Question 1: What leadership experience qualifies you for the City Council?
• I have served as a resident and elected board member of the Ventura Village Neighborhood Association, Outreach Officer for the Senate District 62 DFL, Chair of the DFL Somali Caucus, and most recently an elected Commissioner and Vice President of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) in the Third District.
• As a community organizer I campaigned for the “Save Peavey Park” project that Through advocacy and collaboration with the residents of the Sixth and Ninth Wards and the MPRB we were able to help make Peavey Park a safer, more family-friendly, and overall more welcoming place for everyone in the neighborhood.
• I spearheaded historic investment in youth as Vice President of the Minneapolis Park Board, increasing programming dollars by over 1 million per year and eliminating barriers to access.
• I was also successful with my colleagues on the MPRB to secure a 2 million dollar donation for development of new park land along the Mississippi river.
• I spearheaded the selection process of current Superintendent Al Bangoura and worked effectively with staff and my colleagues to help achieve these wins with community.
• I have worked with large budgets at the MPRB. While as a city we need to be fiscally responsible and forward thinking with our financial constraints due to COVID-19, we cannot operate from a place of scarcity. Smart and science backed investments in our youth, and investments in education, housing and health and community safety approaches can lift our communities up and create intergenerational wealth, health, and safety. Please go to akhassan.com to learn more about my background.
After a week of protests and unrest following the murder of George Floyd by a
Minneapolis police officer, 9 out of 12 members of the City Council pledged to
defund and dismantle what they consider to be a fundamentally broken police
Question 2: Do you share the assessment that MPD is fundamentally broken?
MPD is broken and it cannot be fixed. The death of George Floyd is a clear signpost in the ongoing struggle for full civil rights, and we would be negligent to not hear the calls from community to bring real change to public safety in Minneapolis. City’s across the nation use typically 35-40% of their full operating budgets on policing, and the brutality that this has produced against our communities is unacceptable. This is endemic of a system that is not only outdated and unchecked, but rooted in white supremacy and the overpolicing of black and brown bodies from the time of the Jim Crow era and slavery itself.
Question 3: Do you support defunding and dismantling MPD? If so, can you define what that means to you?
I fully support defunding and dismantling MPD as a charter department, to be replaced with a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. This is the first step to defunding MPD and creating a new department that is in line with our values as a city. We can move towards re-imagining public safety as we know it, not only in Minneapolis but as an example for the entire nation.
• 911 calls that are not criminal in nature should not be routed to police, but to unarmed response that leans on de-escalation, mental health approaches to community safety, and connection to services. We need to identify 911 calls that do not require police response and create near-term plans to immediately re-route these calls to appropriate mental health, deescalation, and public health apparatus. (for example, we do not need armed police responding to noise complaints or welfare checks for our unsheltered homeless residents, period.)
• In addition, I believe in defunding MPD and investments in:
o The City’s Office of Violence Prevention
o The Hennepin County’s Co-Responder Program (or COPE)
o A future program that broadly establishes un-armed social service first responders.
• I am engaging voters from now until November around defunding MPD, to make sure voters are informed of the Charter amendment changes slated to be on the ballot and how this gives the city the tools to radically rethink safety.
• I support funding of alternative community safety models with MPD budget to create ownership and place, rooted by our neighbors in our own communities.
• Check the ability of MPD to use “less-lethal” military options.
On June 26, the City Council voted unanimously for a ballot measure that would give voters the chance to remove MPD from the city charter and replace it with a new department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
Question 4: What do you think are the most important structural changes that would be made by this charter amendment if approved by voters? Would you vote for or against the charter amendment, assuming it makes it onto the ballot in November?
The charter amendment process is the first step to defunding MPD. The most important structural change that this ballot measure will achieve is the decoupling of our overall staffing levels of MPD from our city’s population, and the ability for city oversight over not only the budget but the direction of a new chartered Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, in which “MPD” will be housed. This will give us the ability to dramatically refund community initiatives through the Office of Violence prevention, novel community safety approaches, and other partnerships with the County. I will support the Charter amendment, and am hopeful the Charter Commission will deliver its recommendation before the election deadline.