Despite vacant council seat, Cedar-Riverside maintains community leadership

The neighborhood is faring well thanks to a collective effort between community organizers and local officials.

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as seen on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018.

Image by Will Tooke

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as seen on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018.

by Yves De Jesus

The Cedar-Riverside community is continuing to find ways to support one another during the pandemic following the departure of the community’s elected official.

With former Council member Abdi Warsame’s appointment to lead the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, the Ward 6 Council seat remains vacant until a special election in August. Now the ward, which includes Cedar-Riverside, lacks a Council member to lead a unified response connecting the neighborhood to the city. 

Community organizer Abdirizak Bihi said Cedar-Riverside community leaders and local government officials have worked together to respond to the pandemic. The city and county have been pivotal, offering resources along the way, he said.

“I’ve been surprised how people are working together on this and caring for the community,” said Bihi, who is running for the vacant Ward 6 seat. 

Bihi said his recent work has mostly revolved around COVID-19 outreach and the Census. He has been working to bring medical supplies to some parts of the neighborhood, connecting with the Hennepin County Office of Multicultural Services and the city’s health department to get masks, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment.

“Whatever materials we need, they are giving that to the Brian Coyle Center,” Bihi said.

At the Ward 6 office, senior policy advisor Ryan SanCartier said work has remained relatively steady — the only difference is the absence of a Council member.

While policy staff cannot sign off on new big projects without a council member, SanCartier said they can still help constituents with small requests like illegally parked vehicles, donation services and addressing questions.

“But as far as roadblocks go for assisting our constituents, besides being able to start new projects, there aren’t really many,” SanCartier said. “We’re still able to leverage [city] staff to help our constituents in any type of services that they need.”

Long-term projects with stakeholders beyond the Ward 6 office, like the Africa Village public market, are still moving through the development stages.

“Projects that were already underway are continuing in Ward 6,” said City Clerk Casey Carl. “Those things continue with the direction set by the Council.” 

Bihi said that with the help of a council member, the community effort would be easier to manage.

“But we’re doing the work and we have so many of us that are really collaborating together and engaging each other and asking for supplies and getting the supplies.”

The council seat is expected to be filled a few weeks after the city holds special elections on Aug. 11.