Tuesday's elections had the possibility of putting as many as three Somali candidates into elected office, carrying on the legacy of the late Hussein Samatar, but only one crossed the electoral threshold.
That was Abdi Warsame, the victor for City Council in the Sixth Ward, where he swamped incumbent Robert Lilligren, becoming the council's first Somali member.
But in Eden Prairie, Mushid Barud, finished a distant fifth in a school board race, while in Mankato, Abdi Sabrie was a distant fourth, for that district's board.
But the state may gain a second Somali in public office when it fills the seat of Samatar, who made history in 2010 as the state's first elected Somali. He died in August. Two Somalis, Ubah Ali Juma, who is Samatar';s widow, and Mohamud Noor, are among the four applicants competing to be appointed by the Minneapolis baord to the District seat on Tuesday. The other two applicants, Ira Jourdain and Nicque M. Mabrey, are of Indian heritage.
The appointee will be sworn in during the board's Dec.10 meeting, and serve through the end of 2014.
(Photo: Abdi Warsame)
Memo to political candidates: It’s a good idea to make sure your property taxes are paid when you’re running for a tax supported job.
Five candidates in this year’s Minneapolis city elections missed their payment deadlines, including both North Side candidates for the area’s Park Board seat.
Incumbent Jon Olson gives financial hardship as the reason that he’s not made a property tax payment since the first half of 2011. He operates a Dairy Queen in the Lind-Bohanon neighborhood. He said the recession and the loss of North Side residents who lost their homes have cut into sales.
“People don’t have the money to spend,” said Olson, who said he’s optimistic that business is rebounding.
He also said he took a hit financially from missing work for six months due to severe facial and hand injuries that caused him to have to pay someone else to run the business. He was slashed by an assailant with a box cutter when he intervened to protect one of his employees from the intoxicated man who had attacked her outside a bar.
Olson’s challenger, David Luce, had simple forgetfulness to blame for not paying his second-half property tax on time. When a reporter called Thursday, he reached into a cupboard when bills are kept and found that the deadline was Oct. 15.
“It’s not like we don’t have the money,” Luce said. Thanks. I’ll go pay it.”
Ninth Ward City Council candidate Ty Moore said he forgot to pay his second-half tax bill amidst the pressures of his campaign. “I’ve always paid my taxes consistently,” he said. “I’ll be paying those online today.”
Two mayoral candidates are behind on taxes. One is Bob Carney Jr., who owes his full 2013 bill of $6,660. Carney said that the recession cut his earnings, he faced foreclosure earlier this year, sold an adjacent lot he owned to pay off his mortgage, and that left him cash-poor for paying his tax.
The other is Gregg Iverson. He had a legitimate reason not to pay 2013 taxes, but he’s still delinquent on taxes from 2009 through 2012, owing $9,865 according to Hennepin County.
He owes no taxes this year, according to the county, because he qualifies to a 2010 law that exempts veterans with a 70 or 100 percent disability from paying taxes on up to $300,000 in property value. His property is assessed at a little more than half that amount. Iverson said Friday he has made some payments on his back taxes and plans to pay in full.
It's not unheard of for a sitting pol to forget to pay taxes. Former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton didn't pay her taxes on time twice during her tenure, including during her 1997 re-election bid. She denied that the lateness indicated a chronic financial problem. Two months later, the Star Tribune reported that she and her husband had sold their Wisconsin lake home while facing foreclosure on it.
You can check who has paid taxes on time and who owes money by going to the Hennepin County web site.
Those who want to become the next Minneapolis school board member from the city’s east central board district got an oral exam Tuesday night, but the news was who didn’t appear.
Finalist Abdulkakir Abdalla, who directs a Rochester charter school, dropped out before the interviews, the crowd at Sullivan school was told. He confirmed that Wednesday, saying that he was deferring to the widow of Hussein Samatar, Ubah Ali Jama, so she could finish out the term of her late husband on the board. But he said he’s running for the District 3 seat next year.
That left four applicants to be interviewed by the board, with a board vote scheduled for Nov. 12. They were asked to answer the seven questions posed by the board in in three minutes each, but the first two, Nicque M. Mabrey and Ira Jordain, gave such brief answers that the board was forced to idle while waiting for the next candidates to arrive for their slots.
Mohamud Noor was by far the most voluble and articulate of those interviewed, taking 17 minutes to discuss board questions, almost twice as much as Jourdain. He gave a nod to the candidacy of Jama, saying he was applying to give the board an option.
Mabrey acknowledged that her work involves lobbying Outfront Minnesota during when the Legislature will meet, when asked about constraints on her time. “I feel like I’m kept on my toes, but I’m ready to serve,” she said.
Asked about equity in education, the self-described “queer woman of color” said she doesn’t see her status reflected in the classroom, in curriculum or on the board. She said the district’s current strategic plan hasn’t been executed in a way that improves performance of minority students. She said a key issue in the district will be to welcome Latino and Somali immigrants.
Jourdain acknowledge in response to a question about board-management relations that he doesn’t serve on a board now. He said his work at the Division of Indian Work provides flexibility to serve. He praised the board for taking the suggestion of activist Bill English to hold the interviews in the district, saying transparency was important and community members gain better understanding of the board.
He said one issue he’s heard from area parents is their concern over South High School’s move this year to Metro Transit bus passes.
Jama said she’d already lived and experienced the job of serving on the board through Samatar’s 2-1/2-years before his death in August from leukemia. She said that equity in schools to her means a friendly attitude by staff toward every child. Sjhe said she hopes to break down barriers as a board member to reach immigrant communities and those who are single parents.
Noor came with talking points written on board questions but also extemporized. He stressed his volunteer service. He called student achievement the district’s most critical issue, but also called for quality early childhood education. He called on the district to spreading district resources equitably across schools.
Jourdain was the only applicant to address questions of residency, saying he’s lived in the district most of his life, aside from a stint working at the Red Lake reservation, from which he returned in August. Mabrey moved to the district in late September, while Noor moved in earlier this month.
The union-reformer divide that arose in last year’s District 4 school board race didn’t arise overtly during the questioning. Noor was endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers during a 2011 special election for Minnesota Senate; Samatar was one of two board members to vote against the current teacher contract, saying it didn’t make enough changes.
(Photo: Applicant Nicque Mabrey is interviewed by the school board.)
Coming from the campaign-sign-rich South Side, this reporter was a little startled by the paucity of mayoral lawn signs on a prime stretch of real estate for advertising on lower Penn Avenue N.
Intrigued, I strayed from my interview location to make a broader survey of North Side real estate, logging almost five miles on Penn, Lowry and Fremont avenues.
Two conclusions: 1) The mayor's race is overshadowed in this area by the intense four-way contest for the Fifth Ward seat on the City Council, for which many more signs had sprouted; 2) Dan Cohen's campaign far outhustled the opposition in getting lawn signs posted.
Keeping firmly in mind the old saw that lawn signs don't vote, Cohen nevertheless had as many lawn signs as all of his opponents combined in the stretch driven. We saw no signs for North Sider Don Samuels, the area's incumbent council member who wants to be mayor, one apiece for fellow North Sider Jackie Cherryhomes, Stephanie Woodruff, Mark Andrew and Bob Fine, and two for Betsy Hodges.
Cohen gives the credit to Troy Wilson, who heads sign placement, but also said he's heard that his downtown casino proposal plays well on the North Side.
Wilson said the campaign's North Side success comes partly because the crews are largely comprised of vounteers who are black, and like him, have contacts in the community who are black. Those doorknockers have less success placing signs int he mostly white southwest corner of the city, Wilson said. He reported that the campaign had 16 staffers and volunteers out placing signs this week.
Shingle Creek school is still closed, still empty, still unsold and may still be headed for demolition.
It looked like some of that was due to change Tuesday night when the Minneapolis school board was poised to vote on a staff recommendation to sell the North Side school for about $400,000.
But the administration was forced to pull the matter from the board’s agenda at the last minute when the proposed sale fell through.
According to the board and administration, the proposal from Minnetonka Funding Group LLC was withdrawn after KIPP Stand Academy, a charter school located on the west edge of downtown, decided not to be the school’s tenant. Board Chair Alberto Monserrate said that he was told that the KIPP board was unable to reach a lease agreement with Minnetonka.
“It was a complete surprise,” he said.
That couldn’t be independently verified with the school because its representatives didn’t respond to repeated Star Tribune inquiries.
The sale breakdown is the latest in a quirky story since the school closed in 2007 as part of a larger wave of district school closings, especially on the North Side, as enrollment fell.
In 2010, the district removed asbestos and ductwork from the building, and it’s been sitting unheated since. Only then did the district ask city permission to raze the building. It was supported by some neighbors who said that the one-story 1958 building was becoming an eyesore, but the neighborhood group opposed demolition. The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission denied the demo application but was reversed by the City Council, which granted it with the proviso that the district market the building for six months.
That generated an offer of $1.175 million last spring from Charter School Property Solutions but the board rejected it in May, not knowing which charter or private school might move in. Kim Ellison, who holds the board’s North Side seat, said then she was concerned that the sale could open the door to a low-quality school opening in the building.
She was more comfortable with KIPP as an occupant, although the Minnetonka offer was only about one-third the earlier offer.
KIPP is part of a national 20-state network of charter schools that has drawn considerable attention for claiming success with a largely minority, low-income enrollment. But its local school last year reported only 40 percent proficiency on state math tests, 36 percent on science and 28 percent on reading among its mostly black middle-school students.
The district said last year that it would cost $280,000 to raze the school, but that was cheaper than the $2.8 million it estimated would be needed to make the building usable after it removed asbestos and ductwork, leaving holes in walls and ceilings.
Monserrate said the building may be at the end of the road. “I think it’s getting to the point-- I’m speculating here—it’s in pretty bad shape. I’m surprised that there were schools interested in it. The viability of that school is dwindling.”
(Photos: Above--Shingle Creek school; Right above--Alberto Monserrate; Right below--Kim Ellison)
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