Minneapolis public safety issue fails in defeat of progressives

In the first municipal election after the police murder of George Floyd, voters in Minneapolis strongly rejected a sweeping plan to dismantle the police department and replace it with a public safety department.

The defeat of Question 2 on the ballot was a rebuke from the city’s progressives, who hoped to radically change the city’s public safety infrastructure, even though the ballot initiative did not go so far as to “abolish The font that many have been pushing for years.

Their loss was made even more bitter by the advance of Mayor Jacob Frey, who was against the initiative and remained close to Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who also spoke out against the charter amendment.

Question 1, which would give the mayor more authority over city services, also had a considerable lead, netting another victory for Frey, who was backed by a coalition of business groups, the Minneapolis Regional Federation of Labor and establishment Democrats.

Frey shouted “we made it! To supporters Tuesday night after taking the lead.

“Minneapolis is sending a message right now to the whole nation that real progress takes real work. We send the message that transformational change is within reach if we unite behind a common cause to make it happen. We send the message that real, serious government and real change in our society is not about a hashtag or slogan, but about doing the hard work every day, recognizing that the precision of our solutions must match the precision of the harm that was initially inflicted.

A Democrat-farmer-worker member working with progressives called it a “bloodbath” for their camp.

Frey’s frequent opponents on city council, including Philipe Cunningham and Jeremy Schroeder, have both been defeated, while council chairwoman Lisa Bender steps down. His allies Linea Palmisano, Andrea Jenkins and Lisa Goodman were all easily re-elected.

Bobby Arntsen, 65, voted for Frey and expanded the power of the mayor’s office while reducing that of the council.

“I was glad he opposed the city council because I didn’t think they were very responsible in the way they did the ‘fund the police’ thing. I think that added to the chaos, ”said Arntsen, who is white.

Arntsen said he voted for the strong mayor issue and against issues of public safety and rent control.

“I think instead of trying to remake the wheel, improve the wheel,” Arntsen said. “I think Arradondo worked on it. I’m all for adding more public health initiatives, but I don’t think you need to take out of one to give to the other. “

However, Frey’s and the police department’s victory could ultimately be in vain. The department is down by around 300 agents and faces a wave of disability claims and lawsuits, forcing the city to cover huge liabilities, even as the department’s public esteem continues to rise. ‘collapse.

Frey and the department leadership will also continue to face a strong union that will resist reform and have strong allies on both sides on the State Capitol. By leaving the minimum staffing level in the city charter, voters gave the union significant weight.

Former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak has said if Frey wins re-election he must step up his efforts. “He said he wanted to make major reforms, so let’s go.”

Rybak said the city should ask the US Department of Justice to put MPD into receivership, invalidate the union contract and help the department dismiss cops for cause.

And, said Rybak, the city must partner with the county, which administers social services, to take a public health approach to crime.

“Now we’re going to have to really come together in a way that we haven’t since the overwhelming majority of the city marched for reforms after George Floyd,” Rybak said.

Frey said he supported the creation of a new public safety ministry – but opposed changing the charter.

Frey, who faced a series of humiliating public moments in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, nonetheless showed tenacity in his re-election victory. A well-funded and well-known challenger never really emerged. Frey explicitly opposed city council, whose veto-proof majority rose on stage in June 2020 under a banner that said “fund the police” and often seemed oblivious to the city’s crisis. Frey and his councilors bet that a silent majority of the city’s voters – especially the whitest and wealthiest residents who tend to vote in municipal elections – didn’t want to cede the city to council, and they had raison.

The progressives are left to regroup, having misjudged the electorate of Minneapolis.

“The Empire Strikes Back,” DA Bullock tweeted, leading local filmmaker and online voice for Question 2.

Reverend JaNaé Bates of Yes 4 Minneapolis, who argued for Question 2, said a “campaign of disinformation” had won, but the battle will continue.

“Black working class people (in north Minneapolis) and people across town are always going to have to deal with the problems we face,” she said. Even with a fully funded police service, she said, the city has suffered an outbreak of violence, an exodus of cops and new allegations of police brutality and misconduct. “And so we will most certainly continue to move forward. “

As violent crime escalated in Minneapolis, several council members rescinded their bold pledge to “spend the police” and even the coalition supporting the charter amendment to reshape public safety softened its rhetoric of “spend the police.” police ”, assuring voters that the passage would not mean the end of a police force.

Reverend Jerry McAfee, pastor of the New Salem Baptist Missionary Church in northern Minneapolis, said supporters of the amendment had not spoken to the black community.

“The sad reality is that so often we have people who want to do things for us, but they don’t talk to us,” he said.

He said it was a shame for a state as prosperous as Minnesota to have such large disparities between white and black residents.

“The resources and things we need to address this (gap) will never come. And to deal only with the problem of the police, which, again, is a real problem, but it is not the number 1 problem that we face as a people, ”he said. “Our problems are much more complex than just the police. ”

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