Wardere focuses on trust, police-community relations

Shira Kantor

Editor’s note: This profile is part of The Minnesota Daily’s continuing coverage of Minneapolis’ mayoral candidates.

Mahamoud Wardere has lived in Minneapolis for six of his eight years in the United States. Now, less than one year after the Somalian immigrant gained citizenship, he has decided to run for mayor.

Two issues prompted Wardere to run: the lack of available affordable housing and the suffering relationship between police and communities.

Wardere, of the New Voices Party, decried both the low vacancy rate in Minneapolis and the high rent charged for available space.

“People of all (economic) levels are having a difficult time finding a place to live,” Wardere said. If elected, he said he would seek partnerships with private businesses and federal agencies to fund more affordable housing units.

“I have visited Minneapolis homeless shelters,” the 35-year-old said. “They are overcrowded. Even in the wintertime – 7 a.m. most people have to be out of the shelter even though they don’t have a job or a place to go. It’s terrible.”

Wardere said police-community relationships can be improved if society changes its expectations. He said it’s not the police department’s responsibility to deal with “social problems” such as alcoholism and low self-esteem, which often lead to crime. Wardere said he would look for resources to help people with such issues before they become a problem.

Wardere said he would push for stronger ties between police and the community.

“I would like to build the trust that is vanishing,” he said. “(Police) should come out and talk to people so that fewer people will be scared.”

University senior Ben Henrich said he agreed the police-community relationship needs to be strengthened.

“People need to understand how officers are trained,” Henrich said. “They have to worry a lot more about getting injured now than they did in the past.”

Police need to be held accountable for their actions, including racial profiling, Wardere said. He added he would employ sensitivity training and cultural training to help prevent mistreatment of minorities based on their race. But he said the community must also recognize that “a lot more police are doing a good job.”

“I want it so the community can call the police ‘our police’ instead of ‘Minneapolis police,'” Wardere said. “And the police can call the community ‘our community.'”

But he said what sets him apart from other candidates is his understanding of the hardships people face when they emigrate to the United States.

“We have a large number of adults who would like to speak English,” Wardere said. “Adult ESL classes in Minneapolis need improvement.”

Without the ability to speak English, Wardere said, people’s lives and career skills will be lacking. “Unless they get this chance, they will always be working for minimum wage,” he said.

Wardere teaches social studies and English Language Learners classes at Washburn High School and is seeking a master’s degree in education at the University.

He said he would improve education costs and opportunities not only for new English speakers but for all students in Minneapolis.

“I am a student and I was struck by the rise in tuition,” he said. “I would use all of my influence (to see that) the tuition will never go up.”

A supporter of entrepreneurs, Wardere said he wants to find creative methods of attracting new businesses to the area to “keep Minneapolis a competitive city in the region.”

Wardere said he also supported the city in subsidizing the downtown Target store.

“A lot of people think of Minneapolis as business only,” he said. “But there are communities living there that need Target and groceries.”

Wardere said he does, however, want to change the way tax increment financing works.

“Residents’ money should not go to corporations as much,” he said, adding he does not support any further tax imposition on Minneapolis citizens.

Wardere is among 22 candidates vying for Minneapolis mayor. The primary election is Sept. 11 and the general election is Nov. 6.