Members of the group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change gathered at Minneapolis City Hall on Friday to deliver a “people’s state of the union” speech focused on workers’ rights and police changes.
Mike Griffin, a field organizer for the group, applauded the State of the City address given a day earlier by Mayor Betsy Hodges. He said the mayor’s pledge to work for fair scheduling, better enforcement of how businesses pay overtime and broader access to paid sick days are in line with the agenda his organization developed for the city earlier this year.
A handful of speakers discussed their experiences of working while sick or injured because they couldn’t afford to take unpaid time off and of grappling with unpredictable schedules that often come with very long shifts.
Navell Gordon, the community organizer who gained attention last year after posing for a photo with Mayor Betsy Hodges — in a story that came to be known as “pointergate” — said he’s been repeatedly stopped by police while near his job at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. He said he’s been stopped over accusations of spitting on the sidewalk, an offense some council members are trying to get removed from the city code.
Council Members Cam Gordon, Alondra Cano and Lisa Bender stood with the group during its presentation. Gordon said repealing rules about spitting and lurking would go a long way toward preventing police from targeting minority groups.
Between 2009 and 2014, 59 percent of the people the Minneapolis Police Department arrested for lurking were black, while 24 percent were white. Meanwhile, 69 percent of the people who called to report lurking offenses were white, while 12 percent were black.
“I’m hoping that our effort to repeal these two little laws can help us have a deeper conversation about where else is this structural racism baked into our system,” Gordon said. “And how can we actually, and finally, dismantle the new Jim Crow that’s plaguing our city.”
The ordinances are scheduled for a public hearing on May 6.
Also on Friday, the council approved funding for Target Center improvements and ditched one sailboat from the city’s logo. The council also nixed a proposed travel ban to Indiana in response to a law some say would allow discrimination of LGBT residents.
The Indiana vote was the most surprising, since Hodges called for the ban on city-funded travel there two days ago on the basis of the new law. City attorney Susan Segal said a recent amendment to that Indiana law makes it more palatable.
Hodges said the effort wasn’t for naught, particularly since the pressure also led to change in a similar Arkansas law.
“What people around the country and what we’re doing here is making a difference, not just in Indiana but in other states as well,” Hodges said. “I think if you ask the governor of Arkansas whether it mattered that people protested what happened in Indiana, he would, in an honest moment, say, ‘Yes, it did make a difference.’ ”
The council voted 11-2 to approve an additional $24.5 million in city funds for the Target Center renovation, bringing the city’s commitment to $74 million. The total project budget is now about $129 million.
Council members Bender and Andrew Johnson voted no. Bender said staff negotiated a good deal, but “I don’t support the underlying premise that this should be a priority for our public dollars.”
Without discussion, the council voted in favor of its new city logo featuring one sailboat — vs. the current two. Council Members Kevin Reich and Andrew Johnson voted no.