Politics and Government

Frey vetoes one of two rent control ballot proposals

Residents will still get a chance to give council authority to create rent control policy

A man speaks at a press conference.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey at City Hall in May 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed a ballot question that would have allowed petitioners to put rent control policies directly before voters just hours after it was passed by the city council.

Advocates for the proposal vowed to push the council to overturn his veto.  

Frey said he’ll let another ballot question that gives the city council authority to enact its own rent control policies advance to the ballot. 

The mayor said he believes that public policy should be based on data, informed by experts and not made through referendum, as the vetoed proposal would have allowed.

"That would have essentially outsourced one of the core responsibilities we have as elected officials, as elected representatives, to a single interest group,” Frey said. “That's not the right way to do policymaking."

The coalition advocating for the rent control policy isn’t a “single interest group” but includes faith organizations, labor unions and activist groups, said Ginger Jentzen of Minneapolis United for Rent Control. 

“Part of why the renter-led petition is so important to have on the table and to put forward to voters is the reality that things in City Hall move too slowly,” Jentzen said. “That’s a real reason to put the decision back in the hands of working people in the city of Minneapolis, who are directly facing the impacts of this housing crisis.” 

Frey said the city has invested historic amounts of money into affordable housing during his administration. He said working on affordable housing issues is one of the reasons he first ran for office. 

“The policies that we’ve passed thus far have, again, been reviewed and recommended by experts,” Frey said. “If you just have a single interest group crafting that policy and putting it before voters, you certainly don’t get that deliberate process to get the best possible recommendations.” 

The mayor’s veto of the citizen referendum proposal can be overturned by a vote of nine council members. Only seven members supported the proposal at a council committee meeting earlier this week.  

Jentzen said her coalition would work to convince members to overturn Frey’s veto. She said “backroom deals” are one of the reasons the public doesn’t trust the council. 

“Are you going to stand by Mayor Frey, who said from the beginning that he doesn’t trust ordinary people to make decisions about the things that actually affect us and stand with the landlord lobby?” Jentzen asked of council members. “Or are you going to stand with the working people of Minneapolis?”  

The ballot questions are necessary because state law forbids local governments from creating rent control policies without first getting voter approval. 

In addition to the surviving rent control proposal, Minneapolis voters in November will also decide on another ballot question that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety, which supporters argue would take a “public health” approach to safety. 

Another ballot question to restructure the Minneapolis city government to give the mayor’s office more executive authority was sent back to committee, but could still be added to ballots if the council approves the ballot language by Aug. 20.