Lisa Bender takes heat for pleading ignorance regarding council's MLB "Clean Zone" vote

Last week, the Minneapolis City Council approved, without discussion, Major League Baseball's request to created a potentially speech-limiting "Clean Zone" across a swath of the city during a two week stretch surrounding the 2014 All-Star Game to be held this summer at Target Field.

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The resolution requires additional MLB approval for any block events, parades, temporary structures, tents, signs, and banners that would normally require just city approval. In other words, it essentially gives the MLB veto power.

The ACLU immediately raised concerns about the city's decision to temporary cede some regulatory power to the MLB, saying that it places "our free speech rights... in the hands of a private corporation."

But in the wake of the resolution's approval, Council Member Lisa Bender took to Twitter to say she didn't totally understand what she had voted for:
-- Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) February 21, 2014 Bender's comment prompted this response from our top Twin Cities tweeter (the link is to Bender's tweet): Reached for comment yesterday, Bender said she isn't on the committee that vetted the ordinance before it reached council (Community Development & Regulatory Services), but even so, "I don't see anything in the resolution that would limit free speech."

Told about the MLB's veto power over block events and parades, she said, "I can understand why some of the things in there would sound concerning, but it's certainly not the intention of this ordinance to limit anyone's right to protest or exercise free speech."

"We've had these sorts of agreements in the past, like when the Super Bowl was here many years ago," Bender continued. "I think they're really common for any kind of big sporting event."

She referred more specific questions to Council Member Lisa Goodman, chair of the Community Development & Regulatory Services Committee, but she was unavailable for comment yesterday and referred us to another Community Development member, Council Member John Quincy. He hadn't responded to a voicemail as this is published.

"These are good questions to ask and I will ask them of our attorney," Bender said. "If any additional clarifications are needed maybe we need to take action to further clarify what the intention of this is, but I think this is a very common ordinance adopted by cities that have the MLB event every year."

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