This afternoon I voted to approve Mayor Hodges’ appointment of Susan Segal as City Attorney, however I did so with some reservations.
Overall, Susan has does an outstanding job; however there have been some serious concerns raised with several of her decisions; Chief among them is her legal opinion regarding stadium funding and whether or not it should have triggered a voter referendum.
Voting is a sacred right in our nation, and any attempt to bypass the will of voters to cast a ballot is of monumental concern, one that does not sit well with me and many of my constituents. The people of Minneapolis were clear when passing a City Charter amendment: voters must have a vote on funding related to professional sports facilities. The spirit of the law and intention of voters is crystal clear. Yet the City Attorney issued an opinion stating that it was legal for the City Council to bypass voters and approve the funding without sending the question to the ballot. I disagree vehemently with her reasoning. A judge disagreed as well. What’s even more bizarre is that the State Legislature exempted the Charter amendment, which actually *did* make it legal for the council to bypass voters, yet that wasn’t the crux of her argument. Despite the State Legislature making it legal for the council to bypass voters, the intent of voters was clear, and every elected official had a responsibility to honor the spirit of the charter amendment. While I disagreed with the City Attorney’s opinion, the elected officials were ultimately responsible for the decision, and any attempt to blame the City Attorney is an abdication of that responsibility.
While I cannot blame our City Attorney for the outcome of that vote, she did have an opportunity to advocate on behalf of the voters, and failed to do so. Her legal opinion on this matter was weak. If this was the extent of her work, or the majority of it, I could not vote for her reappointment. However, she has overall done an outstanding job, from pension reform to issues of domestic violence; she has proven herself to be a strong and savvy advocate on many important priorities for our city.
In today’s decision, I asked tough questions that made many in the room uncomfortable. I informed both the Chair and the Mayor ahead of time that I would do so. However, the Chair, John Quincy, attempted to cut me off several questions in, and later the media reported “Quincy said it wasn’t appropriate to cross examine Segal, saying in an interview later that Johnson should have asked his questions before the meeting.” I strongly disagree with Chair Quincy’s statements. Asking tough questions is my job, and it’s important to ask them in broad daylight rather than the backrooms of City Hall. Too often it feels like decisions are made before we enter the Council Chambers, which does a disservice to the people of Minneapolis who have a right to hear a thorough conversation on matters before their City Council.