The League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum for Ward 6 City Council candidates at the Bryan Coyle Neighborhood Center on Sept. 14. All four candidates– incumbent Jamal Osman, Tiger Worku, Kayseh Magan and Guy T. Gaskin– attended the forum.
Ward 6 encompasses Stevens Square-Loring Heights in Southwest Minneapolis in addition to Cedar-Riverside, Elliot Park, Phillips West, Seward and Ventura Village.
The candidates answered questions about improving the city’s financial footing, the future of the Wells Fargo site, the impact of neighborhood organizations on the ward, how to work for both the ward and the city and liability insurance for police. The most important issues that the candidates highlighted were public safety, housing, especially in relation to encampments, and rent stabilization.
Meet the candidates
Ward 6 voters elected DFLer Jamal Osman to the City Council in a special election in 2020 after then Councilmember Abdi Warsame left the position to become executive director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. Osman, a Somali refugee, lives in Phillips West with his wife, Ilo Amba, and their five children. Amba’s nonprofit is connected to the federal funds that were abused in the Feeding Our Future scheme, though she has not been charged with any crimes.
Osman’s experience outside of City Council is in mental health care and social services, including volunteering as a mental health first aid instructor and working for Common Bond Communities in its social services department.
On City Council, Osman is vice-chair of the Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning Committee and sits on the Budget, Committee of the Whole, and Intergovernmental Relations Committees. He co-authored the rent stabilization policy, which failed to be introduced to a council committee when the vote to do so, taken during a Muslim holiday that Osman and the two other Muslim councilmembers missed, sent the ordinance back to its authors.
Osman is endorsed by Attorney General Keith Ellison, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar and Laborers’ International Union of North America of Minnesota and North Dakota.
Tiger Worku is a 21-year-old candidate who lives in Seward and is running as a Democrat. He was the president of the Seward Neighborhood Group at age 18, though in 2021 he was asked to step down as president following reported disorganization within the neighborhood group.
Outside of local politics, Worku was active in Black Lives Matter protests and went viral for the 2021 CNN interview in which he said he brought a soup can to a protest “for [his] family.” He identifies as a child of immigrants and said he is a practicing Muslim. He published an autobiography in 2022 called “Mosaic Republic,” which recounts his “remarkable life story of stoicism and growth in the midst of America’s darkest days.”
Worku started the race in hot water when there were irregularities in the caucus process. Opponent Kayseh Magan told the Minnesota Reformer that he noticed over 170 pledged delegates for Worku used the same email service called Proton and he planned to contest the delegates. After several convention delays, the Minneapolis DFL didn’t endorse any Ward 6 candidates.
Worku has been endorsed by the Sunrise Movement, Elliot Park resident Gary Melquest and Phillips West resident Oscar Kandjavara.
Kayseh Magan is a refugee and former juvenile detention officer and former investigator for attorney general Keith Ellison. He is running as a DFL candidate and lives in Cedar-Riverside. He attended Ohio State University for a bachelor’s in political science and Minnesota State in Mankato for a master’s degree in public administration.
He recently made a statement against gun violence in Minneapolis when he witnessed a mass shooting near Franklin and Chicago Aves. last month while driving in a car with his uncle.
Magan has many endorsements including Stonewall DFL, Minneapolis Firefighters Local 82, Minnesota DFL Senior Caucus and Minneapolis Public Schools Board Director Faheema Feerayarre.
Guy T. Gaskin, a Cedar-Riverside resident, is the only Republican candidate for Ward 6. He does not have a website or much of an online presence. At the forum he said he works in IT and has worked in food delivery service. He described himself as a foodie who loves the Cedar-Riverside restaurant scene.
He has no advertised endorsements.
The first question at the forum asked what the candidates would do to increase public safety and to help rebuild trust between the Minneapolis Police Department and the community it serves.
Worku stressed that all police officers are not bad, but that they need to face accountability. The answer to this question received a round of applause, as did several of Worku’s responses, despite the moderator asking the crowd to refrain from interrupting.
Magan answered that he would institute a Brady List, which is a public record of information about police misconduct, use of force and complaints about officers to prevent non-credible officers from testifying in court. The issue is important to Magan, who has significant work experience in criminal justice, and it appears in the top priorities on the front of his webpage.
Gaskin said that “most police officers are good,” but that they do need to be held accountable.
Osman praised the new police chief, Brian O’Hara, and said he was proud of the progress that the City Council has made since he joined in 2020.
The moderator asked if the candidates supported rent stabilization.
Osman said he was proud to co-author the rent stabilization ordinance that the City Council killed during a vote when the three Muslim council members, including the two authors Osman and Ward 10 Councilmember Aisha Chightai, were out of the office celebrating Eid.
Worku said he supports rent stabilization with a 3% cap and used some of his allotted time to attack Osman for taking a $1200 donation from a developer.
Gaskin said he is not in support of rent stabilization.
Magan said that he supports rent stabilization with a 3% cap and exceptions for inflation and new developments.
The next question asked for specific strategies to address encampments of unhoused people. The city has been clearing encampments throughout South Minneapolis, including some in Ward 6 and nearby Ward 10, sending homeless people from one encampment to the next.
Worku said that the city shouldn’t clear encampments of unhoused people the way the city has been, comparing the city’s response to playing whack-a-mole with residents instead of solving the problem.
Magan said that the city should intervene in encampments when there are public safety risks, but that the focus should be on building affordable housing to prevent homelessness. When later asked what the city should do with the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage site in Phillips when the company leaves it in 2024, Magan suggested that the buildings be turned into affordable housing. One topic that all of the candidates agreed on was, as City Council members, they would listen to community members about what to do with the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage site.
Osman commented that Ward 6 is disproportionately impacted by encampments of unhoused people, and said that sleeping sites monitored by the city would be a safer option than outdoor encampments. Worku interrupted Osman’s answer to ask why he hasn’t already done that during his time on the City Council, which was a criticism Worku repeated throughout the forum.
Gaskin suggested that shelters should be “managed” for a “minimal start” to addressing the problem.
Other notable mentions from the Ward 6 forum
The forum was rife with microphone issues that oftentimes made the candidates’ responses hard to hear and a community member interrupted the forum with the Muslim call to prayer, prompting a significant portion of the largely Somali crowd, including Osman and Worku, to pray in the back of the gym.
There was a lot of tension between the candidates as well. Worku and Magan criticized Osman’s work on the council in their opening statements and Worku continued to attack Osman and Magan in many of his responses. The tension peaked when Worku alluded to Osman’s wife’s involvement in the Feeding Our Future scandal, and Osman interrupted Worku’s time to defend his wife.
On the question of whether neighborhood organizations benefit Ward 6, Osman said that the city should triple the funding for neighborhood organizations because they are vital in supporting residents, especially regarding tenant protections.
Another strong opinion came from Magan, who supports adding a gas tax and beefing up public transit in an effort to reduce the impacts of climate change, which he said would prevent putting the burden on the poorest residents. He said that too often people of color and lower-income folks end up paying for the climate crisis.
He also said that other wards have more influence on the city, but that Ward 6 residents are disproportionately impacted by the housing crisis and encampments.
Gaskin said that one of his top priorities for the city is “living your best life.”
Early voting for City Council started on Sept. 22 and Election Day is on Nov. 7. Remember to register to vote if you’ve never voted or if you’ve moved, which you can do any time from now through Election Day, and find more information on voting in Minneapolis here.