Minneapolis City Council meetings In March and April were focused heavily on issues related to public safety, particularly the Minneapolis Police Department. This included a settlement agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the appointment of members to the new Community Commission on Police Oversight. Other key topics included rent stabilization and government structure.
The full City Council is chaired by the Council President and Ward 8 Councilmember Andrea Jenkins. Ward 13 Councilmember Linea Palmisano serves as the Council Vice President. An overview of the City Council, whether councilmembers are running for re-election, and the committees the councilmembers serve on, is included in a previous article.
The council approved amendments to the legislative agenda to support legislation that would create clear guidance for lawful conduct at public meetings while safeguarding First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly and protest, and support legislation that would create enhanced criminal penalties for assaults and threats of violence against public officials, public employees, or their families.
The two amendments were the subject of significant discussion at the council meeting and the Intergovernmental Relations Committee two days earlier. Some council members noted the increase in violence and threats against public officials in recent years as the reason why the change was needed. Other council members noted that the timing of the amendment was shortly after heated council meetings regarding Roof Depot, and described the measures as targeting protesters. This council meeting was itself interrupted at times by protesters, and one protester was removed by security.
The amendment related to conduct at meetings was adopted by a vote of 7 - 6.
Yes: Rainville, Vetaw, Osman, Goodman, Jenkins, Koski, Palmisano
No: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Chavez, Chughtai
The amendment related to criminal penalties for assaults and threats of violence against public officials was adopted by a vote of 7 - 5.
Yes: Rainville, Vetaw, Osman, Goodman, Johnson, Koski, Palmisano
No: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Chavez, Chughtai
The council approved a new assistant police chief and police chief of staff positions. The new assistant chief position will oversee the Community Trust and Engagement section of the Minneapolis Police Department, which includes Internal Affairs, the Professional Standards Bureau, and community engagement functions of the department. The existing assistant chief position would oversee the Operations section, including Patrol and Investigations. The chief of staff would assist the police chief with administrative functions and interface with other City departments.
The new positions were approved by a vote of 12-1, with Ward 4 Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw voting no. She expressed concerns that she still had a lack of understanding of the vision and strategy for the department and was not certain how the new positions would assist the work of the department.
The March 23 council meeting had a rather simple agenda.. Following a closed session, the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing staff to execute all necessary documents for Minneapolis to participate in the multi-state settlements relating to opioid supply chain participants.
The City Council held a special meeting on March 30, almost entirely in closed session, relating to a proposed settlement agreement between the City and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to resolve claims brought by MDHR regarding the pattern or practice of discrimination by the Minneapolis Police Department.
After a closed session briefing that lasted for over six hours, the council set an adjourned meeting for March 31 to continue their discussion. On March 31, the council received a public presentation regarding the settlement agreement and, after questions and discussion, approved the agreement unanimously.
The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance amending noise violation exemptions for sounds associated with religious worship. One effect of this change is that mosques will now be able to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer five times a day.
After a briefing in closed session, the council approved almost $9 million in settlements relating to two instances of misconduct and use of force by former police officer Derek Chauvin in 2017, three years before he murdered George Floyd.
Business, Inspections, Housing, and Zoning Committee
The Business, Inspections, Housing, and Zoning Committee received a presentation from staff regarding the recommendation of the Rent Stabilization Work Group and a minority report from some members of the work group regarding rent stabilization and City staff’s own analysis. City staff recommended that the City Council should not pursue either policy and should focus resources on other programs to improve housing affordability.
Committee of the Whole
At a Committee of the Whole meeting, Ward 2 Councilmember Robin Wonsley proposed a legislative directive for a fiscal analysis of provisions of the settlement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights regarding the Minneapolis Police Department discussed at the March 30 and 31 meetings. City staff and several councilmembers expressed concerns about the burdens this would place on staff and preferred to include this analysis as part of the normal City budget process. Other councilmembers suggested it would be beneficial to have the information sooner.
The staff directive was rejected by a 5-7 vote.
Yes: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Chavez, Chughtai
No: Rainville, Vetaw, Goodman, Jenkins, Koski, Johnson, Palmisano
The council unanimously approved 14 appointments to the new Community Commission on Police Oversight. Applicant James Westphal, the nominee for Ward 12, withdrew from consideration. The seat will remain vacant pending a new nomination. The commission will meet for the first time on May 16.
The council approved a director of Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging position. The need for the new position arises from Racial Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging recently being elevated to a department level. The council also approved three new deputy City Operations officer positions, each of which will oversee four to five City departments.
Some councilmembers expressed a need to address structural issues with the City enterprise, particularly in regards to allegations of a toxic, racist environment for BIPOC staff and the lack of a fully staffed legislative department, prior to approving these new commissions.
The Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging director position was approved by a 12-1 vote, with Wonsley voting no. The deputy City Operations officer positions were approved by a 10-3 vote, with Ward 9 Councilmember Jason Chavez, Chughtai, and Wonsley voting no.