The Minneapolis City Council met at City Hall on Sept. 21 to approve and discuss a range of topics including liquor licenses for several Southwest businesses, workers’ comp claims for police officers, an introduction of new rideshare protection legislation and to move forward with Toddrick Barnette’s appointment as Commissioner of Community Safety.
All council members besides Andrew Johnson, who was away on council business, attended the meeting. Mayor Jacob Frey attended the beginning of the meeting, when the Frey and the Council honored two city employees, Barret Lane and Marcia Wog with honorary resolutions praising their careers.
The council unanimously agreed to appropriate $1 million in funding for a second Avivo Village in South Minneapolis, where many homeless encampments have been moving around as the City performs sweeps.
The council also approved a haul of 12 items in the Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning section, mostly relating to liquor licenses for businesses, including the new locations for South Lyndale Liquors, LITT Pinball Bar, Clancey’s, Pimento on the Lake and Wrecktangle at LynLake.
During the section on the Policy and Government Oversight Committee, the clerk preemptively divided the vote between the first 16 items, which mainly dealt with gift acceptances and contract amendments, from a set of 10 workers’ comp claims from Minneapolis Police Department officers. The council unanimously approved the first set of items and councilmembers Robin Wonsley of Ward 2, Aisha Chughtai of Ward 10 and Jason Chavez of Ward 9 voted against the workers’ comp claims. Wonsley and Chavez routinely vote against MPD workers’ comp claims in committee.
At the meeting, City Council also approved gifted services from a local developer to help with the internal workings of the Office of Community Safety. Wonsley questioned these services, as she had at previous committee meetings.
The Policy & Government Oversight Committee had twice discussed “loaned executive services” from local developer Ryan Companies for the City’s Office of Community Safety. The services provided by Ryan Companies, specifically the company’s chief impact officer, Colleen Dockendorf, would be of no cost to the City.
“I’m struggling to see the connection between how an executive from a corporate developer is going to bring in expertise towards transforming our public safety system,” Wonsley said at the Sept. 18 committee meeting.
Wonsley spoke with Interim Public Safety Commissioner Lee Sheehey about Ryan Companies’ executive services and didn’t receive a “satisfying explanation” for why City staff couldn’t do the tasks that Dockendorf is offering to do. Wonsley also shared skepticism about the government working so closely with a corporation.
“It does make me concerned that we are giving a corporate executive unstructured access to a critical department.” Wonsley said at the full council meeting. “And there’s no plan in place to detail what is going to be accomplished at the end of that, so I can’t support this.”
Antonio Oftellie produced the “Minneapolis Safe and Thriving Communities Report: A Vision and Action Plan for the Future of Community Safety and Wellbeing” report that was released in June. At an earlier Policy & Government Oversight committee meeting, Wonsley asked Sheehey why Oftellie wasn’t being considered for the executive work that Dockendorf was offering to do.
“We are talking to him about the substantive work,” Sheehy said on Sept. 5, but defined the difference between Oftellie’s work as “thought leadership” versus Dockendorf’s as “executive leadership.”
Wonsley pushed back, citing Oftellie’s experience.
“He’s from here, he’s from South Minneapolis. He constantly raved about that as why he wanted to do the work here, and give back to his community as an African man,” Wonsley said. “As a leader in creating a space around comprehensive public safety and giving blueprints to what we have right now, to me it seems like he would fit.”
At the Sept. 21 meeting, Wonsley was the only councilmember to vote against the gifted services.
During the Public Health and Safety section of the agenda, Ward 1 Councilmember Elliot Payne asked to separate the first item, which pertained to a contract with State Patrol to help out MPD, from the final three items, which were unanimously passed.
Payne brought up concern that while MPD is facing a staffing shortage, outside agencies like State Patrol don’t have to adhere to Minneapolis restrictions and oversight.
“I’m just asking that if they’re going to operate in the field in the city of Minneapolis that they are held to the same standards that MPD are held to, so until we get that resolved I’ll be a no on this item,” Payne said.
Wonsley agreed with Payne, bringing up that State Patrol killed Ricky Cobb and she doesn’t want a repeat of that incident in Minneapolis.
Following more discussion, the council voted in support of the contract with Councilmembers Wonsley, Payne, Chughtai, Chavez and Jeremiah Ellison voting against it.
The council unanimously passed the Public Works and Infrastructure agenda including 2024 proposed services and service charges at 50th and France, 54th and Lyndale, and Lyndale-Lake as well as Hennepin Avenue reconstruction.
Wonsley, Chavez and Osman introduced a new rideshare protections ordinance during the Notice of Ordinance Introductions portion of the meeting. The new ordinance would enforce a minimum wage of $15, which Wonsley said that Frey and Uber had vocally agreed to in the past.
“Drivers and riders urgently need these protections and Council has the responsibility to provide them,” Wonsley said.
City Council Vice President and Ward 13 Councilmember Linea Palmisano asked what was different about this ordinance than the last, which Frey vetoed. Gov. Walz also vetoed a different, state-wide rideshare protection bill in May that passed the Minnesota House and Senate.
Wonsley said that the minimum compensation and the rider protections differ from the last bill, while Ward 7 Councilmember Lisa Goodman reminded the council that the day’s task was simply a notice of introduction.
After the main content of the meeting, the council unanimously agreed to move Toddrick Barnette’s nomination for the commissioner of community safety to the Committee of the Whole for a public hearing.
The council meeting ended with a clerk stating that early voting in Minneapolis started on Sept. 22, and Ellison wanted to publicly celebrate that Minnesota felons who are out of prison but on work release, parole, or probation can vote for the first time in Minneapolis thanks to new legislation passed this past session. Jenkins closed the meeting with praise for the state for upholding democracy.
Additional reporting by Melody Hoffmann