Minneapolis voters soundly rejected an effort to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety, voting ‘No’ on a proposed charter amendment by a margin of 56 to 44 percent in Tuesday’s city election.
“Just because we took one ‘L’ today, and we call it a lesson, not a loss, let’s be clear,” said JaNaé Bates, director of communications for Yes 4 Minneapolis, the organization responsible for the petition campaign that landed the charter amendment on the ballot. “We took a lesson today that we need to knock even more doors, that we need to talk to even more neighbors, that we need to bust through the disinformation campaign and the big money that says ‘No’ when we say ‘Yes.’”
Bates gave her remarks during the Yes 4 Minneapolis’ election night event at the Gold Room Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Minneapolis.
Leili Fatehi, the campaign manager for All of Mpls, the organization that formed in opposition to the ballot measure, said in a statement that the 12 point margin of defeat was as a sign that Minneapolis voters are certain about holding on to MPD. Now city leadership need to carry out the wishes of the city electorate to keep MPD intact, Fatehi said. “Now it’s time for the next Mayor and City Council to roll up their sleeves and carry out this public mandate in good faith and without delay and for all residents of Minneapolis to unite together to hold them accountable,” she said.
The public safety charter amendment proposed removing the MPD — including ending the city’s charter-mandated requirements for a minimum number of police officers — and replacing it with a Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach.”
The vote is also the culmination of an often intense civic debate over the size, function and leadership of the Minneapolis Police Department — a saga that began 17 months ago when, shortly after the death of George Floyd, nine members of the City Council stood on a stage in Powderhorn Park to announced their intentions to “end policing as we know it.”
In 2020, five members of the council attempted to put forward a charter amendment to replace the MPD with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, but the question didn’t make it to the ballot after being stalled, and ultimately rejected, by the city’s Charter Commission.
This year, it was Yes 4 Minneapolis that successfully organized a petition drive that forced the question onto the ballot. After a series of legal battles over an explanatory note being added to the question, the language was finalized on the last day for submitting ballot language.
In order for the charter amendment to pass, it needed 51 percent of the vote. Anything short of that — even by a decimal point — would mean the ballot question is rejected according to state law.
Frey leads in mayoral race
The defeat of Question 2 was also a win for Mayor Jacob Frey, who campaigned against the ballot measure and was once shouted down by activists for his refusal to endorse abolishing the police department.
Frey currently holds a large lead in votes for mayor, though — because none of the mayoral candidates got 50 percent of all first-place votes — no winner will be declared before the city does subsequent rounds of tabulations.
‘Strong mayor’ amendment also passes
Another charter question, the “strong mayor” Executive-Mayor, Legislative-Council charter question, was approved by a vote of 52-47 percent.
With its approval, the amendment shifts more power to the mayor, consolidates administrative authority under that office and eliminates the city’s Executive Committee, which was made up of the mayor and four City Council members and shared responsibility for nominating department directors for council approval.
With the passing of the strong mayor question, that power will now rest solely with the mayor, who will function as the city’s chief executive.
Rent control powers for City Council passes
The third question, which proposed giving the City Council the ability to enact rent control, was approved by Minneapolis voters by a margin of 53-46 percent.
State law bans all cities from enacting rent control unless a charter city holds a vote asking residents if they want their city to be able to pass rent control policy. The vote in favor of the amendment satisfies the exception for the state law — which then allows the Minneapolis City Council to enact rent control policy.