Star Tribune’s Editorial endorsements: Warsame, Goodman merit new terms on Minneapolis City Counci

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

Abdi Warsame became the nation’s first Somali-American elected to municipal office in 2013. He has proved to be a polished, energetic member of the Minneapolis City Council and merits a second term representing the Sixth Ward.

Warsame, 39, serves a centrally located ward that is the city’s smallest by geographical area but also its most densely populated. It is home to the Cedar-Riverside complex that is the epicenter of the state’s Somali-American population. It also includes the Elliot Park, Seward, Phillips West, Ventura Village and Stevens Square neighborhoods.

As a council member, Warsame has balanced being an able advocate for these areas with being a strong voice for the Somali-American community. His support for the city’s historic long-term parks funding agreement will benefit generations of kids and parents. Warsame pushed for the 20-year plan to address racial and economic equity, a positive step.

Warsame co-authored the $15 minimum wage ordinance, and while the Star Tribune Editorial Board opposed the increase, its passage reflects political skill. Renters with landlord grievances have found a concerned representative in Warsame. Particularly praiseworthy are his efforts to help build a new indoor marketplace for local artisans and entrepreneurs. This effort involved challenging a powerful property management family whose buildings have generated complaints.

Warsame, who grew up in Great Britain and has a master’s degree in international business, has also spoken eloquently on behalf of immigrant communities in an age of travel bans and fearmongering about new citizens. His leadership is admirable.

Warsame still has work to do. A major task in Cedar-Riverside remains undone — resolving the Brian Coyle Community Center lease dispute that has prevented this vital neighborhood resource from expanding. It should be a top priority for Warsame to end this standoff.

Voters have a strong second-choice candidate: Mohamud Noor. Noor, 39, is a familiar figure in the Sixth Ward, serving as the executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. The nonprofit plays a critical role in helping members of the Somali-American community navigate their new Minnesota home. Noor’s people skills and problem-solving abilities would serve him well in elected office.

Fadumo Yusuf, 36, a respected community volunteer, merits voters’ third choice. Yusuf has an instinctive grasp of issues important to her community. We urge her to broaden her experience and continue to pursue political opportunities.

Minneapolis may soon have a new mayor and several new City Council members. More than ever, experienced leadership matters. So does prioritizing a vibrant downtown as an economic engine for the city and the region. That’s why Seventh Ward incumbent Lisa Goodman is our clear favorite in the Nov. 7 election.

Goodman, 51, is a 20-year veteran at City Hall, and her expertise will be especially needed because Third Ward City Council Member Jacob Frey, who also represents a portion of downtown, will not return due to his mayoral run. In addition to parts of downtown, the Seventh Ward includes the Kenwood, Lowry Hill, Cedar-Isles-Dean and Bryn Mawr neighborhoods.

As described in a recent Star Tribune editorial series, downtown safety must be a higher priority for city leaders, and of the four Seventh Ward contenders, Goodman has the best sense of the situation and potential solutions, including the need for more police officers. Goodman, who has strong ties to the business community, was also the most amenable to the city vigorously competing for Amazon’s second headquarters. That’s the type of ambition the city should strive for, not shirk from.

Goodman’s strongest challenger is Janne Flisrand, who has stressed affordable housing, environmental and transit issues. But Flisrand, 46, is less likely to lead on key downtown issues or work effectively with the business community. It’s also troubling that Flisrand answered “yes” to a recent questionnaire that asked, “Do you believe that we could ever have a city without police?” Minneapolis needs to continue to work to improve police-community relations and diversify its force, but make no mistake: The city will always need an effective Police Department with adequate resources.

The other candidates in the race are Teqen Zea-Aida, 42, a former art gallery owner who during his endorsement interview was predominantly focused on gentrification challenges, and Joe Kovacs, 26, whose background includes education software. Kovacs presents a different kind of diversity in a city concerned about encouraging and accepting differences: He’s a Republican and mostly focused on economic issues. Kovacs often found himself agreeing with Goodman during the endorsement interview. We hope Seventh Ward voters do, too, and make Goodman their first choice.

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For additional information about the candidates, including links to their websites, news stories and an explanation of ranked-choice voting, go to the Star Tribune’s 2017 Minneapolis and St. Paul voters guide at http://strib.mn/2yJxgmk. To read all of our endorsements, go to http://startribune.com/2017endorsements.

Source StarTribune