Angela Conley & Special Guests at Icehouse

“I’m tired of people speaking for me and telling me what I need. I know what inequity feels like, I know what it looks like. And so I can speak to that in a way that would have really informed what we’re gonna do to change inequity, and that is really across the board.”

Angela Conley is running to be the first black woman to ever sit on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. Her campaign for the 4th district seat started as a self-funded grassroots organizing campaign and has grown to be a real challenger to the 27 year incumbent currently holding the seat. Her grassroots campaign has focused on running a government which prioritizes the dignity and worth of people, and getting voices into government that have historically not been heard.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18th, Conley sat down with local artists Manchita, Sims, Lady Midnight, and Steph (P.O.S) to talk about her background and why she is running to represent south Minneapolis communities on the county board. The conversation focused on issues of equity and homelessness, as well as criminal justice reform and holistic solutions to long running problems. Conley says that as someone who’s been on the other side of the counter, she brings a new and important voice to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. Her long history of working with the county systems, both as a citizen and an employee, uniquely position her to bring real life experience to a board currently dominated by voices who do not have that hands-on experience.

The main issues that Conley would like to focus on as a county commissioner are homelessness and inequity. These are highlighted in the current encampment, the “Wall of Forgotten Natives”, along Hiawatha as well as the deep inequities in our criminal justice system. Angela suggested working towards ending cash bail in Hennepin County, which would reduce the cost of housing people in the county jail, and provide people with the ability to keep their jobs while waiting for a court date. She noted that in studies where cash bail has been removed, 80% of people with a court date still show up. Money diverted from programs that are not working could also be used to fund affordable housing solutions with co-located county services such as chemical and mental health support, as well as weekend courts to address child protection services cases. These affordable housing programs coupled with county services could also help promote pathways to home ownership to help move people out of the cyclical systems of poverty we see every day.

On issues of policing and county jails, Conley said that we need to be having more frequent communications between the city of Minneapolis and the county about who’s being arrested, what charges are landing people in jail, and what we can be doing to divert people from that path. She highlighted the need to vote in replacements for both the current county attorney, as well as the county sheriff, pointing out the deep disservices both of the people currently holding these positions have done for our communities.

In addition to changing leadership at the county level, Conley also suggested that we needed more culturally sensitive and accessible services on a one-to-one level, particularly around mental health services. One of her biggest priorities if she wins the election will be creating a race equity advisory council for the county commissioners to get feedback directly from affected communities in their own words. She highlighted the need for people to be able to speak for themselves, instead of having the commissioners go on lengthy retreats and come up with solutions that have not historically worked or been what the community is asking for. Her continued focus on including community voices has made for a strong campaign, and would be a continued focus after the elections.

Photos: Tim Phillips

Post Editing: Kayla Koterwski

Words: Martin Sheeks

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