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A new progressive majority elected in November assumed control of the Minneapolis City Council earlier this month — and immediately began leaving its mark.

The 13 council members aren't even a month into their two-year term, and have not yet had to take on critical city issues. But from renaming committees to forging ahead with a contentious resolution on the Israel-Hamas war, the 2024-2025 council has already distinguished itself from the previous council, where a narrow majority of members usually allied themselves with Mayor Jacob Frey.

One overarching theme, according to new council President Elliott Payne: balancing power at City Hall.

More than two years after voters changed the structure of city government to a "strong-mayor" system, the council is still finding its footing. Payne and other council progressives have said they want to establish the body as a truly separate branch of government, with the wherewithal to check the mayor's power.

Here's how that has played out so far:

1. Public Works Committee renamed

The council's longstanding Public Works Committee has been renamed the Climate & Infrastructure Committee, with freshman Council Member Katie Cashman as chair. Cashman previously worked as a project manager at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Payne said the committee will still have oversight over the Public Works Department, whose tasks include paving and plowing streets and bicycle lanes. But the impact of climate change, including the city's growing response to it, needed a higher profile.

2. Robin Wonsley gains a gavel

Also renamed: The Policy & Government Oversight Committee is now the Administration & Enterprise Oversight Committee, with Robin Wonsley, the only member of the council who identifies as a Democratic Socialist but not a DFLer, as chair. This will be the first time she'll hold a committee gavel.

The most outspoken member on the council, Wonsley, now entering her second term, hasn't shied away from criticizing city staff when their conclusions differ from her positions — one of several points of friction between her and Frey.

Wonsley described the committee's scope in a recent newsletter to constituents: "AEO will exercise oversight and evaluation on all matters related to general government, enterprise and administration operations not assigned to other committees. It will also receive regular reports and presentations about the City's Strategic Racial Equity Action Plan and evaluate the Mayor's Office and administration on efforts to recruit and retain employees, eliminate corruptions and unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources, and foster a healthy, ethical enterprise culture."

Payne said there was a common theme to renaming the committees.

"The main shift here is to have the focus of our committees be around spheres of policy development more so than hierarchical department reporting," he said.

Another committee tweak: The Budget Committee, which used to meet only in the fall as the budget was being finalized, will now meet year-round.

3. Voting lines drawn?

Payne was the only council member nominated for president at the council's Jan. 8 organizational meeting.

But that doesn't mean no one else wanted the gig. Ever since the November election, numerous council members have been angling for leadership positions behind the scenes.

It was little surprise that Council Member Andrea Jenkins wouldn't serve another term as president; she narrowly escaped defeat in the election that saw progressives gain a majority.

Payne won via a 10-3 vote, with Jenkins, LaTrisha Vetaw and Linea Palmisano, the former council vice president, voting no.

Council Member Aisha Chughtai was elected vice president after a two-person contest with Vetaw that revealed some of the splits among the 13 council members.

Vetaw failed to be elected by a 6-7 margin. Voting in her favor were Vetaw, Jenkins, Palmisano, Michael Rainville, Emily Koski and Jeremiah Ellison. Voting against were Chughtai, Payne, Wonsley, Jamal Osman, Jason Chavez and the two newest council members, Aurin Chowdhury and Cashman.

After Vetaw's vote, Chughtai was elected in an 8-5 vote that could serve as a preview for close votes on various closely divided issues. Voting in favor were Chughtai, Payne, Wonsley, Osman, Chavez, Chowdhury, Cashman and Ellison.

Voting against were Vetaw, Jenkins, Palmisano, Rainville and Koski — the council members endorsed by Frey in November.