county levels in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as at the state Legislature. I worked with stakeholders to push for repeal of laws against spitting and lurking in 2015 in Minneapolis because it was costing the city lots of money to enforce and resulting in criminalization of young people of color. My law students and I worked for several years to launch a nonprofit for young black men in St. Paul, focused on employment and breaking the cycle of recidivism.

I have pushed for changes in Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to promote greater levels of equity. Some changes have been made in all of these institutions, but there is much more work to do. And for the record, as a civil rights lawyer and former law prof of 14 years, I have trained police officers, teachers, probation officers, nonprofit workers, and educated legislators to create better, more equitable and inclusive systems. I am the most well-rounded Mayoral candidate and I have the chops to help Minneapolis become a national leader in equity and quality of life for all. I don't just believe in talk, I roll up my sleeves and get to work.

One More Thing

It's a well known fact that the DFL Party has fallen far short of being inclusive of communities of color and candidates of color. I'm not sure who told you the DFL Party was progressive in these areas. Unfortunately, the evidence proves otherwise. Racial disparities have grown worse in Minneapolis under the leadership of the DFL. Contrary to your statement, I didn't ask the DFL to consider me; I opted out of the process. As a lifelong Democrat, I am running as a DFL candidate, yet not seeking the endorsement. In the last two Mayoral races, no candidate received the endorsement. Besides, the process is antiquated, confusing, and has really been made obsolete in the advent of ranked choice voting. Let's deal with facts and not over-simplifications of what is happening.

In support of Ms. Levy-Pounds

Minneapolis is thriving economically. Anyone with eyes can see this thanks to the construction cranes that abound in downtown, Uptown and other neighborhoods.
Anyone can also see that this economic progress is not permeating throughout our city into the neighborhoods that could most use it. No construction cranes loom on the north side or the near south side.
There are many important issues facing Minneapolis, our state and our country. But right now, what I am most concerned about every day is the student achievement gap and the economic segregation that dominates our city. We can, and must, do better.
No other candidate will bring these issues front-and-center better than Ms. Levy-Pounds. People in every corner of Minneapolis need to understand that though our city calls itself progressive, the zip code in which a Minneapolis child lives still has a gigantic impact on his or her future. It can make or break them, and no amount of hard work and effort is necessarily enough to survive the threats many of our citizens face.
I want a city where kids in all zip codes have an opportunity, and that's why I support Ms. Levy-Pounds for mayor.

Well

Perhaps many of the zip code issues are "County driven"
Examples:
Housing of Level 3 sex offenders (County controlled)
How about concentration of section 8 housings (County/city controlled)
How about low income housing concentration?
How about minority concentration?
Where are the social $ being spent and who are they being spent on, those are county $/issues not city.
Looks more like these folks should be running for county commissioner!

Good questions

But I'm not at all convinced that either of these candidates has the the anwers

Your suspicions serve you well

J. Olsen,
Give Ms. Pree-Stinson a fair and impartial opportunity, she seems fit for public office. Ms. Levy-Pounds is going to be Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson 2.0, just in the Mayors office. She is completely unfit for public office.

Guess the easy answer is:

If the DFL isn't doing it for you, you always have the Republicans, the Greens, the Independents, etc. Kind of like buying shoes, you are free to chose the pair that fits you best. Got what 410,000 +/-, in the city, each one has a set of expectations and a set of priorities, some tax payers some not, but equal voices at the ballot box.