Police watchdogs oust member for being too political

Plus: More ACORN drama, TiZA charter school

The City Council voted not to reappoint Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority member Dave Bicking to another term. Bicking is crying foul, accusing council members of ousting him in a conspiratorial political maneuver.

"My own feeling—and I'm sure there are a lot of people that would agree with me—is that I'm working to make the CRA stronger, and a lot of people don't want that," says Bicking. "I think the City Council doesn't really want to know what's going on, doesn't want to get involved."

Bicking served on the board for just under two years. Most notably, he played an active role in the CRA's first-ever performance appraisal of Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, released last December.

Bicking also caused plenty of turbulence on the board during his tenure. Earlier this year, CRA Chair Donald Bellfield asked him to resign for participating in a panel that criticized Dolan. Bellfield said Bicking overstepped his bounds and compromised the neutrality of the board. Bicking refused to step down.

Ward Five City Councilmember Don Samuels says Bicking's outspoken political views are a big part of why he was not reappointed.

"It's not a political position, you know, it's a board position," says Samuels. "And I think he's an advocate and he's political and I think he's getting his two functions mixed up. I think the general sentiment on the council is that that's not healthy for the board." Andy Mannix

Nuts vs. ACORN

When ACORN closed up shop last month, the move represented a victory for right-wingers who had cast the group as a criminal organization after staffers were videotaped offering tax advice to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.

Less than two weeks after ACORN's disbanding, the group is once again in national conservatives' crosshairs. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) is accusing the defunct nonprofit of resurfacing under a confederacy of pseudonyms.

Here in Minnesota, says Issa, the alleged reincarnation takes the form of the Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. The group flatly denies the charge.

"We're a new organization," says Steve Fletcher, the group's executive director. "We have a lot of former ACORN staff members, and we share the goal of empowering low-income communities, but we are a new organization."

Sunday Alabi, the organization's chair and former ACORN board member, says Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change is located at a different address than the former local ACORN chapter and is independently funded and operated. With no national funding apparatus, the group relies on membership dues and private grants.

"ACORN is gone," he says. "What else do they want us to do? Jump on the top of a tree and yell, 'We're not a part of ACORN!'?" Matt Snyders

TiZa review unbiased

The Minnesota Education Department's investigation into the test scores and teaching licenses of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy was not racially motivated, the U.S. Education Department ruled last week.

The Inver Groves Heights academy known as TiZA is a charter school whose student body is about 80 percent immigrant, mostly from Somalia. The ACLU is suing TiZA for allegedly promoting Islam in what should be a secular institution. In filing the suit, the ACLU noted the students' conspicuously high test scores.

The Minnesota Education Department, meanwhile, launched an investigation into TiZA's testing procedures and teacher licenses in 2009. The department found that eight teachers lacked valid teaching licenses and fined TiZA $139,000.

In the saga's latest chapter, the president of the St. Paul NAACP, Nathaniel Khaliq, complained that TiZA was being targeted because of its racial makeup and accused the Minnesota Education Department of discriminating against TiZA students. After fielding Khaliq's complaint, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights evaluated the state agency's conduct to turn up any evidence of racial bias but found none, and concluded that Khaliq's complaint didn't hold water. —Matt Snyders

 
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