Minneapolis Latinos speak out on mayoral contest

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Police and public safety top the list of Minneapolis issues for three Latino leaders in the city. Business, housing, translation, and other issues were among their other concerns.

Earlier this election season, I attended the One Minneapolis mayoral forum, expecting to hear Latino residents raise questions about their concerns. Since I didn’t hear many Latino voices at this forum, I decided to contact local Latino community leaders to get their opinions on Minneapolis’ issues. Ramon León is the founder, president and CEO of the Latino Economic Development Center. Alberto Monserrate is the CEO and co-founder of Latino Communications Network (and co-chair of the Mark Andrew mayoral campaign committee.) Silvia Perez is an organizer of Mujeres en Acción y Poder, and a member of the Corcoran Neighborhood Association. Each of them spoke as an individual, and not as a representative of their organization.

I asked each of them to identify three top concerns to be addressed by the next mayor. All three identified issues related to security or police.

Police and safety

Alberto Monserrate: “The next mayor should lead to improve relationships between the Minneapolis police department and the Latino community. Much progress has been made during the current administration in Minneapolis, but much more can be done. Many in the Latino community still fear police, which makes crime enforcement in Latino the community often a challenge. The mayor must continue support in current policy to oppose law enforcement officials asking immigration status when interacting with community.”

Ramon León: “I’d like to see a better communication between the police and the Latino community, particularly the Latino business community… When business owners come from countries where they don’t trust the police, they won’t come to the police department and introduce themselves as the owner of the business. The police need to take initiative.”

Silvia Perez: “The security of our streets should always be present in our minds. When you walk down the streets you don’t have any guarantee now that you will be safe…The security in bus shelters is also important. Maybe there could be an emergency button in each shelter. Also public schools don’t have much security. Perhaps they could install metal detectors. Even though the mayor isn’t the one in charge of the schools, they could influence them to improve the security of our schools; especially our junior high schools.”

Relationship with business

Ramon León and Monserrate identified relationships with immigrant-owned businesses as another top issue they would like to see the next mayor address. León explained, “Please consider the Latino business community. Drive down Central Avenue, Lake Street, and Nicollet Avenue. If you take a look at what happened over the last 10-15 years, you will consider listening more to the Latino business community — not to give special privileges but we should at least consider taking the steps to protect what has been achieved.”

Monserrate concurred. “During the past 15 years we saw a great economic revival in East Lake Street due in great part to the incredible growth in immigrant-owned businesses. Today many of these businesses are in trouble or have closed. The next mayor should make sure that they prioritize making the city more friendly to immigrants. The next mayor must be a vocal cheerleader of comprehensive immigration reform, lead to make the licensing and regulatory environment more immigrant friendly in Minneapolis and be a champion for drivers licenses for all regardless of immigration status at the state legislature.”

Housing, translation, racial gaps

Perez and León also expressed concerns about the management of property in Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Perez said, “Minneapolis should be kept cleaner. Maybe they could put more garbage cans in public places. Also, if a house is not kept clean, if the yard is not tended, the city should only give them two chances to improve before taking action… Also, why aren’t the streets cleaned more? If there are resources to clean up the city’s vacant properties, why not the streets too? Also, couldn’t the city use these vacant properties to create gardens? That would be more pleasant and cleaner.”

León suggested having the city assist Latinos in becoming property owners to improve the city’s appearance “When you purchase a property you take better care of it. Remember how it was in the early 1990s? There were a lot of boarded up houses and then Latinos started buying them like crazy… The Latinos were hit hard by the housing collapse and I don’t know what we can do about that. Could the City buy some houses, non-profits could fix them up, and they could be sold to Latinos?”

Perez also expressed concern about communication, saying, “In the offices of the City of Minneapolis, there should be more translation for citizens who take their concerns there. There should also be more representation of Latinos in positions of power and more Latino public servants.”

Montserrate said, “The next mayor must lead in making top priority to reverse the current reality that Minneapolis has one of the worst housing, income, employment and learning gaps in the nation between white people and people of color. The Mayor does not oversee schools, but can partner with school board, park board, county board and state in addressing housing, income and employment gaps, the public safety of our students and their families, addressing mental health issues for many of our students and their families, and supporting current efforts by MPS administration and teachers to improve learning.”

León maintained, “The issues that affect the Latino community are the same issues that the rest of the community faces…We are not asking for special privileges. We are asking for the same opportunities as everyone else to become more productive citizens.”


Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.