By FREDERICK MELO | [email protected] | Pioneer Press
Thursday May 16, 2019
Not long after Dan Bostrom announced his retirement, the St. Paul City Council interviewed a series of candidates interested in completing the final year of his unexpired council term. Each one made the same promise — they would not run in the November election.
Kassim Busuri, chosen as the interim Ward 6 council member from among 15 applicants, was sworn in last February to represent the neighborhoods in and around Payne-Phalen, Phalen Village, Hazel Park and the Greater East Side.
On Thursday, he announced that he changed his mind — he’ll be on the crowded November ballot after all.
“After noticing that I listen to constituents’ concerns and stand up for them at City Hall — as well as my work ethic and desire to build community — many people have encouraged me to run,” said Busuri, in a written campaign announcement.
“There is important work that needs to be done for Ward 6 and that takes time,” he said. “As an appointed member of the council with an abbreviated term, it makes getting that work done nearly impossible.”
Busuri — the youngest member of the city council, the first Somali-American and one of the council’s first Muslim members — joins a crowded field.
While candidate filings do not officially open until July 30, Nelsie Yang, Terri Thao, Alex Bourne, Tony Her and Danielle Swift have been campaigning for months.
The ballot will be ranked-choice, meaning voters can choose multiple candidates in order of preference, and there will be no political primary to whittle down the race.
During the St. Paul DFL’s recent Ward 6 convention, Yang and Thao were the top vote-getters after five ballots, though neither candidate was able to secure the party endorsement, which required 60 percent of the vote.
Thao, a former member of the Planning Commission who has been organizing her campaign since last summer, said she was disappointed in what she characterized as an about-face. As the interim council member, Busuri has a built-in platform and audience that the other candidates do not.
“He took a pledge that he wouldn’t (run),” Thao said. “That’s just unfortunate. If he’s willing to step down and run, by all means, go for it. But he should step down. It’s disingenuous to the city council and to the community.”
Among his stated priorities in his campaign announcement, Busuri called organized trash collection in St. Paul “broken” and said the city’s five-year contract with a consortium of private trash haulers “was negotiated without listening to community concerns.”
He also said he will advocate for jobs, first-responders, parks and libraries, and ensuring that streets and bikeways are in good condition and plowed adequately.
“We cannot overly burden our elderly and low-income families with double-digit tax increases,” he said. “We all have a common stake in making affordability our top priority.”