Next Step for New Minneapolis City Council: New President

Minneapolis City Council c/o 2017 with Mayor-elect Frey (in crown)

Our municipal elections are over and the biggest story nobody can see happening is the race to become president of the Minneapolis City Council in 2018. Newly elected members won’t be sworn in for two months, but the behind the scenes discussions, jockeying and waffling is happening right now. Four years ago, in 2013/2014, we didn’t get the full story until late January, weeks after it was officially settled.

The process for electing the new council president is by majority vote of the 13 members of the new city council in January following an election. Once elected, the president has the authority to assign council members to the various committees, and appoint committee chairs. This fact alone makes it an extremely powerful position.

It’s the first big way our new council, with five new members, could change how City Hall operates over the next four years. In conversations with City Hall observers and insiders, two committees are often mentioned as particularly important centers of money and power: Community Development & Regulatory Services, chaired currently by Lisa Goodman; and Transportation and Public Works, chaired currently by Kevin Reich.

Another thing to watch for in January: committees can be newly created, combined, or split apart. A combining of committees happened at the beginning of the last council term in 2014.

Council Member Lisa Goodman won more power under the new structure. Goodman’s community development committee, which oversees the use of housing funds and steers economic development initiatives, now includes regulatory services.

To give a hypothetical example of the kind of thing that could happen in January, “Community Development” could again be split apart from “Regulatory Services” with new chairs for one or both committees.

For the sake of discussing how this could all end up, let’s begin by characterizing the existing council factions as “Team Barb” and “Team Not Barb” (both teams receiving their names courtesy of soon-to-be-former Council President Barb Johnson). Team Barb is the more conservative side of the council, with Team Not Barb on the more progressive side.

Team Barb (8)

  • Kevin Reich
  • Jacob Frey (Mayor-elect)
  • Barb Johnson (President, defeated)
  • Blong Yang (defeated)
  • Abdi Warsame
  • Lisa Goodman
  • John Quincy (defeated)
  • Linea Palmisano

Team Not Barb (5)

  • Cam Gordon
  • Elizabeth Glidden (retired)
  • Alondra Cano
  • Lisa Bender
  • Andrew Johnson

After last week’s election, the council’s more progressive “Team Not Barb” will become newly empowered in 2018, adding the five new members listed below (which makes for a nine member majority on the council of 13):

  • Steve Fletcher
  • Phillipe Cunningham
  • Jeremiah Ellison
  • Andrea Jenkins
  • Jeremy Schroeder

There’s no guarantee that this group holds together as a bloc exactly as listed above, but it’s likely that the new council president will emerge from among the incumbents in the new progressive majority. Of course there’s always the possibility for unconventional alliances, as when Alondra Cano disappointed many of her most ardent supporters by backing Jacob Frey for mayor.

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