Soren Stevenson is one of the leading Democrat candidates running for Minneapolis’s City Council Ward 8 seat.
How did you get into politics?
Stevenson says he delved more deeply into politics after he was shot in the eye by a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer in 2020, while peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd by MPD officer Derek Chauvin.
“I lost my left eye and most of my sense of smell,” Stevenson said. “Coming out of that, I’ve had to make a lot of meaning about what it means to be me, what it means to be a White man shot in the struggle for Black liberation, what it means to be someone in Minneapolis shot by MPD in 2020.
For me, I’ve come away with that it’s a call to action. I know what I know. I’ve experienced what I’ve experienced. And I feel a certain responsibility to make sure that brutality doesn’t happen to other people.”
Stevenson said his views were cemented when, during his work on affordable housing, he saw a housing block be sold to a corporation rather than the tenants who wanted to purchase it. Stevenson said this event led him to conclude that current city leadership was not on the side of city residents and was part of what inspired him to run.
In what ways are you involved with the community in Ward 8?
Stevenson says a lot of his community work is through Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence (FSFAPV), a support group for victims of police violence and relatives of those killed by police. Some of George Floyd’s family members are members of FSFAPV, and Stevenson says work with the organization has brought him to George Floyd Square (GFS), the area around 38th and Chicago where Floyd was murdered, many times.
Stevenson also worked at a cooperative developer in St. Paul and worked to try to help a housing block become a tenant-owned cooperative but said that the city declined to enforce an advanced notice of sale ordinance that would have allowed the tenants to do so.
What is the key difference between you and your main opponent, incumbent Andrea Jenkins?
While Stevenson says he and Jenkins agree on a lot of issues, he says that he does not believe those values are translating over to the policies coming out of city hall under her leadership.
“The biggest difference is that we all agree that we need police who are accountable to us, but we’re not seeing that at city hall when it comes to financial oversight of the department, or when it comes to passing policies that we know would protect residents, or being really strong in our contract negotiations with MPD,” Stevenson said.
What issues are most important to you?
Stevenson said his most important issues were improving Minneapolis’ public safety system, police accountability, affordable housing and climate change.
To improve public safety systems, Stevenson wants to expand the number of non-police emergency services available, such as adding more funding for the existing behavioral crisis response unit and adding similar teams for other situations, such as homeless or domestic violence response teams.
For police accountability, Stevenson wants the city to fight harder when negotiating the Minneapolis Police Federation’s contract and changing policies that he believes lead to preventing accountability, such as officers being interviewed 48 hours after an incident. Stevenson would like the interview timeframe changed to within six hours.
In terms of affordable housing, Stevenson wants to see “a strong rent stabilization policy.” For homelessness in Minneapolis, Stevenson said the current city approach was “cruel, ineffective, and makes keeping people housed expensive.” He wants to see a housing-first policy where unhoused people are given housing immediately, after which other services can be provided to address the root issues that originally caused them to become homeless.
For climate change policy, Stevenson wants to see a tax added to carbon emissions under the city’s Pollution Control Annual Registration (PCAR) system so that businesses are paying a fee for what it takes to clean up damage from carbon emissions.
What is your plan for the economic development of George Floyd Square?
While Stevenson said he was “extremely frustrated” by how long it has taken the city to gather feedback from the community for what they want to see in the future of GFS, he also thinks it is important to wait until all feedback collection through community meetings for re-envisioning 38th and Chicago is complete before making any plans for the area.
“[Neighbors] are always asking about this,” Stevenson said. “And frankly there is really very little consensus between two people [about] what we want to see. So what is going to be important for the city council and people to do is to balance the fact that this is both our neighborhood and also an international landmark in the fight for justice for Black lives.”
Why are you the best fit for Ward 8’s Council seat?
Stevenson says he believes he is the best option to represent Ward 8 because he is aligned closest to the values of the ward. He also says he has the strongest relationships built out of any of the candidates running for Ward 8’s council seat.
“I’m the only person who has [the] endorsements and those working relationships ready to bring to bear on day one and start governing,” Stevenson said.
Find more information on Stevenson’s positions on his website, sorenstevenson.org.