Last night, the Hennepin County Board approved a resolution calling on the Washington Redskins to change the team's nickname. The measure was approved 6-1, with MNGOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson casting the lone dissenting vote.
"I don't support it, and actually, it frustrates me a little bit," Johnson said. "I understand that people have very strong personal opinions about this, and they should absolutely act accordingly with respect to what merchandise they buy or what events they go to or whether they want to place pressure on certain businesses to do things differently, but this has nothing to do whatsoever with Hennepin County or the Hennepin County Board or Hennepin County taxpayers."
"We have no say in this, we have no control over this, and I think this is what frustrates people so much about government," Johnson continued. "We can't focus on the things that we are supposed to focus on."
Wrapping up his remarks, Johnson said, "We have a lot of issues right now in Hennepin County, not the least of which is an impending property tax increase, and what do we sometimes do? We want to talk about banning fire pits or what color the dang [Lowry] Bridge should be or what the name of the Washington football team is... I think we need to focus on those things over which we have control."
But as the vote indicates, Johnson didn't persuade any of his colleagues.
Commissioner Jan Callison said she thinks "we focus a lot of time and attention not just in these meetings but in our everyday work on a lot of really important issues in Hennepin County, so the fact we spend five minutes having this conversation doesn't detract from the work we do every day."
That sentiment was echoed by Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who earlier in the discussion characterized "Redskins" as "racist and derogatory."
"To suggest that we are powerless on this matter is I think inaccurate," McLaughlin said. "We don't have a direct say, but with this resolution we are joining hundreds of institutions and thousands of people in this country and that has been in history a very powerful force."
"I think we have a role to play in trying to create a better community," he added. "Joining with others from the bottom up."