MinnPost will be regularly publishing profiles of candidates running for Minneapolis City Council. Up today: AJ Flowers, running for the open seat representing Ward 9. Also in the Ward 9 race so far: Rita Ortega, Jason Chavez, Carmen Means, Haji Yussef, Michael Moore and Saed Haji.
Minneapolis City Council candidate AJ Flowers believes that local government should be more, well, local.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing last summer, Flowers said he thinks there wasn’t strong leadership. He believes little issues became bigger fights, he said, resulting in community leaders walking away from the discussion when there was a lot of work to be done. “I want to try to be the guy to try and bring that back together,” said Flowers, 28, who works as an outreach specialist for a nonprofit and is the son of longtime activist and former mayoral candidate Al Flowers.
Now living in the Central Neighborhood, Flowers is one in a crowded field of candidates who are seeking to replace Alondra Cano in representing Ward 9, which includes Central, Corcoran, Midtown and East Phillips, Powderhorn and part of Longfellow.
If elected, Flowers said his top priority would be opening access and creating wealth for those experiencing the worst disparities in the city. Aside from directing more resources to the ward’s small business hubs like East Lake Street, he believes the city should look to invest more in its youth as the future drivers of the economy with job training and apprenticeship programs. “Our young people, the ones who won’t be able to attend or don’t want to go to college, let’s give them a chance to get good trade work,” said Flowers. “One of the first jobs I had was in construction. It wasn’t for me. But it was a good-paying job and I see people who want to do it but they don’t have the skills.”
For too many people, Flowers said, even the affordable housing options are out of reach, and the city should do more to make housing accessible for low-income residents. The barrier to entry is also too high with the shelter system throughout Hennepin County, he said, and would like to see restrictions eased for homeless people in need of addiction treatment while making punishments less harsh for those who have issues with shelter rules.
The other priority for Flowers is the city’s police department. “I’m not with abolishment or the defund movement,” he said. “I’m actually a supporter of the chief [Medaria Arradondo], which is one of the main reasons I’m for looking for tangible solutions,” like hiring more officers of color, he says. And while he believes the department needs to reform, he also believes Arradondo can use this moment as an opportunity to right the ship, he says.
Candidate snapshot: AJ Flowers
Favorite place in Minneapolis: Midtown Global Market, Southside Deli, Powderhorn
Political or civic experience: Outreach Specialist with A Mother’s Love, board member of Minnesota Safe Streets, board chair of Steering Committee for P.R.O.O.F (Peoples Right to Obtain Our Freedom), founder of Tarvanisha Benae Boyd Be Better Foundation, and co-chair of the Unity Community Mediation Team Young People Task Force.
One-sentence reason for running: “To ensure that the rebuild of Ward 9 is community-led to bring the ‘neighbor’ back to the neighborhood and create a PEACE Department that serves everyone!”