Interim St. Paul City Council Member Kassim Busuri should apologize for offensive remarks he made several years ago and stay true to his initial pledge not to run for the seat he now holds.
Busuri posted Facebook comments in 2013, 2014 and 2015 that were supportive of anti-gay remarks and a Ugandan law that criminalizes homosexuality. The posts were brought to public attention after he skipped last week’s council vote on a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and June 2019 Pride month.
Instead of recognizing that the comments were offensive, he offered a weak response. In a statement, he said “there is a fracture within the Muslim community and the LGBTQ community” and that “condemning someone for past comments is not the answer.” He added that there should be “understanding and compassion” for those who practice Islam as well as the LGBTQ community.
Busuri, a Muslim and Somali, is entitled to his personal religious beliefs. But as a city official, he has a duty not to publicly make or defend offensive remarks about an entire community.
In addition to the insensitivity shown on this issue, Busuri recently announced he would be a candidate for the council seat even though he had promised not to run as an interim applicant. He said he changed his mind because “many” in his ward want him to continue in the job.
Busuri may indeed have supporters from his ward, and some may share his views on gay rights. Still, he reneged on his word and violated a clearly stated application condition. Traditionally, when the council appoints a member, applicants agree not to run so they won’t have the advantage of incumbency. Busuri’s decision to ignore that criteria isn’t fair to other interim applicants; nor is it fair to those who are currently running for the post.
When he declared his candidacy last month, his fellow council members asked him to resign to run a campaign. But he refused to step down. In response, his fellow council members have removed him from an ad hoc committee.
All of the missteps raise serious questions about Busuri’s ability to be an effective, collaborative council member. If he’s on the ballot, East Side voters should keep that in mind when they evaluate Sixth Ward candidates as the City Council campaign unfolds this summer and fall.