THE ACLU JUST SAYS NO TO A POWER GRAB

Taking Liberties

THE MINNESOTA CIVIL Liberties Union's controversial board-packing move last spring--widely regarded as a power grab orchestrated by MCLU founder Matthew Stark and current president Jules Beck--has been condemned as undemocratic by the n

          The MCLU's bylaw violations were detailed in a November 4 letter sent to Beck from ACLU president Nadine Strossen. "Adding six board seats and filling them for terms as long as six years without providing the membership the opportunity to participate in the process... seems to us to have bypassed democratic procedure altogether," Strossen wrote. "[I]t appears that these actions violated national bylaws, with which affiliates must comply.

          "Indeed," Strossen's letter goes on, "drawing from your affiliate's own organizational history as stated in the 1986 version of your bylaws, it is unlikely that such an undemocratic procedure would have been used in years past." The letter tells the MCLU to "take steps to correct this apparent violation" and notify the ACLU what it intends to do to bring itself into compliance with the relevant rules before the next ACLU executive committee meeting on November 23.

          The episode began at a March MCLU board meeting where Stark supporters introduced a surprise bylaw amendment to increase the board's size from 24 to 30 and quickly installed five new members aligned with the Stark/Beck faction. Their action prompted a shouting match, and four board members subsequently resigned. Executive director Micheal Moore was later ousted by the newly configured board. At the time, Beck called the objections to the board changes a matter of "sour grapes." He did not return a phone call regarding the recent ACLU letter.

          HUNTINGTON POINTE IS coming down. At least, that's what the Brooklyn Center City Council said it wanted last week, voting unanimously to demolish the 306-unit apartment complex once known as Century Court. City officials have long been hostile towards the project and others in the Zane Avenue corridor, claiming they're eyesores that depress property values and attract crime. Huntington residents told a different story in a public hearing, saying their apartments are decent, safe, and--most importantly--affordable to people working the growing number of low-wage suburban jobs. But the City Council wasn't convinced.

          The city plans call for light-industrial development on the site. The Huntington Place apartments next door are to be rehabbed into pricier units. To pay for all this, Brooklyn Park figures on providing some $11 million in tax-increment financing. "[Politicians] keep talking about these [projects] in terms of 'too much density,'" says one housing advocate who fought the demolition. "Well, you know what that means. It means 'those people.'"

          THE MINNEAPOLIS FIRE Department continues to come under pressure from its women firefighters, who are objecting to the absence of women from the latest fire cadet class. It's a sensitive situation, because it casts new light on the city's already much-criticized handling of fire department hiring; the department remains under court order to better integrate its ranks, and a number of critics, including Ron Edwards, who chairs a court-established steering committee on MFD minority hiring, believe the city is trying to take advantage of the present political climate to do away with affirmative action programs altogether. The women firefighters did not expressly threaten to sue in a recent letter to the department and select City Council members, but some of them are said to be leaning that way.

          LAST WEEK'S ELECTION results included one historic feat that's gone pretty much unnoticed: A candidate for a brand new party, running on a shoestring budget with negligible publicity, has racked up one of the highest vote totals ever for a third party in Minnesota. Cam Gordon, challenging south Minneapolis DFL state Rep. Lee Greenfield, came in at almost 25 percent, relegating Republican Jose Luciano to third place. The second-best minor-party showing was
13 percent for Alan Shilepsky, a
Reform Party challenger to southeast Minneapolis state Rep. Phyllis Kahn.

          CORRECTION: AN OCTOBER 30 story about judicial races in Minnesota incorrectly stated that seats on the state Supreme Court were not subject to popular vote.

          This week's contributors were Deborah Caulfield Rybak, Monika Bauerlein, and Steve Perry.

 
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