Facts matter. It is crucial that I correct some significant misinformation being repeated in the public square by Minneapolis mayoral candidate Kate Knuth and former Mayor Betsy Hodges. In an Oct. 26 Community Voices piece, former Mayor Hodges leveled several unsubstantiated and uninformed claims against our current mayor, Jacob Frey, suggesting he didn’t quickly pursue an after-action review of the city’s handling of the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.
The former mayor attempts to mislead with the information she does — and doesn’t — share in her commentary.
Mayor Frey directed city staff to follow protocols in conducting an after-action review immediately following the civil unrest in June 2020. The Office of Emergency Management contacted the Department of Homeland Security (FEMA) to request public assistance for a review. That request was rejected by the Trump administration in July despite similar requests being granted in years past. Undeterred, the mayor and I continued working with staff to gather proposals and followed established city procedures for funding this important project.
Hodges and candidate Knuth in her public correspondence both fail to acknowledge the overlapping crises the city faced this past year. This work happened against the backdrop of COVID-19, ongoing unrest and Minneapolis facing significant budget cuts due to the impacts of the pandemic. As we pursued the after-action review, we were simultaneously facing a $156 million loss of revenue that left many employees furloughed or laid off.
Departments had to do more with less as we pivoted to providing immediate relief in the form of rental assistance, assistance for Lake Street, and health and safety programs. Dozens of projects, timelines and existing programs were put on hold or completely derailed as we dealt with these cuts, but we made the after-action review a priority.
In October 2020 I, as the chair of the city’s Audit Committee, worked with Frey to find a budget allocation for an after-action review, a review that was not unanimously supported by my colleagues. In a blunt show of hypocrisy, some of my colleagues, now criticizing the timeline for an after-action review, voted against funding such a review in the first place. The adopted 2021 budget included our proposal for the after-action review funds and, as soon as it was adopted, staff took action to find the best vendor.
We were successful in launching this process despite my colleagues’ resistance, and, following the budget cycle, staff were able to select an independent, third-party reviewer. After a competitive bidding process the City Council, this time, unanimously selected Jensen Hughes for a year-long review and community engagement process in a mid-February vote. This is the same firm that conducted the review of the killing of Breonna Taylor and has undertaken similar work in Baltimore and San Francisco. They have become the go-to organization for real public safety reforms by the U.S. Department of Justice. They are uniquely qualified to do the work.
The Minneapolis review is eight months into the year-long engagement and it would be irresponsible to force reviewers to end their analysis prematurely. The after-action review is meant to provide long-term significant impacts on how we treat our community in times of crisis, and rushing it to meet an arbitrary deadline would be a disservice to our city for the sake of political expediency. Their report is on track to be finished one year since it started, per the unanimously approved contract, as it should be.
To see elected officials, a former mayor and a mayoral candidate act like they are surprised that a one-year review — a timeline many of the critics voted to approve — will take one year is a shining example of what’s wrong with this campaign season. It shows a willful lack of understanding about how challenging it was to start, how complex the work is to complete and how thorough we need it to be. It’s critical that this review be conducted with integrity and with all relevant voices at the center of it. These inaccuracies are cynical at best, and an open attempt to mislead voters at worst.
Facts matter. The people of Minneapolis deserve transparency, and this review deserves to be outside the political arena. It’s irresponsible to make this about any one person. This review must be robust and something that the public can trust.
Linea Palmisano has represented the 13th Ward on the Minneapolis City Council since 2014.