U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar told constituents Saturday at a town hall meeting that Minneapolis' rise in gun violence and carjackings can be blamed on police who "have chosen to not fulfill their oath of office and provide the public safety they owe to the citizens."
The congresswoman spoke before a mostly friendly gathering of about 50 at her alma mater, Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis. She was responding to a resident who said she had been on the verge of moving because of the increase in crime and scores of officers who have quit or claimed post-traumatic stress since George Floyd's killing last year at the hands of police.
Omar, a Democrat, said she understood the desire for safety and reiterated her call to voters to approve a Minneapolis City Charter amendment that would remove minimum police staffing requirements and give the City Council authority over a more holistic public safety department.
"When you have a system that refuses to work for the people it's supposed to serve, you have to go back to the drawing board," she said. "At some point, you've got to walk away."
Omar and DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison support the amendment, while fellow DFLers such as Mayor Jacob Frey, Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith oppose it.
Omar recently stepped into the Minneapolis election, endorsing mayoral candidates Kate Knuth and Sheila Nezhad while urging residents not to mark Frey, who is seeking re-election, on their ranked-choice ballots.
In her first indoor, in-person town hall since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Omar addressed the stalemate in Washington over President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda. The president's massive infrastructure and social safety net plan, costing trillions and with climate change provisions, have led to a Democratic rift amid efforts at compromise.
North Minneapolis developer Jamez Staples, who runs a solar installation company, asked how Congress would ensure equity in the bill for communities that have been historically left behind.
Omar said Democratic U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are the only obstacles to passage of the bill and the reason its price tag has been halved to about $2 trillion. She said that meant certain child care subsidies and paid family leave may receive funding for five years instead of 10.
She called it "baffling and shameful" that Manchin, who opposes provisions that would penalize West Virginia's coal companies, would hobble social services that his constituents could benefit from.
However, Omar indicated she would be willing to compromise.
Residents' questions ranged from personal issues to policy concerns, including student loan debt, the Line 3 pipeline, addiction services and the Afghan refugee crisis.
Edison teacher Billy Menz, who is running unopposed for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's District 1 seat, asked Omar when the city will begin to receive Afghan refugees.
"As a community that's been built and strengthened by immigrant populations, I know this building and the community at large would welcome those people here," Menz said.
Omar said, "contrary to what Fox News might say," it's a lengthy vetting process.
Susan Du • 612-673-4028