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Mpls. City Council Expected To Swear In More Diverse Members

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the day after an Election and we are still waiting on results from Minneapolis. We know we’ll have a new mayor, but it’s the City Council where we’re expected to see the biggest changes.

Voters went to the polls and elected Abdi Warsame to the Ward 6 seat. He’s the first Somali-American on the Council and he won with 64 percent of the vote.

Warsame is just one of three minority council members expected to make up the new City Council in Minneapolis, where the votes are still being counted at City Hall.

The election of Abdi Warsame is a big deal, because he also becomes the first Somali-American to win a city election in the United States. Also, when the final votes are tabulated in all the Minneapolis City Council races, Warsame may be sitting next to the council’s first Hmong member and its first Latina member.

WCCO caught up with Blong Yang, who was taking down his campaign signs and getting ready to represent north Minneapolis.

“It’s about time, about time, you know. It’s needed,” Yang said, when we asked him about a more diverse council being sworn in next year.

Ward 5 has many Hmong families, but far more African Americans.

“When you look at it, all the struggles people have up here are fairly similar. Jobs, economic development that needs to happen along the major corridors in North Minneapolis. That’s an everybody issue, it’s not just a black issue, not just a Hmong issue. It’s not a white issue,” Yang said.

Yang is an attorney. He’s also one of the many homeowners who had tornado damage in 2011. Some of those houses still have not been repaired.

“It’s sad to see, but it’s sad there wasn’t a much better response from government. We needed that up here,” Yang said.

In south Minneapolis, Alondra Cano is hoping to succeed Gary Schiff in Ward 9. She was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. when she was 10. She says about 30 percent of the people in Ward 9 are Hispanic.

“I think it’s a good thing to have voices that have been born into that experience, who have lived through those struggles. It shapes an understanding of how communities need to be engaged and empowered through City Hall,” Cano said.

Alondra works as a communications specialist for Minneapolis public schools.

“It’s been a journey. I’ve been a social justice organizer my entire life. I’m an immigrant. I’m an activist. I’ve been a part of really big movements here in Minnesota,” she said.

At this hour, Yang and Cano are leading in the number of votes in their wards.

Something worthy of noting about Yang, Cano, and Warsame, besides being born in other countries, all three of them are relatively young. They’re all in their 30s, which makes them considerably younger than the people they are replacing.

So, why are we seeing so much turnover on the city council this time around?

Part of it has to do with the number of current council members choosing to run for mayor and giving up their seats. We had Betsy Hodges, Don Samuels, and Gary Schiff who all vacated their seats for a chance to be mayor.

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