Why should I go to my precinct caucus?

BY ED FELIEN

A friend wrote on the Mpls Issues List that he’s discouraged about going to his precinct caucus: “Before, precinct caucuses were in the precincts or very close, but after the caucuses went consolidated, no longer could one walk to a caucus. One would have to drive and compete for the handful of parking spaces. So the DFL has gone from ‘inclusive’ to ‘exclusive.’ ”
Party officials claim the logistics and expenses make it more practical to consolidate all the precincts from one ward into one space.
The expenses of the city DFL have once again become controversial.  Four years ago Southside Pride was critical of Dan O’Connell, the chair of the Minneapolis DFL, giving out envelopes full of hundred dollar bills to those members of the City Council who voted in favor of the Vikings stadium.  This year Dan is getting public criticism for spending $2,000 of the city DFL treasury for a poll in the 2nd Ward to see if his wife could beat Cam Gordon, the Green Party incumbent.
The Democratic Party used to be a lot more democratic.  One hundred fifty years ago, when Minneapolis first began as St. Anthony Village, there were three council members from each ward.  Then, up to the 1950s, there were two. Now there’s only one.  Don Fraser “modernized” city government by increasing the terms of office from two to four years, thereby cancelling more elections than a Latin American dictator.  All these anti-democratic tendencies discourage participation at all levels.  People voted for “reforms” to reduce the amount of representatives to vote for and for increasing the terms of office from two to four years because it meant less work.   They would only have to go to the polls and think about this once every four years and they’d have half the positions to consider.  It was sold as a labor saving device.
The caucuses on April 4 are the one time in four years that we will have a voice in choosing who we want to represent us in the November elections.  Delegates chosen on April 4 will nominate candidates for City Council, mayor, Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Park Board.
The Ward 12 Convention will be May 6.  The city DFL has not yet determined where the caucuses or conventions will be held.  The city DFL Convention will be on July 8.
We asked candidates for City Council and mayor:
“Would you support allowing the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission to review complaints about police misconduct?  The Commission is a civilian body that has the power of subpoena; they can compel witnesses to testify under oath, and they have the power to award damages.  They have the power to review citizen complaints about abuses of civil rights that may occur in any other city department or business operating in Minneapolis.”
Andrew Johnson, incumbent member of the City Council and candidate for Ward 12, replied:
“Last year, President Obama gave funding to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement to develop best practices based on the efficacy of various models used across the nation. We should implement their recommendations and move beyond the Police Conduct Review Panel being only able to advise the chief; if that means utilizing the CRC, then I am supportive. Beyond strengthening complaint-based civilian oversight, I have been pushing for proactive review of body camera footage combined with regular coaching, training and performance tracking to quickly correct concerning behavior and better recognize officers who go above and beyond.”
Will Jaeger, candidate for City Council, Ward 12, replied:
“Absolutely YES!  Citizen complaints about civil rights should be taken very seriously!  The City of Minneapolis should have ZERO TOLERANCE for violations of this nature.”
C. J. Sparrow, candidate for mayor, answered:
“I would support allowing the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission to review complaints about police misconduct. The MPD has improved under Chief Harteau, but not all of the problems involving brutality and racism have been solved. The lack of police response in poor neighborhoods is an even greater problem, which has been made worse by Black Lives Matter. BLM has used dangerous and counterproductive tactics such as blocking freeways, using up valuable resources. It has also targeted some innocent police officers, such as the ones involved in the Jamar Clark shooting, causing loss of moral and effective policing. http://occupirate.blogspot.com.”
This is an outrageous statement.  Claiming that Ringenberg and Schwarze were innocent in the killing of Jamar Clark seems contrary to reason. The standard of police conduct that the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission should use would require them to ask, “Is this person being treated fairly? Like a white person in a suit would be treated?” “Was he given equal protection under the law?” “Was he read his rights and given due process before he was assaulted by the officers?” And to blame black people for poor police service in their community is to blame the victim.
Go to your precinct caucus on April 4.  It’s your one chance each year to meet with your neighbors and talk about problems in the neighborhood, the city, the state and the country.
The older you get, the harder it is to exercise, but we know: If you don’t use it, you lose it.

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