Why We Need to Change the Minneapolis Charter

No matter the color of our skin or where we come from, all of us deserve to live in a community where we feel safe and where our lives are valued.

Through our grief and pain over the murder of George Floyd, we are united by our resolve to defend Black lives. As groups like Black Visions, Reclaim the Block, and MPD150 have long stated, the crisis at MPD is decades in the making. We have the moral responsibility and civic duty to act together. We have the power to build a city that is anti-racist and safe for everyone. (See note at the bottom.)

We are responsible for meeting the gravity of this moment together, starting with an amendment to the Charter. By doing so, we can realign our city policies and budget and create a new path forward.

Why we need to change the City Charter in 2020

We’re calling on the Minneapolis City Council, Mayor Frey, and City Charter Commission to let us vote to amend the Charter this year. There are three reasons why we need to #ChangetheCharter:

  1. If we do not amend the City Charter, permanent roadblocks will stand in the way of better governance and public oversight. For years, the City Charter has been a barrier to police accountability and systemic change.

    The Charter restricts how the city supports public safety by prohibiting oversight by the City Council and by requiring a minimum amount of police department staffing. Neither of these barriers exist for any other City department. The Charter blocks our ability to make wise investments and create better policy related to community safety. We deserve greater public oversight and accountability over the policies that affects our lives, and public services we pay for.

  2. Without action from our public officials this year, the best community solutions may be prohibited by the current Charter.

    Until we change the City Charter, the best solutions for community safety and violence prevention may not even be viable. This is unacceptable. Minneapolis residents and stakeholders deserve a meaningful community process to re-imagine community safety and violence prevention. The worst-case scenario it that we identify the best, innovative solutions for community safety and violence prevention that can’t be passed or are needlessly delayed. Our elected officials are responsible for ensuring our voices are heard. We should not have to wait until after the 2021 election to have an earnest discussion about the future of our city.

  3. We have a civic duty and moral responsibility to act together.

    We cannot tolerate the fact that police use-of-force is among the leading causes of death for young men of color and Black people, including Black women and girls, queer, trans and non-binary folks, disabled people, American Indians, immigrants, and Latinos.

    We cannot ignore that the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Park Board, the Minneapolis School Board, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and private businesses have lost faith and trust in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and ended their contracts.

    We cannot accept the fact that in the past three years MPD’s use-of-force has cost the people of Minneapolis $24 million in legal settlements. Instead of funding our lives, our public resources are being squandered and too many lives have been lost.

Minneapolis residents deserve more oversight and control over our community safety, and for years, community members and City Councilors have tried unsuccessfully to expand public oversight of MPD. But the City Charter is standing in our way.

We have the democratic power to ensure our public departments are working in the best interest of our city and accountable to the public. We have the right to vote on a City Charter amendment that does not block local elected officials from carrying out the will of the people.

Who decides if we can change the Charter?

Minneapolis voters can amend the City Charter through a 2020 ballot initiative. The Minneapolis City Council indicated it will vote to support a City Charter amendment at its next meeting on June 26, 2020. It must be approved by the Minneapolis Charter Commission, an appointed body. To this end, we ask both the City Council and Mayor Frey to support this proposal and let us vote.

What would the Charter amendment do?

On June 12, members of the Minneapolis City Council gave notice of intent to bring a ballot initiative forward that would “amend Article VII of the City Charter relating to Administration, pertaining to the creation of a new Charter Department to provide for community safety and violence prevention, and the removal of the Police Department as a Charter Department.”

More details will be available before the June 26th City Council meeting. Final language for the ballot amendment would be approved by the City Charter Commission.

Take urgent action

We need you to take action right now. If you live in Minneapolis, send an email to your City Council member and Mayor Jacob Frey. Tell them to let Minneapolis residents vote. Make sure your voice is heard.

The role of our elected officials is to carry out the will of the people. Our local elected officials are hearing our voices.  

Demand the chance to exercise our democratic rights and Charter in 2020 with support from our City Councilors and Mayor Frey. Send them an email today.

NOTE: An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression or ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. Source: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

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The problems we face are bigger than one campaign, one issue, or one election.

We need a statewide, multiracial movement to change who decides and who benefits in Minnesota. And we need you to be part of that.

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