Republican National Convention II
The Council has approved the contract to bring the Republican convention (RNC) to Minneapolis in 2008, and the Mayor has signed it.
Last Wednesday, I went forward with the two ideas mentioned in the last RNC post. I'm pleased to say that the work group passed unanimously. I have heard from my colleague Lisa Goodman (who represents downtown) that she is interested in serving on it. I am hopeful that this group will lay out some good strategies for protecting free speech, while also providing adequate security and minimizing disruption.
The other idea - moving to amend the agreement to give the Chief of Police equal authority to approve the security plan - sparked an interesting turn that I haven't seen before in my time on the Council so far.
I made the motion to direct our staff to stipulate that the Minneapolis Police Depatment and it was discussed at some length. It then passed 7-5, with one abstention. After the vote had been taken, City Attorney Jay Heffern raised concerns about what the amendment meant. Was the Council directing our negotiator, Peter Ginder, to refuse to sign the agreement unless that change was made? He expressed concern that the RNC had not been warm to the idea when Peter had mentioned it to them the previous day. And how should the process work - should the special Council meeting adjourn and reconvene later? (Earlier in the week I have first proposed that the City Council should review and approve the yet-to-written Security Plan. This failed to pass in the Public Safety Commitee. The idea of requiring approval by the Police Chief first came from Council Member Ostrow at the Ways and Means Committee meeting. )
Through the course of the ensuing debate, five of my colleagues who had originally supported the motion changed their votes. When the vote was retaken (after some byzantine parliamentary shuffles), it failed 11-2, with only Ninth Ward CM Gary Schiff voting with me.
I was surprised by this outcome, to say the least. It seemed an easy enough call, to me. When Peter had originally raised the idea with the RNC, it had failed in committee. Why would they express support for it? If we had directed him to go back with the message that the Council supports this, and will not sign the contract without it, I believe the response would've been significantly different.
Had the Council stood our ground, rather than allowing ourselves to be intimidated by the RNC, I believe we would now be in a much better position. The City would have the authority to make sure that the security plan reflects our values, and reflects the outcome of the discussions in the work group. I consider this an important missed opportunity.
As it is, we are left with some hope that the internal work group and other City staff can provide the strong voice needed to make sure that the final security plan that will be subject to final approval of the RNC Committee on Arrangements.