District 62B endorsement struggle


Sunday, April 14, was a beautiful day to be outside, but registration for the District 62 DFL convention at Washburn High began at 9 a.m., and the convention didn’t adjourn until after 7 p.m., so most of the delegates didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy the first glorious day of spring. But they had other pleasures—the satisfaction of participating in a grassroots democratic process that will shape state and federal governments in 2025.
There was a sad cloud hanging over the convention. Londel French had written to delegates the day before to say that he was withdrawing from the contest for endorsement because he had a stroke a few days earlier and needed time to rest and recover.
As we noted in our March and April editions, District 62B was blessed with four excellent candidates for DFL endorsement: Londel French, Anquam Mahamoud, Ira Jourdain and Bill Emory—an African American, a Somali American, a Native American and a white guy.
In spite of the cultural differences, there was only one really nasty moment. Four days before the convention, delegates got an anonymous email from someone claiming to be the Minnesota Environmental Justice (EJ) Caucus with an attachment to an anonymous email purporting to be from AFSCME Local 2822.
The EJ email accused Londel French of being anti-environment, saying, “Londel French, as an elected member of the Park Board, ignored the leadership and demands of the Dakota community around the Hiawatha Golf Course. Despite the evidence and concerns of a broad EJ coalition, he voted for continuing an unsustainable and environmentally destructive 18-hole golf course, rather than supporting the nine-hole, ecological, compromise plan.”
As far as I know, and I’ve been watching this pretty closely for the past 20 years, there was never any meeting or pronouncement from the Dakota community. One person who identified as Native American said she supported the Hiawatha plan of the Park Board. I would welcome an understanding of how she believed this was respect and love for Mother Nature: to dam up Minnehaha Creek and raise the water level of Lake Hiawatha and the water table for the surrounding community by five feet; to cause sinkholes and flooded basements; to lower property values for homeowners. It must be that evil genius Michael Schroeder’s dream of recreating a swamp—“My mission is to de-Wirth-ify the Minneapolis parks”—had enchanted yet another unsuspecting soul.
On Oct. 14, 2023, I complained to Al Bangoura, superintendent of parks, and Michael Schroeder, assistant superintendent, that by allowing dams to block five to six feet of water from leaving Lake Hiawatha and flowing naturally into Minnehaha Creek, “the MPRB seems guilty of altering the cross section of public waters, and, therefore, guilty of violating Minnesota Statute 103G.141.”
Al Bangoura (probably Michael Schroeder) wrote back: “According to Barr Engineering Company, this rock structure is one of 16 to 20 natural and introduced features in the creek, any one of which or all in combination have the ability to control the elevation of Lake Hiawatha. Removal of one, such as the CenterPoint Energy crossing, will not impact the elevation of the lake significantly. The most significant of the structures is a very large MCES sanitary sewer.”
I wrote back: “You say there are ‘16 to 20 natural and introduced features in the creek’ that ‘control the elevation of Lake Hiawatha.’ I think that is a misrepresentation of the facts. The rock weir at 30th Avenue, the unused gas line pipe at 28th Avenue, the remnants of the dam/weir at 27th Avenue and the copious amounts of sand the city has dumped on the streets in the winter that flow through the storm sewer system to Minnehaha Creek are the principal obstructions blocking the exit of water from Lake Hiawatha. Park Board staff continue to count the MCES and city sanitary sewer pipes as part of the obstruction, but the MCES Interceptor pipe is eight feet below ground level and the city sanitary pipes are six feet below the ground. According to sources in Minneapolis Public Works, they have to be at least six feet below the surface to avoid freezing and bursting.”
I never received a response from Bangoura and the Park Board.
Londel French had championed the Hiawatha Golf Course as a monument to Black athletic achievement. For years Hiawatha was home to The Bronze, the first national golf tournament open to African Americans.
The EJ Caucus letter also criticized Bill Emory, saying, “Bill Emory, as an aide to Irene Fernando, has been a consistent obstacle to shutting down the HERC.” The county board has, for the first time in its history, agreed that the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC)—the downtown garbage burner—is an environmental problem and should be shut down. They say they can’t do it before 2028 to 2040 because municipalities, especially the city of Minneapolis, don’t do a good enough job recycling. There’s a lot of garbage that has to go somewhere.
Nazir Khan of the Zero Burn Coalition, who is likely the author of this anonymous letter from a mass organization (of one?), this EJ Caucus, wants the incinerator to close in 2025 and opposed the resolution Fernando authored and passed. This is a perfect illustration of Voltaire’s observation: “The best can sometimes become the enemy of the good.” Not settling for anything less than perfection can often doom the possibility of achieving something good.
Khan’s proposal to close the burner in 2025 relies on sending the garbage to landfills that don’t exist yet, and both the state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies currently prioritize incineration over landfilling. The county plan, while achingly slow for many of us, is at least workable.
There was also an anonymous attachment to the EJ email that said it was from AFSCME Local 2822:
“Greetings SD 62B Delegates,
“AFSCME Local 2822 is a labor union representing 1,200 support staff workers at Hennepin County and we are writing to discourage you from supporting Bill Emory in his run for House seat 62B.”
What was their complaint?
“We won our demand for more leave – commissioners eventually passed a measure to authorize 160 hours of additional paid leave for caregivers – but following this meeting Bill made an executive decision, without notifying union leadership, that he would not schedule future meetings with us.”
You won your demand, but you wanted more meetings?
That’s it?
If staff workers at Hennepin County have an issue, like paid leave for caregivers during a pandemic, then the county board and staff will likely take a meeting and deal with the issue, but they do have other responsibilities, so they shouldn’t just have meetings for the sake of meetings.
It’s hard to know how these anonymous accusations affected what people thought of Londel French and Bill Emory that Sunday.
The vote for DFL endorsement on the first ballot was:
Anquam Mahamoud: 56%+
Bill Emory: 34.%+
Ira Jourdain: 7.%+
No endorsement: 2%
Ira Jourdain asked to speak. Because they got less than 10%, Jourdain and No Endorsement would be dropped from the second ballot. During the question-and-answer period, all candidates were asked whether they would suspend their campaign if someone else were endorsed. Jourdain said he would not. From where I was sitting at the back of the auditorium, it sounded like Jourdain told the convention he wanted his delegates to vote for Bill Emory.
There was 60% needed for endorsement.
With their 41 to 43%, Emory and Jourdain could block endorsement.
Bill Emory asked to speak to the convention. Here is what he said:
“I’m asking you to support Anquam.
“Thank you all for your tireless participation today, for making your voices heard.
“I decided to run for office because I have a vision for a stronger, safer and more just South Minneapolis. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with my neighbors—with most of you—about my vision. My team has worked incredibly hard to make that vision a reality.
“But over the past several weeks, and especially today, it has become clear to me that there is one candidate in this race that I can and do trust to get these things done for our community—and that’s Anquam Mahamoud.
“Anquam has proven to be a passionate and thoughtful leader who’s well equipped to take on the many acute challenges that are facing our community. That’s why I’m casting my next vote to endorse Anquam to be our next state representative, and I’m asking all my supporters to do the same.
“It’s been a great honor to run for this seat, and I can’t wait to continue this work alongside you all, with Anquam leading from St. Paul.”
Emory offered a master class in grace and good will.
Anquan Mahamoud was then endorsed unanimously by acclamation. A few days later she wrote a thank-you email to delegates, saying, “I am honored and excited to announce that I have been endorsed by Bill Emory, former candidate for 62B and Powderhorn Park resident. I want to thank him for his deep commitment to our communities, and for deciding to run for office. His knowledge and advocacy have enriched the conversation, and I look forward to continued collaboration. His support means so much to me, and shows just the kind of campaign we are building. Everyone has a seat at the table.”

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