Support for public safety charter change grows among elected officials of color in Minnesota



Elected officials at the federal, state, and county levels weigh in on the most controversial voting point in Minneapolis in years: the Public Safety Charter Amendment.

On November 2, residents of Minneapolis will vote on a list of proposals on government structure, rent stabilization and a redesigned public safety service. Voters in the city, of course, include state and county officials, some of whom have publicly expressed their stance on measuring the public safety ballot ahead of the election.

The proposal would amend the city’s charter, which currently requires the existence of a police service with a minimum number of officers based on population. If passed, the city would instead create a Department of Public Safety and a new public health approach to safety.

The Sahan Journal contacted federal, state and county officials who represent Minneapolis residents by phone or email about their positions on the public safety ballot measure, and reviewed their public statements on the matter.

The Sahan Journal found that the majority of elected officials who openly support the ballot issue are people of color. But prominent elected officials have warned that ethnicity or race may not be the reason for an official’s position.

Credit: Aala Abdullahi | Sahan’s Journal

“I’ve been on this issue for some time and my experience tells me we need to change the status quo,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “Other people may have different experiences, and maybe their experiences are not just related to their ethnic or racial background. But I do not know.

JaNaé Bates is the communications director of Yes 4 Minneapolis, the main organizing group for the electoral measure. Bates told the Sahan Journal that the current police infrastructure excludes contributions from communities of color.

“The issue of public safety has the most impact on communities of color and, most certainly, they are the first to feel it,” said Bates. “It makes sense that elected officials of color are more willing that communities of color have a say in public safety and how those decisions are made.”

While we’ve detailed our findings below, we’ll update elected officials’ responses before election day if they choose to voice their position on the public safety ballot measure.

“We must make a structural change”

Ellison was one of the early supporters of the charter change. He tweeted on August 31 that he would vote “for greater public safety and more human rights for all”.

“I support him because we have had literally decades of tragic police-community interactions,” Ellison told the Sahan Journal. “If we ever want to change this dynamic, we have to make a structural change. “

As Attorney General, Ellison plays a key role in the state’s criminal justice system. The Attorney General’s office provides legal representation to more than 100 state agencies, boards and commissions. He represents the State of Minnesota in state and federal courts. Ellison added that he has previously represented victims of excessive force. Police brutality is an issue he has struggled with since he was a law student.

Her son, Jeremiah Ellison, who represents the Fifth Ward on Minneapolis City Council, also supports the charter amendment and voted for a similar proposal last year.

Yes 4 Minneapolis hosted an event on Sunday featuring U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, Ellison and other elected officials.

Ellison announced his support the same day Ilhan published an opinion piece in the Star Tribune.

“The constraints and failures of the city’s current charter got us to this point,” Ilhan wrote. “The charter amendment would allow the people of Minneapolis to deploy qualified professionals to serve the city we live in today, not 60 years ago.”

Other senior Democratic officials who represent Minneapolis, such as Governor Tim Walz and U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have expressed concerns about amending the public safety charter. Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan did not respond to Sahan Journal requests for comment in time for publication.

“After many conversations, I have concluded that Amendment # 2 does not address the major public safety issues we face and may well point us in the wrong direction,” Smith said in a mailed statement. electronic October 18.

Public safety is also a conversation for state officials

Two weeks before election day, Yes 4 Minneapolis tweeted about statements of support from nine state lawmakers and one county commissioner.

In State House, Representative Esther Agbaje (DFL-Minneapolis) told the Sahan Journal that experiencing George Floyd’s murder and the COVID-19 pandemic had shown her the need for a holistic public safety system.

As a resident of Minneapolis, Agbaje said she decided to vote like any other individual in the city. But she also recognizes her platform as a representative of the state.

“It’s a conversation that comes up in almost any setting I’m in,” Agbaje said. “What is the fate of public safety? What does public safety mean to people? How do they imagine it?

Agbaje said she sees the issue as a liability issue. Police would exist under the aegis of a public security department, Agbaje said, but mental health professionals and non-police traffic officers would also be responsible.

“We have to follow the example of the people,” Agbaje said. “We know there are people out there who have researched this – who have been through this – and I think it’s up to us to meet people where they are about it. “

Like the city as a whole, Agbaje said his colleagues were also divided on the ballot issue.

Although she said she hasn’t noticed more vocal support from other lawmakers of color, she has noticed that support is higher among younger lawmakers.

Other state lawmakers of color supporting the ballot measure include: Representatives Fue Lee, Aisha Gomez, Mohamud Noor, Hodan Hassan, Patricia Torres Ray and Senators Omar Fateh and Kari Dziedzic.

In an emailed statement to the Sahan Journal, Dziedzic said she was urging the Minneapolis city council and mayor to listen to diverse voices across the city and integrate their ideas into a new public safety system.

“I look forward to hearing these ideas and working with members of the Capitol Hill community to pass the necessary changes to the legislature to improve public safety,” Dziedzic said.

Representatives Frank Hornstein, Jamie Long, Emma Greenman and Senators Bobby Joe Champion and Scott Dibble did not respond in time for the post.

Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley is also a supporter of the measure of the public safety ballot.

County Commissioners Marion Greene and Irene Fernando did not respond in time for the post.

“I am approaching this issue as a resident of southern Minneapolis, where I was born and raised,” Conley told the Sahan Journal, “as someone who lives five blocks away. where George Floyd was assassinated “.

While Conley said she had expressed support for measuring the ballot “first and foremost as a resident,” she added that she holds a unique position as a county commissioner since her district is the only one in Hennepin County to be located entirely in the city of Minneapolis.

Conley said she was voting for a public safety service because it would encompass a “strong and healthy public health response” that includes police, mental health professionals and social workers. Conley herself has a bachelor’s degree in social work.

“It was the culmination of years of lack of confidence in the police service from people like me who are black, who have black children who might one day be accosted,” said Conley.



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