Public Safety Charter Amendments
Frequently Asked Questions
On June 26, the City Council gave preliminary approval of a proposed charter amendment to be referred as a ballot question to voters at the general election in November 2020 which, if approved, would eliminate the police department as a charter department and add the creation of a new charter department for community safety and violence prevention to have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.
On July 20, the Charter Commission accepted a proposed charter amendment that would eliminate the minimum required staffing levels in the Minneapolis Police Department by deleting existing Section 7.3(c).
To be referred to voters as a ballot question at the general election on November 3, 2020, either or both of these proposals must be submitted—in final form—no later than Friday, August 21, 2020.
PROPOSAL BY THE CITY COUNCIL
1. What is the subject of the proposal from the City Council?
At its June 26 meeting, the City Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that proposes an amendment to the city charter which, if adopted, would remove the police department from the city charter and add a new community safety and violence prevention department. That new department would be responsible for providing a range of public safety services through a “holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
2. What is the process of handling a ballot question to amend the charter?
The charter is the City’s constitution. As reflected in the chart below, there are two ways to change (amend) the charter: (1) By ballot question approved by voters at an election or (2) By ordinance enacted by the City Council and Mayor. This is reflected in the chart below.
The City Council has proposed that its public safety amendment by referred to voters as a ballot question at the general election on November 3, 2020.
3. What is the status of the City Council’s proposed amendment?
The Council’s proposed amendment has been referred to the Charter Commission for its review, as required by state law. The Charter Commission has created a Public Safety Work Group to examine that proposal and to submit its recommendations to the full Charter Commission. The statutes give the Charter Commission a total of not to exceed 150 days to complete its review and to make its report with recommendations, if any, to the City Council. The City Council’s proposed amendment was received by the Charter Commission at a special meeting on July 1; thus, the final statutory deadline for action by the Charter Commission is November 27, 2020. Until the Charter Commission submits its report back to the City Council, it remains in the custody of the Charter Commission, and the City Council cannot take any further action on the proposal.
4. What is the Charter Commission, and what role does it play in this process?
The Charter Commission serves as a kind of “standing constitutional convention” and is the body that holds the city charter in trust for the people of Minneapolis. Any proposal to amend the charter must involve the Charter Commission, and the Charter Commission itself may initiate amendments and refer those to the City’s voters in the form of ballot question. In the case of the proposal initiated by the City Council, the Charter Commission is required to review and submit its recommendation(s) on the proposed amendment.
5. Who are the members of the Charter Commission? How are they selected?
There are 15 members of the Charter Commission. They are appointed by the Chief Judge of the District Court. Each member serves a four-year term. The members are: Barry Clegg (chair); Jan Sandberg (vice chair); Peter Ginder (secretary); Gregory Abbott; Dan Cohen; Jill Garcia; Al Giraud-Isaacson; Andrew Kozak; Barbara Lickness; Jana Metge; Toni Newborn; Matt Perry; Andrea Rubenstein; Lyall Schwarzkopf; and Christopher Smith.
6. What action(s) can the Charter Commission take on the City Council’s proposed amendment?
The options available to the Charter Commission are restricted one of the following:
- Accept the proposed charter amendment and recommend it be referred as a ballot question to voters;
- Reject the proposed charter amendment and recommend that it not be referred as a ballot question to voters; or
- Offer a “substitute” proposal—an alternative to the City Council’s proposal—which could be referred as a ballot question to voters.
7. Does the Charter Commission get to decide if the question is referred to voters?
No; the Charter Commission has an important consultative role in the process, but it is ultimately a question for City Council to decide if a proposal is put on the ballot. However, the City Council cannot submit any proposal to voters until the Charter Commission has submitted its report with any recommendation(s) it might have on the proposal.
8. Does the City Council get to decide if the question is referred to voters?
The City Council decides if a proposal is put on the ballot as well as the actual language that would appear on the ballot. After it receives the Charter Commission’s recommendation(s), the City Council may, by majority vote, take any of the following actions:
- Submit its original proposal as a ballot question for voters to decide;
- Submit a “substitute” proposal recommended by the Charter Commission as a ballot question for voters to decide; or
- Not submit any proposal on the ballot.
9. What impact does the Mayor have on this proposal?
The city charter requires that every act of the City Council must be either approved or vetoed by the Mayor. That means any decision of the City Council about the proposed ballot question must be approved by the Mayor or, if vetoed by the Mayor, approved by a two-thirds vote of the City Council.
10. What is the timeline to submit a ballot question?
State law requires any proposal to be submitted no later than 74 days prior to the election when it would be presented as a ballot question to be decided by voters. The 2020 general election is set for Tuesday, November 3, which means the deadline to submit the proposal is Friday, August 21. If the proposal is not submitted by that deadline, it cannot be put on the ballot and referred to voters.
11. What is the deadline for submitting the ballot question? What happens if the clock runs out?
If the question is not submitted by the statutory deadline (August 21), then it will not be referred to voters at the general election on November 3, 2020. The question could be reintroduced next year and referred to voters as part of the 2021 general election (Tuesday, November 2, 2021).
12. What is the vote threshold required for passage of the amendment?
State law requires the affirmative vote of at least 51 percent of the votes that are cast on the proposed amendment for it to be adopted.
13. How are cast votes tabulated (counted)?
Only ballots that are marked YES or NO on the ballot question are included in the tally to determine if the ballot question is adopted. Ballots where no response is given—that is, where the question is blank—are not included in the tally. Once all ballots that have a clear vote on the question are tallied, election officials will determine if at least 51 percent are in favor of the proposal. If so, the amendment is adopted.
14. If adopted, when does the amendment become effective?
The ordinance includes a provision that indicated if it is adopted by voters it would become effective on May 1, 2021.
15. If adopted, what would happen to the Police Department?
If adopted, the police department would be removed from the city charter. That does not mean Minneapolis would no longer have a police department, only that it would no longer be included in the charter—the City’s constitution. The question of what to do with the existing police department would be a decision for the Mayor and City Council.
16. If adopted, would Minneapolis still have law enforcement officers?
If adopted, the City of Minneapolis could still employ law enforcement officers (called “peace officers” in state law). The proposal does not eliminate the option for the City to retain law enforcement officers. In fact, the proposal specifically provides that a division within the new community safety and violence prevention department could be focused on law enforcement activities with state-licensed peace officers. That would be a decision for the Mayor and City Council.
17. If adopted, who would oversee the new department?
The proposal calls for a department director to be jointly appointed by the Mayor and City Council to oversee the department. The proposal specifically states that individuals eligible to be considered for appointment as the new department’s direction must have “non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.”
18. What is a charter department? What are the current charter departments?
City departments are classified in two types: charter departments and non-charter departments. The charter departments are those which comprise traditional “core government” functions, such as public safety, public health, and public works. The non-charter departments primarily support the management and operations of the City. The directors of the charter departments are jointly appointed by, and report to, the Mayor and City Council. The non-charter department directors are appointed by and report to the City Coordinator. There are ten charter departments; these are: City Assessor; City Attorney; City Coordinator; Civil Rights; Community Planning & Economic Development; Fire; Health; Police; Public Works; and Regulatory Services.
19. Is there a legal analysis of the proposed charter amendment available?
A legal analysis has not been completed on this proposal. The Charter Commission has requested that the City Attorney’s Office provide a legal analysis to be considered as part of its review of the proposal.
20. What is the fiscal impact of creating the new Community Safety & Violence Prevention Department cost?
A fiscal impact analysis has not been completed on this proposal.
21. What is the racial equity impact of creating the new Community Safety & Violence Prevention Department?
A racial equity impact analysis has not been completed on this proposal.
PROPOSAL BY THE CHARTER COMMISSION
22. What is the subject of the proposal from the Charter Commission?
The Charter Commission is considering an amendment that would eliminate the minimum required staffing level for the Minneapolis Police Department, as established under Section 7.3(c). That proposal makes no other changes to the city charter.
23. Does the Charter Commission’s proposed amendment replace the proposal initiated by the City Council?
No. The proposal, which was introduced by Commissioner Giraud-Isaacson, seeks to refer a separate ballot question on the topic of public safety to voters at the general election on November 3, 2020.
24. Is the deadline to submit this ballot question initiated by the Charter Commission the same as for the City Council’s proposal?
Yes; any ballot question to be referred to voters must be submitted no later than 74 days before the date of the general election. That means the proposal must be submitted no later than Friday, August 21, to be referred to voters at the general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
25. Does the City Council get the same review period for the proposal initiated by the Charter Commission?
No; the Charter Commission—an independent body created under state statute—has the authority to submit proposed amendments to the voters, and that authority is not subject to the City Council. The City Council can not prevent a ballot question initiated by the Charter Commission from being submitted to voters, unless the subject is clearly inappropriate under existing state law. The only authority the City Council has with respect to a proposal initiated by the Charter Commission is to determine the language of the actual ballot question referred to voters. The City Council cannot alter, amend, change, or modify in any way the actual proposed charter amendment initiated by the Charter Commission. Furthermore, state laws and regulations about ballot questions restrict how the City Council may determine ballot language; specifically, the ballot language must be plainly worded in a way that (1) distinguishes the question from other questions on the ballot at the same election and (2) clearly conveys to voters the intent of the proposal and its outcome if adopted.
26. What role does the Mayor have with regard to a proposed charter amendment initiated by the Charter Commission?
With respect to any proposal initiated by the Charter Commission, the Mayor’s role is limited to approving or disapproving the final ballot language approved by the City Council.
27. Is there a legal analysis of this proposed charter amendment available?
A legal analysis has not been completed on this proposal. The Charter Commission has requested that the City Attorney’s Office provide a legal analysis of its proposal.
28. What is the fiscal impact of eliminating the required minimum staffing levels in the Minneapolis Police Department?
A fiscal impact analysis has not been completed on this proposal.
29. What is the racial equity impact of eliminating the required minimum staffing levels in the Minneapolis Police Department?
A racial equity impact analysis has not been completed on this proposal.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The Charter Commission has conducted two public hearings on the City Council’s proposed amendment and continues to accept community comments. Its Public Safety Work Group meets weekly on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. to continue its review and evaluation of the City Council’s proposed amendment.
The Charter Commission has scheduled a public hearing on its own proposed amendment for Monday, July 27, at 5 p.m.
For both proposals, the Charter Commission needs to act by its regular meeting on Wednesday, August 5, in order to meet the statutory deadline for submitting ballot questions (Aug. 21). If the Charter Commission completes its work by its August 5th meeting, that leaves the City Council a single, two-week cycle to complete all its work within the statutory timeline. In both cases, the Mayor also approve the act(s); the official act(s) must be published to become legally effective; and then the ballot questions must be transmitted to the Hennepin County Auditor by the deadline.
|August 5, 4 p.m.||Charter Commission regular meeting|
|August 6, 1:30 p.m.||POGO Committee reviews and recommends ballot language for the proposed amendment(s).|
|August 14, 9:30 a.m.||City Council takes final action on the proposed charter amendment(s).|
|August 18||Legal publication|
|August 19||City Clerk submits the ballot question to County.|
|August 21||Statutory deadline to submit ballot questions.|
Last updated Jul 23, 2020