The Aug. 4 article about the fundraising efforts of Yes 4 Minneapolis states that their funding comes from a mix of individuals, local and national groups ("$1M rolls in to fight over cop reforms," front page). Quickly scanning the campaign finance report of the over 2,000 lines of donations, I see roughly 250 individual donors who list Minneapolis addresses. The vast majority of supporters and the preponderance of the money donated has come from people who live anywhere but Minneapolis. How are we to have a fair conversation about how public safety should be approached in our city when these large outside influences are putting big dollars into influencing such an important city decision? I suspect that most of them know little about what life is really like in Minneapolis and perhaps have never even visited here.
Harvey Zuckman, Minneapolis
It was helpful to read two separate Opinion pieces on two different charter amendment proposals, side by side.
The first, from a group of residents in the Linden Hills neighborhood, promoted the Yes 4 Minneapolis amendment ("Why the reform amendment must pass"). It argued, contra Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer ("Why the defund amendment must be defeated," July 28), that longtime police reform efforts have never achieved results, and the only solution is a restructuring of city government, shifting supervisory responsibility from the mayor to the City Council.
The second, from former Minneapolis budget director Jay Kiedrowski ("The executive-mayor amendment must pass"), argued in support of another charter amendment, which would clarify lines of municipal authority and give more administrative responsibility — over policing as well as other departments — to the mayor.
After reviewing and comparing these two essays, I came to the following conclusions. The very difficult challenges of police reform, public safety and law enforcement require citywide administrative (mayoral) oversight and responsibility. The impatience with "stalled" actions against "killer cops," evidenced by the Linden Hills group, has less to do with specific engagement with these nitty-gritty management issues and more to do with voicing progressive ideals and expressing righteous anger — organized and funded by deep-pocketed national advocacy groups. The remark from the utopia of Linden Hills that "we almost never see squad cars" — because they are a well-resourced community, as all neighborhoods, in a future world, should be — is telling. Linden Hills does not face the immediate problems of police brutality, criminal violence, the murder of children and the desecration of neighborhood and downtown businesses, yet these writers are prepared to lecture the rest of the city on how to fulfill their vague public-safety ideals.
The slow and halting progress on police reform is attributed by the Linden Hills group, and by others, to deeply ingrained systemic racism and social inequalities. There is no doubt that these are some, if not all, of the underlying causes of police misconduct and bad training. But stalled progress in addressing the problems themselves has more to do with the dysfunctional structure of city governance, as Kiedrowski pointed out. The Yes 4 Minneapolis proposal will only increase the muddle of dispersed and conflicting municipal responsibility. The Linden Hills group states that the confusion about lines of authority is a nonissue and even "insulting" to suggest. They write that "if voters understand the difference between Congress and the president, they understand the difference between City Council and the mayor." It is this kind of glib, patronizing attitude that is truly insulting — and I hope they read the Kiedrowski piece, which is illuminating on the real consequences of our current, ambiguous system of city governance.
Reducing mayoral oversight and handing it over to our hapless, divided City Council shifts city powers around but does not help solve the actual problems. Listen to the crime-besieged residents of neighborhoods not so well-heeled as Linden Hills. Listen to the current mayor and police chief. Let's work together on solving actual, immediate problems, rather than salving our righteous, progressive, hypocritical consciences.
Henry Gould, Minneapolis
An Aug. 4 letter writer wrote that he is voting for Yes 4 Minneapolis because past efforts at reform have been unsuccessful and the mayor and chief of police don't seem to have a plan for it ("We tried 'reform' already," Readers Write). Like the writer, I'm disappointed at past unsuccessful efforts to reform the Police Department. However, the proponents of Yes 4 Minneapolis have not outlined a specific proposal to replace the existing system. I want to vote for reform but am unwilling to jump off the high dive without first knowing there is water in the pool. The adage that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know applies in this case. Absent a specific proposal for what comes next, I cannot vote for the devil I don't know.
Fred Morris, Minneapolis
In his recent commentary, Jay Kiedrowski includes Don Fraser in a list of former Minneapolis mayors who failed to overhaul the city's charter. While Fraser may not have achieved as much reform as he may have wished, he did make a nuanced but significant charter change which moved Minneapolis in the direction of a strong mayor system. Fraser's plan gave the mayor, operating through a City Hall policy group known as the Executive Committee, the authority to nominate city department heads. Kiedrowski is now advocating for a charter amendment, building on the Fraser plan, that would give the mayor more direct authority to appoint department heads. Under this new plan, the mayor would still need to obtain City Council ratification for his appointments, as he does now under the Fraser plan, but the intermediate step of an Executive Committee action would be eliminated. In Kiedrowski's effort to promote a more streamlined City Hall decisionmaking process, he has bypassed a significant chapter in Minneapolis city charter history.
Iric Nathanson, Minneapolis
The writer is the author of the book "Don Fraser, Minnesota's Quiet Crusader."
Too much transparency conflicts with right to anonymous speech
Just as he did while he and I sat on the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board together, Bob Moilanen advocates "more transparency" in political speech as if transparency were intrinsically good ("Inaction on transparency leaves us in the dark," Opinion Exchange, Aug. 2).Transparency, however, can be used for good and for bad purposes.Moilanen advocates for legislation that, under the guise of regulating "independent expenditures," would strip away key elements of the freedom of Minnesotans to engage in anonymous political speech.
Anonymous political speech has been critical to the advancement of civil rights throughout America's history.The leading advocates in the campaign to adopt the Constitution and Bill of Rights published their views anonymously.Contributors to the NAACP and other voting-rights advocacy organizations in the 1950s and '60s had to keep their identities concealed in order to avoid boycotts of their small businesses, being socially ostracized and having their property vandalized.Anonymity has advanced LGBTQ rights, abortion rights and religious rights.
Anonymity protects the rights and the safety of those who want to express political opinions that are opposed by some who would respond with violence.As today's volatile political environment is characterized by polarization and a rising tide of violent expression on the right and the left, this is a particularly bad time to erode the right of anonymous speech.
Daniel N. Rosen, Minneapolis
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