Power Grab Hits Roadblock at Charter Commission

[This local news coverage made possible by readers like you.]

A plan to alter the composition of the Minneapolis City Council had no support at the Charter Commission on Wednesday. This means the Charter Commission will not take up this issue again. The group behind the proposal will now need to collect and submit the required number of voter signatures if they want to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

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It’s time to turn on the video cameras at City Hall

If you’ve ever enjoyed a Wedge LIVE! video you may not realize the debt you owe to workers at Minneapolis City Hall who operate the cameras and make sure those videos make their way to YouTube. It’s been invaluable for me, and the journalism I do, that City Council meeting are recorded and broadcast to the public. Same goes for the Planning Commission.

But not everything that happens in the council chambers is streamed, recorded, and archived to video. This lack of basic transparency is a reasonably big deal at the moment: there’s a group trying to dramatically alter the way our local democracy functions by changing the composition of the City Council. The first step in that process involves presenting the idea to the city’s Charter Commission. But Charter Commission meetings aren’t broadcast or archived to video. The cameras are there, in the room where the meetings happen — but they aren’t turned on.

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Plan to eliminate City Council seats and overhaul district boundaries would empower wealthier, whiter south Minneapolis

March 6, 2018 meeting of the Minneapolis Charter Commission

[This local news coverage made possible by readers like you.]

On Wednesday the Minneapolis Charter Commission was presented with a proposal to cut the number of city council seats from 13 to 9. The plan would also replace 3 district-based ward seats with at-large members elected by a citywide vote. This would reduce the number of wards (districts) by more than half — from 13 to 6.

Minneapolis’ City Clerk and top elections official, Casey Carl, spoke bluntly about the “wealth of research” showing the racist effects of such a radical change to the way voters elect members of the city council.

According to Carl, “research and practice in other jurisdictions” shows that “at-large elections do tend to favor white, wealthier, homeowning, property owning, higher educational status people.”

Carl added: “Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg stated that along with racial gerrymandering… at-large elections are the primary means of diluting the power of the vote and denying equal opportunity for minority voters and candidates.”

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