Q&A: Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jerrell Perry

A man wearing a baseball cap.
Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jerrell Perry with For the People Party.
Courtesy photo

Election Day is less than two weeks away and many Minnesotans are already voting by mail and in person. The most visible election in Minnesota is the highly contested race for mayor of Minneapolis, where there are 17 candidates on the ballot, including incumbent mayor Jacob Frey. 

This week on Minnesota Now, host Cathy Wurzer has been talking with the leading candidates who are all under the DFL Party banner. But there are numerous other candidates representing other parties. On Friday, Wurzer spoke with Jerrell Perry with the “For the People” party.

How would you describe yourself politically? 

Politically? I'm not a polished politician. Some young man asked me the other day, have you always dreamed of being a politician? Absolutely not. We're living in the most pivotal point in our city’s 171 year history. I have two beautiful little girls and I've had multiple conversations with the current mayor, Jacob Frey, about things that we could be doing in our city. 

We literally have people sitting on the sidewalks, you know, and there's things that are within the mayor's capabilities, he has the power, the authority, and the mandate from the people that elected him to do certain things. And he's just choosing not to do them. He said a lot of those limitations are from the party. And we understand that a lot of those limitations are from business interests, and donors. So, I want to get away from all of that, and actually be able to genuinely serve and represent the people of Minneapolis. And I feel like by doing that independently, that is something that I can do with no strings attached. 

MPR News is Member Supported

What does that mean? The news, analysis and community conversation found here is funded by donations from individuals. Make a gift of any amount today to support this resource for everyone.

I was on your website, and it says that you “hold first and foremost a mandate from God to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and join together with the community in bringing healing to our city through reconciliation.” And you're talking about reconciliation in a lot of areas: racial reconciliation, education reconciliation, and jobs and public safety and climate and small business. Pretty big list. When you talk about reconciliation in all those areas. What does that mean exactly? 

 It just means doing our best to reconcile and put things back together. Systems have intentionally been broken. Certain people have intentionally been left out, marginalized. So, I want to be intentional about putting them back together. Like I said, we were intentional about tearing them apart. So, we can be intentional about coming together and building each other back up and moving our city forward. 

I watched the debate you were part of online, with Nekima Levy Armstrong as moderator, and you talked about how so much government money flows into communities of color, but it doesn't get to where it really needs to go. Can you expand on that?

 That's right. So, we have multiple community organizations that are on the ground that receive federal money, government money, period. And by the time they pay salaries, and do their office supplies and things like that, the mission of those organizations is not being met.

So, the lives of residents are not being impacted. And that goes even to neighborhood organizations, neighborhood associations. I've been to several meetings over the last few months, and met with the board members, most of those meetings, most of those events, they only consisted of the board members. And so my first question was, where are the residents?  

And a lot of them explain frustrations with not having the funding to do outreach to residents or not having funding to do outreach events. These associations are arms of the city, they're supposed to be representative of the city, within community. And if they are unable to do their jobs, they are effectively inefficient, ineffective. So, we have to do better with neighborhood organizations, neighborhood associations, and connecting people with them. When people move into a neighborhood that should be their first connection is to that neighborhood association, exchanging contact information, getting schedules, getting occupations and all that so that neighbors can be familiar with who is in their neighborhood. 

Even as we've seen over the last 16, 17 months, even since the pandemic started, people have relied a lot on their neighbors. A lot of people did not know who their neighbors were, before the civil unrest where community had to band together and protect their own neighborhoods. So just bringing that sense of community back. I believe these neighborhood organizations and associations can be a very big, vitally important part of that process. 

I want to ask you a little bit about the gun violence that's happening around Minneapolis, specifically on the north side. If you were mayor, what immediate solution would you take to stop the gunfire and the violence? 

 Well, immediately, I have met with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department, because we keep hearing about the defunding the police and that we are short officers in the city. I met with the Hennepin County Sheriff's office as seeing if they'd be willing to partner with the city.  

See if they'd be willing to assist, providing a physical presence to help deter and respond to crime. They specialize in gang violence, gun violence. I was told that they are willing and they are ready, but they are waiting on authorization from the mayor from, Chief Arradondo, and they still have not received that authorization up to this day. And I keep checking back in with them. I do not understand why they're not being given that authorization. Because lives are being lost, including the lives of children, like Princess Trinity, Princess Aniya, Prince Ladavionne have been shot. Ladavionne’s still struggling to get back to his normal self, which we know will never happen because he’d be traumatized for the rest of his life.  

But even looking at the ceasefire, we have spent over $3.8 billion a year, specifically with Israel, doing a ceasefire. I believe that we can do a ceasefire agreement. I've talked to several of these young men, these groups that are out here, specifically over on Broadway at Merwin Liquors, we've been up there cooking and connecting with community.  I'm doing a ceasefire agreement to where some of these young men can get into mentorship programs, they can do community service for the city. And more importantly, they can go do a two year program over at MCTC, who would also be partner with us to get people into something to where they feel invested in our city and feel like they're a part of something bigger than what's going on out there.

We can do this. And even as far as reward to bring in the shooters in any of these cases involving these children. I've discussed with Mayor Frey, also with Crimestoppers, about issuing a million dollar reward. And if nobody is turned in, the money will not be lost. So it's not as if we're taking a gamble with the money. We have to do something different. We don't know exactly what works. But right now, I do not believe there are any bad ideas, we have to put all the ideas on the table and go through them as community and see what works and what does not. We cannot continue to leave the city in the situation that it is when we're losing lives every day. We got three people shot last night. 

I'm wondering, are you in favor of reimagining the MPD? Are you going to vote yes on ballot question two? 

Now, we have gone back and forth with that. Initially, I was looking at the language just like everybody else was looking at it. And I met with Janae with “Yes, for Minneapolis.” And I see all these lawsuits in regards to the question. And my question to her was, why are you not suing to get that language corrected? Mayor Frey, the council, they signed off on that final language.  

I believe it was left to be confusing so that we would be discussing that ballot question instead of discussing the merit of the candidates going forward into this election. There's no way in the world that we should be discussing that, when lives are being lost. That is not something that's gonna help us today. That is next year. But we do need a new Department of Public Safety. But just like the mayor said, that's something he can do right now. That's absolutely something he can do right now. And the confusion around the ballot question? I feel like it's totally intentional to distract us from the hell that we've been forced to live to the last four years, let alone the 16, 17 months. 

 A lot of things that mayors want to accomplish, you know, don't come free. Everything costs something. When you look at your priorities, are there some current city functions or expenditures that could be done away with so you can pay for what you really want to have happen in the city of Minneapolis? Do you plan to raise taxes? I mean, how do you want to pay for what you want to do? 

Well, I mean, there's money there. And then even specifically, with housing, like I said, we have people sleeping on the sidewalks in our city. So, we need a housing-first initiative to get people off the streets immediately into stable housing with wraparound social services and living wage-paying jobs. Right now, our current affordable housing structure, we give millions of dollars to private developers to build beautiful properties, and then they reap the benefits of those properties. I believe we need to move away from affordable housing and go to a public housing system where the City of Minneapolis retains ownership over those properties.

So that means the rent that has been paid monthly by tenants would be going back into the public housing fund, which will maintain those properties, and it will allow us to build more properties. I think that's one of the biggest ways that we're going to bring funding in, especially for housing. Everyone deserves decent, dignified housing in the city of Minneapolis. And it is something that is totally, totally, attainable. Housing is a human right and we should be treating it as one within the city of Minneapolis. Minneapolis residents deserve that. 

Read more about Perry and the other candidates in our guide here.