Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is a public policy forum that was established in 2006 by Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his policy aide Robin Garwood to share what they were working on and what life in City Hall was like. After serving 4 terms Cam lost his relection in 2021 but has continued to be involved in local politics and to use this forum to report and share his perspective on public policy. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

(former) CM GORDON AMENDED DRAFT (AUGUST 20, 2021) of CHAPTER 172. - POLICE CONDUCT OVERSIGHT

As the Council is considering a more recent proposal to amend the police conduct ordinance, I humbly offer this work product from last year, which I drafted with the help of some key community advisors and with input from city staff.  The underlining indicates new language and the strikethrough marking indicates language to be removed. I hope that it might be helpful. 


Former CM GORDON's AMENDED DRAFT, AUGUST 20, 2021

 

CHAPTER 172. - POLICE CONDUCT OVERSIGHT[3]

 

Footnotes:

--- (3) ---

Editor's note— Ord. No. 2012-Or-061, § 1, adopted September 21, 2012, amended the title of Ch. 172 from "Civilian Police Review Authority" to "Police Conduct Oversight." See also the Code Comparative Table.


172.10. - Police conduct oversight system established.

For the purposes of (1) assuring that police services are delivered in a lawful and nondiscriminatory manner, (2) assuring that effective accountability for policing is supported through appropriate supervision and management (3) contributing to the Mayor receiving early warning information regarding potential future risk of civil liability (4) providing to the public meaningful participatory oversight of the police and their interactions with the citizenry and (35) investigating complaints of misconduct on the part of officers of the Minneapolis Police Department and making recommendations regarding the merits of such complaints to the Mayor chief of police, there is hereby created an office of police conduct review and a police conduct oversight commission, with duties and authority as described in this chapter. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 90-Or-188, § 1, 7-27-90; 2003-Or-028, § 1, 3-21-03); 2012-Or-061, § 2, 9-21-12)

172.80.20 - Police conduct oversight commission.

(a) Composition. The police conduct oversight commission shall be comprised of a minimum of seven (7) members, four (4) of whom shall be appointed by the city council, and three (3) of whom shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to the approval of a majority of the city council. If more than seven (7) members are appointed to comprise the pool of commission members, the city council shall appoint the eighth member, the mayor the ninth member, subject to approval by a majority of the city council and alternating thereafter. All commissioners shall be appointed in conformance with the open appointments as outlined in Minneapolis Code of Ordinances Title 2, Chapter 14.180. In order to stagger the expiration of terms, the original appointments of commissioners shall be for terms of one (1) or two (2) years, as determined by the city clerk. Thereafter, appointments shall be for two (2) years. A chairperson and vice-chairperson of the commission shall be elected by a majority of the appointed members. In order to stagger the terms of the chairperson and vice-chairperson, the initial appointment of the vice-chairperson shall be for one (1) year. The vice-chairperson shall only have chairperson duties in the absence of the chairperson. In the absence of a chairperson or vice-chairperson, the chairperson or vice-chairperson may designate an acting chairperson to serve until the next board meeting or until a chairperson is duly appointed. If the chairperson or vice-chairperson are unable for any reason to designate an acting chairperson, the commission shall appoint an acting chairperson to serve until the next board meeting or until a chairperson is duly appointed. The acting chairperson shall have full authority to conduct actions of the chairperson. All members shall continue to serve until their successors have been appointed. A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum. Minneapolis Police Department employees shall not participate in any manner in the selection of police conduct oversight commissioners.

(b)  Qualifications. All members shall be residents of the city. Residents currently or previously employed by the Minneapolis Police Department are ineligible to serve as members of the commission. The office of police conduct review may establish additional required qualifications.

(c)  Minimum training requirements.

(1)  All members must participate in an annual training session as arranged by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

(2)  All new members must complete training in the following subject areas as arranged by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights: police use of force, Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Open Meeting law, the Minnesota Public Employee Labor Relations Act, ethics and conflict of interest.

(3)  Within two (2) years of appointment, all new members must complete the portions of the Citizen's Academy as determined by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. Members will be compensated fifty dollars ($50.00) for each Citizen's Academy session attended.

(d)  Removal. Any member of the commission may be removed, by vote of a majority of the city council and approval of the mayor, for incompetence, neglect of duty, misconduct or malfeasance, or failure to participate in and complete minimum training requirements. Any vacancy occasioned by resignation, death, or removal of a member shall be filled for the balance of the unexpired term by appointment by the mayor subject to approval of the city council.

(e)  Compensation—Limitation. Each member shall be paid fifty dollars ($50.00) for each day when the member attends one (1) or more meetings, and shall be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of duties in the same manner and amount as other city boards and commission members. The total amount of per diem and reimbursable expenses payable under this section shall not exceed the total annual budget allocation for such costs.

(f)  Authority. The commission shall meet once every month at a regularly scheduled time and place for the purpose of conducting any business necessary to the operation of the commission, and to assign panels for the subsequent month. The commission may meet at such additional times and places deemed necessary by its members, or on the call of the chairperson. The commission may:

(1)  Conduct programs of research and study, in conjunction with office of police conduct review staff appointed by the director of the office of police conduct review. Research and study includes programs that analyze Minneapolis Police Department practices, internal controls, compliance with applicable law and regulation relating to police policy and procedure and other related matters, to ensure that police services are delivered in a lawful, effective, and nondiscriminatory manner for the purpose of ascertaining how the objectives of this chapter may be attained and sustained. For this purpose, all members of the police conduct oversight commission must have access to all private data which they determine may be relevant, including but not limited to data classified under the MGDPA or other authority as "private", "confidential", or "non-public that is generated by the office of police conduct review.

(2)  Collect, review and audit summary data and compile aggregate statistics relating to programs of research and study such as patterns of behavior related to complaints of police officer misconduct, and present results of such analysis on a periodic basis to the public safety subcommittee of the city council, mayor, and/or chief of police.

(3)  Make recommendations to the city council, mayor, and/or chief of police relating to Minneapolis Police Department officers, practices, internal controls, compliance with applicable law and regulation relating to police policy and procedure and other related matters contained within a program of research and study, or for purposes of potentially providing early warning of risk of civil liability.

(4)  Facilitate outreach and training as a result of the research and study process.

(5)  Regularly meet with the Mayor so as to establish communication about: a) the goals of police oversight generally, b) the impacts of discipline decisions on effective oversight, c) potential civil liability, and d) for  Ccontributing to the performance review appraisal of the chief of police.

(6)  Create and implement a community outreach program and coordinate outreach activities with the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights.

(7)  Submit periodic reports to the public safety subcommittee of the city council regarding the activities of the commission.

(8)  Establish, amend and repeal rules and procedures governing its own internal organization and operations in a manner and form consistent with this Code.

(9)  Form subcommittees to assist in fulfilling its duties and responsibilities.

(10)  Request from the mayor and city council the appointment of such staff as is necessary to carry out the duties of the commission.

(11)  Request from the city attorney the appointment of an independent attorney when the city attorney may be in conflict due to its handling of all civil liability legal defense cases.

(g)  Facilitation of research and study. The director of the office of police conduct review may designate one (1) or more analysts to facilitate the police conduct oversight commission in programs of research and study. The analyst may:

(1)  Conduct periodic research and study directed by the police conduct oversight commission.

(2)  Establish a follow-up process to monitor the disposition of results communicated to the police conduct oversight commission and appraise the commission on the effectiveness of corrective actions taken or the acceptance of the risk of not taking action.

(3)  Submit an annual report to the police conduct oversight commission, mayor and city council indicating research and study projects completed, major findings, corrective actions taken by administrative managers, and significant findings which have not been fully addressed by management.

(4)  Conduct special reviews and programmatic reviews at the request of the mayor, city council, internal auditor, city departments or boards and commissions.

The analyst for the office of police conduct review shall organize and administer programs of research and study to operate without interference or other influence that might adversely affect an independent and objective judgment of the analyst. In the event of alleged or suspected impropriety, fraud, or misappropriation or misuse of city funds, the analyst for the office of police conduct review shall seek advice from the city attorney, the joint supervisors director of civil rights, and, as appropriate, conduct an investigation and report any suspected criminal activity to appropriate law enforcement authorities. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, § 9, 3-21-03; 2012-Or-061, § 9, 9-21-12; Ord. No. 2017-076 , § 1, 12-8-17)

(h) Independent Counsel. In order to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest, the City Attorney shall appoint an independent counsel to advise and support the OPCR and PCOC. There shall be a firewall between the independent counsel and the City Attorney's Office.



172.20.30 - Scope of authority, office of police conduct review. (moved to come under Commission)

The office of police conduct review shall consist of a civilian unit be established under the authority of the director of civil rights, and will not employ any persons with duties that currently are, or formerly were, supervised by the Minneapolis Police Department. and an internal affairs unit under the authority of the chief of police. For duties outlined in this chapter, the director of civil rights, and not the chief of police, shall be construed as to hold Mayoral delegation authority with respect to the city charter. The office shall receive complaints that allege misconduct by an individual police officer or officers involving any of the following:

(1)  Use of excessive force.

(2)  Inappropriate language or attitude.

(3)  Harassment.

(4)  Discrimination in the provision of police services or other discriminatory conduct on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, disability or age or sexual orientation.

(5)  Theft.

(6)  Failure to provide adequate or timely police protection.

(7)  Retaliation.

(8)  Any violation of the Minneapolis Police Department's policy and procedure manual.

(9)  Criminal misconduct. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, § 2, 3-21-03; 2006-Or-064, § 1, 6-16-06; 2006-Or-114, § 1, 10-20-06; 2012-Or-061, § 3, 9-21-12)


172.30. - Complaint filing, preliminary review and investigation.

(a) Complaint filing. Any person who has personal knowledge of alleged misconduct on the part of a Minneapolis police officer may file a complaint with the office of police conduct review by submitting said complaint by means of any readily available method approved by the office. The office shall endeavor to facilitate the complaint filing process by providing multiple and accessible avenues for the filing of complaints. Absent extenuating circumstances deemed sufficient to warrant untimely filing, no person may file a complaint if more than two hundred seventy (270) days have elapsed since the alleged misconduct. Complaints may be filed anonymously.  The office of police conduct review may initiate its own complaint when investigation is warranted and no other complainant has filed.

(b)  Complaint review. All complaints shall be jointly and collaboratively assessed and preliminarily reviewed by supervisory staff of the office from both the civilian unit and the internal affairs unit. A Subject to reconsideration, a complaint may be declined dismissed with no further action required pursuant to the authority and discretion of the office if, on its face, it fails to allege a violation within the purview and jurisdiction of the office. A complaint may also be referred to another more appropriate governmental agency or, in the case of allegations which rise only to a potential "A" level infraction under the police department's adopted discipline matrix, may be referred to a program of mandatory mediation instituted by the office of police conduct review or directly to the officer's supervisor for coaching. Such complaints may also, pursuant to the authority and discretion of the office, be referred for formal investigation pursuant to subsection (c).

(c)  Complaint investigation. All other qualifying complaints shall be formally investigated by the office. through assignment to an investigator or investigators from the civilian unit and/or the internal affairs unit. The office shall endeavor to complete any reviews and investigations as promptly and efficiently as possible. Any complaint alleging criminal misconduct by an officer shall also initially be referred to the internal affairs unit of the Minneapolis Police Department, which will only investigate the criminal charge – directly or through an independent police agency – and, if no charge will be filed, immediately returned to the office of police conduct review for resumption of the personnel misconduct investigation. Complaints not alleging criminal misconduct may be assigned to the civilian unit at the formal request of a complainant. The investigative report shall be in a format designated by the office and all final reports shall be reviewed and approved by supervisory staff. of the office from both the civilian unit and the internal affairs unit. The investigative report shall not include any recommendation or conclusion regarding the merits of the complaint.

(d)  Procedural discretion and decision making. Any procedural issue related to the duties and authority of the office for which supervisory staff from the civilian unit and the internal affairs unit is unable to reach agreement upon shall be referred to the director of civil rights and the chief of police, who shall jointly determine the matter. In the event the director and the chief are unable to resolve the issue, a designee of the mayor may mediate, and if necessary resolve, the issue.

(ed)  Mediation and Restorative Justice. Upon the joint direction of supervisory staff of the office of police conduct review from both the civilian unit and the internal affairs unit, a A complaint may be referred to mandatory mediation or restorative justice, subject to the agreement of the complainant and respondent, and in accordance with administrative rules established by the POLICE CONDUCT OVERSIGHT COMMISSION. upon preliminary review of the complaint or at any other time in the course of investigation when deemed to be appropriate. The mediation shall proceed according to procedures adopted and instituted by the office of police conduct review.  To reflect their professional role as neutral, no Mmediator and or restorative justice facilitator shall be neutral trained mediators unaffiliated with the office of police conduct review, the police conduct oversight commission, the civil rights department, the police department, or[GCA1]  any other department of the City of Minneapolis. 

(fe)  Firewall. Information from investigations shall be shared only with staff assigned to the office of police conduct review and police conduct oversight commission, unless otherwise specifically authorized by law. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, § 3, 3-21-03; 2003-Or-112, § 1, 9-12-03; 2004-Or-068, § 1, 6-18-04; 2009-Or-029, § 1, 3-27-09; 2010-Or-022, § 1, 4-16-10; 2012-Or-061, § 4, 9-21-12)


172.35. - Reserved.

Editor's note— Ord. No. 2003-Or-028, § 4, adopted March 21, 2003, repealed § 172.35, which pertained to compensation—Limitation. See the Code Comparative Table.


172.40. - Review panel procedure.

All final and approved investigative reports shall be forwarded to a review panel for the purpose of making recommendations regarding the merits of the complaint to the chief of police. Mayor.

(1)  Each review panel shall be comprised of four (4) three (3) panelists. Two (2) of the panelists shall be from the pool established in 172.60 (below),  sworn officers of the police department holding the rank of lieutenant or higher assigned by the chief of police or the chief's designee members of the and two (2) the third panelists shall be civilians a member of the police conduct oversight commission, who will serve as the panel’s chair, and be responsible for submitting the written findings adopted by the panel. 

(2)  All panels will be assigned by the director of civil rights or the director's designee. chair of the police conduct oversight commission under parameters and timelines established through administrative rules.The panels shall be scheduled on an as-needed or regular basis by the office of police conduct review. Each panel shall appoint a chair, although the office of police conduct review shall designate whether the chair of each panel shall be a civilian or officer member on a rotating and equal basis.

(3)  The panel shall review and discuss the investigative report but shall and may take no testimony from witnesses or parties unless a request from the panel is specifically approved by the office of police conduct review.

(4)  The panel shall issue its recommendation within three (3) seven (7) business days of the panel review, which shall be returned to the office of police conduct review and promptly forwarded to the Mayor chief of police. The recommendation shall be in a format jointly approved by the office of police conduct review and the police conduct oversight commission, shall be signed by all panelists, and shall include a recommendation as to whether each allegation is supported or not supported by a preponderance of evidence and whether discipline is warranted or not warranted along with reference to the investigative evidence which supports the recommendation. And a The recommendedation may include considerations for range of discipline, including whether transparency goals warrant that discipline should be imposed to ensure a public record of the disposition. Discipline may include all actions taken in response to a sustained complaint, including terminations, suspensions, letters of reprimand, warnings, and coaching terminations, or any other action that is taken in response to the complaint.  Alternatively, the panel may return the investigative report with a request for additional information, which shall be identified with particularity.

(5)  The recommendation shall include the votes of each panelist, and in the event the panel is evenly divided on any recommendation, such division shall be noted may include explanation of internal disagreement.

(6)   The standard of proof necessary to recommend that an allegation be sustained is preponderance of the evidence, which is the same evidence standard applied by civil juries in lawsuits against the city for police misconduct, and therefore supports an early warning process for liability risk. Preponderance of the evidence means that the greater weight of the evidence supports the decision.

 

 

(7)  The office of police conduct review shall provide written notice to the officer of the review panel's recommendation. The office shall provide written notice to the complainant of any allegation not sustained in the review panel's recommendation. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, § 5, 3-21-03; 2012-Or-061, § 5, 9-21-12)


172.50. - Request for reconsideration by complainant.

(a) Within fifteen (15) days of receipt of notification of either 1) a dismissal, or 2) the review a panel's decision recommending that a complaint not be sustained, a complainant may submit a written request for reconsideration to the office of police conduct review.

(b)   Reconsideration of a dismissal will be reviewed by the chair of the police conduct oversight commission (or delegate), who will have discretion whether to bring the matter to a vote of all members of the police conduct oversight commission.

(bc)  Any request for rReconsideration of a panel decision, shall be jointly and collaboratively reviewed by supervisory staff of the office of police conduct review and the chair of the police conduct oversight commission (or delegate). from both the civilian unit and the internal affairs unit. If the review determines that the request for reconsideration alleges newly discovered and relevant evidence or information not previously available to the complainant panel, the complaint may be remanded for additional investigation by office staff and reconsideration by the designated review panel. The review panel may sustain, reject or modify its prior recommendation regarding the complaint. Alternatively, the complaint and new evidence or information may be forwarded directly to the chief of police pursuant to section 172.70.

(cd)  The office of police conduct review shall provide written notification to the officer of the request for reconsideration and its outcome. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, § 6, 3-21-03; 2012-Or-061, § 6, 9-21-12)


172.60. - Review panel civilian appointments.

(a) Composition. The pool of civilian review panelists shall be comprised of a minimum of seven (7) members, four (4) of whom shall be appointed by the city council, and three (3) of whom shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to the approval of a majority of the city council. If more than seven (7) members are appointed to comprise the pool of civilian review panelists, the city council shall appoint the eighth member, the mayor the ninth member, subject to approval by a majority of the city council, and alternating thereafter. All civilian review panel members shall be appointed in conformance with the open appointments as outlined in Minneapolis Code of Ordinances Title 2, Chapter 14.180, except as provided in this section. In order to stagger the expiration of terms, the original appointments of civilian panelists shall be for terms of two (2), three (3) or four (4) years, as determined by the city clerk. Thereafter, appointments shall be for four (4) years. Minneapolis Police Department employees shall not participate in any manner in the selection of review panelists.

(b)  Qualifications. All members shall be residents of the city. Individuals currently or previously employed by the Minneapolis Police Department are ineligible to serve as members of the pool. The office of police conduct review may establish additional required qualifications.

(c)  Minimum training requirements.

(1)  All members must participate in an annual training session as arranged by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

(2)  All new members must complete training in the following subject areas as arranged by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights: police use of force, Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Open Meeting law, the Minnesota Public Employee Labor Relations Act, ethics and conflict of interest.

(3)  Within two (2) years of appointment, all new members must complete the portions of the Citizen's Academy as determined by the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. Members will be compensated fifty dollars ($50.00) for each Citizen's Academy session attended.

(d)  Removal. Any member of the review panel pool may be removed, by vote of a majority of the city council and approval of the mayor, for incompetence, neglect of duty, misconduct or malfeasance, or failure to participate in and complete minimum training requirements. Any vacancy occasioned by resignation, death, or removal of a member shall be filled for the balance of the unexpired term by appointment by the mayor subject to approval of the city council.

(e)  Compensation—Limitation. Each civilian member shall be paid fifty dollars ($50.00) for each day when the member attends one (1) or more meetings or panel reviews, and shall be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of duties in the same manner and amount as other city boards and commission members. The total amount of per diem, payment for file review, and reimbursable expenses payable under this section shall not exceed the total annual budget allocation for such costs. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, §§ 7, 8, 3-21-03; 2012-Or-061, § 7, 9-21-12)


172.70. - Disciplinary decision by the Mayor.

Upon conclusion of the panel review process, the office of police conduct review shall forward the investigatory file and panel recommendation to the Mayor chief of police for the Mayor’s determination of discipline, which shall be made within thirty (30) days of receipt, subject to the following exception: if the subject employee could be subject to discipline that requires a pre-discipline hearing, and that employee is on statutorily-protected leave for any period during the thirty (30) days following receipt of the panel recommendation, the deadline is tolled during the time that the employee is on statutorily-protected leave. Once the statutorily-protected leave ends, the chief must make a disciplinary decision within thirty (30) days of the end of statutorily-protected leave. The Mayor, upon making his or her determination of discipline, shall return the determination and file to the office of police conduct review. For any allegation which the review panel recommends to be supported by a majority vote, the chief shall notify the review panel and the office of the reasons for such determination through issuance of a written memorandum explaining the basis for the decision, including the relevant facts, policies and law supporting the decision. To the extent permitted by Minnesota Statutes, Section 13.43 and other applicable law, the police department shall make the decision and memorandum immediately available to the public via a departmental or city website and shall make copies available for physical inspection. If the disciplinary determination required pursuant to this section is not timely issued the complainant shall be entitled to a remedy from the police department consisting of a two hundred dollar ($200.00) penalty payment, with such penalty doubling in amount upon each subsequent thirty-day delinquency. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2012-Or-061, § 8, 9-21-12; Ord. No. 2020-045 , § 1, 8-14-20)

172.85. - Confidentiality.

The members, staff, and contractors of the office of police conduct review and the police conduct oversight commission shall comply with all of the provisions of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Chapter 13 of Minnesota Statutes. All members and contractors, paid and volunteer, shall sign a contract agreeing to comply with the provisions of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, currently Chapter 13 of Minnesota Statutes. In return, the city will afford to such member or contractor the same legal protection that any other agent or employee of the city receives who performs duties within the scope of employment. (2006-Or-114, § 2, 10-20-06; 2012-Or-061, § 10, 9-21-12)


172.90. - Requirement of cooperation by the Minneapolis Police Department and all other city employees and officials.

Office of police conduct review staff shall have full, free and unrestricted access, to the extent authorized by law, to the records of the Minneapolis Police Department in order to conduct investigations of police misconduct; facilitate research and study projects for the police conduct oversight commission; and conduct special reviews and programmatic reviews at the request of the mayor, city council, internal auditor, city departments, or boards and commissions. The failure by any official or employee of the Minneapolis Police Department or by any other City of Minneapolis employee or official to comply with lawful requests for information or access shall be deemed an act of misconduct. (90-Or-043, § 1, 1-26-90; 2003-Or-028, § 10, 3-21-03; 2012-Or-061, § 11, 9-21-12; Ord. No. 2017-076 , § 2, 12-8-17)


172.95—172.190. - Reserved.

Editor's note— Ord. No. 2012-Or-061, §§ 12—23, repealed §§ 172.95 through 172.190, which pertained to Civilian Police Review Authority. See also the Code Comparative Table.


 [GCA1]

Monday, July 25, 2022

City Government Restructuring On the Fast Track

 The mayor and city council are moving quickly to restructure city government.  Perhaps too quickly.

Substantial ordinance amendments, which have yet to be shared with the public, could be approved by the end of August. The timeline presented by Mayor Jacob Frey in June called for the public hearing on August 4 and approval on August 20.

Some of it is already underway.

On June 30, the Council approved two new executive positions: a Community Safety Commissioner and a Chief Operation Officer to replace the City Coordinator

Ordinances amendments were approved to create the position of City Operations Officer, with a salary of $269,943 to $320,000 and the position of Community Safety Commissioner, with a salary of $295,250 to $350,000. Both salaries exceed the cap of $192,144 imposed by state law and will require a waiver. Both positions will report to the mayor. 

The City Operations Officer will oversee the proposed new Office of Public Service which would include the 311/Service Center, City Assessor, Civil Rights Department, Communications, Community Planning & Economic Development, Finance & Property Services, the Health Department, Human Resources, Information Technology, Intergovernmental Relations, Minneapolis Convention Center, Neighborhood & Community Relations, Public Works and Regulatory Services.

Then, on July 7, Mayor Frey announced his nomination of Cedric Alexander for the new position of Community Safety Commissioner.  As proposed, the commissioner would oversee the new Office of Community Safety, which would include the fire and police departments, 911, the office of emergency management, and a new office of neighborhood safety that will replace, or possibly include, the office of violence prevention now housed in the health department. Alexander will be considered for the position by the City Council at their August 4 meeting following a hearing on the 2nd. 

The Council also approved adding a City Auditor position to the Audit Department and increased the department’s budget by $75,000 to do so.

When Frey announced his selection of Cedric Alexander for the safety commissioner, he said that government restructuring is “the most important thing I will probably ever do as mayor.”

Council Member Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) has given notice that she is authoring the restructuring amendments to repeal Chapters 17, 21, and 25 that relate to the offices of City Attorney, Internal Auditor, and City Coordinator and adding new chapters to “provide for the government structure and its Executive and Administrative Departments, including the offices of Public Service, City Attorney, and Community Safety” consistent with the mayor’s plan.

Presently, and historically, 10 departments have reported jointly to the Mayor and Council. The proposed reorganization reduces the number reporting directly to the mayor to 4 and limits the departments reporting directly to the Council to two. The City Attorney is one of the 4 who will report to the mayor but their relationship to the council is unclear.  

Some council members are concerned. 

Council Members Elliot Payne (Ward 1) and Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5) said that they are concerned about a lack of resources to support the work of the city council as the legislative body.  Council Member Jason Chavez (Ward 9) said he “still believes the pathway forward is through a charter change.” Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw (Ward 4) said that she “is afraid some departments, like health, will be lost.” “We have to be mindful that council still plays a role in approving department heads and that we don’t have a dilution of financial oversight.” Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12) said. He wants to ensure that there is no change in the level of financial authority currently held by the council.  

“Question one has been implemented for nearly 7 months, there is no reason to rush this process,” said Council Member Robin Wonsley (ward 2), who was the lone “no” vote on approving the new positions. “I know the public wants to be involved in charting a path forward for our city.”

At the June 18 council meeting, she asked the mayor about community engagement on the proposal, and he highlighted the 2021 campaign and his work group. That work group was established in late 2021 without a single current, or newly elected, Council Member serving on it. None of its meetings were open to the public.  In 2021 Question #1 won with 52.4% of the vote and was defeated in 6 out of the 7 wards.

“The Mayor could take the time to work with Council and the public to shape an equitable transparent restructure package, instead he is rushing through an ordinance process to avoid public scrutiny,” Wonsley wrote following that meeting. “The current proposal lacks robust programs and resources on the legislative side that Council needs to best serve constituents.”

About lack of public participation, she said, “For comparison, the city did a multi-phased engagement process for the city’s Transportation Action Plan that received thousands of comments and created a process that allowed the public to see how their feedback shaped adjustments in the proposals,” she said. “The guiding principles of this government structure were offered by the Mayor’s Government Structure Work Group and the public safety plan was based on recommendations from the Mayor’s Public Safety Work Group. Both Work Groups were handpicked by the Mayor and met behind closed doors with little to no opportunity for public comment. This is not how elected leaders should be making decisions when credibility and public trust is at an all-time low, the public deserves better.”

Wonsley also raised concerns about the lack of any independent legal counsel to advise Council Members.

Given the many concerns raised by council members, the potential significance of this restructuring to further divide and eliminate checks and balances in our government the council could decide to take a slower and more inclusive process going forward.   If not, it could be written, approved, and enacted into law by the end of the month.  

 

Aggressive Solicitation: selective enforcement

This was a formerly unpublished blog from my first term in office.  Since both Don and Paul are running this year for other offices, I decided to publish it now. 

While I was working hard in 2006 and 7 to decriminalize poverty, othere were doubling down and not willing to be concerned about unfair and biased enforcement. 

There was another aspect of the speeches made by my colleagues who are supportive of the Remington/Ostrow amendment to further criminalize panhandling which I found distrubing. CMs Paul Ostrow and Don Samuels both, in different ways, stated that the proposed ordinance was going to be selectively enforced but concluded that that's ok.
Here's CM Ostrow:
“There’s a longstanding doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, and in every single law that’s ever been written, there are circumstances where the prosecutor and the police can say: ‘this is not an appropriate situation to apply the ordinance.’ So while I think that Council Member Gordon has pointed out some questions about where, perhaps, one might apply this ordinance, I don’t think, in the real world, that those are going to create real challenges in terms of the application of this ordinance. I think to some extent we do – the best of ordinances unreasonably applied are unreasonable. And I think we at some point have to have some faith that the ordinances we pass will in fact be reasonably applied, and I think that should go for this particular ordinance as well.”
We must understand that Council Member Ostrow’s “prosecutorial discretion” is code for selective enforcement. The message is very clear: don’t worry. If you’re white, if you look like you have money, if you have a home, if you’re middle-aged, this ordinance will not be used against you. No one will advocate arresting you for violating this ordinance if you need spare change for a meter. If you’re a candidate for office and you violate this ordinance, you won’t be arrested. We all know who this ordinance is designed to target: people without homes, people without money, people addicted to drugs or alcohol, people with mental illness, people of color. People who look scruffy. This is the “reasonableness” that Ostrow is talking about. “Reasonable” police officers and prosecutors know that my mother-in-law, though she is breaking the letter of the law, is not the kind of person the law was intended to target, and therefore it would be “unreasonable” to enforce it against her. This is selective enforcement, this is profiling based on race and class, and this is both morally wrong and bad public policy.
CM Samuels spoke of our "squeamishness" to pass laws that we know will be enforced against the have-nots, the poor, the homeless, the black. But he exhorted us to get over this squeamishness and pass laws that we know are intended to be selectively enforced, because we must "incentivize" those who are panhandling now to participate in our outreach programs.
I believe that when we pass laws making certain acts illegal, we must be very clear that the act itself is wrong, no matter who is engaging in it.
I believe that the Council did a good job meeting that standard with the existing Aggressive Solicitation ordinance. Badgering and intimidating someone for money is a destructive act. Swearing and berating people who refuse to give money is wrong. People who are in a line, a sidewalk cafe, a crosswalk or an ATM can't get away, and shouldn't be targeted for solicitation. The City can defensibly state that the existing code criminalizes clearly bad acts, and we should expect equal enforcement across the board.
The proposed ordinance does not meet this standard, and Ostrow and Samuels' speeches asking us to trust that the police and prosecutors will be "reasonable" in exercising their "prosecutorial discretion," and exhorting us to get over the squeamishness we may feel about enacting laws that are intended to be selectively enforced make this perfectly clear.
So don't worry, middle class homeowners. This law is not intended to be used on you. It's for those other kinds of people, you know who. The poor, the homeless, the scruffy, the nonwhite, the "creeps."
Race and class-based profiling isn't a few bad apples. It comes right down from the top.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

On the Mpls 2040 Lawsuit

 On June 15, Judge Joseph R. Klein ordered the City to immediately stop “any ongoing implementation of the 2040 Plan” until the City satisfies the requirements of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA)” which could include completing an environmental assessment.

On June 20, the city filed an appeal.

The case has been brought forward by Smart Growth Minneapolis, formed, it seems, to oppose the plan as a “non-profit organization 100% funded by individual donations.” Their president is John C. Goetz, and their legal team includes Jack Perry, Maren Grier and Thomas Basting all from Briggs & Morgan, we well as former mayoral candidate Nekima Levy Armstrong, and Timothy J. Keane. Smart Growth has been joined in the lawsuit by the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds. No other environmental groups are part of the lawsuit, although one headed by former Council Member Diane Hofstede, the Great River Coalition, is listed on their website a third “partner and friend.”

The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan was adopted as required by state law under the Metropolitan Land Planning Act, approved by the City Council and submitted it to the Metropolitan Council in December of 2018. It went into effect on January 1, 2020,

This followed extensive community input and controversy over one strategy in particular: the fifth strategy under the first policy (Access to Housing) that said, “In neighborhood interiors farthest from downtown that today contain primarily single-family homes, achieve greater housing supply and diversity by allowing small scale residential structures with up to three dwelling units on an individual lot.”

There were concerns at the time that neighborhoods would be destroyed, “bulldozed” or gentrified and that single-family homes would be abolished.

“Our lawsuit,” says Smart Growth’s website, “provides the only chance to compel the City to properly environmentally scrutinize its Plan and respond accordingly.”

That lawsuit is focused on the potential harms resulting from more density of housing. The judge’s decision is based almost exclusively on a Sunde Engineering report commissioned by Smart Growth and written by Kristen Pauly. That report assumes a large scale build out of new houses and apartments, which could possibly result in up to 150,000 new housing units. “The Pauly Report,” Klein wrote, “concludes that potential environmental impacts are likely to occur and that the 2040 plan largely ignores those impacts, lacks an analysis of the impact on the environment, and does not provide for specific design criteria or measures which would mitigate adverse environmental impacts.” According to the report, these impacts could include increased traffic and noise, decreased air quality, water quality and tree coverage as well as negative impacts on bird and other wildlife habitat.

Klein noted in his written decision that the City Attorney failed to provide a substantial rebuttal to the claims made in the report, and that “this unfortunate strategy has left the City bereft of any fact-based rebuttal or affirmative defense, the type of which is called for under MERA.”

The plan, however, has environmental impacts and concerns woven in throughout its 14 goals, 11 topic areas, 100 policies, and roughly 700 strategies. Of the 14 goals at least two (clean environment and climate resilience) are almost exclusively focused on the natural environment. Of the 11 topic areas, at

least 2 (environmental systems and parks and open spaces) are environmentally focused. Of the 100 policies at least 19 stand out because of their focus on addressing environmental issues. Regarding birds, among its over 600 strategies, 6 specifically mention protecting them or improving their habitat.

The plan’s priority on the natural environment may be one of the reasons why a some prominent local environmental organizations support it and why they are worried now that lawsuit is less about protecting birds and preserving their habitat, and more about protecting segregated areas and preserving them for the wealthy.

“Mpls 2040 also addresses equity and the city’s history of housing segregation in important ways. Minneapolis has a long history of redlining and racial segregation that has kept low-income communities and people of color on the fringes.” The Sierra Club’s Catherine Pokorny and Joshua Houdek wrote after it was passed, “restrictive deed covenants, racially isolated public housing projects, and discriminatory rental and real estate practices were used by landlords and real estate developers to segregate sections of Minneapolis based on race. Although these practices are now illegal, they facilitated the development of institutionalized racial inequalities that persist in the city today. Mpls 2040 takes crucial steps to dismantle these historical inequities by upzoning has the potential to allow new people of all races and income levels to move into all neighborhoods across the city.”

“The Minneapolis 2040 Plan is recognized nationally as a leading policy for promoting affordable housing, climate resilience, and racial justice” said MN350’s Ulla Nilsen after the judge released his decision. “Opponents claim the plan will harm the environment, but the environmental benefits of planning for and making progress on denser housing and lessening reliance on cars are clear. Cleaner air will especially benefit Black, brown and Indigenous communities that have dealt with larger negative health impacts from our city’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

The judge’s order provided 60 days for the City to respond and invited them to make their case to “rebut” the Smart Growth arguments and address flaws in the report or offer an affirmative defense. Instead, they chose to appeal the decision. The city could win on their appeal but to do so they may need to be better prepared than they have been so far.

“We expect the city of Minneapolis to mount a more vigorous defense of Minneapolis 2040,” said Nilsen, “including more documentation of its significant environmental and health benefits.”

Saturday, April 23, 2022

East Phllips Urban Farm vs Public Works Hiawatha Campus Expansion

On March 10, supporters of the East Phillips Urban Farm project were celebrating.

An 8-5 majority of the Minneapolis City Council had just approved a motion by 9th Ward Council Member Jason Chavez which rescinded the 2021 compromise that allowed the city to demolish the Roof Depot building at 1860 E. 28th St.

The motion halted any demolition and construction on the site until the East Phillips neighborhood, and potentially others, could make formal proposals for the reuse of the building.

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) called it “historic action to review formal proposals for the Roof Depot Building,” adding that “this victory signals that Minneapolis is prepared to begin to undo decades of harm it has caused to neighborhoods like East Phillips.”

But the celebration didn’t last long.

On March 11, Mayor Frey vetoed the Chavez resolution. On March 24, the council failed to get the nine votes required to override it, on a 7-6 vote.

“I’m disappointed in this veto and feel for my community that it continues to have to prove its worth,” wrote Chavez. “We had an opportunity to build the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm.”

In his veto letter, Frey listed many issues that, if addressed, he said could lead him to sign something in the future. These included using the term “suspend” rather than “rescind,” as well as needing more details on how to recover the $14 million already spent on community engagement, design, regulatory approvals, costs, organizational models, sources of funding, environmental remediation, alternative locations for the proposed public facility and more.

And this is only the latest setback in the long struggle between community advocates and the city, and within city government, to resolve how this site should be used in the future.

It is little wonder that the decision is difficult – both sides have admirable goals and strong cases to make.
Supporters of the Hiawatha facility expansion, including city staff, are quick to point out the need to replace a 100-year-old inadequate water distribution facility, the benefits of consolidating staff, and improved and more efficient service for water distribution maintenance, street maintenance and sewer maintenance. It could also remediate pollution, improve stormwater management, be solar-ready and add electric vehicle infrastructure.

One outspoken Southside resident advocating for the expansion is Bob Friddle, former City of Minneapolis director of facilities design and construction in the property services division. Before leaving his job with the city, he was responsible for hiring the design team and construction manager and leading the master planning and design effort between them and public works, overseeing cost estimating, demolition and environmental cleanup planning.

“The mayor and Council members are responsible for the whole city and its care and employees,” he wrote following the March council action. “This plan, which actually originated over twenty years ago in a study in 1990, would allow better care of equipment, employees and better service maintenance.”

Supporters of the EPNI plan envision a model for sustainable and resilient development that includes job training, living-wage jobs, aquaponic year-round food production, affordable family housing, a coffee shop run by neighborhood youth, community kitchen, cultural markets, bicycle shops and more.

“The East Phillips Urban Farm can be a healing center reconnecting Indigenous people to the land, and to help reverse the trauma of ongoing genocide through racist urban planning,” EPNI said in its press release.
The recent actions by the council and mayor still leave issues unresolved. Litigation brought by EPNI is expected to go to mediation in April. The city plans to continue with design work this spring and with demolition of the Roof Depot building late this summer and the council will need to approve bids for demolition and for the construction planned for 2023.

Chavez is not giving up. “My office is in close conversations with community members in East Phillips, Council Member Johnson, Council Member Koski, Mayor Frey, city staff, and my colleagues on next steps, with a hope of bringing something back at the next full council meeting that will give my community a shot,” he said.

Perhaps now, with a new council and eight council members calling for a fresh look at the project, with the mediation coming in April and with a new director of public works, there is an opening for both sides to compromise and accomplish some, if not all, of their worthy goals.
Two things to start with might be the council’s March 10 resolution and EPNI’s proposal they made in November of 2017 (https://www.eastphillipsneighborhoodinstitute.org/our-current-proposal). That proposal saves and reuses part of the building, buffers the residential neighborhood on the west with new mixed-use development and provides meaningful jobs, a source for fresh organic food, and includes room for a new public works facility.

Project History 

 

1991 – Public Works Comprehensive Facility Master Plan includes expansion at Hiawatha Facility

2001 – City Council authorizes discussions with Roof Depot for acquisition 

2010 – Phase 1 of the Hiawatha Master Plan is complete with remodel of north end of the site 

2015, June -  city council votes 10-3 to move forward with negotiations for a purchase agreement on the Roof Depot site.  

2016, February – City Council voted 9 – 4 (with Frey voting no) to purchase of Roof Depot building, Cano Calls Deal ‘Institutional Racism’ 

2017 – Star Tribune: Neighborhood Group wants aquaponics farms, bike shop and cafe at East Phillips site 

2018, December – City Council approves master plan to demolish the building and build a new facility with lengthy staff direction by Cano

2020 February – Senator Jeff Hayden’s Letter to the Minneapolis City Council

2020 March – Clyde Bellecourt, “Keith Ellison, Crisis in Phillips! Join us in mutual pursuit of justice!" 

2020, June  – EPNI vs. City of Minneapolis Complaint

August 18th, 2021 –A committee of the full city council votes 7–5 to reverse plans to expand its Hiawatha public works campus on the Roof Depot site in south Minneapolis. A  second provision, however, fails on a 6-6 vote that would have awarded rights to the property to the nonprofit East Phillips Neighborhood Institute.  

2021 – October - City Council, on a 7 – 6 vote, approves revised compromise master plan, setting aside approximately 3 acres for community development, neighborhood groups oppose compromise Minneapolis City Council approves compromise with water yard plan for Roof Depot site, that approve demolition of the building and sets aside 3 acres for other uses.

2022 – March 10 – Council, on an 8 – 5 vote, rescinds 2021 approval and approves accepting proposals for reuse of building 

2022 – March 11 – Mayor vetoes March 10 Council action. 

2022 – March 24 – The City Council fails to get the nine votes required to override the veto, on a 7-6 vote.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Looking back at 2021 and the 16 years in office

A national Green party publication (Green Pages) asked me to write something about my 16 years in office and Mike Feinstein wrote a 2021 election recap and dedicated a good chunk of space to Minneapolis in general, Samantha’s victory, and, at the end, to me, my last campaign and some of my time in office.  

Here are the links -  

https://greenpagesnews.org/green-governance/ 

https://greenpagesnews.org/greens-think-globally-run-locally-green-party-2021-election-year-in-review/ 

Here is the text from my article looking back at my time in office:

By Cam Gordon, Green Party of Minnesota and 4 term Minneapolis City Council Member

This January I concluded a 16-year run as the sole Green Party City Council Member in Minneapolis. As I did so, I also ended my experiment in Green governance. 

When I took to the campaign trail in the early 2000s, I was convinced that Green values provided a solid foundation for governing. As a founding member of the Green Party of Minnesota, I was already familiar with the Green Party. In 2005 in my campaign for City Council I told the voters, “Our values of social and economic justice, grassroots democracy, nonviolence and ecological wisdom offer a clear compass to help strengthen what works in our city and lead us to creative solutions for the future.” That November, once elected, I had the opportunity to test my theory.

For the next four terms I relied on the 10 key values to guide my work. While it was often an uphill journey with mixed results, using them, and working with others, met with some success. 

Our work on Grassroots Democracy led to Minneapolis being the first city in Minnesota to successfully pass and implement Ranked Choice Voting. It helped expand early voting and improve and diversify neighborhood groups. It led to expanded representation on city advisory boards, and the creation of new ones including the Housing Advisory Committee, the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Energy Vision Advisory Committee, the Food Council, and the Green Zones Task Forces.

Our focus on Social and Economic Justice helped pass the state’s first local minimum wage law, the wage theft ordinance, and requirements for safe and sick time off. It helped repeal New Jim Crow laws like “lurking,” and pass a resolution calling out institutional racism and committing to end it. It resulted in a Racial Equity Action plan, a new Office of Race and Equity and a required Racial Equity Assessment for all Council Actions. 

To prioritize Ecological Wisdom, we declared a climate emergency, adopted a Social Cost of Carbon, and designated environmental justice Green Zones. We invested in clean energy, green roofs, trees, and pollinator-friendly landscaping practices. We expanded recycling and composting and approved a Zero Waste Plan. We passed a Complete Streets policy and transportation plan resulting in a network of protected bikeways, dedicated bus lanes and an array of pedestrian safety improvements. 

The value of Nonviolence helped the City take a public health approach to violence prevention, the development of a Youth Violence Prevention Plan, the creation of an Office of Violence Prevention, and the use of mobile behavioral crisis teams as an alternative response to 911 calls. 

Green values influenced the well-publicized passage of the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan in 2019, prior to the pandemic and police murder of George Floyd. This was a high point for a “progressive” surge in Minneapolis politics that peaked with the election of a clear progressive majority to the Council in 2017. During that time, the Council approved a new mission statement and goals that, like the 2040 Plan, had racial equity, social and economic justice and environmental sustainability front and center. The City’s mission statement we passed that term begins with, “Our City government takes strategic action to address climate change, dismantle institutional injustice and close disparities in health, housing, public safety and economic opportunities…”              

One of the biggest lessons I learned along the way, however, is that the values are not only useful in determining what I worked on and why, but also in guiding the way I worked. 

First was the need to be Future Focused. Especially in the early years, even as I was on the end of losing votes, I needed to keep long term goals in mind. I was constantly planting seeds, articulating my hopes, making my intentions and goals known, and thinking about how some small action today could be laying the track for moving us in a better direction. This might take the form of a brief comment, or a small question during a staff report. Later it might mean building that into a staff direction to get a report, that might initiate a study session, then a pilot program and ultimately (sometimes years later as in the case of Rent Stabilization) a new city law or the creation of a new program.

As an elected official it was also my obligation to represent all the people in my ward. To do that I had to place my faith in grassroots democracy. I worked to be accessible, and share my views and reasons for supporting and opposing things. I listened, talked, and sometimes argued my points. I brought people together and was open to delaying action to get more input and address concerns. Increasing public participation and working to be accountable was key to winning acceptance and support. 

A challenging value to put into practice was Respect for Diversity. As an elected official I often faced political diversity. The diversity of views and approaches in community, among staff and among elected colleagues can be significant. There is both diversity of style and substance, and as you learn to appreciate each person’s priorities and perspectives it becomes easier to adjust one’s own approach to working with them. By respecting the diversity of concerns, a policy proposal may be improved as well as more likely be implemented in the end. Sometimes respect for diversity meant just accepting the difference, respecting the individual and the relationship. 

The value of nonviolence helped me stay calm and rational even when being passionate. It reminded me to separate the issue or the policy from the person, and be willing to cooperate and be compassionate even with adversaries. The value of Feminism helped me to resist the tendency towards using power and domination and remember the benefits of sharing power with others and letting others lead. Finding myself in a government body with protocols clearly inherited from a social system based on domination and control of others, it was a challenge to forge more humane and cooperative ways to work. The value of decentralization helped me to conserve my influence and energy, to be willing to yield to, trust, step aside or join community members, staff, neighborhood associations and other colleagues – especially when their efforts didn’t conflict with, or supported, my values. 

If there is a Green way of governing, for me, it was based on fully and publicly owning, using and relying on our key values proudly and openly both on the campaign and at work when I was in office. It was based on using them to guide not only what I did and why I did it, but also, mindfully, to guide how I did it.