Minneapolis police abolitionists: How dare you describe our proposal accurately, or something

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Despite all of the rising crime in the Twin Cities, the effort to amend the Minneapolis city charter through a referendum to abolish the police continues. The police abolitionists formed a group called Yes4Minneapolis and have qualified a proposal that would allow the city council to replace the police department with a “comprehensive public health approach.” Voters in the city will decide in November.

Now, however, a dispute between Yes4Minneapolis and the City Attorney has arisen over a special note explaining the purpose of the referendum. The abolitionists accuse the city of using “politically charged language” to discourage voters. But how inaccurate is the note? Here’s the Star Tribune’s description of the proposal:

The proposal written by Yes4Minneapolis would remove language in the city charter that requires Minneapolis to keep a Police Department with a minimum number of officers based on population. The city would then create a new agency responsible for “integrating” public safety functions “into a comprehensive public health approach to safety.” The new agency could have police “if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.”

The proposal also strikes language from the charter that gives the mayor “complete power” over police operations, a move that likely would grant council members more sway over officers.

So how does the City Attorney explain it?

The City Attorney’s Office began drafting ballot language, including both a question and an explanatory note to include on the ballot. The question asks voters if they want to amend the charter “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.” It refers voters to an explanatory note providing more detail. …

The explanatory note says the new department would: combine public safety functions “with the specific public safety functions to be determined”; include police “if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department,” and be led by a commissioner. It says the mayor would “not have complete power over the establishment, maintenance and command of the Department of Public Safety.”

The note also says the proposal would remove the Police Department from the charter, “which includes the removal of its Police Chief.” It notes that the plan would remove the requirement to fund a minimum-sized police force and remove council’s authority to impose additional taxes “to fund the compensation of employees of the police force.”

Er … how is this “politically charged”? It’s accurate, to be sure, and that should matter on referenda. It’s the proposal itself that’s “politically charged,” not the description of it. It seems that Yes4Minneapolis is most incensed by the effort to offer an accurate and comprehensive explanation to voters before they approve a radical change to the city charter and public-safety system.

Interestingly, the city council approved the language, and now Mayor Jacob Frey has to decide whether to bless it, block it, or let it passively take effect. I’d bet on the third option, which is the path of least resistance for any politician anywhere. As for referendum itself, I’d give it even odds to pass even with an accurate and comprehensive description of its idiocy. This is the same electorate that elected the country’s most embarrassing city council, after all. Yes4Minneapolis probably doesn’t have too many reasons to worry.