Gary Schiff said Sunday he will run for a return to the City Council, throwing his name into a closely watched race in south Minneapolis.
Schiff, 44, will face incumbent Alondra Cano, who has mulled a run for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s seat if he wins election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mohamed Farah, the executive director of the Somali nonprofit Ka Joog, is also running for the seat.
The heart of the Ninth Ward is E. Lake Street from Chicago Avenue to Hiawatha Avenue, where immigrant-owned businesses want police to crack down on drug-dealing and prostitution, many are opposed to a higher minimum wage, and some are fearful that President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants will hurt their employees and customers.
“We need leadership that can translate protests into action and can meet the needs of so many who will be just fighting for tomorrow in the Trump administration,” Schiff said.
City Hall has been deaf to small business concerns in the ward, Schiff said, and he will focus his energy on solving street-level lawlessness, helping small businesses, steering dollars toward affordable housing and protecting the city’s immigrants.
Cano won the seat when Schiff, a three-term council member who lives in the Corcoran neighborhood, ran for mayor in 2013. She has been a lightning rod — quick to take on big business and stand up for the poor, popular among activists and artists in her home neighborhood of Powderhorn, but failing to inspire enthusiasm among businesses on Lake Street.
Farah is a well-connected nonprofit director and will have the backing of Council Member Abdi Warsame, who created a new Somali voting bloc in the Sixth Ward and says Farah can do the same in the Ninth.
Schiff originally authored the 2003 ordinance that separates the work of local police from that of federal immigration enforcement. He cited his record of getting things done — funding for mentors for women released from treatment centers, pushing for body cameras for police and helping to establish the city’s affordable housing trust fund — as contrasts between himself and Cano.
“I don’t feel Alondra’s energy has translated to legislative action,” he said. “My skill set is bringing people together to make change for the community and improve people’s lives.”
Cano, who has organized a series of events in response to the new Trump administration, said Sunday that she has proven she has "the courage to lead and win against the most repressive measures that might come our way." That's what the city needs most, she said, since cities will be the front line of protection for the nation's most vulnerable families.
"Gary served our city well for twelve years, then he decided to step down to do bigger things," Cano said. "Our ward can’t afford to go backwards in time."
Schiff had only kind words for Farah, saying he’s a “fan of his work” at Ka Joog.
The election is in November, but DFL precinct caucuses to choose delegates who will decide the party endorsement are April 4.