Conservative Minneapolis city council members kill rent control while Muslim councilmembers are out for Eid
Minneapolis, MN – At the June 28 Minneapolis city council meeting, rent control policy was on the agenda for a normally non-controversial procedural vote to refer the policy to the Business, Housing, Inspection and Zoning (BIHZ) Committee. With the June 28 meeting falling on Eid, a Muslim holy day, the three Muslim council members, all of whom support rent control, were not able to attend the city council meeting. These three included the two coauthors of the rent control policy, Aisha Chughtai and Jamal Osman, as well as Council Member Jeremiah Ellison.
With three rent control supporters away, the conservative and moderate council members took the highly unusual step of politicizing a procedural vote to kill the rent control policy this year by not allowing it to advance to committee for discussion. The vote was 6-4, which shows clearly that if the three Muslim councilmembers who weren't at the meeting because of Eid had been present, it would have passed 7-6.
City council meetings are normally on Thursdays, but this meeting had been moved to Wednesday based on a guess at the beginning of the year about what date Eid would fall on. The exact dates of Eid can vary based on the lunar calendar which aren't always clear until closer to the date. So, when it became clear that Eid would fall on the day of the city council meeting, the council leadership could have moved the meeting back to its normally-scheduled date or moved it to a different date. But council leadership did not do this. They left the meeting on Eid, even though this meant the three Muslim councilmembers would miss the meeting.
In this case, with all three Muslim councilmembers supporting rent control and with this procedural vote necessary to advance rent control this year, the decision to not move the meeting date and then to vote to kill rent control on this procedural vote has every appearance of an intentional weaponization of Islamophobia to kill rent control in the interest of big developers and landlords. This is in a context where Minneapolis voters already passed a referendum directing the city council to develop a rent control policy, and where the majority on the council had voted to draft such a policy just last month.
While this vote almost surely ends the possibility of rent control in Minneapolis for this year, organizations fighting for it and councilmembers who support it will continue the struggle to pass rent control as soon as possible, given the struggles so many working-class people face to keep up with rent payments.