Mpls. Charter Commission stands in for power structure


“A Minneapolis commission scuttled any chance of letting voters decide in November whether to replace the City’s police department, dealing a setback to the city council’s signature effort to overhaul public safety in the wake of the killing of George Floyd,” read the Wall Street Journal’s lead paragraph about the Minneapolis Charter Commission decision to the delay the vote.

In essence, an unelected body decided that the citizens of Minneapolis couldn’t hold an election to decide how they, the people, want to be policed.

“Scuttle” was a seemingly odd choice of words, but few more accurately describe what the Minneapolis Charter Commission did to what appeared to be a reasonable request from the Minneapolis City Council.

The Oxford Dictionary defines scuttle as “to deliberately cause (a scheme) to fail.”
They deliberately denied the people an opportunity to vote on a reasonable proposal put forth by the representatives of the people.

Historically the tactics the rulers have used to maintain their power and thus the status quo has included delay, deception, disingenuousness, and distraction.

In what can best be defined as a filibuster, the Charter Commission—whose job is to oversee the City Charter and are “appointed” by a district judge—decided by a 10 to 5 majority that they needed more time to study the Minneapolis City Council’s plan for proposed changes to its police department. In other words, tell the council and the people what they think is good for them.

Few decisions have been less arrogant, patronizing or undemocratic! When a few of the commissioners were asked about why they voted to delay a decision on the Minneapolis police—which without exaggeration has been one of the most brutal and racist in the country—they all lied about their reasons.

Andrew Kozak dissembled spitting out something about his obligation to make sure (the stupid people) in Minneapolis could make an “informed choice.”

Jill Garcia’s statement in defense of the indefensible was even more garbled, as she said, “This is an issue that involves the lives, the well-being, the safety of Minneapolis residents.” Well, duh! She and her partners in crime would have done better to just come out and tell the truth, that they were opposed and are there to maintain the status quo.

And that is exactly what their job is, to serve as a buffer, a kind of Electoral College, a veto to deny the will of the people.

Ironically, the plan had been well-thought-out and crafted by five city council members. The proposal would have ended the City’s requirement that a standing police force be maintained at certain levels and replaced it with a Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention that would seek to prioritize “a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”

The city council even tried to reassure the Commission that this was not about disbanding the police but rather creating a department that everyone could live with and would end the problem of over-policing and police violence. They wrote a letter to the Commission before the vote explaining, “The City Council is not asking you to put police abolition on the ballot, nor does the amendment propose this…We are asking you to let Minneapolis vote on a new framework for public safety that aligns with the State of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety.”

Councilmember Cam Gordon called it for it was, “They were predisposed to not like the idea. They seemed more comfortable with the status quo,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re going to hope to accomplish by reviewing it longer, except to keep it off the ballot, which seemed to be the motivation of the majority of them.”

Who are these people that they should sit in judgment on what is best for the city? Nobody voted for them! It’s likely until about a month ago that few people had heard of the Charter Commission or could name more than two members.

On its face, the entire set-up sounds anti-democratic. A district judge gets to choose 15 people. How is the judge chosen? What criterion was used to choose the 15 people? Were they supposed to be representative of the city?

Clearly they were not representative of the city. Most made incomes in excess of $80,000; only one made less than $47,000. Five live in Southwest Minneapolis, the wealthiest region of the city. And surprise, not one resides on the North Side of the city where Minneapolis police carry out most of their harassment, humiliation, and abuse of the city’s population.

“Wait” has almost always meant “never,” MLK once said. And the Commission operating in their class and yes, race interest, means by delaying the vote they hope they can buy time for the power structure to build a case against the proposal by scaring people out of real change.

Ironically, the proposal that was voted down came about as a result of the movement in the streets and the protests.

This makes it clear that only a constant and concerted movement is going to bring the change needed to create a society that will no longer need the present system of policing. This system currently serves to terrorize those not found in political, social, or economic favor in this country, while giving comfort and protection to those who benefit from this insidious, unequal, unjust and inequitable arrangement.

Ultimately, real change is wrought in the streets. In fact, it is the only reason that the power structure pulled out of their pocket a veto in the form of the Charter Commission.

Justice then peace.