Mpls City Council newcomer Robin Wonsley-Worlobah lays out her vision

Photo by Eric Mueller Robin Wonsley Worlobah

Curb violence by supporting strong, stable families

The Minneapolis City Council will have a majority of BIPOC members starting when the newly elected members take their seats in January. Over the next few weeks, the MSR will give our readers an opportunity to get to know them and their thoughts on the pressing issues in the city, especially as these relate to Communities of Color.

This week we talk with Ward 2 newcomer Robin Wonsley-Worlobah.

MSR: Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Who you are, where you come from, and what makes you tick as a person?

W-W: Currently I am a resident of the Seward neighborhood in Ward 2 and have lived in Ward 2 for the past six years. Prior to that, I was basically a South Side Chicago native who came here for college and has been here ever since. 

Ever since moving here, I’ve been doing tons of organizing in our community. Unfortunately, a lot of it has revolved around police violence, especially in light of the murder of Jamar Clarke in 2015, Philando Castile in 2017, George Floyd, too many to name at this point. 

The theme of my work has definitely been injustice in any scope, if it’s in housing if it’s in policing if it’s in what type of stores you have in your neighborhood, what type of groceries you have access to. Knowing there are communities and there are people who are treated as second-class citizens or subhumans in our nation, a nation that’s very wealthy and has more than enough resources for everyone to eat and live well, that makes me tick. Makes me really tick.

MSR: What makes you a good council member for your ward?

W-W: I was elected by residents of Ward 2, working-class people, students, Black and Brown folks. People who I think for many years have not seen city hall or our local government be a welcoming space, let alone an ally to many of the issues that impact our lives.

I think people are excited to see someone who has been rooted in many of our social movements, that’s been rooted in the interests and the needs of everyday people, to go into that space and really be a megaphone for segments of working-class communities that never get the spotlight in local government.

MSR: What’s the sense you get in your community on how people feel about the election results? Are people happy with the ballot measures that passed and failed?

W-W: I’m really proud of the fact that my campaign rooted itself in our local movement, specifically for rent control, and for public safety beyond policing, very early. So it wasn’t just we were doing the get-out-the-vote for me. This is a get-out-to-vote for all of us, our collective future and our collective liberation. 

I’m glad we also painted a very clear picture of what we can still do in light of question two not passing. It’s not like the fight is over. It is far from over.

MSR: What were your stances on all three of the ballot measures in the recent election?

W-W: I definitely was a no [on question one], yes [on question two], yes [on question three].

MSR: How do you plan to hold the police accountable, particularly in light of ballot question two failing?

W-W: I think we have an exciting opportunity coming up. Folks on the ground have been organizing around CPAC, the Civilian Police Accountability Council, basically an independent civilian review board. There’s a coalition of groups that have been spending the past couple of years organizing around this to my understanding. They’re planning to move forth with putting that on the ballot next year. 

That’s to basically address the lack of accountability among law enforcement, a role that the [police] federation continues to fail horribly at. I think that’s an exciting avenue in light of Chicago recently passing their own CPAC ordinance. We are putting decision-making power around accountability of the public safety workforce into the hands of ordinary people? I’m really excited to see that unfold.

I think this is the opportunity that we can continue to reexamine and expand what a new public safety workforce can look like to complement our armed law enforcement sector.

MSR: What do you see as the major issues facing your ward?

W-W: I have to say definitely housing. You know, we’ve had tent encampments here, we’ve had students and non-students, residents, who are being priced out of our communities. Even folks who are looking for homes or elderly folks. We have a segment of residents in Ward 2 that are close to retirement, or they’re retired. 

We’re seeing a growing amount of homes in our ward that instead of being sold to local residents, they’re being sold to corporate real estate firms that overwhelmingly are helping drive up housing costs in our city. The fact that a single-family home is going for over $350,000, that’s a really big issue, housing in our ward.

MSR: What would you say your priority is for the coming term?

W-W: Rent control, absolutely, 3% rent control. That was named very clearly as an issue that respectively, across 12 out of 13 wards, working-class people said yes, we need to address the dynamic of corporate developers and even slum landlords who are not really guaranteeing affordable housing to our residents. 

Shout out to the Minneapolis United for Rent Control coalition. They have a proposal that is moving forward in St. Paul. I think it sets a strong precedent, and I would like to see that also get passed here in Minneapolis. I will do all that I can, working with my colleagues to make sure that our conversations and our actions are in alignment with passing a strong 3% rent control policy.

MSR: To your mind, what is the cause of community violence and how can it be stopped?

W-W: I do want to highlight the intersections of drug usage with community violence. Many of the young folks who are committing these shootings are often involved in some level of substance addiction. A lot of them are hurting. A lot of them are traumatized. A lot of them are also not living in stable households. 

Their housing is not secure. Maybe one family, one relative, or parent is working excessively to take care of their entire family and they can’t be present in their lives. So I think it’s “How can we create conditions for families to be stable?” 

We know most of the communities that are also over-policed and under-protected, many of those folks are also poor. Pay them livable wages! Place caps on how much these landlords can charge folks so that they can actually have enough disposable income to actually take care of their family. 

You want to know how we can keep youth off the streets from engaging in robberies and stuff? Allow their families to actually have time to be present in their kids’ lives, not always working to pay off a landlord or to pay fines.