Alexander, Lilligren win endorsement over solid challengers.
Two Minneapolis districts on the near north and south sides of the city face similar challenges — and opportunities. The Fifth and Sixth Wards have racially, ethnically diverse populations and relatively higher levels of poverty, unemployment, blight, crime and school issues. At the same time, strong neighborhood groups have worked with nonprofits, businesses and the city to turn some areas around. In partnership with Allina, for example, parts of the Phillips neighborhood have been transformed. And on the North Side, the Heritage Park development replaced what was once one of the most rundown areas in the city.
These wards need representatives who can effectively speak up for their constituents and work well across sectors to bring jobs and resources to their neighborhoods while also balancing citywide concerns.
The ward includes the Near North, North Loop, Harrison, Willard-Hay, Jordan, Sumner-Glenwood and Heritage Park neighborhoods. Residents there will have new representation because Don Samuels is running for mayor after 10 years of serving the ward on the council. Residents are fortunate to have a good field to choose from. Of the group, we give attorney Ian Alexander, 36, the edge.
Alexander is a former city Civil Rights Department investigator who now has a community-based law practice. We endorsed him last year in his unsuccessful run for the Legislature. He impressed then and now as a bright, practical thinker and coalition-builder who is well-prepared to advocate for development in his ward.
A New York City native and a graduate of both the University of Minnesota Law School and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Alexander worked on economic development for the governor of Maryland before moving to Minnesota. He did his graduate thesis on West Broadway development, and he lists economic development and job creation as top priorities. He also would push for more police, lighting and cameras to address public safety and would be creative about offering incentives for businesses to locate in the ward.
A former Republican, Alexander said he converted to the DFL because the GOP “refuses to listen to the facts’’ about investments in public safety and infrastructure.
Also running are North Side native Brett Buckner, 41, a political civic consultant and former Minneapolis NAACP president, and Blong Yang, 37, a legal-aid lawyer and former city civil-rights investigator. They are passionate and well-informed about community issues. They, too, are DFLers; however, the party did not endorse in this race.
The fourth candidate, Kale Severson, 30, did not participate in our candidate screening session. Like Buckner, he’s a native North Sider and has worked with youths as a coach, city park director and community health specialist. Severson is endorsed by the Green Party.
This south-of-the-loop ward is made up of the Stevens Square, Phillips West, Elliot Park, Cedar Riverside, Seward and Ventura Village neighborhoods. Since 2001, all or part of those areas have been well-represented by Robert Lilligren, 53. He merits re-election.
Lilligren, a Phillips resident for more than 25 years, served the Eighth Ward when first elected. Redistricting changed the boundaries, so in 2005 he ran in the Sixth Ward. He is currently the vice president of the council.
A self-employed residential property developer, Lilligren understands what it takes to transform neighborhoods and work with diverse communities. One of his major accomplishments was helping to jump-start the stalled Sears project that is now the Midtown Exchange on Lake Street. He has also done good work on transportation policy and planning, advocating for alternative transportation and a balanced, multimodal system.
Lilligren, a DFLer, is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and one of two openly gay council members.
His challenger is Abdi Warsame, 35, the director of the Riverside Plaza Tenants Association. Warsame, who was born in Somalia and raised in England, settled in the Twin Cities in 2008. Smart and well-informed, he is waging an energetic campaign and won DFL Party endorsement. Warsame likely has a bright future in politics. Still, he does not offer strong enough reasons to unseat Lilligren.
Also challenging the incumbent in this race are Mahamed Cali, 37, and Abdi Addow, who did not respond to a request for an interview. They did, however, appear at a recent Sixth Ward candidate forum. Two other names will appear on the ballot — Sheikh Abdul and Abukar Abdi — but neither appears to be actively campaigning.
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