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Minneapolis city council overrides mayor's veto of ballot language to replace MPD

Mayor Jacob Frey twice vetoed revised language approved by the city council for a ballot question that proposes to replace the Minneapolis Police Department.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday evening to override a second veto by Mayor Jacob Frey on a proposed ballot measure to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a newly created public safety department.

The council voted 9-4 to override the mayor's veto, meeting the two-thirds votes necessary by law to do so.

With the override, the approved ballot language for the November election will read:

"Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to strike and replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety which could include licensed peace officers (police officers) if necessary, with administrative authority to be consistent with other city departments to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety?"

In a news release, Frey said he issued his second veto because the revised language "failed to meet the most basic standards of transparency," which were also among his concerns with previous language which he'd vetoed earlier in the day.

"I cannot in good conscience move this language forward. We should not be afraid to tell the people we represent the truth about the choices before them," Frey said in a statement.

The revision was approved by the city council late Friday afternoon. It came after Frey vetoed an earlier version of the question.

The question, which would be posed to voters in November, would amend the city charter to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety that would provide a "comprehensive public health approach."

“Minneapolis voters deserve essential information regarding the consequences of their decisions at the ballot box," Frey said in a letter announcing his first veto around noon Friday. "Denying our residents this basic measure of transparency is an affront to good governance. Regardless of where you stand on the substance of this proposal, these statements should not be controversial."

During the reconvened meeting Friday afternoon, Frey also expressed concern that the question still is not transparent enough, and does not clarify what the proposed charter amendment would do to the role of the police chief or the mandatory staffing minimum for police officers. 

The ballot measure was originally passed by the council last month to include an explanatory note, which specifically listed parts of the proposal, such as removing the mandate for a police department in the city's charter and removing the requirement to fund a police force of at least 1.7 employees per 1,000 residents. 

Yes 4 Minneapolis, the advocacy group that wrote the proposal, filed a lawsuit challenging the inclusion of the explanatory note, and a Hennepin County judge ruled to remove it. 

On Friday morning, the city council voted 9-3 to use the ballot question without the note. 

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison said during Friday morning's meeting that he believes including the note would be placing a "warning label" on the question. He said he felt the language passed by the council already clearly explains what the results of the proposal would be, while the explanatory note is misleading. 

"I want this thing to be interpreted plainly, truthfully, honestly," Ellison said. "The current language does that."

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