WE CAN BE A BETTER CITY
AJ's Platform for a 'Better Minneapolis'.
As an experienced mediator - AJ is the right person to become Mayor and bring the people together at this important time in our city's growth.
ISSUES AND POLICIES
A Powerful Set of Policies to Transform the City.
AJ will champion the City of Minneapolis - and provide leadership and solutions to the challenges facing the City's People and Neighborhoods.
“Every city must house every one of its residents and visitors properly. I believe everyone in Minneapolis deserves a space to call ‘home’. The city can – and must – do more.”
Housing should be viewed as a fundamental human right, not a commodity that some cannot access or afford.
There are more renters than homeowners in the city – and right now one of the most pressing needs facing everyone in Minneapolis is housing. The need for affordable and stable housing is intensifying as the city continues to grow.
Addressing the affordability issue will require bold policies – and funding – capable of ensuring affordable, neighborhood housing for all. The city must lead and support actions and efforts that provide for more public housing, rent control, unique developments, and special supports for post-pandemic needs.
WE MUST INCREASE AND IMPROVE HOUSING OPPORTUNTIES IN MINNEAPOLIS.
From ‘tiny home’ villages to town homes and public housing communities to neighborhood homes – the city must ensure everyone has the opportunity to find a space to call ‘home’ in Minneapolis.
Not only because it is the ‘right’ thing to do – but because it is a fundamental responsibility of the modern city to ensure everyone is properly accommodated.
We cannot ‘criminalize’ homelessness. Nor can we have a city that has unhoused people living on the streets or along highways. We cannot allow people to live in public transportation or parks. It is not right and it is not dignified.
These are signs of failed government leadership and must not be allowed to continue. Ensuring everyone has a ‘home’ must be addressed as aggressively as the recent pandemic – with a since of urgency and compassion and dignity.
Our residents deserve better. We must have a city that is building the amount and kinds of housing necessary to minimize or even prevent these issues from arising – and as Mayor, AJ Awed will take action.
AJ believes housing is a fundamental human right, and not a commodity. But he knows how housing is currently developed and he knows it will take creative thinking and private – and government partners – to meet the housing needs of everyone in Minneapolis.
We must take bolder steps to solves these issues – and we must recommit our city to addressing them directly by advocating for new taxing authority and funding for these efforts. We cannot rely on US Government pandemic funds alone – the City of Minneapolis must be given new taxing authority so that funding for these efforts are sustainable to meet them.
Housing Opportunities in Minneapolis
Currently, rent increases outpace wage increases – leaving many families struggling to afford groceries, clothes, school supplies, medical emergencies, and more.
Right now, the most pressing need facing Minneapolis is affordable housing. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, but with workers unemployed, the need for affordable and stable housing is only intensifying as the city grows. Addressing the affordability crisis will require bold policies capable of ensuring affordable housing for all.
Together we must lay the foundation and funding for future housing stability, we need to refocus city policy to protect current occupants, repair public housing, and build new affordable housing.
Rent Control and Stabilization
AJ believes we must curb high rent increases for landlords who own 5 or more properties – tying increases to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers. The City of Minneapolis must not allow large rent increases to displace families and long-time residents from living in their neighborhoods.
As your Mayor, AJ will continue to work alongside Minneapolis tenants and housing advocates to implement a universal Rent Control ordinance that will work for everyone in Minneapolis.
Universal rent control or stabilization ordinances that are properly funded and implemented in Minneapolis would allow us to:
- Protect renters from displacement.
- Help renters strengthen their communities by allowing them to stay in their neighborhoods
- Stabilize our community schools by minimizing student relocation.
- Prevent increased homelessness.
Protecting and Expanding Public Housing
With an average ‘blue collar’ worker making $33,762 – and many making much less – the only really true affordable housing option for these residents is public housing.
While the majority of the city’s affordable housing initiatives target households earning $50,000-$60,000 a year, there are very few options outside of public housing that address the needs of those earning $30,000 and below.
Public housing is not only attainable for low-income residents, but it guarantees affordability by capping rental payments to 30% of the tenant’s actual monthly income, thereby ensuring residents are not cost-burdened.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, with the support of City Council, has moved forward with privatization plans for the Elliot Twins high-rises, as well as the privatization of all single-family “scattered site” homes throughout Minneapolis.
Turning over ownership to the same private investors and developers who created our current housing crisis will not solve our affordability issues. In fact, it will likely lead to further displacement for our most vulnerable residents.
In a ‘Better Minneapolis’, our public housing and housing options will be a source of pride for our city – and a place of comfort, safety, and stability for all who call the city ‘home’ or just to visit.
• Oppose any effort to privatize public housing in Minneapolis
• Protect public ownership by ensuring all units remain in the public trust
• Ensure all public housing units are safe and equipped with sprinkler systems
• Work to secure funding to expand public housing and create more public housing units
• Identify and advocate for new and targeted taxing mechanism to specifically support and sustain the growing housing needs of the city.
• Work to pass a ‘Tenant Opportunity to Purchase’ ordinance that gives tenants the first right to purchase their building if the owner plans on selling, demolishing, or discontinuing a building’s use as rental housing
• Protect the city’s renters from displacement
• Help renters strengthen their communities by allowing them to stay in their neighborhoods
• Stabilize our community schools by minimizing student relocation
• Compassionately reduce homelessness
• Hold landlords accountable and fight to end unjust evictions
• Ensure that every one living – or visiting – the city has a space to call ‘home’
“We must galvanize the community around a new model of public safety dedicated to the well-being of all. And yes, the city must fulfill its obligations to look after every person and business in the city – and safeguard all with dignity and equality.”
We need a new public ‘safety for all’ model in Minneapolis. Every city must look after all of its people and businesses – and safeguard all with dignity and equality.
We must continue to take the immediate steps we can as a city in order to transform the Minneapolis Police Department culture – and as much of the institution as possible. But we cannot truly rebuild trust in public safety unless everyone has a voice and is present at the creation of the new model.
That is why AJ Awed believes we must convene the people of the city together – through a “Citizen’s Assembly” process – to recommend a new model of public safety for the city. The future of Public Safety – and the MPD – are too foundational to be decided by the elite and their select few.
A new model will serve everyone equally and will establish the necessary foundations to ensure it is effective in its interactions with the city’s people, communities, and neighborhoods.
And we must have accountability. Change cannot begin until we hold city leadership to account for their failures – particularly their ‘abject failure’ and inability to properly handle a serious public safety crisis.
Under the city’s failed leadership, Minneapolis now has some of the highest crime rates in its history – and is once again tagged with the infamous ‘Murderapolis’ moniker. These failed leaders cannot continue to lead our city.
WE NEED A NEW PUBLIC ‘SAFETY FOR ALL’ MODEL FOR MINNEAPOLIS.
How public safety and policing occurs in Minneapolis must be replaced with a new model dedicated to the well-being of all.
As a war refugee, AJ recognizes that there is no place where it is acceptable for those living, working, or enjoying the city to experience gun violence, harassment, carjacking, or criminality of any kind.
A peaceful community is an expectation shared by all in the city – and AJ will continue to work hard to restore the people’s trust in public safety and peace officers.
A Failed History of City Leadership
Despite multiple opportunities in the past for the city’s leadership to engage the community and seriously address the history of violence toward our BIPOC neighbors – and begin the process of fundamental change at the MPD – there has instead been no fresh start toward building the necessary trust needed by every community for proper, dignified, and compassionate public safety to occur in the city.
Unfortunately, as the lead public safety agency in the city the MPD has been shown to be violent and at times a seemingly unaccountable agency resistant to change – especially in its deadly interactions toward marginalized communities in Minneapolis – exacerbating racial disparities that are already some of the greatest in the nation.
We Must Have New Leadership, A New Vision, A New Model
Our model of policing is not working or serving every one in the city as it should. The status quo cannot continue.
We must come together around a new model of public safety – one where peace officers are not warriors, but rather guardians of us all. And more importantly, are no longer the only option when it comes to public safety.
We need more than just the proverbial “hammer” in our city’s collective “public safety toolbox”.
Minneapolis will lead the way by architecting and implementing a new public safety model.
As Mayor, AJ will champion a “Citizen’s Assembly” that will create the foundation and recommend a new model of a modern law enforcement for the people of the City to all come together around and approve for implementation.
The issue of public safety is too big to be decided by the ‘elite few’ – and what ever public safety model is ultimately decided upon, must be lead by and include the people of the city. And those who suffered in the past, must have a major position and fully represented in developing what comes next for our pubic safety agencies and departments.
In the meantime, we must continue to take immediate and intermediate steps to move our public safety as far away from the deadly elements of the existing failed model.
And yes, this must be done as purposely as possible in order to safeguard the people, city commerce, and the dreams of every one in the city.
AJ believes we must architect and implement a new model for Public Safety in Minneapolis – that will include comprehensive consultation and support from neighborhoods and marginalized communities – and will ensure Public Safety is provided and dedicated to the well-being of every single resident.
We can – and we will – make public safety in Minneapolis better for everyone.
• Address the rampant gun violence and robberies occurring throughout our neighborhoods – by ensuring that the public safety needs of the city are fully funded.• Actively work with communities and neighborhoods to restore the people’s trust in public safety – and its peace officers.
• Commission a “Citizen’s Assembly” with a mandate to architect and recommend to the city’s people a completely new model of policing that is fit for purpose – and better serves people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups.
• Demand the demilitarization of MPD and its transformation into the professional force of peace officers the city’s communities and neighborhoods need now and for the future.
• Demand accountability from the city’s leaders for their ‘abject failure’ during a serious public safety crisis – and ensure that its lessons are documented and reviewed so all levels of government are better prepared.
• Change how we respond to non-violent calls and traffic stop – like the one that precipitated the death of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
• Fully fund and implement a civilian-run emergency call line to provide de-escalation support to victims, thereby reducing reliance on 911 and the potential for armed police encounters.
• Implement restorative justice practices to avoid arrests for minor crimes and instead refer people to social programs, mental health services, or shelters.
• Advocate for alternative forms to cash bail.
• Divert offenders of less-serious domestic crimes out of the traditional criminal-justice system by providing them the opportunity to go to therapy after their arrests in lieu of jail time and permanent convictions on their criminal records.
• Decriminalize our approach to drug addiction by viewing it as a public health issue and increase resources for treatment centers and mental health service.
“I will support the people and organizations working in neighborhoods – because they are what make our city so amazing. As Mayor, we must return to building neighborhood infrastructure and increasing their power.”
Our broken healthcare system made the pandemic exceptionally difficult. And the city’s disconnect from its neighborhoods was problematic.
As we begin to reopen Minneapolis, we must ask ourselves what our new normal should look like – and explore the important role for neighborhoods and community organizations in our city’s future.
AJ believes we must put all neighborhoods back in the center of city policy. And he will champion neighborhood centers and clinics that are fully supported, funded, and accessible to everyone.
This will not only help the city with future pandemics, but with addiction support, healthcare and community outreach, and improvement to the long-term health of the city.
BUILDING PEOPLE AND NEIGHBORHOOD POWER
AJ believes that people are experts in their own lives and have the best ideas to make positive changes in their communities.
As a city, we must ensure residents have a say in the decisions that most impact their lives. This means abandoning a model of engagement that simply “informs” residents in favor of one that gives community the resources to build power and craft their own solutions.
Recognizing the vital role neighborhood associations, as well as cultural and community health organizations play in building community power.
As Mayor, AJ will work to increase the city’s budget to fully fund these organizations – and build neighborhood infrastructure like community centers and clinics.
After all, Minneapolis Neighborhoods are the foundational ‘Anchors’ of the City of Lakes – and AJ believes we must put EVERY neighborhood back at the center of city policies.
Support Neighborhood Centers and Clinics
Before the pandemic, over 30 million people in the United States had no health care insurance and another 75 million were classified as underinsured. In 2019 alone Minneapolis saw almost 1,400 drug overdoses, making opioids the leading cause of death on city streets.
As this health crisis continues, we are seeing families across our city being torn apart, disproportionately in immigrant, Indigenous, Black, and working-class communities. We cannot wait for the actions our community deserves from City Hall.
AJ Awed has a personal connection to the opioid crisis and has been working to support those fighting the epidemic for years – and knows the value neighborhood clinics offer.
He understands and will fight for a holistic, neighborhood approach that will: expand access to mental health services, support treatment facilities and programs, implement better data collection processes, and respect cultural healing practices.
As a result of COVID-19 many have just lost their jobs, and, along with it, their employer tied healthcare coverage.
Neighborhood centers and clinics must be dedicated to supporting parents in making the best choices for their children’s’ health and wellness.
AJ believes the more information and support the City can provide through neighborhoods, the better decisions parents can make to protect their children, and our community as a whole, from deadly diseases and other preventable sicknesses.
This is why AJ is calling for support and funding for neighborhood centers and clinics – to serve people and coordinate with community organizations on the neighborhood level.
‘Neighborhood-care’ uncouples healthcare from just something your job might offer and extend what we’ve learned from the pandemic to bring more health and family care services to the people in their neighborhoods.
Support and Expand Treatment Programs for Neighborhoods
When in office AJ will continue to work alongside activists and organizations to push for evidence-based and culturally competent programs that our communities and neighborhoods deserve.
Our goal is for no person to become chemically dependent, till that point we must take immediate actions to prevent any more people losing their lives because of this crisis.
A Holistic Approach
As we have learned from the COVID epidemic, a disease is only as damaging as the flaws in governance and our economic systems.
In order to truly tackle our healthcare and addiction crisis we must address the root cause of addiction – economic marginalization and a lack of public health resources.
Together we can effectively address this crisis through partnering with our neighborhood’s and guaranteeing housing-for-all, transformative criminal justice reform, expanded employment opportunities, and meaningful investment from the government.
• Recognize how the recent pandemic demonstrated the important role neighborhoods play in outreach and building trust with important segments of a community.
• Place neighborhoods and neighborhood organizations back at the center of city policies.
• Champion safe and accessible, neighborhood centers and neighborhood healthcare clinics must be supported and funded.
• Advocate for undocumented people having access to neighborhood and preventive healthcare services.
• Truly support official neighborhood organization and help build and sustain their operations.
• Support existing treatment facilities that provide evidence-based addiction care services and respect cultural healing practices.
• Invest in culturally specific programs that destigmatize seeking treatment for addiction.
• Expand free mental health services, especially those tailored for youth.
• Invest in programs that support recovering addicts after they graduate from a treatment facility.
• Expand the accessibility of naloxone/narcan and train more government employees to use the life-saving drug.
• In cases where 911 is called for a non-violent drug related incident, have first responders be health care professionals
• Push for diversion programs that place people addicted to a substance in a treatment program rather than prison or jail
• Expunge the records of those previously incarcerated on non-violent drug crimes
• Expand the locations, coverage, and hours of current syringe exchange program
“I’m proud to live in Minneapolis. There is no doubt our deeply rooted and ever increasing diversity is a key force behind the city’s continual growth and resilience.”
AJ believes that all people are valued contributors and vital to the success of our neighborhoods and shared future. As a city, we need must champion welcoming policies and share inclusive approaches that create an environment where everyone can truly thrive.
It has never been more clear that though our pasts may be different, our fates are intertwined. The term “welcoming” is synonymous with the drive to create environments where inclusion is celebrated – and exclusion is soundly rejected.
To uphold an inclusive democracy, Minneapolis needs not only an ethos of inclusion, but the infrastructure and policies to back up these values. AJ will lead this effort and will ensure everyone feels welcome in our city.
A WELCOMING CITY CONNECTS NEIGHBORS
We’ve all had moments where we felt like we didn’t belong. But for some of our neighbors – they experience this for more than a moment.
Everyone wants to feel welcome in our city, but today, too many of our neighbors experience exclusion, isolation, harassment, and even violence solely on the basis of their identity.
Diverse and welcoming communities provide an opportunity for people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds to come into contact with each other, and we know that diverse neighborhoods have more inclusive identities, and are thus be more prosocial.
And we know that these experiences can create a positive effect on people’s identities.
A diverse and inclusive city provides provides new residents an opportunity to achieve economic independence and a sense of community. We must continue to meet newcomers’ immediate needs, as well as offer opportunities for long-term social and economic integration.
The degree to which migrants, refugees, and other newcomers are welcomed, integrated and included into local government’s policies and planning strongly impacts their level of empowerment and resilience.
There is growing consensus that diversity is key to promoting a wide range of positive outcomes for all residents by improving access to economic opportunity. More integrated communities give more people better connections to jobs, schools, and civic resources.
How do we continue to maintain that diversity?
The best way for the city to do this is by building lots more housing. Using any increase in property values and tax revenues to fund affordable housing means that all residents will have access to the same opportunities. And AJ believes we must make investment in transformative public spaces – which can create shared experiences that encourage, celebrate, and promote social cohesion and diversity.
What happens when we are welcoming?
When communities recognize the value being truly welcoming and intentionally work toward the inclusion of newcomers, they can create a culture and policy environment where everyone feels empowered to work with each other in strengthening the social, civic, and economic fabric.
When we find strength in our diversity — and actively resist fear and division — we can build a resilient community that fully harnesses the talents, skills, and contributions of every resident so that all can thrive. And that makes for a better city!
• Elevate and empower a diverse and inclusive city leadership.
• Advocate with the state to ensure all drivers in the city are provided a drivers license – regardless of immigration status.
• Push for fair and accessible pathways to legal status and citizenship for all undocumented people living in the city.
• Champion and uplift the voices of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized identities.
• Protect undocumented workers from ‘notario’ fraud and related unbanked households fraud.
• Invest in neighborhood infrastructure and community space.
• Expand free mental health services, especially those tailored for youth.
• Invest in programs that support recovering addicts after they graduate from a treatment facility.
• Expand the accessibility of naloxone/narcan and train more government employees to use the life-saving drug.
• In cases where 911 is called for a non-violent drug related incident, have first responders be health care professionals.
• Push for diversion programs that place people addicted to a substance in a treatment program rather than prison or jail.
• Expunge the records of those previously incarcerated on non-violent drug crimes.
• Expand the locations, coverage, and hours of current syringe exchange programs.
“I will be a champion for neighborhood workers, businesses, and entrepreneurs – and ensure they are valued, respected, and have fair opportunities to compete against monopolistic corporations and elites.”
Small business is the driving force of our city’s commerce. AJ will work hard to push for policies that support small businesses, encourage entrepreneurship, and promote innovation.
AJ has worked in small businesses in Minneapolis – and he knows that these businesses and their workers are the source of most of the jobs and activity in every neighborhood in the city. Its more important than ever that commit to getting the city’s workers back on their feet and small businesses reopened.
Entrepreneurship and creativity are at the heart of every neighborhood in the city and make them unique – and we must oppose gentrification or displacement without comprehensive consultation and support from neighborhoods and marginalized communities.
LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS NEED TO BE SAVED AND SUPPORTED
Minneapolis is home to hundreds of small businesses, many owned and operated by immigrants and people of color.
These small businesses are essential to the fabric of our city and our cultural identities. Prior to COVID-19, small businesses were already experiencing the pressure of gentrification and rising commercial rents; however, with the economic impact of COVID-19, they are now even more vulnerable to displacement.
We must provide more support for small businesses to survive, grow, and thrive.
• Expand the city’s technical assistance program by offering low-income small businesses free legal advice for lease negotiations and low-interest loans from trustworthy community lenders
• Oppose the sale and development of city-owned land for projects that will further exacerbate gentrification and displacement pressure for small businesses
• Support a future ‘Vacancy Tax’, to create an incentive for landlords not to leave ground-floor storefront retail spaces empty in the hopes of waiting for a tenant who will pay higher rent
• Support a version of commercial rent control for small businesses
Champion low interest loans and other forms of support for neighborhood-based small businesses and entrepreneurs
“The issue of climate change is one that our city simply cannot afford to ignore. We all must commit to chart a new course using ‘Green New Deal’ approaches before we condemn future generations to suffer from our lack of commitment and action.”
The greatest environmental challenge facing Minneapolis is climate change.
AJ will act on climate change. His admiration will focus on continuing to move the city’s climate action planning forward. To maximize the opportunities in the city to use clean, renewable energy.
We must implement land-use and transportation policies that reduce emissions, encourage transit usage, and fosters the use of zero emission vehicles. And we must not stop there.
We must implement ‘zero waste’ strategies, invest in storm-water infrastructure, and plant more trees through out our neighborhoods and along our streets.
WE MUST DO OUR PART AS A CITY TO REDUCE OUR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT.
We must continue our ambitious goals as a community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis with an emphasis on protecting those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis but are most impacted by it—our BIPOC, immigrant, and low-income communities.
For decades, the City of Minneapolis’ urban planning decisions have sacrificed the health of residents in the name of industry and economic profit, resulting in disproportionately high rates of asthma, cancer, birth defects, and cardiovascular disease.
We must take swift action to reverse the health inequities that have come as result of these racist and classist policy decisions and do our part as a city to stop the global climate crisis.
We can have a ‘Greener City’
Climate change’s local impacts must be reversed. Our city will support ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives.
Together we will radically address local climate change impacts and lead to a more equitable economy with increased employment and widespread financial security for all – and greener streets and neighborhoods.
• Work with Metro Transit to ensure the existing fleet of hybrid-electric busses are assigned to bus routes in areas of the city that currently experience the highest levels of pollution (i.e. the Southside Green Zone of Phillips, Little Earth, and Cedar-Riverside).
• Protect vulnerable neighborhoods from a changing climate.
• Invest in Green Job Training and Certification for workers to provide long-term career paths in the new green economy.
• Incentivize and assist Small Businesses in transitioning to cleaner, green economy technologies.
• Work in partnership with Metro Transit to expand mass transit and make public transportation free.
• Prioritize equitable transit-oriented development by locating new affordable housing developments near public transit ways throughout Minneapolis.
• Advocate for a clean energy grid – deploying solar, wind, and hyrdo options where possible.
• Push for reductions in building energy emissions and emissions from other sources – like vehicle tailpipes and waste.
• Put social and racial justice at the center of the city’s climate work and make sure every one has the skills to participate in the green economy.
• Educate our neighbors – and the next generation – about the impacts of climate change in our city.