Minneapolis Park Board elections now include candidates of color

(Photo by Jamal Denman)

In a previous MSR story, “No candidates of color for Mpls Park Board elections,” (June 27, 2013), we reported that though this year the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has seats open for election, there were no people of color vying for the positions. In response to that story, we have been contacted by two people who have since decided to throw their hats in the ring.

Said Maye wants the Minneapolis parks in his neighborhood to be more equitable for its residents. Ishmael Israel wants to see more diversity in decision-making that ultimately affects neighborhoods and residents. Both men have filed and are running for Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioners seats in this fall’s municipal election.

According to a recent article in The Downtown Journal, another candidate of color, Hashim Youis, is also running for an at-large seat. In separate interviews last week, Maye and Israel — both candidates of color — shared with the MSR their primary intentions in running for commissioner.

Left: Said Maye (Photo by Charles Hallman)

“What you give to this park, you should give to the other,” explained Maye, who is a Park Board special recreation worker, adding that he would like to see more equity when it comes to park programming.

Israel, who is vying for an at-large seat, is the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council executive director and also chairs the City’s neighborhood engagement commission, “which is the City’s advisory board over its community relations department,” he explained. “That’s what dictates the way the City takes input from its residents. I am going into my second year being on that commission.”

With this experience, Israel added, he now has a better understanding on how citywide decisions are made. As a result, he believes that if elected at-large to the Park Board, in his role as commissioner he will “be able to relay the sentiment of the average Minneapolis resident who does not have specific knowledge about the Park Board.”

He also believes that the Park Board will have a huge say in various proposed transit projects that are expected to run through the city’s North Side. “There are a lot of moving parts right now with the Bottineau [transit] line and the proposed North-South greenways that are being studied right now,” Israel pointed out.

Both Maye and Israel want more equity when it comes to allocating park resources. Maye moved here from his native Somalia in 1996 and has lived in the Franklin Avenue area for nearly 15 years. Phillips, Riverside and Peavey Parks are the three parks that regularly serve his neighborhood. However, he doesn’t see these parks as very welcoming, especially for the Somali youth and seniors who live in his neighborhood.

Right: Ishmael Israel (Photo by Charles Hallman)

“This city will be a multicultural city,” he pointed out. “I would like to see changes for all people.”

“The question is do we have equity in our representation,” said Israel, who has lived “a stone’s throw from Wirth Park” for over 10 years. “[I’m] trying to make sure that the resources that are supposed to be coming to the city are spread out. That is what I want to bring to the city of Minneapolis, beyond our Fifth Ward.

“Therefore, for me it’s about broadening our platform [as a community advocate]. I want to continue to advocate for our neighborhood…to make sure that pragmatic answers represent the populace and not just those few people who scream the loudest.”

Both candidates also point out that many citizens they encounter do not fully know what the Park Board really does, and they are especially uninformed on what the role of commissioner is.

They really don’t know,” said Maye. “All they know is mayor and city council. [However], I believe everything starts from the park.”

“This is an educating campaign,” added Israel. It’s about letting [citizens] know where the resources [are] and where the decision makers are.”

Both men urge every city registered voter to vote this fall for every office listed on the ballot. “I want to tell people to come and vote. Do it this time because we really need change in our parks,” suggested Maye.

“About one-third of the voters make it down the ballot and vote for everybody,” said Israel. “Their vote is critical.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman [at] spokesman-recorder [dot] com.

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Charles Hallman's picture
Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman writes regularly for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and blogs at Another View.