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Capitol Connector Snapshot: October 15, 2021

Blog Post:What’s on the ballot in Minneapolis this year?

By Tim Schnell, Grassroots Organizing & Community Engagement Intern

2021 will be an extremely busy year for Minneapolis voters! In addition to offices like Mayor, City Council and others, there will be three ballot questions for Minneapolis voters to decide.

Ballot Questions in Minneapolis:

1. Should the city of Minneapolis have a “strong mayor” system? A “strong mayor” system is where the Mayor would be declared the city’s chief executive officer and would have the ability to appoint heads of the city agencies.

2. Should the Minneapolis Police Department be removed and replaced with a Department of Public Safety? The Department of Public Safety would have a wide variety of functions and those functions would be determined through ordinance by the City Council and the Mayor.

3. Should the city of Minneapolis provide the City Council with the ability to control rent prices on private residential property?

Question 1: addresses whether the mayor should become the chief executive of the city and have power become more centralized in the office (similar to the President of the United States in some ways).

The “Yes” Vote argues,

  •  if power is more concentrated with the Mayor, then the City of Minneapolis would be able to serve its residents more efficiently.
  • “The city’s professional staff described Minneapolis’ system of dividing power between the mayor and the City Council as ‘highly inefficient and significantly influenced by personalities of individual elected officials’, according to the Charter Commission, the body in charge of the city’s constitution.”1 This means that the Mayor’s concentrated power may be much more efficient than the system in place now.

The “No” Vote argues,

  •  if the mayor becomes the city’s chief executive, the residents of Minneapolis would have less of a say in how the government functions.
  • some voters in more affluent areas of the city already have a larger say in who gets elected. This means that some communities will have more power than other communities.
Question 2: Addresses if the Minneapolis Police Department should be removed and replaced with a Department of Public Safety.

The “Yes” Vote argues,

  •  the question is not an argument in favor of defunding the police. Instead, it is a proposal to open up additional methods and services that could help keep Minneapolis residents safe.
  • the number of officers assigned to a city or neighborhood is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
  •  with the support of mental health and psychological professionals there can be an appropriate number of officers assigned to a neighborhood. It would not necessarily equivalent to population size, but a number that can still effectively and equitably serve the community as law enforcement.

The “No” Vote argues,

  •  it is unclear whether there would still be a police force under the broader category of the Department of Public Safety. This means that there is no minimum number of police officers per members of the population is established in the ballot question. There are fears that if this law enforcement reform proposal is passed, violent crime levels could spike.
  • the Chief of the Minneapolis Police Department is hugely popular and well-respected in the community, but there’s no guarantee he or someone equally as respected would become the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.
Question 3: asks if the City Council should have the ability to control residential rent prices.

The “Yes” Vote argues,

  • Rent control could directly lead to making housing more affordable by preventing skyrocketing rent rates.
  • Nothing has changed in the housing market that could indicate there are a notable number of building managers whose intentions are to keep rental rates affordable for cost-burdened renters (the majority of whom are low-income renters of color).
  • The process of gentrification often results in the displacement of those who can’t afford to pay the newly increased rent or bills. Gentrification is when the character of a low-income neighborhood is changed by high-income individuals and new businesses moving into the neighborhood.
  • If rent control is implemented by the City of Minneapolis, proponents argue that it could stop gentrification by attempting to eliminate one of the controls often used to remove low-income individuals from their houses/units.

The “No” Vote argues,

  • Rent control could discourage developers from coming to the metro area.
  • Rent control would limit the ability of developers and companies to build more affordable housing units.
  • Rent control hasn’t succeeded in cities like New York and San Francisco.
  • As a result of potentially lower profits due to rent control measures, landlords may not reinvest in their properties and provide renters with safe and hygienic spaces to live.

Updates from Washington D.C.

From The Arc US: Disability Rights Activists and Care Workers Hold 24-Hour Storytelling Vigil to Urge Congress to Pass Funding for Home and Community-Based Services

On October 6, The Arc, American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, and the “Care Can’t Wait” coalition of disability rights, labor, health, aging, and caregiving groups held a 24-hour vigil outside of the U.S. Capitol. They demanded funding for home care services in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” package before Congress. The group delivered over 7,500 stories collected by The Arc from individuals impacted by dearth home and community-based services.

Senator Bob Casey closed out the vigil outside the Capitol by imploring his colleagues in Congress to vote “yes” on the transformative Build Back Better plan that could “put the country on the road to having the best caregiving in the world.” More information on the vigil and rally can be found here

Department of Education Holds Negotiated Rulemaking on Student Loan Discharge for People With Disabilities

On October 4, the Department of Education started a negotiated rulemaking on several topics. A topic included was the “Total and Permanent Disability” student loan discharge program for people with disabilities and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This program assists direct support professionals and other frontline disability service providers.

Unlike many other agencies, the Department of Education creates orders through negotiated rulemaking. This establishes a committee of advocates and interest groups to “negotiate” what their proposed rules should include. The Arc’s Senior Director of Income Policy, Bethany Lilly, was selected as a negotiator representing people with disabilities. The committee will meet again in November and December. Recordings of the meetings and additional information about the rulemaking can be found here.

Monthly Child Tax Credit Sent Out:

On October 15, millions of families across the country continued to receive monthly checks from the federal government as part of the Child Tax Credit. Qualifying families receive monthly checks up to $300 per month for each dependent under 6 years old and up to $250 per month for each dependent aged 6 to 17. If you have not automatically received your monthly credit and think you are eligible, visit this website to sign up.

Noteworthy News & Resources

From The Arc & Minnesota & Minnesota Department of Commerce:

Energy and Water Assistance Funds Available!

The Energy Assistance Program (EAP) helps pay for home energy and water costs and furnace repairs for income-qualified households. Initial energy grants range from $300 to $1600. Additional energy grants of up to $1,200 for past-due energy bills.

  • Grants to pay past due water bills
  • Grants are available to renters and homeowners
  • Grants may be given to households with income at or below 60% of the state median income. See the 2022 income guidelines.

Customers apply for water, energy, and weatherization assistance with one application.

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