Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why Repeal the "Lurking" Law?

I am working to repeal Minneapolis’ “lurking” ordinance for four reasons:
1) It is poorly crafted,
2) It is unnecessary,  
3) It is ineffective,
4) It contributes to racial and economic disparities and injustice.

Here is the law, in its entirety:

“385.80. Lurking.  No person, in any public or private place, shall lurk, lie in wait or be concealed with intent to commit any crime or unlawful act.”

Find more detail on my reasons to repeal the lurking ordinance below the fold.

Read more »

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pepper Spray at Protest

Like most people, I was very disturbed to learn that a young African American boy was pepper-sprayed during a protest yesterday evening in downtown Minneapolis. I support the right of people to peacefully protest, and recognize that much of the progress we are making in our discussions about racial disparities in the criminal justice system are due to the power of grassroots organizing and protest.

 I thank Police Chief Janee Harteau and Mayor Hodges for taking this incident seriously and I look forward to hearing the results of those investigations.

 Here's Chief Harteau's statement:
"I am launching a full investigation into the concerns brought forth this evening. Our investigation will include gathering surveillance video and interviewing witnesses. I understand and appreciate people's concerns and will gather the full set of facts as quickly as possible. I assure everyone this will be a thorough investigation.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

On De-Criminalizing Spitting

This morning Council Member Blong Yang and I gave formal notice of our intention to bring to the City Council a motion to repeal two of the city’s ordinances that criminalize some instances of spitting and lurking.  I plan to write more about lurking later, and to address the city’s “spitting ordinance:” here.  

The basic ordinance we use today was passed in 1898. It was amended slightly in 1904 and perhaps later.  It apparently was used around the turn of the century.  According to records I found from the day, arrests went from about 200 arrests were made in 1904 to 21 in 1908 and back to 1 in 1909, although one source indicated there were as many as 400 arrests in 1909.  It is clear from reading the news and the Council proceedings from the time period that the passage of this ordinance was intended to help prevent the spread of Tuberculosis (TB) in a time when the use of chewing/spitting tobacco was common in Minneapolis, much more common that it is today. While today we know that TB is an air born disease spread when infectious people sneeze, cough, talk or spit, there was less certainty then.  Additionally, it appears use of chewing and spitting tobacco was seen as a nuisance. In 1904 passage of another related ordinance made tuberculosis reportable.  In 1909 in Minneapolis there were 356 deaths and 434 living cases of Tuberculosis reported. (from ATuberculosis Directory: Containing a List of Institutions, Associations andOther Agencies Dealing with Tuberculosis in the United States and Canada, NationalAssociation for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, 1911)

It appears that arrests for spitting and depositing tobacco feel off quickly. Only a few years after the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in Minneapolis, in 1913, there were only 2 spitting violations reported of over 12,000 violations of all city ordinances reported that year.  One hundred years late, in 2013, as far as I can tell so far, there was only one citation given and in 2014 there were none. 

That said, I have heard individual reports of people being stopped for spitting.  Some of the attention to this ordinance comes from reports that it is sometimes used by police to initiate enforcement actions against people, and that those interactions are often with people of color.

Here is the specific language, which appears to allow spitting in some places (yards, ball fields, parkland, boulevards and even in the street itself) but prohibits spitting in most indoor public places and on sidewalks:

“213.30. - Spitting; depositing tobacco.

No person shall spit or expectorate or deposit or place any sputum, spittle, saliva, phlegm, mucus, tobacco juice, cigarette stumps, cigar stumps or quids of tobacco upon the floor, walls or stairway or any part of any public hall or building, depot, market, theater, church or place of public amusement; or upon, into or through any grating, area or stairway; or upon any sidewalk of any public street; or upon the floor, furnishings or equipment of any motor bus while it is in use upon the streets of the city. “

To my way of thinking this falls into a category of behaviors that would best be described as “things people probably shouldn't do, but shouldn't necessarily be a crime.”  There are lots of behaviors that are not particularly polite, and can spread disease.  For example, not covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and not washing your hands afterwards.  Those behaviors are most likely significantly more likely to spread disease, but they are not against the law in Minneapolis.  Spitting and depositing tobacco waste certainly are unsanitary and potentially offensive, but I am convinced that they no longer rise to the level of requiring an ordinance or the use of police and court resources to manage and regulate, even if they did in 1898 and in 1904.  Public awareness and education are better approaches.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Healthy Communities

The Minneapolis Health Department has developed a new Healthy Communities Assessment Tool. This online resource provides information about the physical, social and economic conditions of community health in Minneapolis Includes 41 health indicators at the neighborhood level. The indicators were determined at a national level and we are one of four pilot cities in the United States selected by Healthy Housing Solutions Inc. and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in this pilot project. The way it is being presented now may make too big a deal out of rankings, but this offers a way to look at strengths and weaknesses and may provide insights into what needs more research and focus in your neighborhood.]

I am very excited to see this coming forward and look forward to seeing how we can use it to make better decisions and investments in Minneapolis.

Check it out at here  .

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cradle to K Draft Plan

I was very excited to see that in January, the Mayor’s Cradle to Kindergarten (K) Cabinet released its draft plan to address early childhood disparities. The plan outlines policy, legislative and collaboration recommendations intended to help ensure that all Minneapolis residents are able to thrive during their first years of life. 

Please take a few minutes to read the draft plan

I commend the group and the Mayor for this overdue focus 0 – 3 year-olds and for the practical, research based recommendations it makes under each of the following three goals:

Goal One: All children 0 to three will receive a healthy start rich with early experiences that prepares them for successful early education and literacy.
1. Increase early childhood screening at age three.
2. Improve mental health services of children birth to three.
3. Decrease the “Word Gap” of children birth to three.
4. Expand targeted home visiting services.
5. Increase community awareness and engagement in the importance of early childhood development

Goal Two: All children are stably housed.
1. Increase housing options for the lowest income families at 30% Area Median Income.
2. Target funding to address the needs of homeless children and families to improve their stability while on the path to housing.
3. Provide resources for very-low income families to become economically stable.

Goal Three: All children ages 0-3 have continuous access to high quality child development centered care.
1. Ensure that low-income families have access to financial resources to afford high quality early learning programs.
2. Increase the number of available high quality child care slots in Minneapolis.
3. Partner with family, friend and neighbor providers to ensure that the children they serve are prepared for kindergarten.

Over the next few weeks, the City, though the Mayor’s office,  will be accepting and reviewing feedback to incorporate into the final report. That report is due out later this spring.

You can provide feedback using a web- form here or, and especially if you have attachments to share, you can send those here. I look forward to being part of participating in the draft of the final plan which I hope to see approved and implemented in the years to come.

Additionally the Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee will get a presentation of the draft plan, discuss it and offer feedback on March 2nd at 1:30 pm. The meeting in the Council Chambers in room 317 of City Hall will be open to the public and televised. 

2015 Budget Recap and Resources

Last year, on December 10, following an intense and often passionate public hearing; and a lengthy and sometimes emotional debate by the City Council, the 2015 budget was approved. This followed an earlier Budget Committee meeting where the Council voted 7-6 to support amendments to the proposed 2015 budget that reduced funding for several high priorities of mine including the newly formed Clean Energy Partnership, homeownership support, community engagement funding for the One Minneapolis Fund, an outside evaluation of our community engagement system and a Civil Rights Department Disparity study. Fortunately, at that meeting, a proposal to shift funding for pedestrian and bicyclist safety from ongoing to one-time dollars was withdrawn and an attempt to cut a proposed racial equity position in the City Coordinator’s office failed on a 7-6 vote.  Subsequently, on the 10th, funding for the Clean Energy Partnership and the One Minneapolis Fund was restored by shifting some funds from other sources, and cutting from two staff positions focused on improving communication with non-English speakers. This was passed after the seven-member majority rejected an alternative compromise I moved that would have instead used funding slated for a $500,000 Convention Center enhancement for Meet Minneapolis’ tourism marketing efforts. In the end these cuts reduced the property tax levy by approximately $790,000. The final approved levy amount is $222, 814,000, of which $153,929,000 is for the general operating fund for city departments. 

The cuts came from the following:
  •  $150,000 deducted from the 300,000 needed for the Civil Rights Disparity Study effectively delaying or derailing this important study needed to justify and target efforts to close gender, racial and other disparities in employment.
  •  $100,000 from what I considered an unwise and unnecessary $500,000 enhancement to the Convention Center budget to go to Meet Minneapolis for tourism promotional and marketing activities.
  • $75,000 taken from a Homeownership and Foreclosure prevention counseling and outreach program aimed and helping middle and low income people keep their homes and become first time homeowners.
  • $120,000 from the Health Insurance expenses unneeded because of unanticipated reduction in costs.
  • $80,000 for a new neighborhood specialist staff person to support neighborhood organizations
  • $174,000 from money intended to fund 2 additional Communications department staff to boost collaboration with the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department and non-English media outlets to ensure that City news and information reach diverse communities across the City.

While happy to have preserved and recovered funding for some of my priority items and generally supportive of much of the budget, I ultimately voted against it.  I did this because I believe the modest levy increase approved by the Board of Estimate and recommended by the Mayor was financially wise and I remain concerned about some of spending priorities that put support for some of the wealthiest sectors of the city ahead of efforts to improve the lives of and those whose needs may be the greatest.  Additionally, I voted no to show my opposition to the Council’s inability or unwillingness to work harder find a consensus, and to forge a compromise that would have better reflected not only the priorities and interests of all Council members, but also the priorities and interests of all Minneapolis residents. You can watch a broadcast of the almost 5 hour long December 10 meeting under 2014 Budget Hearings under 2014 City Council meetings online.  You can find the official record of the December 10th meeting here

Here are a few notable highlights of this year’s budget that came up during the December deliberations:
  • $250,000 to fun two new positions in the Coordinator’s office to focus on racial-equity.
  • $3.5 million to fund the $50 million redesign of Nicollet Mall.
  • $250,000 in planning dollars for the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor.
  • $790,000 for a network of protected bike lanes, plus funding for snow management of these.
  • $150,000 to fund staff and program resources working on the new Clean Energy Partnership.
  • Funding to start and operate a curbside organics recycling service.
  • $55,000 for downtown youth workers.
  • An additional $70,000 in education and support for parents and caregivers of adolescents.
  • $250,000 enhancement  for the Convention Center to go to Meet Minneapolis’ marketing efforts
  • $400,000 to support the Downtown Council’s new Holiday Market
  • Funding to support 10 more police officers, for an authorized strength of 860 sworn officers.
  • $1.14 million over two years for body cameras for the Police Department.
  • Close to $1 million for community service officer training.
  • $960,000 for training a police cadet class of 18.
  • $800,000 for two new fire fighter classes, and one class added to the department’s base.
  • $346,000 for an additional four 911 operators.
  • $250,000 for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • $25,000 added for public art.
  • $55,000 for the Minneapolis Highrise Representative Council for Project Lookout.
  • Increased and consolidating housing dollars to bring the Affordable Housing Trust Fund up to $10 million.
  • No funding for the Great Streets Program but an additional $100,000 to support small business development through the Business Technical Assistance Program.
  • $150,000 for the One Minneapolis Fund to support the development of diverse leadership and civic participation. 

One additional budget amendment that I was able to move through with the help of Council Member Palmisano was to allocate $70,000 for an external assessment of our neighborhood engagement system. We are developing the scope of the study now and hope to issue a Request for Proposals in February and have an evaluation back in August.

You can find the final approved 2015 here.

Additionally just this week the City launched a new financial transparency online platform powered by that provides unprecedented access to the City’s finances. The software allows people to see financial data in a variety of interesting ways which may help people understand the City budget better. You can get started and learn more about using the system here . The platform can also be accessed at

I hope residents, reporters, bloggers, business owners and staff will make use of this to explore the budget, long-term trends and details in new ways.  People can compare the 2015 budget to previous years dating to 2008 and view revenues and expenses by fund, department and expense type on interactive graphs. The current year report provides insight into spending and revenues year-to-date. I am also excited to see this might be used to create custom reports and shed light on details within the finances of the city.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting More Data on Arrests and Stops

This morning, the Council approved a staff direction I worked on with Council Member Blong Yang that will give the Council better access to data on low-level arrests and police stops in our city. Here's the direction:

Motion by Gordon and Yang

Directing the Police Department and City Attorney’s Office to provide data on misdemeanor arrests, charging, prosecution and diversion by race, gender, age, geography, and offence for the years 2010-2014, and report back to the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management committee in the second quarter of 2015.

Further directing the Attorney’s Office and Police Department to make recommendations concerning the development of a policy and potential protocol for the recording and reporting of demographic information, especially race and location, of police stops that do not necessarily lead to an arrest, and to report back with recommendations regarding this in the second quarter of 2015.

This appears to be a very careful, small step that will do nothing more than compile and share information. It is.  But, it also presents an opportunity to better identify, understand and address the institutional racism, racial profiling and discrimination that may be operating, even unwittingly, in Minneapolis’ criminal justice system.  It could be a critically important step towards understanding the impacts of our criminal justice system in Minneapolis.  

The first part of the direction will give us the information that can allow the Council to have a well-grounded discussion about our policing, prosecution and diversion practices.  The second will start a conversation about how we can collect information about the impacts of "stop and frisk" or "stop and talk" activities of the police department.

My goal is to address the real concerns expressed by Minneapolis communities about the disparate impacts of policing on communities of color, while continuing to provide public safety for all.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2015 Budget - Reaction The Day After Reaction

Last night, after a boisterous public hearing and some more contentious, 7-6 votes, the Council adopted the 2015 budget.  Here are some key takeaways:

The community came out in force.  In addition to tens of emails and phone calls to Council Members, more than sixty people came to speak to the Council about the importance of investing in clean energy and equity.  Only one person spoke in favor of the levy reduction.

We won back most of the losses from last week.  The Council voted unanimously to restore many of the cuts that were made last week.  Most importantly to me, we restored all of the funding for the Clean Energy Partnership, most of the funding for the One Minneapolis Fund, and a small amount of the funding for homeownership counseling and foreclosure prevention.  I do not think these wins would have been possible without all of the pressure the community brought to bear.

This budget includes a lot of progressive wins.  There is a lot of progressive stuff in this budget that was not in contention last night.  This includes the City's first positions to address racial equity, body cameras for police, a citywide organics collection program, dedicated funding for protected bikeways, our first stable source of funding for improvements to bicycle and pedestrian safety, and more.

We weren't able to craft a real compromise.  As I said above, there were a number of 7-6 votes last night.  The votes were the same as they were last week: Council Members Glidden, Cano, Bender, Quincy, Andrew Johnson and me against Council Members Reich, Frey, Barb Johnson, Yang, Warsame, Goodman and Palmisano.  This slim majority of the Council voted to get rid of two positions in the Communications divison that were intended to help with communicating with communities that do not speak English as a first language, and to put this money into a further - unnecessary and unwise - levy reduction.  A substitute motion offered by Council Member Glidden to put the budget savings in a "rainy day" fund failed 7-6, despite the fact that one of the Council Members who voted against it said - twice - at last week's budget meeting that he would support such a motion.  That same majority rejected multiple attempts to completely restore the cuts to homeownership counseling and foreclosure prevention or the One Minneapolis Fund using the one-time dollars for marketing the convention center (which is, in my view, a much lower priority).  I believed that we could come together with a compromise that could get the support of all thirteen of us, and was disappointed that that didn't happen.  I stand by my quote in the Star Tribune article: It almost feels like it was a power struggle going on here, rather than an effort to make a budget for a better city.  It certainly felt like the cuts to the non-English speaking communications positions were directed at one Council Member in particular, and I have serious concerns about the Council making policy this way.

Due to my disappointment in the Council's failure to come together and compromise, and the damage that this whole process has done to the working relationships we have, I voted against this budget.

I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to rebuild our capacity to work constructively together over the next months and years.