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.

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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.

Olivia Stevens

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.”