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Minneapolis City Council unanimously keeps Barbara Johnson as president

The seven new members include the City Council’s first Somali-American, first Hmong-American and first Mexican-American.

Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson speaks during the new City Council’s organizational meeting.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen

Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson was unanimously returned to her leadership role Monday during the new City Council’s organizational meeting.

Also, the council’s first meeting was greeted by equal-opportunity protesters, who made their voices heard but were not invited to speak.

Earlier, new and returning City Council members were joined at formal swearing-in ceremonies by Mayor Betsy Hodges, who already had been sworn in on Jan. 2, as required by law.

The seven new members include the City Council’s first Somali-American, first Hmong-American and first Mexican-American.

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“We can learn much from the qualities exhibited by these newcomers,” said Johnson in her welcome. “Entrepreneurship, hard work, respect for education and care for family are some of the qualities that I really admire.”

Following the ceremony in the City Hall rotunda, protesters seeking equal opportunities rallied and then marched up the stairs to the Council Chambers, where members were beginning their organizational meeting, where officers are elected and committee assignments announced.

Outside the chambers, the protesters chanted, “Let the people speak,” while new Council Member Alondra Cano moved to suspend the rules to allow 15 minutes of public comment.

“I come from a deep organizing background and an immigrant family that had to fight every step of the way to get where we are today,” she said as protesters in the hall continued to chant.

Johnson, however, cited precedent. “The City Council has a standing rule that we do not have public testimony at our meetings,” she said, pointing out that public comment is usually heard during committee meetings and at designated public hearings.

“If we have public comment, it should be truly open to the public through the committee process,” Johnson added.

The move to allow public comment failed to win the nine votes required to suspend the rules. All of the new members, except Council Member Abdi Warsame, voted to allow comments.

In organizational matters, Council Member Elizabeth Glidden was elected council vice president. She had campaigned to replace Johnson as president but abandoned that effort when it was clear that Johnson had secured enough votes to continue in her leadership role.

“I’m very excited to be part of the leadership team,” said Glidden, who, as vice president, chairs the Committee of the Whole. She also will chair the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

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Council Member John Quincy was elected majority leader of the council and will chair the Ways and Means Committee and its Budget Subcommittee.

Council Member Cam Gordon, a member of the Green Party, was elected minority leader and will chair the newly formed Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee.

Abdi Warsame, Lisa Goodman and Jacob Frey
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman speaks to freshman Ward 6 Council Member Abdi Warsame. Ward 3 freshmen Council Member Jacob Frey is at right.

Council Member Lisa Goodman will continue as chair of the Community Development Committee, which has added Regulatory Services to its name.  Goodman also will chair the Claims Committee.

Council Member Kevin Reich will chair the Transportation and Public Works Committee.

Two new council members will chair major public policy committees:

• Blong Yang will chair Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management. Yang, an attorney, has done investigation work for the Civil Rights Department in the past.

• Lisa Bender will chair the Zoning and Planning Committee. She previously was employed as a planner by the State of Minnesota.

Three other new council members will chair other council units:

• Jacob Frey, Elections and Rules Committee.

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• Abdi Warsame, Taxes Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee.

• Andrew Johnson, Information Technology Policy Subcommittee. He previously worked in technology for Target.

The new council begins its regular cycle of committee meetings Jan. 14, with its first full meeting Jan. 23.

The new council members and the wards they represent are: Ward 3 — Jacob Frey, Ward 5 — Blong Yang, Ward 6 — Abdi Warsame, Ward 9 — Alondra Cano, Ward 10 — Lisa Bender, Ward 12— Andrew Johnson  and Ward 13 — Linea Palmisano.

Earlier, in her Inauguration Day keynote speech, Mayor Hodges continued her campaign theme of “One Minneapolis.”

Hodges said that “not if but when” Minneapolis provides equal opportunities in housing, education and employment for white and minority citizens and eliminates the current achievement gaps, “we will become a beacon to the entire country.”

“It is about people coming together and caring for one another,” she told a crowd of well-wishers. “It is about people coming together and valuing one another. When we do that collectively, we become a true community.”