The Minneapolis City Council’s pledge to end the Police Department has come as a shock to many residents. But it shouldn’t be that shocking, since the elected representatives are actually not that representative of Minneapolis. The election process and the self-selection bias of those who become politicians means the City Council is much more ideological than the average resident. Consider that over 20% of the congressional district containing Minneapolis tends to vote Republican, yet the City Council has no Republican members.
What Minneapolis needs is a citizens’ assembly. Citizens’ assemblies bring together a small number of randomly selected citizens to deliberate on an issue and ultimately make a recommendation, usually nonbinding. This gives members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic before reaching an informed conclusion. Since the assembly members are randomly chosen from the public, they’re more representative than an elected council.
While new to Minnesota, the citizens’ assembly has already been used elsewhere. One was successfully used in Ireland to help repeal a constitutional ban on abortion. Canada, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland have run or are running citizens’ assemblies as well.
One of the protesters’ slogans is “Power to the people.” Let’s give power to the people with a citizens’ assembly!
Jeff Pickhardt, Minneapolis
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Holding a public referendum on whether to “eliminate the City Charter’s requirement for police staffing and replace it with a new department” is a simplistic way of resolving the council members’ duties to define the problem the city has with the Police Department and to study it with thoughtfulness, care, intensity and courage to come to viable, helpful conclusions. (“MPD fate up to voters?” front page, June 13.) Yes, it will be a difficult task, but that is what you are there for. A meaningful charter amendment is almost always difficult to construct and equally difficult to carry through. The public elected you to do these difficult jobs.
Many other people and organizations will play a part in the most helpful and meaningful changes. The City Council can lead the way.
Parker Trostel, St. Louis Park
The writer is a former alderman for Minneapolis’ Seventh Ward.
More than a pardon is needed here
“Pardon” is the wrong word for how to address the wrongful imprisonment of Max Mason, the black circus worker who was wrongfully convicted of rape of a white woman in Duluth in 1920 despite no evidence (“Historic pardon in Duluth lynching,” June 13). This should be an official public apology by the governor, the state Supreme Court, the city of Duluth and the state Legislature.
It is ridiculous to tell the world our state is officially pardoning Mason for what our state did to him.
Paul Rozycki, Minneapolis
RACE AND KIDS
Now’s the time to do better
Misti Snow’s commentary (“Thirty years ago, we asked children about race ...” Opinion Exchange, June 12) is truly remarkable — a raw view into everyday realities of racism through the eyes of children and young people.
I, too, recently waded into memories and documents from years of working on issues of race and equity in the ’80s, ’90s and beyond.
Among personal “light bulb” moments: The Hmong parents who told me their greatest hope for a new school year was that teachers would learn to pronounce their children’s names. Suppression by Minneapolis Public School administrators of data showing that American Indian boys constituted the vast majority of students labeled “behaviorally disordered.” Defensive dismissal (both from white teachers and black leaders) to a 1995 commentary I wrote for the Star Tribune arguing for more teachers of color, training for cultural competence of all school staff, and massive factual and inclusive revision of curriculum. The array of responses to a nationally circulated piece about white privilege in schools. The “tricks” that an American Indian co-worker and I employed so people (of all colors) would pay attention to her authority rather than focusing on mine.
Stereotypes, discrimination and racism have forever permeated our schools. And while good people have tried to be heard, too often leaders of all colors have refused to hear.
While we cannot change the past, we can reform the future. Today holds many promises for new hope. It is palpable in Minneapolis — and around the world. Thank you to Misti Snow for adding so forcefully to the dialogue.
Ruth Anne Olson, Minneapolis
Get Colin Kaepernick hired
I applaud sports columnist Jim Souhan’s suggestion that the Vikings sign Colin Kaepernick, both as a statement and a way to strengthen their playoff chances (“Unfairness doesn’t have to be,” June 1).
The NFL, however, could make its own statement: Announce that Kaepernick would not be counted against the full roster of any team that carried him. That way, his signing would not deprive another player of a job and every franchise would, without excuse, have a competitive as well as symbolic incentive to employ him.
Bob Marshall, Santa Barbara, Calif.
At the very least, rallies give us data
President Donald Trump’s decision to hold political rallies beginning in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20 have been met with concerns these could become super-spreader events for COVID-19. Public health officials worry that thousands of people spending two to three hours shoulder-to-shoulder inside a confined space talking and cheering might produce a significant spike in infections and put additional strain on health care systems. These officials point to several states in which infections and deaths from the virus are now increasing.
Nonsense, say the president and his supporters, who point to evidence COVID-19 infections and deaths have decreased in several states. Besides, they argue, people should be free to decide how they will respond to the threat of COVID-19, which includes attending large indoor events without a mask.
Rather than oppose the rallies, perhaps the country should embrace them for what they are: large-scale experiments about how the virus operates that could not be done in a typical research study because of ethical concerns someone might contract the virus without having consented to that possibility. The difference is that rally attendees have consented to participate and know being infected is a risk. If the president and his supporters are correct there will be few to no infections linked to rallies; if public health officials are correct there will be alarming infection rates.
Of course, we all hope there will be no infections. Whatever the outcome, the rallies will provide an important test of whether doing precisely what public health officials say not to do matters.
Michael Harwell, Forest Lake
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