February 14, 2021
This weekend the newly minted astroturf group, Yes4Minneapolis, launched their signature campaign to get 20,000 Minneapolis voters to sign their petition before March 31st. Securing these signatures would allow their proposed public safety charter amendment to be on the ballot in November. This is the group that Black Visions and Reclaim the Block are behind, flush with cash from the George Soros Open Society Foundation. Open Society made a generous donation of $500,000 in 2020 and we have observed Yes4Minneapolis job postings for community organizers at $90,000 per year salary.
Some news outlets are buying the marketing they are serving up, calling them "grassroots." There is nothing grassroots about a Washington DC foundation outfitting Minneapolis with all the finances, marketing and staff needed to sell an alternate charter amendment to create a new Department of Public Safety. Welcome to the Minneapolis, the national lab rat for well-funded social experiments made possible by people that don't even live here.
We were curious about what is being pitched at the petition event, so VoxMN sent some concerned citizens to watchdog this and report back.
First off, let's review the minimal Yes4Minneapolis amendment language we could get our hands on:
7.3. Public Safety.
(a) Department of Public Safety.
(1) Function: The Department of Public Safety will be responsible for integrating its public safety functions into a comprehensive public health approach to safety, including licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.
(2) Commissioner of Public Safety Department.
(a) The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a commissioner of the department of public safety under section 8.4.
The "if necessary" indicates there may be some point licensed peace officers are deemed unnecessary. This is a massive loophole.
In an effort to be Covid-friendly, the canvassers allowed signers to pull up in front of Moon Palace Books or take advantage of a "drive-thru" (didn't City Council ban those?) where a bundled-up clipboard-holding Yes4Minneapolis representative approached your car. They asked if you wanted to sign the petition. Our VoxMNers wanted to know what exactly they were signing, but one was told "it isn't quite ready yet" while the other was offered the language written above.
If you choose to sign, here is what the Petition Form looks like:
Our VoxMNers fully expected to need to show ID to confirm that they were Minneapolis residents. They reported that if you just say "yes" when they ask if you are Minneapolis resident - they take your word for it. No ID was required or viewed. They were free to sign with any name or address (pro tip - the email, phone, VAN and volunteer fields are optional).
Our volunteers said they saw paperwork that states the petition "should only be signed by people who are registered to vote in Minneapolis" - whew! They also noted that "signatures will be checked against the voter registration lists." We are still investigating exactly how that is executed, what audit process is done by an objective third party and how that is reported to the public.
One might wonder how Yes4Minneapolis plans to pull off a campaign to get 20,000 physical signatures in just 7 weeks. Like many thorny issues the City Council faces, these activists know exactly how to handle this: change the rules. Our brazen volunteers learned that there is an effort to convince the state that the petition should be permitted to be signed online, given the Covid19 pandemic. The Yes4Minneapolis activists have partnered with the St. Paul rent stabilization campaign to call for the state legislature to allow for online signature collection.
Given the deep pockets of Yes4Minneapolis, they also plan to hire canvassers to go door-to-door and phone bank. When one of our volunteers researched this further, they found that the hourly rates for these coveted staffers will be $30/hour (door knockers) and $20/hour (phone bankers).
Is our local democracy for sale? Absolutely. In the script VoxMN obtained, there is a lot of fanfare around this out-of-state astroturf group being "people powered." There was an emotional appeal that they were blocked from the November 2020 ballot by "an unelected body of bureaucrats and their pro-police allies." In the final section of their script: "Our opponents will have money, but we have the people."
With this, VoxMN invites you to show them who has the people. We already know who has the money.
The City of Minneapolis Public Safety Amendment Public Hearing (February 18th 1:30 pm via phone) - sign up here. Scroll down until you see this section, a written statement does not need to be submitted with the sign up.