Brooklyn Park Council requests Osseo Schools consider single-member district elections

The Brooklyn Park City Council approved a resolution requesting that the Osseo Area School District establish a task force or commission to conduct a study related to establishing single-member district elections as opposed to at-large elections.
The resolution was approved in a 5-2 vote, with Councilmembers Lisa Jacobson, Bob Mata, Terry Parks, Rich Gates and Mayor Jeff Lunde casting votes for approval and Councilmembers Susan Pha and Mark Mata casting dissenting votes.
No one from Brooklyn Park sits on the school board. Currently, of the six board members, five reside in Maple Grove and one resides in Osseo.
Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeff Lunde said he and others worry that voices and concerns from the city are not being heard.
“There’s been a lot of talk within the community about, right now Brooklyn Park has no representation on the Osseo School Board, and that we feel it’s important that there is a voice there on … that school board,” he said. “This has come up many times … I think we have roughly 40 percent of the students, we have a very different dynamic and demographics and different life experiences within our school districts, and that people that would know those dynamics, those experiences, their voices are not heard, and I worry about that.
“We ask other institutions to do things all the time,” Lunde added, saying that strong schools are tied to tax revenue and housing values.
“I don’t see how this motion here will benefit the city at all or any of the residents because we need the voters to vote for these people that are going for the school board that live in the city of Brooklyn Park,” said Councilmember Bob Mata. That is, while he cast a vote in favor of the resolution, he also said that he felt it may not be effective.
“We need to have a fair system in place,” said Councilmember Rich Gates. “This is a very simple request.”
Councilmember Terry Parks agreed with Gates, and said he recalled times when the district has came to the city with various requests. “Basically we’re just asking them to take a look at it,” he said.
“I’m a strong believer in districting,” said Councilmember Lisa Jacobson. “I 100 percent will be in favor of this.”
Councilmember Mark Mata said he was not comfortable with asking another elected body to change its election districts or lack thereof.
“I can’t support this motion for the fact that this is another body who controls what they do, and here we’re a different body telling somebody else what to do,” he said. “I’m not going to tell another entity how they need to structure themselves.”
Councilmember Susan Pha said that while she agreed with the idea of redistricting so that Brooklyn Park is represented on the board, she did not think an official and public request was the way to go about doing it.
“I personally support the idea of districting … The one concern I do have in particular to this item tonight is that I don’t believe as a city council that—and this is just my belief, my opinion—that we should tell another entity, another body how they should do things,” she said. “It’s not very respectful to me.”
The district declined to comment until Brooklyn Park delivered some formal form of communication to district officials related to the request.
Resident Hassanen Mohamed spoke in favor of the resolution. Fata Acquoi of African Immigrant Services also spoke in favor of the resolution.
“The strength of community voices depend on district lines that fairly and honestly reflect the character of those that live within the district,” she said. “Too often, communities, especially communities of color, are excluded from this process.”