What’s the plan, Mayor Frey?

A few weeks ago, hyper-local reporter John Edwards (WedgeLIVE) released interviews with four of the current candidates for Hennepin County Attorney.

During his interview with candidate Ryan Winkler, Edwards asks why he came out against Minneapolis ballot Question 2 last year, which was the proposed charter amendment to restructure our public safety functions and give the City Council some authority over them. Winkler responded that he agreed with some parts of the amendment, but decided to oppose it because “there wasn’t actually a plan” for how the new structure would work.

I felt sick. 

I finished listening to the episode, but I was on-edge for the rest of the day. Mentally, I had gone back to last fall, to one of the many moments when I realized that this amendment (which I supported) would likely fail. And that failure wouldn’t be because voters understood what the amendment would do and didn’t think it was a good idea. A big part of that failure would likely be because of that exact argument: this amendment has “no plan” for public safety. And that’s not true.

So, what was the plan?

On May 12, 2021, Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremy Schoeder, and Steve Fletcher gave a presentation to the City Council’s Committee of the Whole titled “Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment & Proposed Department of Public Safety.” You can watch the presentation here and download a copy of the slide set here.

The presentation gave a fairly detailed summary of what new or improved public safety initiatives are currently underway by city staff, the data that led these Council Members to propose the Public Safety Charter Amendment, what exactly the charter amendment will and will not do, a comparison of the roles and responsibilities of various public officials now and after the charter amendment would take effect, the planned process of getting public feedback on the proposed changes, and how those changes would be implemented with a city ordinance. It ends with a timeline for the next steps, including the intention to begin gathering public feedback about this possible future in the summer of 2021, before the vote in November, so the implementation would go as smoothly as possible if the amendment were to pass.

In other words: It’s a plan.

Soon after the start of the Q&A portion of the presentation, city ethics officer Susan Trammell cuts in. “There are concerns that I have related to the promotion or laying the groundwork for a particular ballot question,” she says. Trammell explains that, according to the Minneapolis ethics code, city resources (e.g., using time and staff resources to give a presentation at a public city council meeting, or gather public feedback on the contents of that presentation) may not be used to educate the public about a particular ballot question unless the exact same amount of resources are used to explain all questions on the ballot (there were three questions on the November 2021 ballot). 

If these council members were to continue with the next steps in their plan, they would be violating the ethics code. The conversation petered out from there. No one in the media discussed this plan at all, with the exception of a passing mention in this October Minnesota Reformer article, which links to WedgeLIVE’s initial coverage of the presentation.

It’s simply not true that there was “no plan” to implement Question 2.

Yet it was, and apparently still is, a ubiquitous claim put forth by both the media, many candidates, and elected officials. I don’t actually know whether Winkler was intentionally lying in that WedgeLIVE interview, or whether he simply believed his many political allies spreading the “no plan” idea were being truthful. Either way, this misinformation needs to stop. 

I’ve considered writing about this since I heard that interview weeks ago, but decided against it. Why should I spend any time relitigating a decision that can’t be changed? The 2021 elections were a rough time for a lot of people on both sides of question 2. I figured it’s probably not worth bringing this up again. It wouldn’t be helpful.

Then, on February 2nd, MPD officer Mark Hanneman killed Amir Locke. 

Locke was killed during a raid facilitated by a no-knock warrant—the same type of warrant that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. The same kind of warrant that Mayor Frey claimed to have “banned” countless times throughout the same election campaign last year. It was one of his proudest achievements, highlighted on his campaign website: “Banned the use of no-knock warrants in the city of Minneapolis.” (You can only see it on the internet archive now. That line was removed from Mayor Frey’s website after Locke was killed.)

Faced with the fact that Locke was killed while the MPD was executing a no-knock warrant, Frey has now admitted that he hadn’t actually banned them. But he still claims that he never lied about it.

So, what does the “no-knock ban” lie have to do with the “no plan” lie? Quite a lot.

They both emerged from the same place at the same time. While Mayor Frey was highlighting his “no knock ban” on the campaign trail, his political allies were campaigning hard against Question 2. The newly formed PAC AllofMpls, managed by Mayor Frey’s former communications staffer Leili Fatehi, collected and spent millions of dollars convincing voters to reject Question 2. Here’s one of the flyers we all received from them in the mail, repeating the “no plan” lie as one of the “Top Ten Reasons to Vote NO on Question 2”:

Both of these lies helped mask an inconvenient truth for Mayor Frey: the proponents of Question 2 did have a plan for the future of public safety, but he didn’t.

In November, both the “no-knock ban” lie and the “no plan” lie seem to have been successful. We can’t know exactly how much either of these points in themselves swayed individual voters. But, Mayor Frey won the election, Question 2 was voted down, and both of these lies are now, months after the election, still very ingrained in the public consciousness of our city.

All of these facts still make me feel sick.

Luckily, there’s one point that Mayor Frey, AllofMpls, and I seem to agree on: we need a plan for public safety.

We had one in May of 2021. It was on the ballot in November and Minneapolis residents voted it down. 

So, what’s your plan, Mayor Frey?

I know you’ve had trouble understanding this question in the past, so I’ll be clear: What’s your plan for keeping Minneapolis residents safe? How are you, the singular boss of the MPD and all other public safety functions in our city, going to keep us safe from carjackings, gun violence, collective trauma, MPD officers who want to violate our constitutional rights, and MPD officers who may decide in 9 seconds that we’re threatening enough to kill?

Question 2 is in the past. You ran for reelection and won. All those achievements you boasted about on your campaign website didn’t work. Minneapolis residents need to know exactly how you plan to lead us forward—our lives literally depend on it.