Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Showing a disappointing lack of leadership, the Minneapolis City Council has once again put the location of the Police Department's Third Precinct in limbo.
The location of the precinct's officers and operations has been controversial since a previous building was badly damaged and shut down in the rioting that followed the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. The shameful indecision has been tied up in the politics of the council and gone on too long. It's a disservice to residents who rely on the precinct to keep their neighborhoods safe.
The city's voters, who will be electing a new council in November, should be paying close attention to what happens next — if anything.
On Sept. 5, with all the information about the downtown Century Plaza site in front of them, the council voted to move the Third Precinct to that location and co-locate with the First Precinct. Then, just two days later, a majority voted against it, with some saying it would be too expensive to have officers work from there for as long as 10 years.
In the latest twist, meeting as a committee earlier this week, council members voted overwhelmingly to take no action at all to find a permanent home for police who serve much of south Minneapolis.
"Three floors, 200 parking spaces, 10 years, $30 million is not something I'm gonna vote for, and I think there's a lot of unanimity around that," Council Member Lisa Goodman said during the meeting. She later said that adopting the plan would be "fiscally irresponsible."
In a letter to the council delivered before the latest vote, Mayor Jacob Frey wrote that if the 13 elected representatives cannot decide about a site, they should give him the authority to do so.
The mayor says that as an operational action, he believes he technically has the power to make that choice. However, the council has the power of the purse and has indicated that it wouldn't approve any budget for a site that doesn't win its members approval.
"It's so frustrating," Frey told an editorial writer. "We've got to make a decision on this. It's time for some political courage. We've got to do right by our city. If [council members] don't want to step up, leave the decision to me. This isn't fair for the residents of the precinct or for officers ... ."
In Frey's view, there are currently three options — rebuild at the former site, move temporarily to the downtown Century Plaza site, or build a new precinct at 2600 Minnehaha Ave. on land the city already owns. That location would be just a few blocks from the old Lake Street location.
(Currently, officers are operating out of a downtown building near City Hall that is inadequate for officer needs and outside the precinct's boundaries.)
The idea of rebuilding on the site has been met by objections in some circles because of the trauma and emotion connected to that location. As a result, the council adopted a resolution that says there will not be a police precinct at the Lake Street site — though it's unclear whether such a resolution is legally binding.
Frey said he has now offered this solution: If cost is the major sticking point, then the council could allocate a certain amount of money for the move and allow the mayor to choose a site based on that budget. Should they approve a lower amount, the least expensive option is to rebuild on Lake Street. If they approve a larger amount, one of the other two locations could be chosen.
That's a sensible solution — at this point, if budget is the council's top concern, all options should be back on the table.
If the Lake Street precinct headquarters isn't rebuilt, the city should move with urgency to determine what its new use might be. That old site has been a blight to the neighborhood for more than three years.
Political maneuvering and chaotic indecision have stalled this important decision. Residents deserve better from their elected officials.