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Occupy movement pleased with delay in changing Minneapolis plaza rules

The City Council’s decision to hold a public hearing would delay any rule changes for at least a month.

City Council President Barb Johnson

A plan to tighten the rules for use of city-owned plazas apparently will be the topic of a Minneapolis public hearing.

The plan was offered by City Council President Barb Johnson at Friday’s council meeting, but opponents argued that a resolution was not the proper form for the proposal and sent it to the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee for a public hearing.

The action would delay any rule change for at least one month.

 The move was seen as a victory by members of the Occupy Minneapolis movement who attended the council meeting.

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City Attorney Susan Segal said the resolution would establish rules but relied on existing city ordinances and state statutes for enforcement, making the resolution format appropriate.

Resolutions, which are usually passed to congratulate someone or celebrate an achievement, become effective immediately upon passage and rarely get referred to a committee.

Johnson’s resolution would establish closing times and ban camping or sleeping in all city-owned plazas. Open hours would be 6 a.m. to midnight. After midnight, people would be allowed to travel through a plaza “without delay.”

The new rules would prohibit camping, sleeping or the presence of any living accommodations. Also, personal property left unattended could be removed.

Portable toilets, cooking or fire building would be allowed on plazas with a permit.

Those not complying with the rules, as outlined in the resolution, would be issued a notice of trespass and could be arrested.

“I think this mirrors what Hennepin County passed after their experience with Occupy on their plaza,” said Johnson after the meeting. Citing’s Segal’s ruling, she said there is no reason to change the resolution into an ordinance.

Council Member Gary Schiff said, in his view, the resolution amends two ordinances governing use of city-owned plazas and gives additional power of arrest to police officers. He thinks itshould be an ordinance.

“If we’re going to change these rules, let’s have a fair and open process,” he said. “I object to a City Council that would pass an ordinance without a public hearing.”

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The earliest a public hearing could be held is the first week of May.

The current city ordinances on plaza use list activities that require permits, such as concerts, exhibitions and commercial venues, and outline permit procedures.

Two Cities blog, which covers Minneapolis and St. Paul City Halls, is made possible in part by grants from The Saint Paul Foundation and the Carolyn Foundation.