The city of Minneapolis paid out more money in police conduct lawsuits and judgments between 2011 and 2014 than the city of Baltimore.

According to data from the Minneapolis city attorney’s office and court records analyzed by MPR News, the city paid out more than $9.3 million during that time period. In the most recent tally in Baltimore, done in 2014, the Baltimore Sun newspaper reported the city spent $5.7 million in lawsuit settlements and judgments.

However, there are a few caveats. The data published by the Sun include payouts made between January of 2011 and September of 2014.  The MPR News total includes three extra months: October through December of 2014.

More than half the $9.3 million in Minneapolis payouts came from two cases.

In 2011, a federal court jury found two officers liable for the wrongful death of Dominic Felder, 27,  and ordered the city to pay $2.1 million in damages and lawyers’ fees. And in 2013, the city agreed to pay just over $3 million to settle a suit filed by the family of David Smith, 28, who died after being restrained by two officers.

The National Journal recently ranked several cities by how much they’ve paid in officer conduct lawsuits and judgments between 2011 and September of 2014.

According to that limited sample and data compiled by MPR News, Minneapolis ranks behind Chicago ($127.7 million), Los Angeles ($31.8 million) and Philadelphia ($28.2 million) and ranks ahead of Dallas ($8.1 million), San Jose ($7.3 million) and Indianapolis ($6.1 million) in the total amount of payouts.

After “extensive research of best practices on brand identity for large organizations and businesses,” the Minneapolis Communications Department has determined the city’s 1980s-era logo is outdated and overly complicated.

For one thing, it has too many sailboats.

To address this problem, staff are recommending the council adopt a new, streamlined emblem, which emphasizes the city’s name and reduces the sailboat count from two to one — a 50 percent cut.

The accompanying “graphic standards policy” also includes an approved palette of colors that must be used for all city communications. There are three acceptable shades of blue, one of green, and five subtle hues of gray. Orange, purple, yellow and red are OK, but only as accent colors.

The Communications Department says the proposed changes will bring a variety of benefits, among them building “public trust.” They also created a mandatory template for Powerpoint presentations, which is expected to save “considerable staff time” currently spent designing such documents from scratch.

The proposed changes will keep the city in line with current trends in branding.

Many companies — including Minnesota Public Radio — have taken steps to simplify the formerly baroque images that were their trademarks. City staff note that Starbucks, Walmart and Apple have made similar moves over the last decade.

Staff opted for a “refreshed” sailboat logo, rather than a complete overhaul, because the public has long associated the landlocked city with nautical imagery. Given what happened when Austin, Minn. went for a more out-of-the box re-branding, that’s probably wise.

Assuming the council approves it, the new logo will be phased in gradually. As a result, the second sailboat will likely haunt the city for years to come, staff acknowledge. After all, it is emblazoned, among other places, on the city’s manhole covers.

A bitterly divided St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to preserve a dilapidated and disused billboard perched above the Eastern District police station.

The billboard, which dates to the 1940s when the building was owned by Hamm’s Brewing, has been blank since 2013.

Image Courtesy of “Tear Down the Board.”

But Council Member Dan Bostrom, whose ward includes the building, sees it as an irreplaceable asset to the neighborhood.

“This is a way to positively tell our story,” said Bostrom, who’d like to see the board used to celebrate the legacy of East Side native and legendary Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks.

Rendering courtesy of Council Member Dan Bostrom.

Like many city councils, St. Paul’s has a custom of alderman’s privilege, where the body gives members deference on issues specific to their wards. But the Eastern District building sits at the border of two other council wards, and the members who represent those areas would rather see it torn down.

“If there was ever an example of blight, this is it,” said Council President Kathy Lantry, who represents the area south of the station.

Lantry pointed out that the city passed a policy in 2002 opposing all billboards. She, along with Council Members Amy Brendmoen and Russ Stark, also objected to the timing of Bostrom’s resolution, which was not included on the council’s agenda.

They argued the public, including members of a Facebook group opposed to the billboard, deserved an opportunity to be heard on the issue. But Bostrom said a public hearing would merely delay things.

“It wouldn’t change anybody’s opinion on this council, I don’t care what we did,” he said.

The final vote was 4-3.The city owns the billboard. Bostrom says it’s up to the mayor’s office to decide what message to place there.