Off Beat

Just Call Him Mayor Bjorn

WAXING PHILOSOPHICAL IN the midst of the presidential-election fiasco, one of Off Beat's (admittedly few) erudite friends observed last week that the current crisis is proof that the folks who hoarded cash, bottled water, and canned yams in preparation for Y2K were right after all--their millennial math was just a little, um, fuzzy. And though election madness in the small town of Anoka paled in comparison to the national re-count drama, the "historic river city" did supply its own election surprise: Twenty-two-year-old challenger Bjorn Skogquist, who was profiled in the November 1 edition of this very fish-wrap by staff writer Burl Gilyard, managed to unseat Mayor Pete Beberg, who'd held the post for ten years. According to the final tally, Skogquist received 4,158 votes to Beberg's 3,522 amid high turnout, outpolling the five-term incumbent in all eight of the city's precincts. Meanwhile, on the city council, where three candidates were vying for two seats, incumbent Mark Freeburg won re-election, but challenger (and Skogquist ally) Paul Pierce III did too, easily unseating 24-year council veteran John Mann. Skogquist says he was engrossed in watching the national election returns with his family when his younger brother, who was monitoring local returns on Anoka's city Web site, burst in with the news: "All of a sudden my brother came out and said, 'Hey, you won!'" The mayor-elect credits his victory to the "grandstanding" stunts he pulled in the final week of the campaign, including the old-fashioned fire truck he rented and drove around town, emblazoned with the slogan "Rescue Anoka--Fire the Mayor." More curious was Skogquist's revelation that--unbeknownst to City Pages' editor and publisher--he'd secured an unprecedented 2,500 copies of the "Bjorn to Run" issue from the newspaper's circulation department and distributed them door to door.

Free, for Now

SOMALI REFUGEE ABDUL Hassan, who spent six months in the state correctional facility at Rush City pending deportation to a remote corner of his native land, is a free man. Efforts by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport Hassan to the province of Somaliland were the subject of "No Place Like Home," an August 2 cover story by staff writer Peter Ritter. St. Paul INS district deputy director Dean Hove says the decision not to pursue the Hassan case was made in Washington, D.C., but that local INS officials made the call to free him in late October. "We decided to release him from custody because we felt like the likelihood of removal to Somalia was not imminent," says Hove, adding that the case may affect the agency's future deportation strategy. Hassan's attorney, Michele Garnett-McKenzie of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, theorizes that the INS may have abandoned its effort in fear that an unfavorable ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals might set a precedent. "We always told Abdul that we might not be able to help him," she says. "But we felt it was important to open up what had been a covert [deportation] practice." The attorney adds that her client, who's awaiting his work permit, has moved back into his apartment in Minneapolis and is in relatively good spirits, though he remains baffled by the legal tangle in which he found himself. "He doesn't understand--nor is it really understandable--why six months of his life disappeared," she says. Of course, release from prison may prove only a temporary reprieve: Hassan still stands to be deported when the political situation in Somalia calms.