House District 59B voter’s guide: Upset victor Esther Agbaje faces Alan Shilepsky, Lisa Neal-Delgado in general

House District 59B

The Southwest Journal’s voter’s guide includes stories on the three competitive races for the Minneapolis School Board and questionnaires with candidates running for the U.S. House and the state House and Senate. We also include a rundown of everything you’ll see on your ballot, including an explanation of the city’s two referendums. You can read our full 2020 voter’s guide here.

DFLer Esther Agbaje looks to win her first term in office, after defeating longtime state Rep. Raymond Dehn in the primary. Her opponents, Alan Shilepsky and Lisa Neal-Delgado, have unsuccessfully sought city and state offices in past years.

District 59B

Esther Agbaje
Esther Agbaje

DFL: Esther Agbaje

Occupation: Attorney

Endorsements: NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, OutFront Minnesota, Sierra Club, Women Winning

Money raised/cash on hand: $43,779 (Jan. 1, 2019-July 20, 2020)/$17,783 (as of July 20)

Qualifications and top priorities: I have been in positions where listening to varied interests and then creating a solution that works is necessary. I have worked with people from different backgrounds, which will be an asset to the diverse district of 59B. I am a new leader with a bold vision for the future of Minnesota.

My priorities will be to work towards everyone having a safe, stable and affordable place to live. Environmental justice is another priority to ensure that we have clean air, water and nutritious food. Meeting people’s basic needs is crucial to keeping people healthy and safe in their communities.

Police reform and public safety: To achieve a robust system of public safety, I believe in divesting away from systems of violence, racism and white supremacy. Police in our communities must be held to the same high standards as other professionals and public servants when it comes licenses and holding liability insurance. For potentially threatening confrontations, we need to instill a culture of de-escalation rather than relying on violence. By investing in social services, educa- tion, living wage jobs and other anti-poverty measures, we can build a world where we all care for each other. This is what will lead to better public safety.

Affordable housing and homelessness: Housing should not be a difficult issue. There should be public housing options available for all people and everyone should have a place to call home. This is why I signed the #HomesGuarantee pledge. I will focus on securing funding to build more public housing across Minnesota. The housing should also be specific to the age group, gender, family and cultural needs of people facing housing insecurity. I believe in a housing-first approach to homelessness. Once a person has shelter, it can be easier to address other needs that a person has.

Systemic racial inequalities: When combating systemic racial inequality, we must call it out. Racism is not just someone using derogatory language. It is also the systemic biases inherent in our institutions. We need to remove racial barriers to hiring, retention, and promotion of BIPOC people in all professions. We need race-conscious poli- cies in health care, education, housing and more to address the harm BIPOC people have faced from our current policies. I would author and support legislation that breaks down the inherent racism in our society so that people of color have equitable opportunities to live and thrive in the district and across Minnesota.

Alan Shilepsky

GOP: Alan Shilepsky

Occupation: Database developer/ business owner

Money raised/cash on hand: $4,473 (Jan. 1-July 20)/$3,262 (as of July 20)

Qualifications and top priorities: A 40-year Downtowner, I’m a DMRA founder and past condo president. Originally a physicist, I retreaded in public policy at the U of M and worked for federal and state governments. Now I’m a database developer/business owner. My priorities are reopening fast and smart after COVID. We need to reform our schools using recent experiences to rebuild better. We must also imagine a post-COVID city because our new work patterns (e.g., Zoom!) have changed. Last, we must rebuild mutual trust — we must ignore the prophets of despair and anger. Our society and our economy are sound, if we just reach out and grasp hope.

Police reform and public safety: I chaired a Police-Community Relations Council in the 1990s. Then as now I support diverse hiring, community policing, neighborhood-dedicated officers and removing the “thumpers.” Unfortunately, the police contract inhibited accountability, personnel management and neighborhood involvement in personnel assignments. Public employee contracts must protect taxpayers and the public more. In any case, given human nature, we will always need cops. But not armed private militia or vigilantes. So, DO NOT DEFUND!

Affordable housing and homelessness: I’ve served on CCHT/Aeon’s board and recognize the need for more affordable housing, but we must be careful not to neglect other important priorities, e.g. at-risk youth at Willard-Hay’s Gordon Center. Homelessness is aggravated by COVID, substance abuse and mental illness, and neighborhoods don’t want uncontrolled encampments and dangerous behaviors. Help recipients must meet us “half-way.” If individuals refuse shelters because of strict rules, we should not become “enablers.” Also, our deinstitutionalization movement decades ago may have gone overboard — some police killings indicate some people on the streets are dangers to themselves and others. We need to reexamine this.

Systemic racial inequalities: I was a racism awareness trainer for the U.S. GAO in 1977 and regret that we got off track since then. We’ve focused on anger and guilt instead of love and common humanity, and today we rehearse the worst past (1619!). Not the way to save a marriage, or encourage individual agency. We inhibit frank person-to-person discussions even when we said we welcome them. I’ve tutored POC at Hennepin County libraries and the Juvenile Detention Center, and believe we break barriers by getting beyond stereotypes and focusing on individual connections. Government should discourage segregation and division, by programs and by jawboning.

Lisa Neal-Delgado
Lisa Neal-Delgado

Green Party: Lisa Neal-Delgado

Endorsements: Green Party

Occupation: Retired from military service

Money raised/cash on hand: $750 (Jan. 1-July 20)/$1,053 (as of July 20; includes funds from 2018 campaign)

Qualifications and top priorities: I am a lifelong resident of this community. As a 22-year veteran of the armed services, I have experience working with people from a multitude of values and cultures. I have deep roots here so I am 100% invested in this community. I am not a newcomer. I know the history of the district and have worked hard to affect change in our community. If the voters elect me, my top priorities will be education reform, economic development, restorative and criminal justice and affordable housing.

Police reform and public safety: I had the opportunity to work as a police officer for a period of time before completing my military service. This gives me the unique opportunity to see these issues from both sides. In our state we have issues with the language in our statutes that govern officers. As a state legislator I can affect changes in the different justice reforms by working to improve criminal procedures with the state’s peace officer licensing board that looks at officers’ transfers, licensing and accountability. I would fight to author and pass legislation that clearly defines how peace officers interact with communities.

Affordable housing and homelessness: We need to focus on truly affordable housing that’s based on the affected community’s real income. If we did that we would have truly affordable housing that focuses on preventing homelessness and curbing evictions. One way to prevent homelessness is to get people into homeownership. There is state-managed, federally owned land that is not being used and is prime for creating a space to help our unsheltered get housed. This is a project that I researched when I returned to fight for the public schools in my community.

Systemic racial inequalities: Two things we could do to greatly reduce the amount of harm systemic racism has had on BIPOC communities is to implement solid restorative justice reforms and create better pathways to jobs and economic development. One thing I am passionate about is the fact that no one should be making money off offenders who just need to call home. Money has always been a factor in racial inequality. We need to focus on stabilizing, developing and growing businesses in our underserved communities.