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Minneapolis Ward 6 candidate brings Cedar-Riverside connections to city council

Abdirizak Bihi wants to improve public safety and increase affordable housing as a council member.
Image by Ethan Fine
Ward 6 City Council candidate Abdirizak Bihi poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Bihi is on the November 2021 general election ballot.

As Abdirizak Bihi, known as Bihi by his friends, walks down the streets of Cedar-Riverside, he hardly makes it 20 feet without greeting a neighbor. Nearly everyone who walks by stops to chat with him.

Bihi has lived as a renter in Cedar-Riverside for the past 24 years, currently working as the Director of the Somali Education and Activist Center and host of Somali Link Radio for KFAI. He said he hopes to bring his “honesty, integrity and courage” to the Minneapolis City Council.

Bihi ran for City Council against current Ward 6 Council member Jamal Osman in a Special Election in 2020. Last year, he was running against 11 other candidates, but in this election, Bihi and Osman are currently the only candidates.

“I think people need to listen to both of us,” Bihi said. “I think we need to look at honesty, who has done work with the community … and also who has the courage to tell voters what exactly they are going to do.”

Policy plans

Bihi said since he lives in Ward 6, he sees which changes need to be made and has helped make them happen as a community organizer. His major priorities are reforming public safety, increasing affordable housing and increasing resources for people who struggle with addiction.

Bihi said he does not want to defund the police department, but he does want to reform it. He added that he wanted mental health practitioners to respond to mental health 911 calls so that police officers are available to respond to violent crimes.

“We need to look at where police shootings and brutality come from,” Bihi said. “We need to address mental health issues.”

Bihi said increasing home ownership is necessary to fight economic inequality. “We need to create pathways for working families to own their own homes in the city, because that is wealth creation,” Bihi said.

In Minneapolis, 25% of Black families own their home compared to 76% of white families. According to the study, Minneapolis has the lowest rate of Black homeownership among U.S. metro areas with over one million residents.

Shamso Guled is a volunteer on Bihi’s campaign who said he “wants to do a lot for youth” and plans to institute new programming and address the opioid crisis in the ward.

“He’s on a first-name basis with everyone,” Guled said. “I feel like [the candidate] who makes the difference in that community deserves that seat.”

Looking out for his neighbors

Bihi said his extensive experience working for his neighbors qualifies him to be the Ward 6 Council member.

Ward 6 City Council candidate Abdirizak Bihi plays basketball against a boy at Currie Park on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Bihi has lived in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood for 24 years. (Ethan Fine)

In 2001, Bihi said many of his neighbors in Cedar-Riverside experienced unemployment, which inspired him to help them move into affordable housing and find jobs. During the last decade, Bihi said he has worked to provide resources for Somali American people to enter different careers such as construction, health care, machine operating and policing.

Guled said Bihi helped her and other residents with disputes with landlords, property owners and police officers. She added that she grew up in Cedar-Riverside, and Bihi helped her negotiate with her landlords when she was threatened with eviction.

Starlin Hersi is another longtime friend of Bihi’s who wrote in text that she has “always seen Bihi as my role model.”

“Bihi always puts others first and never lets the people around him struggle,” Hersi wrote. “I trust him to do what’s right to better our community.”

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  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Sep 15, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    I am endorsing Abdirizak “Bihi” Bihi for Ward 6. I have been involved in the community for more than twenty years, and have myself been asked by Somali residents to run for office (which I loathe to do), due to my efforts on the behalf of the community on community boards of directors and at times serving in the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program board. My background involves having served on many campaigns and as a director in MN DFL Senate District 60 Central Committee for ten years until 2019.

    I have known Bihi for well over a decade, and I appeared on his Somali Link radio show with now MN Representative Mohamud Noor. Bihi was interested in my thoughts on mental health and autism, as I have boldly and more or less effectively confronted my experience with depression and anxiety, as well as autism spectrum disorder — which used to have me ruminating on loss for years.

    I spoke to thousands of listeners for forty minutes in our interview, both Somali and otherwise, about how the ignorance and stigma of any kind of mental health diagnosis led former UMPD Captain Fran Gernhandt to say, “Barry, you’re mentally ill. You bring on your own problems. Therefore, UMPD will neither investigate nor arrest anyone on your behalf,” after I’d been calling UMPD for two years to ask them for help to arrest the two students who made a life of beating me, harassing me and stalking me on campus. People with depression and anxiety do not “bring on their own problems” when criminals are involved. UMPD Lieutenant Metcalf, in 1989, called me to tell me to not call UMPD anymore about the crimes being committed against my person over a frequent and two year period, leading to poor grades and an inability to concentrate or feel comfortable.

    University of Minnesota Vice President of Student Affairs Marvalene Hughes gaslighted me in a meeting with attorney Nick Barbatsis, pulling out her Diagnostic Statistical Manual to try to diagnose me in one meeting. University of Minnesota Director of Affirmative Action Patricia Mullen also refused to assist me. The clownish and bizarre behavior of those so-called professionals at University of Minnesota led to a life-long fear of going out of my apartment, and led to me being so uncomfortable with people that I have only had marginal success in the work world. Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights Delores Fridge ruled that Gernhandt’s refusal to to assist me based on my civil rights class was not a violation of my human rights. I beg to differ and chastise that woman for her biased sentiment.

    I spoke of this on the radio, and will do so again in a pointed and damning manner unless the University of Minnesota concedes to a payout for damages for the emotional, social, family and psychological wounds which I have experienced as a result of the combat-like environment in which I lived while attempting to proceed through college and into graduate school in an effort to be come an attorney, businessman and diplomat.

    I have over nineteen years of education, and flourished in Norway, Denmark and Costa Rica when not hassled by people. I was an honors and gifted student at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, which has been one of the top ten ranked schools in Minnesota for decades. I attended Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, before it became a school, at the age of seventeen.

    Bihi allowed me to tell my story, as I also used self-deprecating humor and an easy manner in talking about mental health and autism. Our spot on the radio turned out to be the most energetically and positively commented spot the station ever received, and the station manager called me to thank me for my words in the hour-long program. I set people at ease about their own walk with mental health conditions and autism, which more people than statistics present have these concerns. Mental health problems are quite common in our society, which Bihi knows, and we should all be welcoming and compassionate to those who show any kind of indication of discomfort and pain. Bihi has asked me, a European American, back on his show. The timeline is yet indefinite.

    I have a solid faith in Bihi’s ability to serve the public. He has done so much work on behalf of our south Minneapolis community for so many years — now decades, that he deserves our vote. While Jamal Osman appears to be a useful public servant, his office does not respond to my calls or emails. This is in contrast to a couple of other ward council members over the years who enjoyed my calls and letters, and were prompt to offer personal responses and responses through their employees.

    I grew up as the son of a highly distinguished attorney who the late U.S. Vice President and Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale told me was a highly astute attorney, Douglas J. Peterson, who served as counsel to Fridley, Anoka and Columbia Heights, and was a real estate, business and corporate law attorney for many years, also serving as president of the Anoka County Bar Association — an association of judges and lawyers. My dad was a 1968 graduate of Fraser Hall, the University of Minnesota’s former site for many law school classes. I graduated from University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts in 1996 with a degree in history. I spent my college career, and then much time after college, reviewing the work of world leaders and local and state leaders.

    Bihi’s caliber matches that of the best of all who I have read about and with whom I have had an opportunity to meet and share words from both the Democratic and Republican parties and from Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s assistant, Berit, who was making headway with Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat toward peace in that region. PM Sharon left the Likud Party in Israel, which has historically had a bitter and violent antipathy toward Palestinian Muslims, to form his own party in an effort to undo the problems committed in his earlier life as one who violently worked against the PLO and the people of Palestine.

    While I am not an attorney, I have learned of the exquisite minds and work of people with high intelligence and training have done for the community. Former U.S. attorney Tom Heffelfinger also spoke highly of my dad, who he said was a friend. Tom is a Super Attorney in Minnesota.

    With this background, I believe that our friend, Bihi, will make a great Ward 6 Minneapolis Council Member. He is thoughtful, pragmatic, not radical, and prone to collaboration and calm wits.

    Please look closely at him for this election cycle and vote for him if you are in Minneapolis Ward Six. His enjoyable and often humorous, lighthearted, courtly and helpful manner is already an asset to our community, and he deserves our vote. His warm smile and gentle personality is an asset to Minneapolis and to Minnesota.

    I will vote for Abdirizak “Bihi” Bihi in the upcoming election. I hope you will, too!

  • A Gopher
    Sep 15, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    I would like to hear what Bihi will do specifically for the asian student and asian American population!