I am writing to support the ballot language recommended by the Minneapolis city attorney and adopted by the City Council for the Yes 4 Minneapolis proposed charter amendment.("City sued over policing ballot language," July 31.)
The idea to create an overarching Department of Public Safety is sensible, based upon justified outrage over repeated incidents of "over-policing," especially the unconscionable abuse and murder of unarmed civilians by our police.
However, legally embedding this particular proposed amendment into the Minneapolis charter (our "constitution") raises other issues that our city attorney has rightly determined must be identified to the voters on the ballot if they are to make a well-informed decision about this proposal.
State law requires that the statement on the ballot be "sufficient to identify the amendment clearly."In this case, the proposed amendment is not "clearly identified" unless it is made clear that the proposal not only would "replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety," but (as the article points out) "also would strike language from the charter that gives the mayor 'complete power' over police operations, a move that likely would grant council members more sway over officers."
From what I read and hear from my fellow citizens, this issue of control by the mayor and intervention by the council is of paramount importance to both proponents and opponents of this proposed amendment, with many people who support the concept of a new Department of Public Safety voicing reservations about removing peace officers from the mayor's control, thereby reducing the mayor's authority and accountability for how peace officers behave.
The explanatory note that is part of the disputed ballot language identifies this issue and also identifies other key issues, such as elimination of the position of police chief and the fact that the public safety functions to be included in the new department have not yet been determined.
There is no "inherent bias" in identifying these critical aspects of this proposed amendment in the explanatory note to our voters. Our city attorney was fulfilling a responsibility and has done it well.
John Satorius, of Minneapolis, is a retired attorney.