Vote No on Question 1, Reject Mayoral Power Grab in Minneapolis

If you are inclined to vote yes on Question 1 to change the structure of Minneapolis city government, first consider the problem you’re trying to solve. Is it about a particular example of dysfunction, abuse, corruption, or poor leadership that involves the police department? If it is, you should go read the part of the city charter that has always placed “complete power” over police in the hands of the mayor. As much as he’d like you to forget it right now, Jacob Frey knew this fact very well during his 2017 campaign for mayor.

Our current city charter.
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“Strong Mayor” Label Won’t Fix Weak Mayor Problem

I have tweeted a variation of this sentiment countless times over the last several months:

Because this sad/confusing/hilarious joke occupies space in my brain at all times, it’s becoming my own personal conventional wisdom. But 2021 is more complicated than your average city election year. I’m a little concerned that people don’t get it. I’m worried a “strong mayor” charter amendment will end up on the ballot with some bland, inoffensive title like “government structure amendment” and people might vote for it.

In Minneapolis, the mayor has authority over the police department. As candidate, and soon-to-be Mayor, Jacob Frey explains in the above video from 2017: “That’s the mayor’s job. The police report exclusively to the chief, and the chief reports exclusively to the mayor.”

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Agenda 2021: Public Safety, Expanded Mayoral Power, Rent Stabilization, and Parking

Here’s a brief guide to the issues you may see on your ballot this November, as well as a few ordinances the City Council is working on.

Keep in mind the distinction between the city’s code of ordinances (laws) and the city charter (constitution). The charter is a framework for how city government is structured and sets the boundaries for what can be put into ordinance. For example, a rent stabilization charter amendment allows a future rent stabilization ordinance.

Charter amendments on the topics listed below are currently on track (though not certain) to be included on the ballot for voter approval this November. Ordinances on renter protections and parking minimums would not go on the ballot, but would need to be approved by the City Council.

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Minneapolis Charter Commission acting to stall City Council’s public safety priorities

On Wednesday, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 8-6 to reject a ballot question that would have let voters decide whether to remove minimum police staffing requirements from the city charter. The vote against this scaled back compromise — which was put forward by Commissioner Giraud-Isaacson — suggests the Commission will likely reject (by delay tactic at their meeting next Wednesday) a ballot question advanced by the City Council. That proposal would allow voters to remove the Minneapolis Police Department as a required charter department and replace it with a new department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

(Worth pointing out that MPD could go on existing for an indefinite period of time even if not explicitly required by city charter. Both of the charter amendments simply give the Council varying degrees of flexibility to withdraw funding from MPD in order to fund public safety alternatives.)

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Charter Commission LIVE Spreadsheet

Just like last week, we’re covering today’s Charter Commission public hearing using the purest form of journalism ever invented — the live spreadsheet.

The previous two hearings were to solicit comment on the City Council’s version of the public safety charter amendment. Today’s hearing is about the Charter Commission’s significantly scaled back alternative proposal. Read about the differences here.

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Charter Commission Considers Competing Police Ballot Questions

The Minneapolis Charter Commission is considering an alternative amendment to the city charter regarding police and public safety. This means voters could be faced with competing ballot questions in November.

The newest proposal would eliminate a minimum staffing requirement for the Minneapolis Police Department — same as the City Council proposal. But it would leave in place language specifying how that department is embedded within city government. It would also preserve language giving the Mayor “complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command” of MPD.

The City Council’s original proposal would do more than simply eliminate the minimum police staffing requirement enacted in 1961. It creates a new department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. It gives the council the option to create a law enforcement division within that new department. Council members have previously stressed how important it is for the new department’s law enforcement capacity to take a subordinate role to the “holistic” public safety approach of the new department.

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Delay tactics from Charter Commission would deny urgent citywide conversation

[Would you like to send a message to the Charter Commission? Sign up to deliver your words over the phone at two public hearings to be held on July 15 and 21.]

Dear Members of the Charter Commission:

It’s clear that some of you have strong opinions on this public safety charter amendment. I won’t try to change your mind about the specifics of this proposal. It’s okay to disagree. I accept there’s a diversity of opinion from across the city–if not on this commission. Your role, if you think this shouldn’t be on the ballot, is to say so. Say no.

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Minneapolis police proposal would be kept off November ballot if Charter Commission fails to act by August 5

The Minneapolis Charter Commission met yesterday to set a schedule of meetings to consider a proposal put forward by the City Council to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. Next Wednesday, they’ll hear from members of the City Council and Mayor Frey — who opposes the change. A public hearing is set for Wednesday, July 15.

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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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