Plaza Resolution Sent to Committee
This morning, the Council voted to send Council President Johnson's resolution restricting the Occupy movement's use of City-owned plazas to the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health committee. It was good to a Council Chambers full of so many concerned people and I want to thank so many members of the Occupy movement for attending this morning's Council meeting, and being such a positive force for social change.
I supported the action to refer it back to committee with some reluctance; I would have preferred to simply vote the resolution down this morning. A resolution this substantive should not be sprung on the Council - and, more importantly, the broader community - 24 hours before it is voted on. That practice is fine for honorary resolutions such as those celebrating a longtime employee's years of service, but a resolution creating a new set of rules, backed up by police use of force, in public spaces requires more vetting. This resolution also looked like an effort to change our ordinance without following the process required to do so. Our rules governing how city-owned plazas are used are already codified in our City Ordinances (in Chapters 440.10 and 440.20), and the ordinance amendment process includes a formal notice being given, a vote and referral to a committee on introducing the subject matter, a public hearing at the Committee level and discussion opportunities at both the Council and Committee levels.
At this point it looks like the matter may come back as a formal ordinance change, or perhaps an effort will be made to pass the resolution through the committee. At this point I am not expecting much conversation at the committee but that it will either be referred to staff or that a date for a hearing might be set. I will keep you posted.
What every happens, I intend to vote no on this in committee if a vote is taken, and I will vote no again if it comes back before the full Council. I hope that this morning's vote by the Council majority - over the "no" votes of the author and her allies - is a sign that there are the votes on the Council to stop this effort.
One last note: there were at least four Minneapolis police officers sitting in the hall outside Council Chambers for the entirety of this morning's meeting. That's in addition to the several Municipal Building Commission security guards who were on hand. Assuming that they weren't there on their own time in full uniform, I question the dedication of that much City taxpayer money for that use. The meeting lasted two hours, meaning that we spent a full 8 person-hours on police presence at this morning's meeting, or enough to have one cop out on the street for an entire day. Was this really necessary?