Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Court Decision on the Minimum Wage Charter Amendment Should Not be Appealed

I was very heartened by the decision by Judge Susan Robiner on Monday that the minimum wage charter amendment should be placed on the ballot in Minneapolis. It was a powerful decision, and echoed many of the arguments that I made when opposing the Council majority's decision to keep this amendment off the ballot.
The City of Minneapolis is doing a real disservice to our constituents and our democracy in appealing this decision as reported in the paper. I want to be clear: there has been no formal Council vote to authorize the appeal. The City Attorney has decided to move forward with the appeal under the authorization of the Council vote on August 5th.
I would strongly prefer that we leave this precedent in place. It's a good, pro-democracy ruling that clears up something that seems to have been confusing: the people do indeed get to decide whether a given issue is appropriate to address in the Charter or not, through the process established by state statute (which the campaign has followed to the letter). The idea that an issue is inappropriate to address in the Charter is a *political* question for the campaign (and counter-campaign) to address, not a *legal* question that the City Council has the right to answer on behalf of the people.
And I want to be clear that by appealing this decision, we are forcing this campaign - a campaign led by grassroots organizations, working on behalf of the poorest people in our community - to spend its limited resources fighting the City in court rather than organizing for a win this fall. I have a problem with that. Every dollar spent on legal fees is a dollar not spent on organizers, literature, and the thousand other things necessary to win this campaign in November. (And, because some of the organizations supporting this campaign have a statewide focus, each of the dollars wasted fighting the City in court could be used for progressive change well outside of Minneapolis.)
I wish that we could have let the strong, well-reasoned Robiner ruling stand, embraced the idea that the people of Minneapolis will get to vote on raising wages for the poorest workers in our city this November, and gotten to work on winning that vote. Unfortunately, that has not happened, and that's one of several disappointments I've had with the City as an enterprise throughout this whole discussion of a local minimum wage.
But I have hope that despite these frustrations and disappointments, we are on the path towards greater economic justice by increasing wages for poor workers in our city.
The conclusion of the decision could not be stronger:
"To conclude, the City cannot avoid certain realities that defeat its position:
• No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that general welfare legislation may only be proposed through initiative and referendum;
• No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that “all local municipal functions” means only “the form, structure, and functioning of the municipal government”;
• Minnesota cases have allowed district courts to enjoin elections only where the proposed charter amendment was unconstitutional or conflicted with state law neither of which are even argued by the City; and,
• For a Court to enjoin a ballot initiative based on its content when that proposal has garnered the proper number of signatures and proceeded properly could reasonably be seen as overreaching its specific role under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 and its general role in a government that respects separation of powers."


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