UPDATE: Minneapolis City Council overrides Mayor Frey's 2nd veto of public safety ballot language | KSTP.com

UPDATE: Minneapolis City Council overrides Mayor Frey's 2nd veto of public safety ballot language

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Photo: KSTP/Eric Chaloux. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Updated: August 20, 2021 07:50 PM
Created: August 20, 2021 01:11 PM

UPDATE: The Minneapolis City Council has voted, 9-4, to override Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's second veto of ballot language for the public safety charter amendment.

Just ahead of the vote to override his second veto, Frey blasted the council for its lack of transparency in its ballot language.

The council had until 11:59 p.m. Friday to approve language for it to appear on the November ballot.

The approved language that will now appear on the ballot is as follows:

"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?"

Voters will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on the question.

After the vote, Council President Lisa Bender said:

"Today, the City Council has taken final action to approve ballot language for a Charter amendment brought forward by citizen petition to create a Department of Public Safety. Final ballot language has been transmitted by the City Clerk to Hennepin County Elections for final transmission to the Secretary of State.

"Thousands of Minneapolis voters took the time to come together to propose an idea for a system of safety to keep every member of our city safe -- they have a right to have their question on the ballot and the people of Minneapolis have a right to weigh in.

"Together we completed our work as is our duty under the law. We have now completed final action on all three charter amendments that will be on the ballot in November: an amendment to change the structure of City government, an amendment to create a Department of Public Safety and an amendment to give the City authority to consider and adopt a rent stabilization ordinance in the future."

Councilman Steve Fletcher said:

"Today, the City Council finalized ballot language for the proposed public safety charter amendment and the proposed government structure charter amendment. At 6:15 this evening, the City Council overrode a mayoral veto to approve a clear, concise ballot question for the charter amendment, initiated by citizen petition, to create a new Department of Public Safety. This fulfilled our obligation to comply with a judicial order for more neutral language and meet a statutory deadline to finalize ballot language by tonight at midnight.

"Today's Council action was prompted by Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson's order to the City last week to remove an explanatory note from our previously proposed ballot language, drafted by the City Attorney's office, calling it problematic and asserting that certain content read like a 'warning label.' As a result, we instead passed ballot language without explanatory notes for both the public safety and government structure amendments."

He added, "The work of the Council on these questions is done, and now your work begins. I encourage everyone to learn more about these proposals and come to the polls this Fall ready to make an informed decision."

All of Mpls campaign manager Leili Fatehi issued the following statement Friday night:
"The residents of Minneapolis have been demanding transparency, accountability, and real and specific solutions for addressing the many problems with our city's police department and current state of public safety--but what the City Council served up today is proof positive as to why voters should reject changing our city charter to put them in charge of the future of public safety in our city.  

"The ballot language passed today is so vague as to be nearly meaningless to any voter trying to glean what they're voting on. This language should be recognized for what it is: an attempt by some members of the Council to hide from voters the most basic facts of what the amendment does so that they're more susceptible to political propaganda that misleads about the fact the amendment removes the position of the Chief of Police, the minimum police funding and staffing requirements, and gives authority for public safety and policing to the City Council."

Yes 4 Minneapolis released the following statement:

"The Minneapolis City Council passed clear, fair language for the November ballot question regarding the Department of Public Safety. After weeks of litigation following the addition of a misleading, extraneous explanatory note by the City Clerk, City Council members showed the city that they are willing to put the values, ethics and multi-racial democracy of the people of Minneapolis first. 

"Voters will get a fair ballot question, without any tampering by political power-players, or extra verbiage that places a thumb on the scale. Minneapolis is ready for a higher standard of public safety, and now residents will get to vote on their terms. 

"Like many times before, the status quo attempted to stop the will of the people. But today, democracy prevailed and now the people of Minneapolis will get to decide."

On Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed a resolution relating to the public safety charter amendment, citing the lack of transparency in the city council's recently-revised ballot language. 

In his veto letter, the mayor argued that the council's move to remove all explanatory language denied voters essential information regarding the consequences of their vote and hid the substance of the Yes4Minneapolis Public Safety petition. 

In addition, Frey noted that Yes4Minneapolis petitioners made clear in their proposal that this charter amendment change would remove the chief of police, shift oversight of the department's operations from the mayor's office to shared oversight with the city council, and eliminate the sworn officer staffing requirements for the department. 

"Minneapolis voters deserve essential information regarding the consequences of their decisions at the ballot box. Denying our residents this basic measure of transparency is an affront to good governance. Regardless of where you stand on the substance of this proposal, these statements should not be controversial," Frey wrote. 

Frey went on to state, "I look forward to working with council to meet our statutory requirement to submit language that accurately and fairly reflects both what the petitioners submitted and what voters will need to consider when it comes to the future of public safety in Minneapolis."

The mayor put forward language that would have unpacked the substance of these critical issues. While this sample language does not include an explanatory note, the court has made clear that Minneapolis government has the right to include explanatory language or "explanatory notes" in the ballot language that will come before voters this November. 

Frey and the city council plan to reconvene Friday afternoon to continue discussions and work on drafting and submitting fair and accurate ballot language. Ballot language for the Public Safety Charter Amendment must be finalized and submitted to county elections staff by 11:59 p.m. Friday. 

The final language will appear on the ballot for Minneapolis voters on Nov. 2.

"Time is of the essence. Let's get this done," Frey said in the letter.

Later Friday, the city council failed to overturn the mayor's veto on the language and will now have to rewrite and vote on it again.

To see the full text of the mayor's letter, click here

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