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After two vetoes from the mayor, Minneapolis City Council approves ballot question to replace MPD

The council had to work quickly Friday as it faced an 11:59 deadline and two vetoes from Mayor Jacob Frey.
Minneapolis City Hall

The Minneapolis City Council has approved the ballot language that will ask voters in November if they want to replace the Minneapolis Police Department, despite two vetoes from the mayor.

With a looming deadline at 11:59 p.m., the council passed its final language Friday evening. Much of the debate surrounding the ballot question regarded an “explanatory note” that outlined elements of the proposal.

Last month, the council approved ballot language that asked voters if MPD should be replaced with a new department of public safety that would employ a “comprehensive public health approach.”

The new department of public safety would eliminate staffing requirements for officers laid out in the city’s charter.

The push to replace MPD comes as the department is in the middle of a federal civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice following the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd.

The original question read:

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to strike and replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach, and which would include licensed peace officers (police officers) if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety, with the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot?

But a note under the ballot question also outlined that the new department would be controlled by a public safety commissioner nominated by the city council and appointed by the mayor. But the mayor would not have “complete control” over the department, the note stated.

The note drew criticism from the political group Yes 4 Minneapolis, which spearheaded the effort to put the question on the ballot.

The group called the note an “underhanded attempt to override the will of the people.”

Yes 4 Minneapolis went on to file a lawsuit over the note. A Hennepin County judge ordered that the city council remove the note and write a new one if necessary, calling the language “problematic,” according to the Star Tribune.

The City Council met Friday morning to approve the ballot question in its original form, but without the note.

Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed the new ballot language, claiming it denied voters “basic measures of transparency.”

“The Court has made clear, more than once, that our local government has the right to include explanatory language or ‘explanatory notes’ in the ballot language that will come before voters this November,” Frey wrote. 

Gathering again Friday afternoon, the council failed to reach the required votes to override Frey’s veto, with Council Members Alondra Cano, Lisa Goodman, Linea Palmisano and Kevin Reich voting against the new language. Council Member Jamal Osman abstained.

Council members then needed to rework the language ahead of an 11:59 p.m. deadline. It passed the new language on a 9-4 vote.

Cano, Goodman, Palmisano and Reich voted against the language.

The Council adopted the following language on Friday – so this is what will be on the ballot inNovember:

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to strike and replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety which could include licensed peace officers (police officers) if necessary, with administrative authority to be consistent with other city departments to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety?

Frey again vetoed the proposal, claiming the new language still did not do enough to make it clear to voters that the new department would eliminate existing staffing and funding requirements for MPD.

In the evening, the council overrode Frey’s veto 9-4.

Council President Lisa Bender called Frey's actions “scare tactics and bullying” following the final vote.

Council Member Steve Fletcher called the process “unnecessarily adversarial” on Twitter, but voiced support for the final ballot question. 

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