E-DEMOCRACY | Minneapolis 6th Ward politics


From: Jim Graham Date: Apr 26 14:39

Has anyone read the Strib about the happenings with the Somali bid to oust Robert Lilligren from the 6th Ward. WOW!!! Sounds like the Somali’s decided to bring Somali politics to Minneapolis. Apparently there were allegations of threats, buy offs and other fun things. I wonder if the Somali’s stopped in Chicago for arefreshercourse in politics or they simply remember how it was played in their own delightfully progressive country. :-). Interesting reading.

Gerrymandering to accomplish political advantage for one ethnic group at the expense of others appears to be alive and well in “Progressive” Minneapolis.

Jim Graham

From: Laura Waterman Wittstock Date: Apr 26 16:57

Stopping for prayers at the expense of other caucus attendees seemed over the top for the DFL. That created class/religious divisions and it is no wonder some of the others went home.

We have got to straighten our values. Will we stop the convention if it crosses muslim prayer times as well?


From: Gary Dombouy Date: Apr 26 17:12

Abdi Warsame ran against Jeff Hayden et al. in Senate District 61 in 2011. He garnered almost 30% of the vote in the primary.

I found him to be the most consistently realistic candidate on the dais, which I suppose makes him an anomaly in Minneapolis DFL politics.

Having worked recently as City election judge I find Somali levels of participation in elections thrilling.

And what’s this outcry about speaking Somali? The Minneapolis Issues Forum echo chamber previously has lauded multilingualism. No one has complained about Council Member Lilligren’s speaking gibberish hitherto.

Mr. Graham’s appall at ‘gerrymandering to accomplish political advantage for one ethnic group at the expense of others’ is befitting of some ingénue. You’re too old for that gesture, Mr. Graham. It’s called decennial census redistricting.

But don’t despair. We have heard from the FBI, the perennial bloom of 6th Ward politics.

Gary Dombouy

From: Laura Waterman Wittstock Date: Apr 26 17:32

Without feeding the troll here, my question is: if English needs translation to Somali, would not Somali need translation to English?


From: Bill Kahn Date: Apr 26 17:54

Laura makes a good point and I would hope that this is addressed for future precinct caucuses in immigrant dominated districts. We will need translators in the future and the need should be predictable.

As an atheist, the prayer problem is more interesting and begs the question of whether any devout religious person can be an effective agent for democracy. I’m pleased that we can test that hypothesis right here in Minneapolis.

I strongly suspect that we will find that we are better off leaving our religion at the door, a neat trick for my caucus that met in a church as the Republicans had the school. I think most locations could pull it off, perhaps even in a mosque.

From: Terrell Brown Date: Apr 26 17:56

Seems like a reasonable question, I think translation should go both ways.

We talked at breakfast this morning about the prayer break, the person across the table from me mentioned that the break was offered at a 13th ward caucus. Is the break by majority vote? Because 1 individual requests it?

I’m not sure I see much difference between a prayer break for one group and the invocation that Bradley Dean gave at the Legislature a year or 2 ago. We should separate church and state. The City Convention will likely be lengthy, how many prayer breaks to the delegates want to take? If there isn’t going to be an invocation (and there shouldn’t be) there shouldn’t be a religious break in the middle of the meeting. I believe the convention is on the Jewish sabbath. Should we honor that and hold the convention on a different day?

Terrell Brown
Loring Park

From: Susan Horns Kolstad Date: Apr 26 18:19

Laura’s 2 points are the ones that disturb me the most.

Our caucus had a break for prayer at 8:00. It was held in the caucus room with amplification.

Translation was into two languages but not into English. This seems to be a serious deficiency.

In addition, I read the material sent by Abdi Warsame and found no significant discussions of issues. I tried to find information on line but only found a website in a language that was not English so I had no idea what his positions were on anything. At the caucus, the majority of attendees kept up a constant chatter making it difficult to hear the speakers. It seemed they had no interest in the content of the caucus other than casting their votes to elect their delegates. I understand this perspective but have never seen it manifested as rudely or obviously as at this year’s caucus. As for the discussion of the ward boundaries, I watched this being discussed as it happened and now look at the appearance of the ward. It is an excellent example of Gerrymandering.

Susan Kolstad

From: Connie Sullivan Date: Apr 26 21:09

Aside from the caucus being conducted in Somali with no English translations, and a prayer break (which is much less serious, in my view), there were details in the article of how that caucus and its preparations were handled that absolutely do not correspond to a “democratic” system.

Intimidation to the extent of bullying. Pushing. Buying support for one candidate. Preventing delegates from signing a form. Shouting people down. Et cetera.

In sum: there was implicit violence at that caucus. Power was the central focus, not democratic values and procedures. I found the article’s description to be one of the most frightening stories I’ve read in local news lately.

It took nerve for the Star Tribune to publish that piece, because it breaks into our Minnesota tendency to avoid painful truths.

Connie Sullivan
Como, in East Minneapolis

From: Jack Ferman Date: Apr 26 21:50

Permit a technical question. As I remember the DFL caucus registration form, it says one’s signature certifies the person to be eligible to vote; that is, 18 years by election day, a resident of the State and Precinct, and a Citizen of the United States. How many of the caucus attendees were legally eligible to vote? Was there any credentials verifying. In the past, the need to verify has not been particularily necessary. But in Wards structured to have certain dominences, is non-verification unwise.

Sent from my iPad
John Ferman
Kingfield Neighborhood
Minneapolis, MN

From: Dave Garland Date: Apr 26 23:26

On 4/26/2013 4:50 PM, Jack’s USI wrote:
>Permit a technical question. As I remember the DFL caucus
>registration form, it says one’s signature certifies the person to
>be eligible to vote; that is, 18 years by election day, a resident
>of the State and Precinct, and a Citizen of the United States.

Or expects to be so.

So long as there is intent to be so, they’re in. Perhaps not all who have intent will follow through, e.g. maybe they’ll die, or not become a citizen, or incur a felony, or move. How can the DFL know you won’t have committed a felony before election day? They can’t, the fortune tellers aren’t good enough yet.

This is not a public election,

>many of the caucus attendees were legally eligible to vote?

They don’t need to be legally eligible to vote on caucus day, or on convention day, but rather on election day.

>there any credentials verifying. In the past, the need to verify
>has not been particularily necessary. But in Wards structured to
>have certain dominences, is non-verification unwise.

Are you saying, in wards that have residents who are… “different”?

Are you saying that (results of the “Anti-Voter ID Amendment” election notwithstanding) we should require picture IDs? A note from their mother? A proclamation signed by a Generalissimo?

Well, the republicans seem to think that way. But I don’t think the DFL does. Lord knows, there are plenty of things to find fault with about the DFL, but I don’t think that is usually one of them.

There’s a new group in town, and they seem intent on learning how to work the system. More power to them.

From: Bill Kahn Date: Apr 26 23:52

Watch that small ‘r’, Dave. I’m a republican, but I’m not a Republican; I’m a Democrat.

If you walk into your precinct caucus and say you’re a Democrat from the precinct and are going to vote in November, you’re in. What is all this nonsense about credentials?

The implicit violence is indeed troubling, but was it a real threat? As all of us who have come together with new immigrants in one process or another know, it is a new experience for everyone now, especially the new immigrants.

I can remember a Neighborhood Revitalization Program plan reallocation meeting in my neighborhood in which I struggled to find support for funding a few plan strategies I’d been working on in competition with a new group, Somali Women in Motion (SWIM), who won hands down. I was surprised at the time, but they were there and organized and most of us wanted them to succeed. They did.

Perhaps it is different when the men are involved more, but what we need is more backbone; Midwestern passive-aggressive disapproval won’t do.

The DFL can do a few videos for Somalis and for the rest of us so that we are all more clear on the process as it is bad enough that we’re all manipulated into the agenda of others without struggling with language and cultural issues that can be overcome with a little planning and firm decorum alerts from conveners and volunteers (it is clear we need to recruit more with language skills for more than a few ward precincts).

I think we can learn a great deal from the Minneapolis Public Schools experience in translation. Many years ago now, I remember a MPS Board meeting at North High and a few translators covering everything with several, not just two or three languages using transmitters and radios with headphones for those needing the translation. Perhaps they have something even slicker now.

Maybe we can use Skype to iron out SNAFUs in multiple precincts.

It is clear that some decorum must be set and enforced beyond the traditional and that set by the parties in suggested caucus rules, but we can’t let fear rule these important events even though that seems to be what happened in the precincts the Strib reported on. Hopefully that fear can be eased and decorum established without trampling out the enthusiasm for the process shown in these particular precincts.

From: Fredda Scobey Date: Apr 27 14:53

I’m uncomfortable with the many mentions questioning prayer at the 6th Precinct caucus.

Although I’m not a Muslim, just a lackadaisical Catholic, I led a largely Somali organization with an ESL program for over 7 years. Every so often, teachers would decide that the Muslim prayer times were interrupting classes.

Prayer may be an inconvenience for non-Muslims, but it is essential for Muslims. I came to admire their discipline and piety.

It seems to me that “freedom of religion” is often interpreted as “freedom from religion” in our country today. Respect for eachother simply must include tolerance for eachother’s religious practices.

Fredda Scobey

From: Laura Waterman Wittstock Date: Apr 27 17:22

Susan’s post is the only one I have seen (although I may have missed one) from someone who actually attended the 6th Ward caucus. It would be good for posters to discuss how they would handle a similar situation in their own wards. What would they do in their own wards if similar Gerrymandering came to be, followed by an insurgence of non-English speakers into their caucus meeting? Does not have to be Somali. It could be Russian. The Serbic languages are equally unknown to Americans.

If you look at a city map, Ward Six is the only one that snakes around and actually resembles a Gerrymander. That should tell us something. Phillips neighborhood’s number of housing units fell from 7,600 to 6,700 from 1990 to 2000 (with Ventura Village included). Windom, for example had 2,300 housing units in 1990 and 2,200 in 2000 by comparison.

That shows Phillips as a neighborhood in economic transition. It has traditionally been an immigrant neighborhood, welcoming those from other countries – but not so much welcoming returning Indians who had been “concentrated” in areas after the treaty-making era. They were unwelcome returners who were seen to be competing for jobs after WWII. Even though Indians were citizens as so declared in the Snyder Act of 1924, they were treated like foreigners. Indians were the last group to receive citizenship, but they were not welcome in America’s cities or as participants in the political process. Several states denied Indians voting rights, right up to the 1960s, similar to the way African Americans were being denied voting rights.

Even today, Indians have extremely small representation in elected offices. The great majority are local, county, and state. There is one standing U.S. Representative. The last U.S. Senator retired from office in 2005. The effect of the earlier suppression is still being worked out. That’s a long time – 89 years.

Housing was one of the economic issues leading to the formal organization of the American Indian Movement in 1968 in the Philips neighborhood. There is an upcoming exhibit at the All My Relations Gallery on Franklin Avenue. Entitled, “I’m Not Your Indian Anymore,” some of the photographs in the exhibit show the housing conditions Indians experienced back in 1968. The photos will shock those used to comfortable and clean living conditions today. The exhibit opens May 10 and goes to June 30.


From: Nick Cross Date: Apr 27 21:02

Lilligren dropped out of the convention saying he had no confidence it would produce a fair outcome.



Midtown Phillips

From: Jim Mork Date: Apr 28 01:05

Anybody thinking what I am? Having been in DFL politics since 1972, the next lesson for our immigrants may be a shock. Getting an endorsement can mean nothing at all. A ward convention is an easy place to get a flash mob going. But once you LEAVE that, suddenly comes a really big problem. What message does this “endorsed candidate” have to attract votes from all the people who didn’t come to the convention but will show up at the election? Practically all small activist groups have experienced this. The latest was the Tea Party which lost a lot of seats because who but their own did they attract? My senator is from Latin America. She doesn’t really play the Latin card at all. She’s been a broadly based candidate from the start. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say a Latin issue was her most important. As a result, she gets broad, solid support. I think it is great that new groups have a hunger to be involved, but now they are in America, in Minnesota, and they may have a lot to learn. They may have to figure coalition politics out. What other groups can they make common cause with? Latins, Natives, who? The issues that matter to no one but Somalis may not get solved this way.

From: phyllis Kahn Date: Apr 28 18:43

I spent the entire day at the 6th ward convention, tweeting observations several times. Disclaimer to begin with: I was there to support Abdi Warsame. The beginning was somewhat chaotic because of problems with data entry in the time between the caucuses and the convention, but it seemed to get worked out. The cochairs were a man and a woman with one speaking English only and the other primarily Somali. I believe there was also an Oromo translator available. There were 20 translators available dispersed throughout the room with conspicuous tags. Almost everything said was translated except at the end when I gave my speech for Abdi in Somali and he gave his speech in English with a few Somali words at the end. Final results 292 for Abdi and 7 for no endorsement.

From: Happy Reynolds-Cook Date: 03:56

In my opinion Mr. Wasarme is smart and engaging but not really DFL. I asked the question at the DFL convention if he was for marriage equality- he is not. It made me sad that all the new Somali participants there booed and hissed at this question, also at the question of right to access to birth control and abortion. I felt that there was no real understanding about what DFL is or means. He has had over a year to educate about this so There really is no excuse. I say this as Mr. Wasarme very openly talked about how he advocated to have our ward redrawn to favor a Somali candidate during redistricting. I was also disturbed that Mr. Sabri was there and super happy Robert Lilligren declined to ask for endorsement, I am concerned how involved he is with this candidate. I hope all of us in ward 6 will ask questions, get involved and come to the polls to keep Lilligren as out city council person.

I have no issue with bringing new people to DFL and to swarming a caucus. The fact is Somali population is 40 percent of our ward, where were the other 60 percent? Voter apathy means you get what you get. And right on that Somalis did show up, no one should hate on that.

Other things I found off at the ward caucus and DFL. Ward caucus, I asked for speeches to be translated in English, this was declined, it is not against the rules to decline, but I thought it very uninclusive. I do not recall any vote or discussion on the 25 minute break for prayer. I had to leave as it was late and I had children with me, I could not stay for city business.

DFL: 2 of Mr. Warsarme campaign staff walked up and down the isles and held up cards for when people should vote yes or no. This seemed like it should be uneeded as the DFL did have many independent translators. Again, evidently not illegal but did not feel open and free it made me feel like people were told how to vote.

Also several times when I was talking to Somali women about the DFL, Lilligren, sharing pics of our children, being neighbors, a Wasarme campaign male would come, say something in Somali and the conversation ended.

I volunteered to be the ward 6 DFL delegate, another Somali woman also nominated her friend. We were to have a 1 minute time to say why, when I got up, Mr. Wasarme motioned for her to not and then she withdrew. This made me personally uncomfortable as it was not the case with the men.

Do I think Wasarme should run, of course. Do I think he is DFL? No I don’t.

Happy Reynolds MD

As of April 29, 2013, there were 32 posts on this topic. Read the full thread here.