This Christmas, we are celebrating the third year in a row that City Council Chronicles (and our other project, Tear It Down) has made the ELGL Top 100 Local Government Influencers list! We are very thankful for the award, and you can read more about the other 99 honorees on ELGL.org.
Simultaneously, you can listen to our holiday-themed podcast episode on iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM, and right here:
On this episode, you will hear excerpts from these full interviews:
The Minneapolis council has been proactive about addressing racial inequity, despite outside events making it a challenge. Andrea Jenkins describes how she felt about council members’ reactions to an equity training earlier this year.
Q: On August 1 of this year, there was a committee of the whole meeting in which you all sat through a racial equity training. Would you be surprised if I told you that I’ve been hosting this program for two years and this is the first racial equity training I’ve seen a city council do?
A: Yes, I thought every city council in America was doing racial equity training. That’s not true?
Q: No! I hate to let you down because that is wildly off-base, but what did you hope to accomplish with this training?
A: Well, we’re trying to get the council members woke. The main thing we wanted to accomplish was to have a common understanding and common language that everybody can start with. It dispels the opportunities for people to come in with their own perspective. If we can lay the groundwork for one common understanding, that was the purpose.
Q: I’m glad you brought that up because that was actually the part of the training that hit a roadblock. Council President Lisa Bender said she was uncomfortable participating in an exercise in which council members’ discussions about their early experiences with race would be televised. What did you make of that?
A: Boy, I was really–I was disappointed. We ask people to support us in being representatives. And then we are not willing to share details about our own experiences, our own lives, that could help bring understanding to why we make some of the decisions we make. I know that council President Bender is very open about some really vulnerable parts of her life. It would be really eye opening and compelling for people to understand some of her experiences around race. It wasn’t just council President Bender–I mean, if you watched the meeting, there were a number of council members who were reluctant to share that information. Sometimes there’s really powerful strength in being vulnerable.
Q: There is another event we need to discuss that happened before the racial equity training. Can you explain what precipitated your June 27 committee of the whole meeting?
A: A week prior to that meeting, there had been a police-involved shooting of a young, black man who–it was under dispute whether or not he was armed, whether or not he was fleeing and was shot in the back. And so tensions in our community was really, really, really high.
Q: In that meeting, Council Member Cam Gordon wondered whether the city council needed more of a role in the police department. He proceeded to draft that exact charter amendment–which did not sit well with a number of people, including the public safety committee chair, Alondra Cano, who said she was “disgusted by the privilege” of the motion. What did you make of that?
A: I interpreted her use of the term “privilege” to suggest that it would’ve potentially been more appropriate for her to have made that–or someone who had those kinds of experiences–as opposed to Mr. Gordon, who has not lived those kinds of experiences.
Q: So speaking with terms of racial equity, it’s easier for someone who has benefited from the system to look at it and say, “something’s wrong. We need to fix it,” and to have people listen to him, than it might be for someone who belongs to a historically-oppressed group to say the same thing and perhaps get ignored when they say it.
A: I think that is absolutely true. Yes, I agree with that.
Follow Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins on Twitter: @annapoetic
Ah, Minneapolis. The prettier, more datable sibling of the Twin Cities. But at this week’s city council meeting, it was goodbye “Minnesota Nice” and hello “all-out warfare.”
No sooner had Council President Barbara Johnson opened the day’s agenda than a woman in the front row was hellbent on inserting herself into it.
“Council, I would like you to amend the agenda specific to Jamar Clark,” who was shot two weeks ago. “Our city isn’t responsive to the fact that-”
President Johnson leaned into the microphone. “Those who disrupt proceedings will be asked to leave.”
Front-row lady yielded no ground. “WHY ARE YOU…KILL OUR RESIDENTS…SHAME!” she shrieked over the president’s warning.
“Remove this lady!” Johnson ordered, summoning two burly sentinels to eject the rabble rouser. Incredibly, another woman in the front row stood to take her place.
“Consider this on the agenda today-” she repeated.
Ma’am, ma’am! We are trying to conduct a city council meeting,” Johnson pleaded, emphasis on “trying.” “Please remove this lady.”
Burly bouncer #1 rushed again to the front row to seize the protester. But–are you sensing a pattern?–Old Yeller #3 picked up the diatribe mid-sentence!
“BECAUSE WE ALL HAVE A CHOICE,” she bellowed. “A CHOICE ABOUT WHICH SIDE-”
“Ma’am, I’m going to ask security to remove you,” the president reiterated, a phrase that will now be forever seared in my subconscious.
I don’t need to tell you perceptive people what happened next.
“EVEN THE FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE-” the fourth synchronized shouter wailed, loudest of all.
LOCK HER UP WITH THE OTHERS! GAG THEM ALL, President Johnson thundered. (I’m paraphrasing here.)
At long, blessed last, the council could begin the People’s Business, although the lyrical chants of the dearly departed could still be heard from outside.
“The next item of business is to accept the minutes-”
NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE!
“Moved and seconded-”
“All in approval say aye-”
Council members had been holding their fire, but that all changed with consideration of the Third Avenue South bike lane proposal.
“I would like to move a substitute motion,” Councilmember Lisa Bender bombshelled.
Oh. S#%t. This daredevil diva wanted to take Third Avenue downtown from four lanes to an insane three lanes with bike space and a center turn lane!
“I use Third Street about four or five times per day,” physically fit Councilmember Jacob Frey bragged. “I use it more than anyone else in the city other than the guys that ride their bikes for Jimmy John’s.” It’s dangerous, he said. And he’ll be voting for the three lanes.
“I bicycle every day, year-round on Third Avenue, sometimes with my two small children,” Councilmember Bender responded. Jesus, is this a competition for who has the most badass commute? Does any council member ride a unicycle in the snow with immigrant laborers hanging onto their their back?
President Johnson called the vote.
It failed. 6-7.
Even though the Rebel Alliance lost out to the Empire, they would still get their bike lanes. No-voting Councilmember Lisa Goodman rubbed in her victory: “I think we’ve won and the feeling that we haven’t won enough makes me sad.”
Final thoughts: On drama, I give this meeting 4 out of 4 screaming protesters. On results, I’ll award only 3 out of 4 lanes because Councilmember Goodman feels sad.