When Minneapolis residents head to the polls on November 5th to choose their next mayor, they will have an opportunity to rewrite the narrative of their city. After 3 terms extending over two decades, Mayor R.T Rybak will for once walk away, throwing open the door to what could be the most competitive mayoral race in 20 years. For East African voters, this means a new opening to debate some of their most critical issues, from public safety to economic development to integration. More fundamentally, it also means a chance to reflect on the past, decades of what could be described as an era of political isolation for East Africans in Minneapolis. A chance to revisit what our new home means to us, to ask: What kind of city do we want Minneapolis to be? A city for few or a city for all?
Among this year’s contenders, several have made thoughtful attempts to address this question. But only one candidate has offered a consistently compelling answer. That candidate is Mark Andrew, lifelong Minneapolis resident, former Hennepin county commissioner, owner of a S’Mores stand at the State Fair, and environmental entrepreneur for Greenmark, a consulting company. His bold understanding of East African issues, his support for rigorous police conduct review and his emphasis on sustainability, equity and economic development as main pillars of his platform is the reason we are endorsing him for Mayor. Somali Public Radio selected Mark Andrew as the candidate most likely to rise to the occasion and lead Minneapolis into a successful future.
“Parents want good schools for their children because they’re concerned for the future. They want high-quality jobs, safe neighborhoods, and responsive government. Access to city services and amenities is important too -- for example parks and transit. Anything we can do to encourage entrepreneurship is important too. And all the while, equity and justice are important,” wrote Mark Andrew in response to a screening questionnaire from Somali Pubic Radio.
His understanding of East African issues stem from early engagement. Early in his campaign, he visited East African leaders and asked necessary questions required to build a platform that addresses the issues of this community. This created an unprecedented level of excitement in the East African Community and contributed to a historical turnout for the Minneapolis DFL caucuses and convention.
Mohamed Jama who led a coalition of East African delegates during the city convention told Somali Public Radio that “the East African delegates stood together in support of Mark Andrew because his personal background, his family values and his political outlook largely appealed to them.”
For the first time in the history of Minneapolis, over 80 East African delegates turned out at the DFL city convention with an overwhelming majority casting support for Mark Andrew.
Schools and Parent Choices
Mark also understands the range of roles a mayor can play in boosting Minneapolis Public School performance and supports an array of education models to respond to the unique needs of each and every student. Our board acknowledges the candidates knowledge about Minneapolis Public Schools and the growth of Charter schools in Minneapolis.
For the past decade, More than ten charter schools have been formed that primarily serve East African students. Although students living throughout the metro area can choose these schools, most come from Minneapolis. In total, more than 5,000 students attend the charter schools, of whom majority are of East African descent. Many East African parents feel that charter schools are viable alternatives to public schools for their children. Mark demonstrated to us that he understands this choice and favors continuum’ of choices, as in this case and also in social services, housing, the environment and transportation.
Developments and Population Density
Very often a battle emerges between Developers and the East African Community. The East African Community voiced concerns over the environmental impact of some of these projects, which would add hundreds of housing units to neighborhoods that are already the most densely populated in the city. Chief among the communities concerns are the potential impact this project would have on recreational amenities, children and the safety of pedestrians. Mark believes that increased population density must be supported with an increase in services and amenities -- parks, transit, parking, pedestrian ways, to name just a few. Additionally, he believes that the decision-making process about city projects must diligently include community input and community planning.
Push for greater diversity
Our city is a many-patterned quilt that needs to cover all the unique needs of our families and kids. “In order to do that we need to make sure that those in decision-making roles reflect the diversity of the city, or at a minimum are hearing from the diverse voices in the community via public hearings and comment solicitation,” responded Mark Andrew to a questionnaire from Somali Public Radio. Mark also vows to create more inclusion in Minneapolis and promises to include East Africans in his administration.
We find Mark as a progressive leader who has brought about real change for the greater community. As Hennepin County Commissioner he worked to make county services more accessible by offering multilingual material and ensured that he hired staff who reflected the diversity of our county.
Because of his concerns for issues most pressing to East Africans, because of his record of effective leadership, we urge East Africans in Minneapolis to vote Mark Andrew November 5th.
Somali Public Radio is a public radio outlet that broadcasts in Somalia and in the twin cities with over 5,000 listeners. Our website www.spr.fm serves as a bridge between Somalia and thousands of Diaspora members through news, editorials, photos and video content.