‘Just doing our job’: Chair of Minneapolis Charter Commission responds to backlash

"The City Council's charter proposal represents the most sweeping and radical charter change in living memory"

The Minneapolis Charter Commission recently voted 10-5 to block a City Council amendment that would have enabled the city to disband its police department.

As it stands, the City Council cannot achieve its stated goal of defunding the Minneapolis Police Department because the city’s charter mandates that it fund the department relative to the population size of the city.

The amendment in question would change the language in Minneapolis’s charter such that the City Council would no longer have to maintain a police department. Instead, a “department of community safety and violence protection” would be required.

The Charter Commission voted to take an additional 90 days to review the proposal, meaning it won’t be eligible to appear on the November ballot as the council had hoped. 

“The [Minneapolis City Council] is upset, but we knew they would be,” Charter Commission Chairman Barry Clegg told Alpha News. “We are appointed so that we are not influenced by council politics. I think we are just doing our job.”

“We will let them tweet,” Clegg went on to say.

The delay, which many are calling a block, has triggered responses from many Democrats.  Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender responded to the Charter Commission’s vote on Twitter. Bender called the vote “disappointing,” but said it will not stop her efforts to “reimagine public safety in Minneapolis.” 

Black Visions Collective, an activist group that has been involved in Black Lives Matter protests, has called the Charter Commission’s decision “pathetic” and said “the fight is nowhere near over.”

The group previously promoted a poll that claimed 61% of Minneapolis residents would have voted for the City Council’s anti-police amendment come November.

Minneapolis City Councilman Jeremiah Ellison, son of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, said the Charter Commission’s delay in reviewing the amendment is “not democracy.”

“While I appreciate the Charter Commission’s engagement and effort to take up this proposal, they failed to act when the people told them what they did not want to hear. That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess the commission thought they knew better,” Ellison continued. 

Charter Commissioner Gregory Abbott called the council’s proposal “the most sweeping and radical charter change in living memory” during the Aug. 5 meeting.

“It deserves much more scrutiny and discussion than we can give it in a mere 35 days. Quick action on a flawed charter amendment will not produce immediate benefits and could have long-term unintended consequences,” he added.

Chairman Clegg had previously expressed concern over the council’s proposed amendment, saying that it was created and unanimously accepted too hastily.

“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We won’t implement this for a year, (but) we’ll figure it out,’” said Clegg, according to Courthouse News. “For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”