Four North Minneapolis candidates faced off in a public forum followed by karaoke at the Capri Theater on Saturday, September 7. About 90 audience members heard candidates respond to wide-ranging questions on everything from police-community relations to homelessness to the HERC garbage incinerator to youth policy. Economic empowerment was an overarching theme that the candidates often returned to in the forum, which was sponsored by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) and moderated by community leader Sina Black.
With no DFL endorsement for the seat and incumbent Don Samuels running for mayor, the candidates are running hard and are eager to differentiate themselves from their opponents. Other than Severson’s repeated and rather pointed observation that he has lived in the 5th Ward his entire life, the candidates stuck to the issues and did not criticize each other. (Buckner is also a lifelong resident of the ward; Alexander moved to the ward after completing law school; Yang was born in a refugee camp in Thailand.)
The candidates include:
- Ian Alexander, a family law attorney who lost his previous home in the north side tornado. Alexander ran unsuccessfully for the legislature last year, and came within a percentage point of gaining the DFL endorsement at the May convention. A self-admitted policy wonk, Alexander focused on economic development as the most crucial issue facing the Fifth Ward.
- Brett Buckner, a community organizer, stressed the importance of building coalitions, including faith-based organizations. “I want to work to find partners to fund [north side revitalization,” he said, adding that although he is a DFLer, “I want to work across political lines, work with the county.”
- Kale Severson, athletic director at North Community High School, is the Green Party’s endorsed candidate. He ran unsuccessfully for the Minnesota Senate in 2010. Severson said he was concerned about police misconduct, stating, “Let’s fire all the police and start over.”
- Blong Yang, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners second district seat in 2012, spoke of how racial inequities effect the ward. “Minneapolis claims to be the most progressive city in the country, but minority hiring goals are just a pipe dream.”
And as for the karaoke? After more than 90 minutes of discussing issues, candidates helped the afternoon end on a light note, gamely participating in the karaoke part of the event. Buckner sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’; Severson sang a romantic duet with a high school friend; Yang sang Bounty Killer’s “Look Into My Eyes;” and Alexander recited a poem about door knocking in the 5th Ward to the accompaniment of a guitarist singing “Lean on Me.”
Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.