This Community Voices is an open letter sent to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins. It has only been edited for punctuation and MinnPost/AP style.
Dear Mayor Frey and Council President Jenkins,
In November 2021, by a majority vote, the people of Minneapolis authorized the City Council to enact a rent control ordinance. In June 2022, the City Council established the Housing/Rent Stabilization Work Group to study and make recommendations for a policy framework that would “(h)old rental owners accountable to fair, equitable, and reasonable practices by prohibiting excessive annual rent increases.” In December 2022, the work group voted to select a set of policies, referred to as “Framework 5,” as the policy recommendation of the group. On June 2 the City Council approved a motion to draft a rent stabilization ordinance in line with Framework 5.
However, on June 28, the Council voted 5-4, with one abstention, not to advance the motion to committee for further work, study and public input. This vote was held on Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Islamic holidays, a reflection on sacrifice and service to something greater than ourselves. Three Muslim council members, including the two co-authors of the motion to draft a rent stabilization ordinance, were not present as they observed this important religious holiday. This vote effectively ended any possibility of placing a rent stabilization measure on the ballot this November.
We are writing as work group members, who each voted in support of Framework 5, to strongly condemn the actions taken at the June 28 council meeting. This vote was Islamophobic, anti-democratic, and empty political gamesmanship. To leverage the faith of three council members against a policy disfavored by the mayor and some council members is an act of anti-Muslim bias. In public statements, Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins and other members of the council have hidden behind the requirements of open meetings laws and council procedure as pretext for why the vote could not be rescheduled. We are not fooled. Council leadership could have availed itself of any number of procedural mechanisms to delay the vote. You chose not to. And in doing so, you deprived three Muslim council members of their vote, disenfranchising their constituents as well.
You may disagree with the policy suggested by the motion, but that is why we have our political process. This was not a vote to put a policy on the ballot. This was merely a vote to engage in the very work of policymaking – discussion, debate, compromise and collaboration – that results in better laws and better lives for the people of Minneapolis. Observers of the Council are unanimous in expressing how unusual it is for a policy to be killed at this procedural stage. Perhaps the mayor and some council members fear public discussion and debate of rent stabilization. Perhaps they feel that the people of Minneapolis should not have a vote in this matter. Perhaps they feel that the means justifies the ends, that violating morals and norms, and that disrespecting the faith of their colleagues are all acceptable so long as they can place profits over the people of this city.
We, the undersigned, name and condemn those things. We stand with our Muslim neighbors across Minneapolis as well as Council Members (Aisha) Chughtai, (Jeremiah) Ellison and (Jamal) Osman. We support the motion raised by Council Members Chughtai and Osman, but moreover we support the values of religious pluralism and tolerance, the democratic ideals of self-governance and representative participation, and a core belief that dissenting views on housing and economic policy should be engaged with, not silenced. We will not allow the events of June 28 to be forgotten as the debate over rent stabilization continues, and we will continue to work to obtain the policy that the people of Minneapolis need and deserve.
Kadra Abdi, Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers
Jennifer Arnold, Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia
Maura Brown, The Alliance
Mary Kaczorek, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Rico Morales, Renter
Yolanda Roth, Landlord
Daniel Suitor, HOME Line
AsaleSol Young, Urban Homeworks
José A. Zayas Cabán, Renter