MINNEAPOLIS -- Mayoral candidate Don Samuels isn't your typical Minnesota politician.
He grew up in Jamaica, came to the United States to study art and spent 30 years designing toys and games. In 2003, after building a career in the private sector, Samuels won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council.
He said things have changed a lot in his ward on the city's north side since he took office.
"At that time there were guys selling drugs on the corner, calling out to you as you pass, running up to your car, and asking if you want to buy some drugs," Samuels recalled.
"And the same guy is there for 365 days a year! That does not happen anymore. those days of openly flouting the law have ended."
Samuels has often used his city council seat as a platform for sounding the alarm about youth violence in Minneapolis. His first year in office he drew attention by setting up tents on street corners, and holding peace vigils for murder victim.
One of his campaign pledges is to approach the six families responsible for most of the violent crime in north Minneapolis, and offer to help them break the cycle.
"They're living is isolation with truncated hopes, truncated aspirations and truncated life expectancies," Samuels said.
"We should just move into a relationship with them and say we will come around you with the kind of resources that can lift your family out of poverty and crime in one generation."
He said he'd like to see that philosophy -- that basic hope that individual lives can be transformed for the better -- permeate all of the departments of Minneapolis city government.
"Every interaction with the city and any agent of the city should be done in that spirit," Samuels remarked.
"Human beings have dignity and should be treated with dignity, because their transformation depends on it."
Hot button issues
Vikings voted in favor of the Vikings stadium deal, in large part because of the employment and job training opportunities for persons of color.
"I know it's not the perfect vessel, the perfect delivery of jobs, but it is on singular, gigantic opportunity that can be monitored closely for compliance."
He also agreed with the notion that the Twin Cities were at risk of losing the Vikings, and all the national recognition and media buzz that comes with being an NFL city.
On the education front Samuels is a longtime supporter of public school reform, and said he supports the MPS district's "shift plan" to provide individual schools more autonomy to tailor curriculum and staff to their own needs.
"Parents are using, very often, nonverbal methods to communicate that need for change, by leaving the district, leaving the school in their neighborhood to a school that's far away," Samuels told KARE.
"Clearly parents have something to say that's not being said. And that's an important role for the mayor, to be the voice of those parents and those families."
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)