In January and February, the full City Council met five times, including one special meeting. The full marked agendas are linked to for reference. The meeting summaries below are limited to a handful of items. The full City Council is chaired by the Council President, Andrea Jenkins. Linea Palmisano serves as the Council Vice President.

Following this summary of City Council meetings and actions is an overview of the City Council, whether councilmembers are running for re-election, and the committees the councilmembers serve on.

January 12

The council approved an amendment to the Minneapolis 2040 plan, proposed by area residents, to downzone two blocks of Van Buren St NE from Corridor 6 to Interior 3, which has the effect of reducing the size of residential buildings that can be built in the area. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 9-4. While this amendment does not impact Southwest residents, it does illustrate the possibility of 2040 Plan zoning being amended. One initial purpose of the 2040 Plan was to allow for multi-family homes to be built in previously single-family home zones and for larger multi-family homes to be built in other areas of the city.

Yes: Rainville, Vetaw, Ellison, Osman, Goodman, Jenkins, Koski, Johnson, Palmisano

No: Payne, Wonsley, Chavez, Chughtai

The council approved several appointments to the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, including former Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, whose appointment was controversial. The council also granted an exception to the residency requirement. Several councilmembers argued that a more qualified candidate with more experience in public housing should be appointed. Others argued that he brings a valuable perspective to the public housing crisis with his knowledge of public safety. The appointment was approved by a vote of 7-6.

Yes: Rainville, Vetaw, Osman, Goodman, Jenkins, Koski, Palmisano

No: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Chavez, Chughtai, Johnson

January 26

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The council unanimously approved an amended Memorandum of Understanding/settlement agreement (MOU) for the Hiawatha Public Works Expansion Project, set to be built on the former Roof Depot site. Amendments to the settlement made at the meeting included that the city will be available to meet with East Phillips Neighborhood Institute on at least a quarterly basis to discuss ongoing concerns. The amendment item was approved unanimously.

The council approved a roughly $1.7 million contract with Rachel Contracting for Phase II of the demolition project of the Hiawatha Public Works building planned at the Roof Depot site. The council adopted the contract by a 7-6 vote.

Yes: Rainville, Vetaw, Goodman, Jenkins, Koski, Johnson, Palmisano

No: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Osman, Chavez, Chughtai

A large group of audience members actively protested the demolition contract for the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility. The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute has long been lobbying the city not to demolish the site and instead to convert it into an urban farm, and has expressed concerns that the demolition would cause environmental damage to the area and have health impacts for residents. The city and East Phillips Neighborhood Institute have negotiated over this issue for years, but have yet to reach a settlement agreeable to both parties.

In other business, the council unanimously approved a legislative directive related to a comprehensive analysis of current oversight of off-duty police contracts, including a racial equity analysis on the impacts of any recent policy changes or rate increases regarding off-duty work. Southwest Voices has previously reported on attempts by the City to regulate off-duty work.

February 9

At the meeting, council members announced that the public can weigh in on a draft land use map that details what sort of businesses are permitted in different parts of the city. A survey is available through March 26.

February 17 (Special Meeting)

The council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the transfer of $290,000 in American Rescue Plan, or COVID recovery, funds from the Corridor Activation project. The activation project is described in the city’s American Rescue Plan funding plan as “pop-up style events [that] will help address the need for healing and social cohesion”) and $145,000 from the contingency fund to support the inaugural "I Am My Ancestors Wildest Dreams Expo" event that was held on February 25 at the Convention Center to celebrate Black History Month.

Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Director Tyeastia Green initially had secured funding from outside organizations, however, this violated city ethics rules which prevent city employees from directly soliciting funds. Generally, the city contracts with a third party to solicit funds for events of this nature and Green was unaware of this requirement. [Editor’s note: after the writing of this article, Green has resigned from her position with the City of Minneapolis.]

February 23

Councilmember Jason Chavez attempted to terminate the contract with Rachel Contracting for the demolition of the Roof Depot building, scheduled to begin on  February 28. Councilmember Chavez also proposed a motion which directed staff to identify all prior council actions relating to the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility, so that the council could consider terminating the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility project in its entirety. Both motions were defeated on a 6-6 vote.

Yes: Rainville, Vetaw, Goodman, Jenkins, Koski, Palmisano

No: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Osman, Chavez, Chughtai

Absent: Johnson

Several councilmembers argued that this was a way to help repair past environmental harms to the community in the East Phillips neighborhood. City Attorney Kristyn Anderson noted that there would be financial costs to the city for terminating a signed contract without cause.

There was a heavy presence of protesters supporting the East Phillips Urban Farm present at the meeting. The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute and other area residents have opposed demolition of the project due to environmental concerns and because they support using the facility as an urban farm. There were sporadic protests during Roof Depot-related items. There were particularly intense protests following the council voting not to rescind the contract for the demolition of the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility.

In other business, the council confirmed Damōn Chaplin as Health Commissioner by a 9-3 vote. No reasoning for the opposition was given.

Yes: Payne, Wonsley, Ellison, Osman, Jenkins, Chavez, Chughtai, Koski, Palmisano

No: Rainville, Vetaw, Goodman

Absent: Johnson

The council unanimously approved a legislative directive for an analysis of a municipal sidewalk plowing program. Currently, clearing sidewalks is the responsibility of the property owner. Some residents and councilmembers have argued the city should plow sidewalks in addition to streets. Others have argued that the program would be too costly and that the city would not do a good job. The legislative directive was adopted without issue, but this may be a larger discussion when the time comes to consider funding a program. Southwest Voices reported on municipal shoveling last winter.

City Council Background

The Minneapolis City Council is the legislative body for the city and includes thirteen councilmembers elected by and from the city’s thirteen wards, electoral districts with nearly equal populations that were last redrawn after the 2020 Census. This will be the first election using the new ward boundaries. You can find your new ward at the MN Secretary of State’s polling place finder. All but two of the councilmembers are seeking re-election. The Minneapolis DFL is currently conducting its caucus and convention process to determine which candidates the party will endorse.

The current councilmembers are as follows:

The City Council generally meets on a two-week cycle, with council committees meeting in between the full council meetings. Each committee deals with a different subject area.

Committees which meet each cycle include:

  • Economic development; land use, development, and zoning; housing policy; employment & training programs; and business licensing.
  • Presentations and reports that are enterprise wide in nature
  • General enterprise operations and initiatives or programs not otherwise covered by the committee structure
  • Public health and social service programs, including sustainability, civil rights, immigration, community engagement, public safety, and emergency management

The council also has several specialized committees which meet on an as-needed basis. For example, the Budget Committee meets very frequently later in the year when considering the city budget, but often does not meet the rest of the year. Intergovernmental Relations meets more often when the state legislature is in session. All councilmembers serve on each of these committees. Three of these committees are subcommittees of Committee of the Whole, and meet during that committee’s meetings.

Specialized committees include:

  • Budget (chaired by Emily Koski)
  • Leads the Council's review of the Mayor’s recommended budget and receives department performance reports
  • Oversees the City’s federal and state legislative platforms and priorities. It provides local approval for special state legislation
  • Government Structure (chaired by Linea Palmisano)
  • Implementation of the “Executive Mayor-Legislative Council” government structure
  • Race Equity (chaired by Andrea Jenkins)
  • Enterprise programming and initiatives driving racial equity, social justice, etc.
  • Pattern and Practice Investigations (chaired by Andrea Jenkins)
  • Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation into the Police Department and related matters associated with police reform and accountability

Josh Martin also reports for Documenters.