MinnPost will be regularly publishing profiles of candidates running for Minneapolis City Council. Up today: Alicia Gibson, running for the open seat representing Ward 10. Also in the Ward 10 race so far: Chris Parsons, Aisha Chughtai, David Wheeler, Katie Jones, and Steven Frich.
In the early goings of the 2021 Minneapolis election campaign season, the race for the Ward 10 City Council seat is ramping up to be especially competitive. Five candidates have already jumped into the race to replace Council Member Lisa Bender, who has decided not to seek reelection after two terms.
One of those who jumped in early is Alicia Gibson. The 44-year-old resident of the Wedge is a former university professor who has become active in community work in her neighborhood.
An Oklahoma native and a law school grad, she clerked for a district court judge in Colorado and worked on indigenous systems of conflict resolution for Native Americans before moving to Minneapolis to get a doctorate in comparative literature and cultural studies from the University of Minnesota.
After a stint in Cincinnati, where she opened a bookstore and spread the word about the glory of Minneapolis bike paths, she came back to the city, settling in the Wedge. “There are so many tattoos,” said Gibson of the area. “I’m with my people.”
Back in Minneapolis and fed up with “exploitative” adjunct work — “I would pay more in child care then I would get paid” — she joined the board of the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association. She eventually became president of the association, using her position to recruit more diverse members and make meetings more inviting so people felt comfortable contributing ideas.
That community work is the foundation for her candidacy, she says, and her top priority is housing. She believes the city needs more affordable options, “but I am very wary about taking out naturally occurring affordable housing in that process,” said Gibson.
She said too many people from immigrant or low-income populations are moving out of Ward 10 neighborhoods, and that the way to retain them is to get a better understanding of the city’s housing stock. Instead of simply demolishing and constructing affordable housing anywhere possible, she would like to see a data-driven approach that informs development decisions.
One decision Gibson knows she backs right away is allowing the construction of single-room-occupancy housing like rooming houses. She said it would solve housing woes for many people and can be accomplished by reconstructing already existing large homes. Gibson said she also believes the city should invest in programs that foster low-income homeownership.
Gibson’s other chief priority is public safety. She supports the demilitarization of police and funding a more “public health perspective” of safety, though she says she doesn’t like the term “defund.”
“I’m a person with a law degree and Ph.D. in comparative literature,” said Gibson. “Words matter.” She worries about pulling money from public safety, fearful that it might follow the examples of other systems, like education and health care systems, that have been rendered ineffective by defunding.
Recently, while outside with her kids, Gibson overheard an argument from a nearby porch. Then she saw neighbors fleeing in the other direction. Someone had a gun, they said. She ran for cover with her kids and called 911. The person allegedly holding a gun was gone by the time police arrived.
“We need to be able to call the police,” said Gibson. “This is not a moment to talk about removing officers from the street.”
Gibson said it’s always a good time to take bad officers off the street, and said, if elected, she would push Minneapolis police to speed up investigations when citizens have a complaint.
Regardless of her own policy priorities, Gibson said she understands people will disagree. While leading Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association meetings, she led listening circles so people could dispel assumptions and get to an understanding of each other’s principles. Gibson said she would bring that spirit to City Hall.
Candidate snapshot: Alicia Gibson
Occupation: Community organizer
Political or civic experience: Union organizing leader, UMN Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant Coalition; founder and president, East Walnut Hills Business Association; chair, Planned Parenthood Parents and Professionals advocacy group; Marketing Committee interim chair, Wasson Way mixed-use pedestrian trail; Green Team committee, Kenwood Elementary School; board member and board president, Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association
Favorite place in Minneapolis: Minnesota Institute of Arts
One sentence reason for running: “I want to transform oppressive paradigms that create winners and losers with a combination of pragmatic and creative problem-solving, through collaboration and consensus-building, and by centering the ward’s diverse communities.”