Minneapolis rent control proposal dies amid criticism

The push to get rent control on the ballot in Minneapolis this year is dead after a controversial procedural vote by the city council that drew immediate criticism because the body was without its Muslim members, including the two authors of the motion, due to the Eid holiday.

City Council member Jason Chavez said he was "shocked" by the move by Council President Andrea Jenkins to proceed with the vote.

"Because a council meeting was moved from Thursday to Wednesday without Muslim council members being consulted, or Muslim staff in the City of Minneapolis being consulted, we aren't able to discuss rent stabilization for the rest of the year. That is just shocking to me," he said.

City Clerk Casey Carl said the meeting was scheduled in September, before the date of the holiday, which is based on the lunar calendar, was known. He said the clerk’s office depended on council members or staff to let them know about conflicts, but he said that didn’t occur in this case until Monday, when it was too late to move the meeting by state law.

"So to the extent that the clerk's office failed to check back and recognize that the holiday was actually identified for today versus tomorrow when it was originally adopted as part of the adopted calendar, I can apologize, but that has not been our practice to expect the clerks to check back on those holidays. So, with apologies, I will say that we've done our best to track those dates the best that we can," he said.

Jenkins said "every attempt" had been made to accommodate the Muslim members. "I'm not a Muslim so I don't know how it worked, but it turned out Eid fell on this day. It's deeply unfortunate. We have to move forward." 

The decision to proceed was met with widespread criticism on social media. Alex Schieferdecker, an urban planner based in Minneapolis, has been an outspoken critic of the rent control proposal, calling it a "terribly designed policy," but still objected to the vote. 

"The way that this vote was taken is petty, pathetic, unethical, and an affront to basic principles of good governance. This shouldn't be how the city is run and it sets a bad and offensive precedent," he tweeted. 

The resolution, put forward by Council members Aisha Chughtai and Jamal Osman, directed city staff to draft a rent control referendum question to include a 3% cap on annual rent increases, with no exceptions for new construction or adjustment allowed for inflation. Mayor Jacob Frey had promised to veto it if it had passed.

Council members react

In a joint statement, the three council members who missed the meeting, Jeremiah Ellison, Jamal Osman, and Aisha Chughtai, wrote:

Today is Eid al-Adha, one of the most important holidays for Muslims around the world. As the 3 Muslim members of the Minneapolis City Council, we were observing Eid with our families and community when we learned of this news. It is a common practice for Council leadership to reschedule meetings that conflict with major holidays.

City Council meetings are typically held on Thursdays. When the Council’s calendar for this year was voted on in September 2022, this week’s meeting was set for this Wednesday in an effort to accommodate Eid for the City’s Muslim Councilmembers and staff. The precise date of Eid al-Adha is determined by the lunar calendar; early last week, Eid al-Adha was confirmed to be observed Wednesday, June 28, the same day of the Council meeting. Unfortunately, Council leadership decided against using their authority to reschedule this meeting.

We will share next steps in the coming days.

Chavez speaks with FOX 9

Speaking with FOX 9, Chavez reiterated his disappointment with the move to go ahead with Wednesday's vote.

"What I find disappointing heartbreaking and embarrassing as a city council member of the City of Minneapolis is that people took advantage of three Muslim colleagues celebrating Eid to then kill rent control/stabilization for the City of Minneapolis this year," opined Chavez.

Chavez says the item could have been tabled or the vote rescheduled – but it didn't happen.

"I just wish there was a better faith effort to make sure we could have done something better today," he added.