MinnPost will be regularly publishing profiles of candidates running for Minneapolis City Council. Up today: Haji Yussuf, running for the open seat representing Ward 9. Also in the Ward 9 race so far: Rita Ortega, Jason Chavez, Carmen Means, Mickey Moore, and AJ Flowers.
City Council candidate Haji Yussuf was compelled to make a run for office after watching his son’s reaction to visiting George Floyd Square.
“From that day on, my son asks every police officer and every National Guard member that he encounters, ‘Why did you kill George Floyd?’ said Yussuf. “This has me thinking, ‘He’s already scared. What can I do?’”
Yussuf, a businessman and Somali immigrant who moved to town in 1999 and now runs an online organic cosmetics company with his wife, decided to answer that question by running for the open seat representing Ward 9 on the Minneapolis City Council. The ward includes the Central neighborhood, where Yussuf lives, along with Corcoran, Midtown and East Phillips, Powderhorn and part of Longfellow.
Yussuff, who has also worked for the Minnesota Department of Revenue and ran for the DFL nomination in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar last year, says two other moments in his past also contributed to his decision to run: a speech he heard from the late Paul Wellstone about left-out voices, and the welcoming banners he saw when he first came to Minnesota in the late ’90s — images posted around town and on Metro Transit buses of people who look like him reading, “Welcome your new neighbors.”
“I felt like, ‘Yeah, I want to be here,’” said Yussuf. “Yeah, it’s cold, but Minnesota has one of the best summers, too. And my community is here,” he said of the Somali and greater East African community.
Though Haji finds a lot to like about Minneapolis, he also believes the city has areas that need improvement. He supports a long-term goal of creating an entirely new safety system, one that includes the input of every kind of Minneapolis resident. And in the interim, Yussuf said Minneapolis should stop “military tactics” and enhance the role of public oversight.
But his most immediate priority is addressing the increase in crime in the city, and making the neighborhoods of Ward 9 safer. “We need police on foot and bike patrol through Ward 9,” said Yussuf, “addressing drug dealers, sex workers on blocks in Ward 9 — entire blocks have been taken over by drug dealers. It’s unlivable.”
Yussuf also wants to prioritize housing, specifically home ownership. He supports the community land trust model and said he’d push for the city to buy land with the intent to sell homes to qualifying residents.
Yussuf, who lived in an apartment with seven other people working three jobs when he first moved to the city, believes that though there are things that need improvement, the city still has a lot to offer — from work and housing opportunities to reliable public transportation — and he wants to be part of making the city even better.
“I’ve seen enough,” said Yussuf. “I want to be part of this idea of this city, of this conversation going forward, for our children; that’s why I’m motivated.”
Candidate snapshot: Haji Yussuf
Favorite place in Minneapolis: Lake Street, for food and culture.
One-sentence reason for running: The current model of policing is broken and requires a fresh start and a new look.