A community forum and discussion that included the four candidates for Minneapolis’s City Council Ward 8 seat was held Tuesday night, October 3, at the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center, organized by the League of Women Voters. The Ward 8 district encompasses several prominent Black communities, including the Powderhorn and Field neighborhoods and the area around 38th and Chicago.
The four candidates include incumbent Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins and challengers Soren Stevenson, Terry White and Bob Sullentrop.
Jenkins, a local poet who is a transgender Black woman, has represented the district since 2018. She says that if re-elected her main goals will be to address racial inequities in the city, such as in access to health care and employment.
Soren Stevenson, who lost an eye when he was injured by a rubber bullet fired by an MPD officer while attending a protest against the murder of George Floyd in 2020, says he views his campaign as a “call to action” in response to everything he has seen in the last three years. Some of his main goals if elected would be to work on police accountability and accessible housing.
Bob Sullentrop, the only conservative to run for the position, says he is for police and “law and order.” His main concern was safety, and he said if elected he would restore the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) to full staffing levels and would sweep unhoused encampments.
Terry White, who has a background in healthcare regulatory services, says he’s running because he “believes in a better Minneapolis.” White wants to balance police accountability while maintaining adequate law enforcement levels.
Public safety and the 3rd Precinct
The first question at the forum posed to the candidates was what approaches were effective for addressing crime in Minneapolis. Jenkins pointed to the efforts already implemented by the city to create a commission of public safety that included police, firefighters, emergency management, and violence interrupters.
Stevenson also supported a comprehensive public-safety system but said that current leadership had “doubled down on reactive approaches that have failed to keep us safe.”
Asked about the best location for a building to house MPD’s Third Precinct, Jenkins and Stevenson agreed that more community engagement was needed. Originally, Jenkins had wanted to see the precinct located at Century Plaza downtown but said that option was now “off the table.”
Stevenson did specify a location for the main precinct but mentioned the idea that neighborhoods could have smaller police substations, and that “we have time” to decide on a location, saying that the lack of a building had not decreased the Third Precinct officer’s response times.
Housing and rent control policy
Jenkins and Stevenson hold similar views on housing—both want a rent-control policy. However, Stevenson wants a “strong” general rent-control policy, while Jenkins wants any rent control policies to be specifically targeted to help BIPOC renters.
Both leading Ward 8 candidates strongly support continued funding for the public housing levy and a “housing first” approach where the focus is to get unhoused people in housing accommodations. Neither candidate believed that housing and support services should be denied to unhoused people because of drug use.
Both Jenkins and Stevenson also agreed that action is needed on climate change and that large-scale investments in green initiatives should be undertaken by the city. The two were split on fees, however.
Stevenson supported a fee for carbon initiatives, while Jenkins was wary that fees would be passed on to consumers and noted that the city would need to be careful that any fees were balanced by environmental benefits and the financial burden on the community.
Stevenson and Jenkins both voiced support for neighborhood associations, but Stevenson directly accused Jenkins of not directing enough funding to the associations.
“Unfortunately, under Council President Jenkins’s leadership [neighborhood associations] have been allowed to shrivel up to the point where many neighborhood organizations are having to get rid of beloved staff, including here in Kingfield. [It has gotten] to the point where neighborhood associations can’t meet their basic programming,” Stevenson said.
Jenkins did not directly respond to Stevenson’s comment on the issue of neighborhood associations but did mention that she was working on a plan from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) to increase neighborhood association funding and making sure it was distributed more equitably.
The forum ended with the question of each candidate’s top three priorities. Jenkins listed affordable housing, public safety, and climate change as her top three priorities. Stevenson said his top priorities were a working public safety system and accountable police department, housing issues, and climate change.
Terry White listed his three priorities as homeless encampments, small businesses, and affordable housing. Bob Sullentrop listed only one main priority—homeless encampments—saying he already promised a supporter on Stevens Avenue that he would “get rid of the homeless people camping across the street from her house.”