Anger, vulnerability mix as Minneapolis Council debates stiffer penalties for disrupting meetings, threats against public officials

During a tense meeting today, a Minneapolis City Council committee approved several amendments to the city’s 2023 Legislative Agenda. Members agreed to support legislation that would:

  • Create clear guidance for lawful conduct at public meetings of government bodies “while safeguarding the protected First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceful assembly and to express dissent or to protest government policies and actions.”
  • Create “enhanced criminal penalties for assaults and threats of violence against public officials, public employees, or their families, when the assault or threat of violence is committed for the purpose of causing bodily harm or terror because the victim is a public official, public employee, or a member of their family.”
  • Designate as public data any ‘complaint data’ against public officials when a complaint is sustained, regardless of the nature of the disciplinary action taken. (This seemed targeted to access to complaints upheld against police.)

The committee voted down a proposal to support legislation that would allow municipalities to require police to carry personal liability insurance as one way to address costly police misconduct settlements.

The measures still have to go to the full council.

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Minneapolis Councilmember seeking increased criminal penalties for threats, assaults against public officials

Minneapolis City Councilmember Linea Palmisano (13th Ward) wants to amend the city’s “Legislative Agenda and Policy Position” to add “clear guidance for lawful conduct” at public government meetings, and to support legislation “that would create enhanced criminal penalties for assaults and threats of violence against public officials, public employees, or their families …”

City Councilmember Robyn Wonsley (Ward 2) is proposing changes to the state’s legislative agenda, including adding a requirement for police to carry liability insurance.

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City of Minneapolis offers self-serving ‘Racial Equity Impact Analysis’ on proposed Public Works project in East Phillips Neighborhood

Backers of the East Phillips Urban Farm development held a press conference at City Hall Tuesday.

The Minneapolis City Council’s Policy & Government Oversight Committee will vote Wednesday afternoon on directing staff to move forward with its Public Works expansion plan in the East Phillips neighborhood, one opposed by neighborhood leaders.

The docket includes the city’s “Racial Equity Impact Analysis” for the project, something that assesses how it aligns “with the City’s Southside Green Zone policy, the City’s resolution declaring racism a public health emergency, and the City’s resolution establishing a truth and reconciliation process.”

The city offers a self-serving and weak racial equity analysis, raising questions about the city’s understanding of, and commitment to, racial justice.

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East Phillips Urban Farm plan stays alive, barely

City Council action is as murky as its commitment to racial justice

The Minneapolis City Council was faced challenging truths today as it deliberated on redevelopment of the old Roof Top Depot site at 28th and Hiawatha: addressing historic and ongoing racism costs money, it means changing “business as usual,” and it’s messy.

The Council faced two different proposals: One to use the Roof Top Depot site to expand and consolidate the city’s Water Works facilities, the other to give the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) exclusive rights to develop the property into an urban farm, affordable housing, and neighborhood-friendly businesses.

The fractured Council punted, keeping both options open, likely making no one happy. Significantly, it voted down proposed language to give EPNI exclusive development rights for its Urban Farm proposal.

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Critical vote on East Phillips Urban Farm Wednesday: Will Mpls City Council live up to its promises?

West side of the old Roof Depot building in the East Phillips neighborhood.

The old Roof Depot site near East 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue in the East Phillips neighborhood covers a city block and its waiting for redevelopment.

Starkly different proposals are on the table: One would consolidate the city of Minneapolis’ Public Works facilities to create greater efficiencies; the other would create an Indoor Urban Farm, with affordable housing and neighborhood friendly-businesses.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fulfill a community-led, community-owned project — an economic investment in an economically depressed area,” said Joe Vital, a volunteer with East Phillips Neighborhood Initiative and Urban Farm supporter.

A key vote on these divergent plans is expected Wednesday, Aug. 18, 1:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis City Council’s Policy and Government Oversight Committee. This committee includes all 13 council members.

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Shuttles to Line 3 resistance camps and other news

In this blog:

  • Shuttle service being created for front-line water protector camps
  • Minneapolis police spokesperson works on the Northern Lights Task Force protecting Line 3; City Council passes ordinance opposing Line 3
  • Treaties aren’t broken, they’re not being honored
  • Hubbard County law enforcement blockades water protector encampment
  • Economics cancel Byhalia Pipeline
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Minneapolis police use of “less lethal” force criticized for head shots, cop complaints rarely end with discipline, and more

In this blog:

  • Study: Minneapolis police use of “less-lethal” force during George Floyd protests caused serious injuries
  • The Bad Cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it’s too late
  • Minneapolis police misconduct payouts rising
  • Minneapolis Charter amendment updates
  • How will the Minneapolis City Council’s racial justice promises affect important neighborhood redevelopment decisions?
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Minneapolis City Council to Declare Oct. 10, 2016 “Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day”, Pipe Ceremony Planned

Coldwater Springs (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Coldwater Springs (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Minneapolis City Council is expected to pass a resolution this Friday that will declare Oct. 10 Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day. Everyone is invited to attend a pipe ceremony and celebration at Coldwater Springs on Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, Oct. 10, starting at noon.

The resolution was authored by 12th Ward Councilmember Andrew Johnson, whose south Minneapolis district abuts Coldwater Springs, which is in on unincorporated Hennepin County land. The springs are located just east of the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and the Crosstown Highway.

Coldwater Springs is near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers and is sacred to Dakota people, the original people of the area. (The Dakota name for the spring is Mni Owe Sni, which translated means Coldwater Springs.) Camp Coldwater also was the first European-American settlement in the Minnesota Territory; the spring furnished water to Fort Snelling.

The resolution states in part:

That the City of Minneapolis reminds all government agencies to respect the 1805 treaty and honor both the spirit and the letter of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the 2001 state law relating to protection and preservation of Coldwater Springs.

Click here for the full text of the Coldwater Springs Resolution.

Those expected to speak on behalf of the resolution at the Minneapolis City Council meeting Friday include: Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Sharon Lennartson, chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community, and Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of the American Indian Movement.

Wolfchild will conduct the pipe ceremony at Coldwater Springs on Monday. Lennartson and Bellecourt are expected to speak, too. Coffee and cookies to follow. Bring family and friends!

For more on the First Amendment and treaty issues surrounding Coldwater Springs, read on.

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Dakota Access Pipeline Update; Harney Peak Renamed “Black Elk”; U of Winnipeg Starts Indigenous Studies Requirement

A federal court in Washington D.C. heard arguments yesterday regarding the Standing Rock Reservation’s effort to get an injunction against the Dakota Access Pipeline that would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to Illinois for processing. The pipeline would cross under the Missouri River very near the Reservation’s drinking water intake. A ruling is expected Sept. 9, according to a PBS story. Protests at Standing Rock continue, with the support of many tribes and allies.

Here are a few updates on the story.

  • MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell gave a powerful commentary in support of efforts to block the pipeline, providing the context of the history many people like to forget. Native Americans, he says, have been treated more harshly than any enemy the United States has ever had. “No Native American tribe has ever been treated as well as we treated Germans after World War II,” he said. The video runs about 4 minutes. “… This country was founded on genocide before the word genocide was invented.”
  • Later this month, the Minneapolis City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee will consider a resolution titled: Expressing Solidarity With Indigenous Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipline. Given that 11 of the 13 Councilmembers have signed on as authors, it should pass easily.
  • An earlier blog said that the Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota voted to stand in support of the Standing Rock’s efforts to block the pipeline. There is now a Facebook Page “Episcopalians STAND with Standing ROCK.

Harney Peak SD Renamed “Black Elk Peak”

Black Elk Peak (Wikimedia Commons)
Black Elk Peak (Wikimedia Commons)

Harney Peak, South Dakota’s highest point, has been renamed “Black Elk Peak” by the federal government, according to a story in Indian County Today. The vote by the U.S Board of Geographic Names was 12-0, with one abstention.

South Dakota political leaders had tried to block the name change and expressed disappointment in the decision, but the change is being celebrated in Indian Country. According to the Indian Country Today article:

The name Harney Peak has long been a source of anger and resentment for the Oceti Sakowin [Seven Council Fires] and the various treaty tribes. At the so-called Battle of Blue Water Creek near present day Winnebago, Nebraska, Army Gen. William S. Harney’s men massacred Lakota women and children in September 1855. On that same expedition, a surveyor with Harney’s party named this highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains after the general, though he never came within five miles of the peak.

University of Winnipeg Starts Indigenous Course Requirement For All Students

Here’s an inspiring story out of Canada. After learning about disrespect to indigenous people on campus, students at the University of Winnipeg started efforts to require their peers to learn more about Canada’s First Peoples.

The Guardian wrote about the change in a story headlined: “Canadian universities require indigenous studies“. (Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, also is starting an indigenous studies requirement.) According to the Guardian, the University of Winnipeg has 60 courses approved or in development that would fulfill the requirement, “ranging from a course on indigenous people and treaties, to an indigenous women’s history class.”


White Earth Conservation Project Gains Traction; This Day in History: Minneapolis City Council’s “Dakota” Resolution

Today’s Star Tribune editorial “Lessard-Sams council should sustain momentum on White Earth project” came out in strong support of efforts to conserve 2,000 acres of wetlands, forest and prairie on what is now privately held land on the White Earth Reservation.

Part of the White Earth preservation project.
Part of the White Earth preservation project.

The Lessard-Sams council has recommended funding for this project in the past, only to get shot down in the legislature. Before getting into the politics of it, some quick history.

It’s important to know that only about 10 percent of the White Earth Reservation is in Indian hands. U.S. government assimilation policies in the 19th Century included efforts to break up communally held tribal lands. Through a policy known as “allotment,” the government took tribal lands and divided it among individual Indians. Among other things, that made it easier for settlers and business interests to buy it. One glaring example of how White Earth was cheated out of land by the timber industry is found in the article Ransom Powell and the Tragedy of White Earth in Minnesota History, and in our June 30 blog.)

The Potlach Company owns land on the White Earth Reservation and it wants to sell a chunk of it. (I don’t know the history of how it acquired this parcel.) According to the Strib editorial, the Lessard-Sams council has voted twice to approve $2.2 million to buy about 2,000 acres from Potlach for preservation. White Earth would buy the land and transfer it to a federal trust. The editorial explains that the project was included in a 2015 omnibus bill, but funding got stripped out at the end of the session.

A dubious explanation given — that the project would take the land off property rolls, an objection that hasn’t halted other projects that do the same — raised regrettable questions about bias toward American Indian communities.

In fact, Clearwater County where this project is located would only lose about $16,000 in property tax from the sale, a drop in the bucket of its overall budget. The White Earth project is back in the funding queue for 2016 and the push back against it already has begun.

Thanks to the Strib for a great editorial. Read the full version online.Thanks, too, to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation which has been supporting this project.

This Day in History: Minneapolis City Council “Year of the Dakota” Resolution

On this day in history three years ago, the Minneapolis City Council passed The Year of the Dakota resolution. This was on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War. The resolution designated December 26, 2012 to December 26, 2013 as “The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth Telling.”

In addition to the special year-long designation, the City Council made longer term commitments. The resolution said:

Be It Further Resolved that the City of Minneapolis works to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian community, including Dakota People.
Be It Further Resolved that these efforts during the years 2012 and 2013 will mark the beginning of future dialogues and efforts to rectify the wrongs that were perpetrated during, and since, the year 1862, a tragic and traumatic event for the Dakota People of Minnesota.
As is the way with resolutions, they are easier to make than to follow. In 2014, the Minneapolis City Council did pass a resolution recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, another important symbolic gesture. The question remains: How well is the City of Minneapolis doing at following its resolution to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian community, and make efforts to rectify wrongs?
Comments welcomed.