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Initiative letting residents vote directly for city policies withdrawn

Council member Robin Wonsley introduced and later withdrew the ballot initiative, saying it could reappear in the 2025 election cycle.
Image by Shalom Berhane
People voting at Machine Shop on St. Anthony Main on Nov. 7, 2023. The ballot initiative was pushed back as council members wished to spend more time talking with constituents.

Minneapolis City Council withdrew a ballot initiative that would have let residents vote directly for city ordinances on March 7, giving council members more time to research and connect with residents.

City Council member Robin Wonsley (Ward 2) introduced the amendment, which was comparable to similar policies in cities like St. Paul, Bloomington and Brooklyn Park, in a March 4 meeting. 

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul passed a rent control policy initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot, though only St. Paul’s vote created a rent control policy. Minneapolis residents only voted to let the City Council create one.

Additionally, Minneapolis’ ballot initiative process only allows City Council members to put questions on the ballot. 

Jennifer Arnold, executive director of United Renters for Justice, said the ballot initiative helps renters directly influence the policy for rent prices. 

“It would still be helpful for us to have a citizen initiative and referendum around rent stabilization because we could move forward,” Arnold said. “Right now, the council has not agreed upon a policy to put on the ballot.”

Wonsley said in a statement to The Minnesota Daily she respects the need for council members to do more research before making a decision.

“I absolutely respect your desire to do your due diligence and I understand that the legislative timeline for charter amendments can make that challenging,” Wonsley said in the statement. “Over the next few weeks, I encourage you to bring forward legislative directives and other research, and I look forward to discussing those in committee.”

Council member Andrea Jenkins (Ward 8) said with the amount of people the council represents, it is vital they take their time on decisions.

“As it stands now, we are the deliberative body that makes these decisions as representatives of the 430,000 residents of the city of Minneapolis, so our decisions have immediate impact on our residents,” Jenkins said. 

Council member Latrisha Vetaw (Ward 4) said the timeframe of the vote did not give residents time to understand the amendment in its entirety.

“This isn’t something that we should be fighting the timeline on,” Vetaw said. “I’m not going to rush myself and I’m not going to rush the people of Ward 4 to get on board with something they don’t understand.”

Siya Shelar, an Undergraduate Student Government representative, said she is disappointed that the ballot initiative was moved back but hopes it will be brought back in the future.

“I think we’re giving them time,” Shelar said. “If it’s going to appear on the 2025 ballot, they’re going to have a whole year to look it over, talk to their constituents, any problems they have can be brought up with Robin.”

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  • Jean
    Mar 19, 2024 at 11:05 am

    This was an outstanding article. I appreciate sharing information on this subject that people can understand.