State of the City

Minneapolis pols draw lines, choose sides

And there's a profound fear of the federal government among city leaders as well. The investigations of Biernat and Herron haunt city hall to this day. The prospect of facing a federal mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice to quell bad feelings between the Minneapolis Police Department and minority communities has met with unease. And the status quo successfully fought against adding subpoena power to the restructured Civilian Review Authority, the citizen board that handles complaints against the city's cops, for fear that all city workers would be vulnerable to federal subpoenas. At the moment, few city officials want to malign Bush Administration policies or antagonize U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Concern over the city's financial troubles has divided the council as well. Though a five-year plan to cut fat from the city's future budgets, heartily endorsed by Rybak, was approved by the council two weeks ago, debate again fell along old-guard/new-guard lines. Zimmermann and Schiff questioned the plan for burdening the poor--and increasing police--in their wards. Lane struck back by accusing them of engaging in class warfare to drive out the city's "richest people."

It's not that dissent is not welcome on the city council. And it's not that the council isn't moving together on some very tough issues. On January 31, for instance, the council earmarked $10 million of this year's budget to establish a "trust fund" to ensure there's affordable-housing money for years to come--an issue that united Goodman, a financial hawk, and Zimmermann, a far left Green. The city is facing serious issues, and the debate has been thoughtful and passionate.

But it's clear that the days of risk taking and progressive politics are gone. The more experienced council reps are holding their cards close. Don Samuels should take note before he antes up.

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