We talked with Ken Foxworth, candidate for City Council in Ward 7 about why he decided to run and where he stands on a couple major issues like housing, public safety, and the Hennepin Avenue redesign. This is part of a series of interviews of people running for City Council – if you have any questions or feedback, use the “Add Context” box at the bottom of this piece.
Southwest Voices: What made you decide to run for office?
Ken Foxworth: I live downtown. And so by living downtown, I saw exactly what was going on with the drugs, with the crime, where people are panhandling and and just being really rough on people. I saw the robberies. My car got vandalized, not once, but twice. And the other thing is the elimination of these department stores like Nordstrom Rack and Macy's. And so for me, I have 40 years of experience working with the DFL. I have 40 years [in] community development, working with the Minneapolis Parks, working for the Minneapolis Public Schools, engaging and enhancing and bringing scholarships to the university to the community. I've done all of that. I was trying to find somebody else to [run]. You know, that is a person of color. And I couldn't because they didn't want to. And so for me, sometimes you just got to stand up. And I just got to a point where I said, ‘Okay, if there's going to be, it's going to be with me.’
SWV: What has surprised you so far about the process of running for office?
KF: The hardest thing for me, is that people look at the way of campaigning in a systematic way. You have to go to the convention, and then after that you have to campaign, then you have to raise money. After that, you know, you go out there and you campaign. And that's fine. I'm cool with that. But the problem that I have is, is that there's a community that's been isolated for so long, and that's the community I'm trying to wake up. And that's the minority community.
It hurts that you got 60 percent of the people that live in my community, in the seventh ward they make below $35,000 a year. They're not being seen. The forums, as you already know, when you've been there, it's been white folks. So my thing is, is trying to get people of color to be in a position of being inclusive. That's the reason why I'm here. It's sad to me to be in a position of just trying to get folks to understand that their vote do matter. It’s the most important thing. I have not just witnessed this, because my mother, my parents, fought so hard to get the right to vote, and to get to a point where we got it, and we don't use it. And so because we're not knowing exactly what the vote really means, that to me is the most important thing that I'm trying to do is to wake people up. And that's the issue that I'm trying to look at, outside of the stuff that I've always been saying in the last eight months, is safety. How can you be safe, if the other person that you are looking at is not safe either? So you got to get this point to these people, people like myself, to get them to understand that, ‘hey, we're looking at the same issue.’ And safety is the real reason that I'm really running.
But the hardest part is getting people to understand that their vote matter. And then the other thing is raising money. That's the hardest thing that I ever did in my life. I've helped raise money throughout the state of Minnesota. This is the first time that I ran. And people are saying ‘Well, Ken, you can't run because you're not white. This place right here in Minnesota, your ward, is all about business. It's the richest in the city. And some of these folks don't want you because you're African American.’ And that's the hardest part, when people say that to me, and I have to get it drilled over and over again, that I'm overqualified, and still my color of my skin matter to them as for a person who cannot win.
SWV: You emphasize safety in your campaign. Why is it so important to you? What’s the story behind that?
KF: The story is that you can't do anything with us sick. My problem is that when I go, because I work for Delta Airlines, and when I'm on the lightrail, and I'm seeing stuff on the lightrail that's crazy, in my eyes. People are smoking, people are urinating, cussing people out, yelling, holding the doors, that’s safety. And first of all, the transportation that we have, it is a vein in the problem. It’s just like in the body, if you get veins that's clogged up, what's going to happen? There's two things, you're going to have a stroke and the other thing is that you're gonna have a heart attack. Now, those two things that’s going creates these two words: one is fear and the other is hatred. So when you have those two things, it puts you in a position where you become stagnant, and you don't do anything, except to blame. So safety brings it to a point where it's got to be that it's not just the policeman, or the security that you have to deal with, it's all of us have something to do to make safety great.
I truly believe that we can bring this city back together again. It's not the problem that we are not really divided, truly, it’s that we have never been connected. And to connect us to a point where we can understand that yes, this is our place. This is our lifeline. Minneapolis is the lifeline of our whole state. You tell me any other area where you got a football stadium, a basketball stadium, the arts, everything is here. So for me, if it is not safe, and from that, we won't have the people come and bring the revenue that we need to make our city run.
SWV: How do you feel about the Minneapolis Police Department?
KF: I feel like it's the most important thing that you can do. But you know still, you need other people to be involved with this. You need more social workers, you need more firemen, you need more people to understand that it's a we game. It's not just the police department. And then the other thing that I believe that is the most important thing to is to, is to grow your own. It’s imperative to have people know your community, it's imperative to be in a position where you have programs, like what you got at Patrick Henry [High School], that can have an explorer program that talks about being a policeman, so you can see one on one. Because one thing that I know, and I truly believe it, bad news, you can sell it. Good news, you gotta tell it. If you asked a policeman what's the most important thing and why you became one, it's because they love their community. So why not bring them into the community by putting them in, once they finish high school, they can go to Metro [State] or they can go to a school where they can get their associate of arts [degree]. And first of all, you already got the governor saying that they will be paying tuition and fees, then pay those tuition and fees and all of this stuff for them. Give them a home in their community, not to a point where it's an arm and a leg, but it'd be sufficient for them, where they can turn that blue light on and let people know they got a policeman on their block.
SWV: What would your approach be in this job to housing policy?
KF: I don't want to be in a position of being like St. Paul. They agreed with amending the amendment and then next you know, they had to change their policy because it was too much. You have to be in a position to have all the people at the table. Why not have a summit? Why not have a conference? Why not have meetings to a point where you can bring everybody to the table? And then from there bring in different groups. And then from there, let's talk. And then once we get to a point where we can say that we have a solid program, then we will be in position to make a move. But for me, you know, just throwing things out there truly don't make no sense. Give you an example. Cabrini-Green. That's in Chicago. What happened with that? Those housing complexes, they had to destroy them. Pruitt–Igoe in St. Louis. What happened with that? They bring all these people who didn't understand what the housing program was all about. Next thing, you know, they had to destroy that. When you bring in all of these people all together, it just makes no sense because now you're bringing in the homeless, you bringing in the mentally ill, then you're gonna bring in single-woman headed households with their families. And then from that you got not just women, but men if they qualify for that. And then from that you bring in senior citizens who've got their grandkids, all in lump sum, in this housing complex. What you think is gonna happen?
I got my master's degree in Urban Studies, so I get it. But the thing is, we got to be in a position to understand it, how to stay in flow. There's no way that I'm gonna have people come into this beautiful city, and bring in folks that don't understand exactly what it is to be in a city. And then next thing you know you'll be in a position where they are not ready for it, because we haven't gave them the right information to tell them exactly what this program is and what this housing thing is for. So for me, I want to be in the position of having different places where there is a one-stop concept. If we have a housing complex, when they go downstairs, they should have Hennepin County social workers, it should be different areas where they can go to, then there should be another area inside of that building where you have community agencies that can go inside and talk to them about that. So you've got a one-shop place where they can be in a position of having everything that they need, right there in that complex.
SWV: Do you support any kind of rent control in Minneapolis?
KF: That's what I'm talking about right now. That's why I feel like it's nice to be having a moratorium on this. So people can sit down and figure this thing out. Because right now, you know, most of my [opponents] say now, they don't believe it. But I don't know. So for me, I'm not gonna sit up and say, ‘Well, hey, I agree or disagree.’ What I want to do is to find out more information about it. And bring in the owners who are out of state, who's using this stuff. And bring in the people who got the small renters who feel like they being left out. That's what I'm talking about, bringing them to the table, so they can understand exactly what we can or cannot do. And as a group, they can be in a position where we can finalize and say, ‘this is what we're going to do as a city.’ Because that's the most important thing that we need to do is to come together. Just like I said, we're not really divided, it just needs to be connected. And to connect it, to understand exactly what we can and what we should do for our members and for our citizens, for this great city of Minneapolis, especially in my ward.
SWV: Hennepin Avenue redesign has been a big issue in Ward 7. You said at a recent forum that the additions another candidate was talking about (e.g. adding trees and EV charging stations) wouldn’t happen if people were running around pulling out those amenities. Where do you stand on the existing redesign plan, in terms of the Public Works’ last minute change of 24/7 bus lanes being reverted back to parking for cars and the bike lanes on the sidewalk like we see downtown Minneapolis along Hennepin Avenue?
KF: I truly believe that right now, that strip on Hennepin is necessary for cars and bikes to go through. Now you got mobilization as for handicap disability, they get areas where they can stop, and they can pull in and everything else. That's what I'm looking for. My planning thing was, if you look at those parking lots that's on the side, before it is 394. Those are ones that I helped implement when I was doing the internship in City Hall. And what they were trying to do is just to have these skyways going through. That's changed now, because after six o’clock all the skyways are closed. I need to look at it now and look at exactly what it needs to be. Because from that, that vein needs to flow, needs to go in and go out. And that's it. The other thing too, is that when you put other stuff in there, and you already look at it, you already see the problem that you see with graffiti, and all the other stuff that's down there. You want to be in a position of isolating that. So nobody won't be in a position of taking somebody's car or be in a position to urinate on a tree and doing all of that stuff. Now Nicollet Mall, that's the area if you're going to talk about it. Because that's the retail place that we want people to come to. Now, if you look at Nicollet Mall, you only have one retail that's over there, matter fact two. You got Target and you got Walgreens. That's it. So if you want your traffic to come with the buses and all that stuff, I'm suggesting using that in making that your highlight of what you're trying to do.
SWV: What parts of how Lisa Goodman approached the job would you try to copy?
KF: Like I said before, young lady was vicious. She was strong.
SWV: So would you copy that? Would you be vicious?
KF: No. I won’t be that vicious. But what I would be, if the voters give me this opportunity, I will be a Paul Wellstone. Now, some parts he was vicious because remember when the war came, he said ‘No, this ain't gonna happen. Not on my watch. This war don't make no sense. So I'm gonna stay against this.’ Sometimes you got to fight alone, and with that, be free enough to know that in your heart, your community is standing by you. And that's the way that I've been doing my job. I will put a little piece of Miss Goodman, but most of my energy will be Paul Wellstone.
SWV: What would you do differently than Lisa Goodman?
KF: I got three things that I said in my campaign that is truly my belief and my code. One, I will listen, just like all of us, you know, we say. But the other thing that the other candidates didn't say is that I care. I do care because I'm running. I care because I see the problems. I care because I know somebody's got to do something about it. I care about that. But the last one is truly the most important of them, is that I matter, you matter, all of us matter. So listen, care, and you matter. That's the most important thing that I can say to our community and to our ward.
SWV: An issue that doesn’t totally fall under the council’s purview, and as a result ends up being one that often gets ignored, is schools. If you got to change something about the city’s schools, what would you change?
KF: One, we need to do after school programs, they're still important. The other thing is that we need to be in a position making sure that our teachers be set. Because right now, they don't feel and they already know that they're not safe. Those are two things. Because once you get those things together again, and get these kids to understand that, you know, it's a privilege and an honor to go to school. But you've got to be in a position of getting these teachers to feel like they want these students and these students and want them and they want to be in a position of being educated. My thing is with the [student resource officers]. I mean, there's something that I would love to have. But right now, they’re been dealing with the security part. I don't know because I haven't been there. But I know one thing as a teacher, they are afraid. And the other thing too is, that we don't have after school programs that can enhance these young children, to get them ready for college. Then you're going to see exactly what's going on right now. Problems with the streets. We need to be in a position of correcting the juvenile system. Patting them on their hand and leaving them a 30-day program, they need more than that. So those are the most important things. Reach, grieve, and teach.
SWV: We’ve heard from a lot of people in Ward 7 this winter about snow removal from streets and sidewalks. Is there anything about how the City handles snow removal, be it through plowing or municipal snow removal, that you’d like to see changed?
KF: I mean, first of all, you got snow removal. But you got those potholes. When R.T. Rybak was the mayor, we had a system. we had that already here. We need to bring that back up, we need to bring that facility back. Because right now they only do [pothole work] two or three times all over the winter. And we need to have more than that. Then the other thing is that we need to have the person who's in charge of snow removal and everything else to be accountable. ‘Hey, what's going on in our streets before it snows time?’ And let them know exactly a high expectation to make sure that we don't have potholes. Now there's a couple places where I did some walking, I was doing lit drops in my neighborhood. I was shocked that in Kenwood they still have potholes. We need to make sure that the director who's in charge of that knows exactly our expectations and has past outcome data that shows us every quarter or every month of the winter, what they're doing with our money, and what they’re doing to making sure that the streets are clean
SWV: Are there any other issues we haven’t covered that you’d like to make a priority during your time in office?
KF: Since I only got two years into this office, it's really safety. My thing is, until we get our place safe and get it to a point where people will feel this way, and know this way, we are doing the right thing. Businesses will come back, people will come back, when they know that everything is good. Because right now that is the pivotal thing. So it's not about just feeling safe, you got to know that it's safe. And knowing that everything that we're doing is to make sure, holistically, that you feel proud of this place we call our home, call Minneapolis.
SWV: What’s something about you as a person that you think people may not know?
KF: I’m a generalist. I'm a chameleon in some ways. I know a lot, I have done a lot. If somebody looked at my bio, if they take the time to invest, they realize that this young man has done so much for the city and for the state. I got to this point where I just got just like Fannie Lou Hamer. I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. And so you just got to stand up. My father said, ‘there's four kinds of hood. One is childhood, the second one is sisterhood, brotherhood. And then since you are a male, you got to understand what fatherhood is. Then when you bring all that together, you create a neighborhood.’ That's what we need to do, is to understand each other, understand exactly what we're here for. And what we're doing for the city. Get it to a point where you understand that everybody who wants to live here, wants to be safe, and wants to have affordable homes or rent that they can feel good about. And they can say how beautiful this place is. And you know what? We have a beautiful city. We just have to let people know. Like I said earlier, bad news, you can sell it. Good news, you gotta tell it. But overall, what I'm saying is, is that we can do this, if we just pull each other together and make a system safe. And once you get it safe, then from that, people will come. Then you don't even need to talk about it. They will see it.
This story was originally published on Southwest Voices.