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: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Monday, November 07, 2016

Second Ward October-November 2016 E-newsletter

News from Cam Gordon
Council Member, Second Ward

Vote. Please vote on Election Day, Tuesday November 8th, if you haven’t already used the early voting, no-excuse absentee voting opportunities provided this year.  On Election Day, polling places will be open on the 8th from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm. You can find your polling place at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/. This year the City is working to send each household a voter’s guide that includes a sample ballot. You can use this to preview all the races, candidates and questions on the ballot, mark your choices on and bring to use when casting your ballot at the polls. Early voting is still underway until Monday afternoon. For more information about early voting, registering and voting visit vote.minneapolismn.gov  or call 311 or 612-673-3000.

2017 Budget. The budget process for this year is well underway and now for the first time, the proposed budget is available online in an interactive format at https://minneapolismn.opengov.com/transparency. Some of the most significant changes to this year’s proposed budget include $1.3 million for 15 new police officers, including three for a new mental health co-responder program; nearly $1 million for community-based strategies to improve public safety, including $500,000 for community-driven strategies in two locations with high levels of youth violence; $400,000 for five additional firefighters, and $14.5 million to support affordable housing development. There will be two public comment hearings on the budget: at 6:05 pm November 30th and 6:05 pm December 7th both in Room 317, City Hall. Visit www.minneapolismn.gov/budget for more information on the budget proposal and process.

New Police Offices. I thank, welcome and congratulate the latest 25 new Minneapolis police officers who have graduated in early November from the police academy and have since started working in our neighborhoods. Of the 25 officers who successfully completed the 32-week long training program, 7 are women, 7 are people of color, 7 are fluent in languages other than English, one holds a Ph.D., and 4 have master's degrees. We are very fortunate to have these diverse, well-qualified, well-trained, new officers committed to serving the people of Minneapolis and joining the police department. I wish them all long, safe and fulfilling careers working for the people Minneapolis. This brings the total size of the police force to 845.

Youth Outreach Workers. I was happy to see coverage of the Youth Coordinating Board’s Youth Outreach Worker program featured in a local newspaper this month (http://www.citypages.com/news/straight-talking-youth-workers-save-lives-keep-peace-in-streets-and-classrooms/399543511). This is a program that I have followed, supported, admired and helped guide since it emerged from the Youth Are Here busses during my first term in office. Now, as chair of the Youth Coordinating Board, it has been gratifying to see it expand from street outreach in downtown, into some of our schools and neighborhoods. In October the Youth Coordinating Board reviewed the results of an evaluation of the School Outreach program done by an outside agency, Rainbow Research. While we still don’t have clear data about changes in school metrics like truancy and suspensions, it generally received very positive reviews from students, teachers and administrators alike. We will be working with the schools to collect more data from the three schools that are using youth workers this year: Edison, Henry and Northeast Middle School. You can find the recent evaluation report and more information here http://www.ycb.org/schooloutreachteam

Group Violence Intervention Grant. The City has been awarded a two year grant of $325,000 to help us develop and begin implementation of a Minneapolis version of the National Network for Safe Communities’ Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program to reduce group involved homicide and gun violence. This program has been widely implemented across the county and is recognized as a best practice by both public safety and public health professionals. This funding will help jump start the City’s effort that is also funded in the Mayor’s proposed budget.  It is a promising, proven, holistic public health approach to addressing violence that the Youth Violence Prevention committee has been working on for years. It relies on a partnership between the Health Department, the Police Department, community members and social service providers and includes bringing social support, case management and other resources to help youth who may be at a higher than normal risk for violence. You can learn more about the model here https://nnscommunities.org/our-work/strategy/group-violence-intervention.

Gun Violence.  On November 2, the tragic, fatal shooting of Paul Knobbe, near Lake Street and Cedar Avenue, pushed the number of people shot so far this year to over 300. This is compared to 222 victims of gunshot wounds recorded by this time last year or a 35% increase over last year. It also brings the total number of homicides this year to 35, compared to the 39 we had recorded by the end of October in 2015. The vast majority of those homicide victims were killed with handguns.

Jamar Clark Killing Internal Investigation. On October 21st, the police department announced that they had completed their internal investigation into the police officer killing on November 15th, 2015 of Jamar Clark and that the chief has determined that there were no violations of City policy and that the officers will not receive any discipline. Although this is not surprising, given the long history of not disciplining officers involved in police killings and the County Attorney’s similar determination, the result was a shock and disappointment to many, including me. While I have confidence in the Chief and have not been given the same access as others to the evidence, I remain deeply concerned by a number of things about this case. These concerns include: 1) the failure of the officers to record anything despite squad cameras and audio being available; 2) the very, very short time that passed between the officers arriving at the scene and when they choose to escalate to physical violence against Mr. Clark; 3) the failure on the officers’ part to employ de-escalation techniques despite the fact that Mr. Clark was not threatening to harm anyone and was not armed; 4) the specific way that Mr. Clark was “taken down” and the fact that the technique that was used and the way it was apparently used provided Mr. Clark easy access to an officer’s firearm, dramatically increasing the risk inherent in the situation; and, 5)the fact that he was shot in the head and that other less lethal use-of-force techniques were not used. As an elected official and not a trained police officer, I do not possess the same degree of training in law enforcement that the our professional police staff do, and perhaps the officers in this case acted according to national best practices, best training and in compliance with all city and police department policies. I am not necessarily disputing that. But after days of reflection on this, I have concluded this: if the officers followed our policies in this incident, then something is deeply wrong with those polices. If their actions represented the best training we have available, then that training is (or was) grossly inadequate. If this exemplifies national best practices, then those best practices are fundamentally flawed. Mr. Clark did not need to be killed and should not have been killed. The officers’ actions in this case resulted in a preventable, avoidable, and tragic death. We need to learn from this incident, and other similar instances, to ensure that this never happens again. When Chief Harteau was sworn in, she laid out an inspiring guiding principle by which she wanted every police officer to judge "every encounter" with the public: "Did my actions reflect how I would want a member of my family to be treated?" I don't think that anyone - certainly not me - can say that they would want a member of our family treated the way Jamar Clark was treated. I will also note the omission of any formal community or civilian review of this internal affairs investigation. I am convinced that there is a serious and wide divide between community expectations and professional policing standards when it comes to police conduct. Until we can close that divide, community confidence and trust in the police will be hard to build.  You can read the Chief’s statement about the Jamar Clark investigation and the Police’s Internal Affairs report here http://www.insidempd.com/iainvestigation/. To read the Chief’s full speech where she articulates the principle by which she wanted every police officer to judge every encounter see http://secondward.blogspot.com/2013/01/chief-harteaus-speech.html

Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings. In 2013 the City passed a Commercial Building Benchmarking and Transparency ordinance that requires large buildings to track and disclose their energy consumption. It is intended to promote reductions greenhouse gas emissions and is being phased in over several years with larger public buildings reporting the first year and larger commercial building reporting the second. By now, the majority of commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet have submitted their energy use to the City. The commercial-industrial sector contributed almost half of the total citywide greenhouse gas emissions in 2014. An analysis released earlier this year of the energy use of 429 public and commercial buildings in Minneapolis revealed that those buildings have the combined potential to save $24 million in energy costs per year and avoid more than 120,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by increasing their energy efficiency to reduce consumption by 15 percent. On November 2 the city held a Building Energy Challenge Awards ceremony to celebrate the efforts of building owners and managers who have made noteworthy progress reducing in greenhouse gas emissions. This kind of recognition is called out in the City’s Clean Energy Partnership’s 2015-2016 work plan and supports the city goals of a 30% greenhouse gas reduction in the city by 2025 and 80 percent or more by 2050. Learn more at http://www.minneapolisenergybenchmarking.org/

Second Ward Energy Reduction Award Winners.  I was delighted to see that 2 of the 3 award winners for high-performing large commercial buildings at the Building Energy Challenge Awards ceremony went to Second Ward properties.  Congratulations both to Shriners Hospital on East River Parkway, for being the business category winner, and to Days Hotel on University Avenue for winning in the hospitality category. Shriners achieved energy reductions, in part, through improvements in lighting technology after replacing their parking ramp lights with LEDs controlled by motion sensors. LED projects in the lobby and elevator allowed them to remove an expensive and hot transformer and run cooling fans less often. I was also delighted to see that the Days Hotel on University Avenue was given an award for significantly high performance in energy reductions. It sounds like many, if not most, of their reductions came from proactive staff willing and able to implement small but meaningful strategies to conserve energy and water use. For instance, it is common practice in the winter for heat to be turned down soon after checkouts to conserve energy.

Advancing Health Equity. Since last summer, I have served on a Minnesota Department of Health’s Advancing Health Equity Work Group. Our charge was to provide local elected officials and public health leaders with resources and practical information to help them advance health equity and integrate it into public health policies and practice. In September the work group’s Report and Recommendations were approved and forwarded to the state Commissioner of Health. Our work has been shared through a “Resource Library for Advancing Health Equity in Public Health” that can be found at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/opi/pm/schsac/wkgp/2015/equity/

Recycling Chute Resolution The resolution I authored with Council Member Palmisano that establishes a recycling chute requirement for new apartment and condominium buildings was approved by the City Council in October. It supports mandating that, when a garbage chute is installed in new construction or major renovations, a recycling chute will also be installed in such a way as to provide equivalent access at all floors served by the garbage chute, as required by the State Building Code. In the process of working on this we learned that there also may be opportunities in the future to get more apartment buildings to provide organics recycling service and we encouraged them to do so in the resolution. Any building that wants organics service now can choose between several different haulers (around 10) in Minneapolis who already take organics as part of their service. Additionally, there are multiple larger and midsized apartment buildings that currently offer organics service to their residents. Some of these buildings (including 7 West Apartments, Solhavn Apartments, and Soltva Apartments) were built with three chutes to accommodate organics as well recycling and trash.

Transit Assistance Program. On October 10th, Metro Transit launched the Transit Assistance Program (TAP). This promising pilot program allows qualified low income residents of the Twin Cities to ride at a reduced rate using a new TAP transit card. It offers participants $1 rides on all buses and light rail, including transfers. All participants who sign up will receive $5 for rides on their new card. Those who already have a registered Go-To Card can transfer their balance to the TAP card to take advantage of the discount. To enroll you must be a low-income Twin Cities resident between the ages of 13 and 64 and have a photo ID and income verified through a non-profit or another government agency including an EBT Card. You can learn more and find a list of sign-up sites at http://www.metrotransit.org/TAP. I commend Metro Transit for taking this step and hope that this pilot program will become a permanent and popular part of their services.

Intentional Communities. The first public hearing for the Intentional Community ordinance I'm authoring with my colleague Council Member Goodman was held on November 1, where it was unanimously recommended for approval by the planning commission. The ordinance would allow people who register as an intentional community to have the number of people who can safely share a home, regardless of their relatedness. You can read a draft of the amendments and find more information under "Current Projects" at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/ward2/index.htm. Because we are also changing the housing maintenance code (in addition to the zoning code), there will be another public hearing at the Council's Community Development and Regulatory Services committee on November 29th at 1:30 pm.

Neighborhoods 2020 Engagement Plan. The current funding source used to support community engagement and neighborhood organizations is scheduled to end in 2020. To help us better prepare for the changes ahead and develop future funding options, the Council approved an engagement plan to help identify and develop recommendations by March 30, 2018. The purpose of the plan is to: 1) ensure participation of neighborhood organization leaders, cultural community leaders, City leadership and other stakeholders in the process;  2) provide clear and ongoing communication with neighborhood organizations, residents, and City leadership on the development of Neighborhoods 2020 recommendations and how these tie into the Blueprint for Equitable Engagement and Neighborhood and Community Relations department plans; 3) develop consensus around recommendations for roles and responsibilities of funded neighborhood organizations, and the roles and responsibilities of the City in responding to and working with neighborhood organizations; and, 4) ensure a smooth transition of Community Participation Program funding after 2020. To read about the plan and learn more see http://www.minneapolismn.gov/meetings/legislation/WCMSP-188366

Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission Report. On November 7 the Health Environment and Community Engagement Committee will receive the 2015-16 annual report of the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission.  To learn more about the accomplishment of this hard working group over the past year see the report at http://www.minneapolismn.gov/meetings/legislation/WCMSP-189204

Energy Vision Advisory Committee. The Clean Energy Partnership has approved the members of its highly respected and influential Energy Vision Advisory Committee for next year. I am grateful to everyone who applied and look forward to working with the new and continuing members: Louis Alemayehu, Cameran Bailey, Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, Trevor Drake, John Farrell, Abby Finis, Timothy Gaetz, Matt Kazinka, Kevin Lewis, Patty O'Keefe, Rebecca Olson, Julie Silvis, Jamez Staples, Shane Stennes, and William Weber.  

Senior Skyway Center. After a year of uncertainty about the future of the downtown Senior Skyway Center, a possible path towards a stable future emerged in October. A senior serving organization, Ecumen, has sent in a Letter of Intent expressing their interest in assuming the role (currently played by the City) as the operator of the Center. Ecumen agrees that the Center plays an important role in the community and that its purpose is consistent with their mission. They envision retaining the current operations, staff and volunteers, stabilizing the Center and increasing its reach into the community. As a result of this, on November 4th, the City Council authorized city staff to enter into formal discussions about transferring operations and oversight from the City to Ecumen and gave Ecumen a 120 day exclusive dealing period. I am hopeful that this will result in Ecumen’s becoming the Center’s operator and that early next year the Council will be approving formal agreements to effectuate the transition and that the center will have many more years ahead of successfully serving seniors in Minneapolis.

Diversity Survey Results. On November 28th the Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee will get reports related to the two diversity audits that were conducted this year of members of both city council appointed advisory bodies and neighborhood association board members. Since 2009, at my urging, the City has been collecting basic demographic information on volunteers serving on the City’s boards and commissions. We started this in response to repeated concerns we heard about some sectors of our city population not being well represented on our boards and commissions. In 2015 we also surveyed our neighborhood association board members. I am hoping that the information gathered this year will help us better understand the make-up of our boards and commissions and help us set goals and develop better recruiting strategies to increase the diversity of viewpoints and people engaged in guiding neighborhood and City decision-making.

American with Disabilities Act Implementation Plan. The City Council is poised to approve a revamped ADA implementation plan by the end of the year.  The draft plan (you can find here http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/ncr/services/WCMSP-183897) is currently being reviewed by our advisory committees and community members. I expect it to come forward to a council committee at the end of November with some modifications based on this input. 

Greens Zones Update. The Green Zones workgroup, established by resolution passed last spring, will be providing an update to the Health Environment and Community Engagement Committee on November 28th. To support their work, a Green Zones mapping tool has been created. The tool shows data by census tract for each of the eight priority issues selected by the Green Zones Workgroup: 1) equity, 2) displacement, 3) air quality, 4) brownfields and soil contamination, 5) housing, 6) green jobs, 7) food access, and 8) greening. The mapping tool offers a variety of ways to look at and consider cumulative burden. You find more about the Green Zones, the work group and the mapping tool at http://www.minneapolismn.gov/sustainability/policies/green-zones

Partners In Peace. Everyone is invited to join Brit's Pub, Alliance Française, Veterans for Peace, the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and local & international representatives for the 9th annual Partners in Peace Armistice Day commemoration on November 11. The event will include singing, bag pipes, bell ringing, a color guard presentation and personal accounts & readings. It will be held Friday, November 11, 6:00pm at Brit’s Pub 1110 Nicollet Mall in their clubhouse room. The program begins at 7 pm and is free to all.

Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin. In November the City Council approved me and Council Member Warsame to be the City Council representatives on the Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin (CAPSH) board.  The agency is in the process of forming a reformed board and considering a name change, now that it is the federally designated Community Action Program agency for Minneapolis. They are also seeking 4 additional new members from Minneapolis. Two of these board seats are specifically reserved for people who are eligible for energy assistance; subsidized housing; WIC, food stamps or other supplemental assistance; or meet income qualifications (up to 125 percent of the federal poverty level). The board of directors provides strategic direction, fiscal oversight and general policy guidance to the organization. Applications must be in by November 27. For more information or to apply, visit www.capsh.org

Creative City Challenge. The fifth annual Creative City Challenge based on the theme of Climate Chaos | Climate Rising seeks proposals from Minnesota artists, architects and designers. The challenge is a competition for Minnesota-resident architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, engineers, scientists, artists, students and individuals of all backgrounds to create and install a temporary, destination artwork, which acts as a platform for two months of onsite programming. Entries are due by 4:30 pm November 28. The winning Creative City Challenge proposal will receive $50,000 to execute the project. An optional informational session will be conducted 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 15 at the Soap Factory, 514 Second St. SE. For more info visit http://2017.northernspark.org/creative-city-challenge-call/.

Updated Investment Policy. On November 4th, the Council approved revisions to our investment policy to better support the preservation of affordable housing in Minneapolis. The revision allows the City to invest in mortgage backed securities where the underlying mortgages are for unsubsidized multifamily rental housing affordable to households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income ($51,480 for a family of four.) This kind of housing is also known as are “naturally occurring affordable housing” (NOAH). Rents in NOAH units average between $500 and $1,200 per month. Sadly, the real estate market has been driving up the rents at many of these properties and tenants have been displaced because they can no longer afford the increased rents. The purpose of this revision to make funds available to NOAH property owners so they can keep rents affordable  for tenants while investing in improvements in their buildings.

Check Your Smoke Detector. Daylight saving time ended Sunday, November 6. This is a good time to put fresh batteries in your home smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than half of all home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

2016 Homegrown Minneapolis Open House. Please join the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council in celebrating another year of promoting healthy, sustainable, locally grown foods on Thursday, December 1st from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, at Seward Montessori, 2309 28th Ave South. The event will feature a brief program including remarks from local notables, the 2016 Homegrown Heroes awards and a "State of the Plate" and 2016 Homegrown Highlights presentations from the Food Council. It will begin with an information fair and reception, including opportunities to provide feedback to the Food Council on local food policy priorities. You can also register to be part of the information fair component of our annual open house. For more information visit http://www.minneapolismn.gov/sustainability/homegrown/WCMSP-187360?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term.

Coldwater Springs Resolution. I was proud to support and co-author Council Member Andrew Johnson’s resolution that recognizes Coldwater as a sacred site, reminds all government agencies to respect the 1805 treaty and honor both the spirit and the letter of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the 2001 state law relating to protection and preservation of Coldwater Springs and declared October 10, 2016 to be “Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day” in the City of Minneapolis.

Affordable Housing. This Month the City Council approved more than $9 million in affordable housing investments throughout Minneapolis.  We approved $7.9 million in direct investment and $1.2 million in 10-year federal tax credits to create or preserve 686 units of affordable multifamily rental housing in 10 projects located throughout the city. These investments are the result of awards from the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit programs for 2016. Together, these investments will leverage more than $150 million in additional private and public resources. Funded projects outside ward 2 include, among other projects) the YouthLink Supportive Housing project with 46 units of supportive housing for homeless youth ages 18-23, the Great River Landing project with 72 units of supportive housing for men who were formerly incarcerated or at risk of long term homelessness, and the Minnehaha Townhomes project with 16 units of large (3BR or more) family housing for extremely low income families in shelters. More about the 3 projects funded in Ward 2 follows.

The Aeon Prospect Park project at 3001 4th St SE has been awarded $450,772 for construction of a mixed income apartment building for families. Aeon will use the funds to help build a five story 70 unit apartment complex one block from the Green Line’s Prospect Park Station. This will provide permanent supportive housing to 7 households with dependent children who have been homeless or are at risk of homelessness. The elevator, building design, and unit layout will implement Universal Design strategies throughout and the first floor will include community rooms for general resident use; a fitness room and bike storage. The exterior design with be reviewed with the neighborhood design committee. New, wider sidewalks, improved lighting, tot lot, pedestrian benches, and bike racks will be included and the project will comply with Green Communities Criteria.

Minnehaha Commons.  The Council has approved using $925,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Fund money to help fund a new 41 unit senior housing project at 3001 East Lake Street. Alliance Housing, Inc. has partnered with the Touchstone Mental Health to create Minnehaha Commons, a supportive service project for extremely low income seniors who have experienced homelessness. The project will consist of a 31,500 sq. ft. three-story building with 41 studio apartments. The property will have a community room, service provider space/office, property management office, laundry room and front desk on the first floor. There will be a tenant lounge area on the second and third floors and an outdoor patio for informal gatherings.  A front desk will be staffed throughout the evenings and weekends to provide support to tenants and ensure safety.

Namaste Apartments. On Friday November 4, the city council, with my enthusiastic support, approved using $1.2 million in Affordable Housing Trust Fund Money to support the final phase of a redevelopment project at the old abandoned and dangerous Bunge Grain Elevator site near Van Cleve Park. This has been the site of two fatal accidents in recent years. Two young women, Germaine Vincent in 2006 and Emily Roland in 2015, died there after falling inside the structures. The new project will consist of 150 apartment units, with 42 being considered affordable for families making at or below 50% of the Annual Metropolitan Income with 8 being set aside for people experiencing long term homelessness. Project for Pride in Living (PPL) owns the site and will be developing the property.  In 2007 they demolished several of the grain elevators and, with various partners including Habitat for Humanity and Cabrini House, constructed two apartment buildings and a row of townhomes. They are now preparing to develop the last part of the site where the head house and remaining elevators are located to provide rental housing, called the Namaste Apartments, that will consists of 150 units of new affordable workforce housing. I am especially glad to see that the development plan includes reuse of the Bunge Tower or head house. This is a major landmark and both the neighborhood association and the Historic Preservation Commission have supported preserving it.  The project will not only eliminate a dangerous situation and blighted buildings but will provide quality housing with a focus on wellness, knowledge, art and peace.

The Opportunity Center. Construction of the new West Bank Opportunity Center that the City County and all the partners of the Cedar Riverside Partnership have been working on for the past several months is expected to begin this fall and is scheduled to open spring 2017.  I congratulate Council Member Warsame and County Commissioner McLaughlin and the partnership in reaching our fundraising goal of $950,000 that allowed Hennepin County to sign a ten-year lease for the center, that will be located in the first floor of the new Five15 on the Park building, 515 15th Ave. S. It will serve as a job opportunities hub for nearby residents.  Anchor partners include EMERGE Community Development, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), Hennepin County Workforce Development, the Hennepin County Library and the City of Minneapolis.  Library programming in the center will include a Teen Tech Squad, which will lead technology-based workshops designed to develop creative problem solving skills; an overview of library resources that can assist with building job skills; and employment-focused learning circles with tips on preparing for job interviews.  Employers with a robust recruiting presence at the center will include Hennepin County, Fairview Health Services, Hennepin County Medical Center, the City of Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College and St. Catherine University. Key goals of the center include tackling the neighborhood’s high unemployment rate, which is around 17 percent, and increasing access to educational programs.  Hennepin County has contributed $250,000 for the center and the City of Minneapolis has pledged $100,000. The Cedar Riverside Partnership raised additional funding from local charitable foundations.

Franklin Bridge Bike/Ped counter. As part of the Franklin Avenue Bridge reconstruction, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) has supplied a bicycle counter pole device that will track the number of cyclists who use the bridge. The device displays both daily and annual trips and can be viewed from the sidewalk on the north east end of the bridge.

1501 Como Ave. The developer of this property has applied for a demolition permit to demolish the auto repair building at this address in order to construct a new three-story, 30 unit apartment building. Approvals for the new building were appealed by an area property owner, but the Council has denied the appeal. You can find out more at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/meetings/legislation/WCMSP-187740

1202 Como Ave SE. A demolition permit has also been applied for to demolish the one (older) unit of the triplex located at 12th and Como Ave SE to allow the for the construction of two new townhomes as approved in September and further explained in this staff report http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/groups/public/@cped/documents/webcontent/wcmsp-186284.pdf

The Bessemer at Seward. The Council has approved moving forward with two grant requests to support the Seward Redesign project at 2200/2206/2210/2214/2218 Snelling Avenue. One is from the Department of Employment and Economic Development for $501,500 and one is from Hennepin County for $110,000.  Seward Redesign intends to demolish four vacant buildings and construct 121 units of market rate rental housing as part of the continuing redevelopment of the former Bystrom Brothers site, located near the Franklin Avenue Blue Line Station. The site plan includes green space and a new public bicycle/pedestrian access to the LRT trail. The total projected development cost is $23,800,000. Grant funds, if awarded, will be used primarily for demolition and soil remediation, along with the abatement of asbestos and/or lead based paint in the existing building prior to demolition.

Harris Building.  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has awarded Minneapolis $175,000 for limited demolition and stormwater costs on the 4.34-acre Harris Building site located in the Prospect North/Towerside area at 501 30th Ave. SE.  The funding will support new office and commercial uses at this location. For more information see https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/press-releases/?id=260904

Open Office Hours in the Ward. I usually hold open “Office Hours” in the ward every Thursday morning from 9:30 to 11:00 am.  Please feel free to call the office at 673-2202 to reserve some time when I will be there or just stop by.
First Thursdays at the Oren Gateway Center, Nabo Café, 2211 Riverside Avenue;
Second Thursdays at Black: Coffee and Waffles, 1500 Como Ave SE;
Third Thursdays at T Rex Cookie Café, 3338 University Ave SE;
Fourth Thursdays at Blue Moon Coffee Café, 3822 E Lake St.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jamar Clark Killing Internal Investigation.

About ten days ago, on Friday October 21st, the police department announced that they had completed their internal investigation into the police officer killing on November 15th, 2015 of Jamar Clark and that the chief has determined that there were no violations of City policy and that the officers will not receive any discipline. She wrote, “After looking at all the evidence and all the verifiable facts in this case, I can say with absolute certainty that I fully support the actions of [the] Officers….We did not find any violation of MPD policy.”
While not surprising, given the long history of not disciplining officers involved in police killings and similar determinations by other investigating bodies who looked into this case, the result was a shock and disappointment to many, including me.
While I have confidence and trust in the Chief and the Mayor and have not been given the same access as others to the evidence, I remain deeply concerned by a number of things about this case. These concerns include: 1) the failure of the officers to record anything despite squad cameras and audio being available; 2) the very, very short time that passed between the officers arriving at the scene and when they choose to escalate to physical violence against Mr. Clark; 3) the failure on the officers’ part to employ any de-escalation techniques despite the fact that Mr. Clark was not threatening to harm anyone and was not armed; 4) the specific way that Mr. Clark was “taken down” and the fact that the technique that was used and the way it was used allegedly – per the officers’ own testimony – provided Mr. Clark easy access to an officer’s firearm, dramatically increasing the risk inherent in the situation; and, 5)the fact that he was shot in the head and that other less lethal use-of-force techniques were not used. I am especially struck by the failure of the officers to avail themselves of the clear opportunities they had to negotiate, wait and observe or get further assistance while Mr. Clark was clearly posing no imminent threat to anyone.
It is worth noting that the Internal Affairs police investigators did not look for new evidence or talk to witnesses themselves but relied on and reviewed the evidence in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension file, including all videos, witness statements, police reports and supplements, Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center records, and Hennepin Emergency Medical Services Dispatch files. They evaluated the evidence against relevant police department policies and procedures. Then the case was presented to the Internal Affairs Unit Commander and forwarded to the Chief’s Office for review by a four person panel comprised of the Assistant Chief and three Deputy Chiefs. The Chief made the final determination.
As an elected official and not a trained police officer, I do not possess the same degree of training in law enforcement that the Chief’s panel did, and perhaps the officers in this case acted according to national best practices, best training and in compliance with all city and police department policies. I am not necessarily disputing that. But after days of reflection on this, reviewing the videos and listening to and reading the reports of the County Attorney and Minneapolis Police Department, I can only conclude this: if the officers followed our policies in this incident, then something is deeply wrong with those polices. If their actions represented the best training we have available, then that training is (or was) grossly inadequate. If this exemplifies national best practices, then those best practices are fundamentally flawed. Mr. Clark did not need to be killed and should not have been killed. The officers’ actions in this case resulted in a preventable, avoidable, and tragic death. Our best practices are insufficient. Our policies must be improved. We need to learn from this incident, and other similar instances, to ensure that this never happens again.
When Chief Harteau was sworn in, in her inaugural speech she laid out a clear, moving guiding principle by which she wanted every police officer to judge "every encounter" with the public: "Did my actions reflect how I would want a member of my family to be treated?" I don't think that anyone - certainly not me - can say that they would want a member of our family treated the way Jamar Clark was treated. I would not want a member of my family to be shot in the head within one minute and one second of encountering police officers for not taking his or her hands out of his or her pocket fast enough. By the Chief's own test, the Minneapolis Police Department, its officers, and the whole City of Minneapolis failed Mr. Clark that night. As a City Council Member, I failed Jamar, and by failing him, failed our community and failed ourselves. We must - we absolutely must - do better.
Finally, I will note the glaring omission of any formal community or civilian review of this internal affairs investigation. Despite efforts taken by the Council and in City Ordinance to create a system of shared police and community/civilian oversight and review of police issues and complaints, and to bring Internal Affairs cases into our more general police conduct review process, in this case with such intense community concern and interest, none of the available city-appointed civilian police conduct review panelists were included in the review, nor were any of the civilian investigators. I remain convinced that there is a serious and wide divide between community expectations and professional policing standards when it comes to police conduct. Until we can close that divide, community confidence and trust in the police will be hard to build.

Friday, September 02, 2016

August 2016 Newsletter

For the latest news from Ward 2 in Minneapolis please check our our monthly newsletter here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Court Decision on the Minimum Wage Charter Amendment Should Not be Appealed

I was very heartened by the decision by Judge Susan Robiner on Monday that the minimum wage charter amendment should be placed on the ballot in Minneapolis. It was a powerful decision, and echoed many of the arguments that I made when opposing the Council majority's decision to keep this amendment off the ballot.
The City of Minneapolis is doing a real disservice to our constituents and our democracy in appealing this decision as reported in the paper. I want to be clear: there has been no formal Council vote to authorize the appeal. The City Attorney has decided to move forward with the appeal under the authorization of the Council vote on August 5th.
I would strongly prefer that we leave this precedent in place. It's a good, pro-democracy ruling that clears up something that seems to have been confusing: the people do indeed get to decide whether a given issue is appropriate to address in the Charter or not, through the process established by state statute (which the campaign has followed to the letter). The idea that an issue is inappropriate to address in the Charter is a *political* question for the campaign (and counter-campaign) to address, not a *legal* question that the City Council has the right to answer on behalf of the people.
And I want to be clear that by appealing this decision, we are forcing this campaign - a campaign led by grassroots organizations, working on behalf of the poorest people in our community - to spend its limited resources fighting the City in court rather than organizing for a win this fall. I have a problem with that. Every dollar spent on legal fees is a dollar not spent on organizers, literature, and the thousand other things necessary to win this campaign in November. (And, because some of the organizations supporting this campaign have a statewide focus, each of the dollars wasted fighting the City in court could be used for progressive change well outside of Minneapolis.)
I wish that we could have let the strong, well-reasoned Robiner ruling stand, embraced the idea that the people of Minneapolis will get to vote on raising wages for the poorest workers in our city this November, and gotten to work on winning that vote. Unfortunately, that has not happened, and that's one of several disappointments I've had with the City as an enterprise throughout this whole discussion of a local minimum wage.
But I have hope that despite these frustrations and disappointments, we are on the path towards greater economic justice by increasing wages for poor workers in our city.
***
The conclusion of the decision could not be stronger:
"To conclude, the City cannot avoid certain realities that defeat its position:
• No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that general welfare legislation may only be proposed through initiative and referendum;
• No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that “all local municipal functions” means only “the form, structure, and functioning of the municipal government”;
• Minnesota cases have allowed district courts to enjoin elections only where the proposed charter amendment was unconstitutional or conflicted with state law neither of which are even argued by the City; and,
• For a Court to enjoin a ballot initiative based on its content when that proposal has garnered the proper number of signatures and proceeded properly could reasonably be seen as overreaching its specific role under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 and its general role in a government that respects separation of powers."

It Is Wrong to Block the Minimum Wage Amendment from Going on the Ballot

This month's conversation about the minimum wage charter amendment has been interesting and sometimes intense and contentious. Despite being on the minority-end of the decision, and having the City Attorney's opinion arguing against my opinion, I still strongly believe that the City Council reached the wrong conclusion when we voted 10 - 2 to block the proposed minimum wage charter amendment from being on the ballot. While in the end we may have moved a little closer to the ultimate goal of raising wages for the lowest-wage workers in Minneapolis through a promising staff direction, if the action on Wednesday is formally approved by the full Council on Friday, the fair, democratic process set out in state law is not being honored. If the committee recommendation is ratified, the voters of Minneapolis will be wrongly prevented from having the chance to vote on an issue that they should have been able to in November and we, as a Council, did not fulfill our responsibility and duty as a City Council.
Given the fact that my opinion represented such a super-minority on the Council, and contradicted the opinion of the City Attorney and chair of the Charter Commission, I wanted to offer more details into how I reached my conclusion.
First, the conclusion: I believe that I, as a Council Member, was obligated to allow the minimum wage question to be placed on the ballot.
The resolution itself, that was put forward to keep the issue off of the ballot included a clause that I considered to be incorrect. It said, "That the City Council finds the proposed charter amendment constitutes the submission of an ordinance to the Council by petition of the electors.. [that] is not a proper subject for a charter amendment." I could not support it and will not vote for it at the Council meeting on Friday.
Early on in my decision-making process, I identified three key things that any citizen/petition proposed charter amendment would have to meet. If these things are met, in my opinion, it would be my legal obligation to approve putting the matter on the ballot and approve ballot language. Here are the three key requirements:
1. The petition itself must have the sufficient number of registered voters signing it and be in the proper format as outlined in state law (Chapter 410 - https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=410.12 )
2. It must conform with state law (Chapter 410) relating to City Charters.
3. The proposed change cannot be in clear violation of federal or state law, or "manifestly unconstitutional."
I think the City Attorney was mostly on target when she wrote in her opinion, "When a citizen petition has been presented with the requisite number of signatures of registered voters, the City Council has a ministerial duty to place the measure on the ballot unless the proposed amendment contravenes the public policy of the state, is preempted by state or federal law, is in conflict with any statutory or constitutional provision or contains subjects that are not proper subjects for a charter under Chapter 410." Although, I think we need to be extremely cautious about attempting to accommodate all public policy of the state or try to guess the intent and spirit of legislation or that we need to be the judge of what is "proper subject matter" to go in a charter. Both seem to leave huge openings for interpretations and for bias and are not clearly outlined anywhere in 410.
So, on my more limited and clear three criteria:
1. The proposed amendment had more than enough signatures, collected in the proper format. The petition needed a number of registered voters equal to at least 5 percent of the total votes cast at the last state general election. For this election that number was 6,869. The $15 Minimum Wage petition contained 17,902 signatures total and 8,418 were validated to be registered voters in Minneapolis.
2. The amendment conformed with state law, it pertained to a "proposed new scheme or frame work of government." and met all the other requirements of Chapter 410.
And, 3., the content of the amendment was not in violation of state or federal law or the state or federal constitutions. There are no laws prohibiting the establishment of Minimum Wages. In fact, the federal and state governments have enacted similar laws and there are NO prohibitions or preemptions against the city passing such a law, in any legislative document, be it a charter or a code of ordinances.
So, this proposed amendment meets all three of these tests. So, it is my "ministerial duty to place the measure on the ballot" and not to block it from appearing on the ballot.
Interestingly enough, in her opinion, the City Attorney appears to be asserting that there is a fourth, perhaps more important test, not included in state statute: whether the proposed amendment is "properly" a charter amendment, or whether it is properly "legislation" which she appears to interpret as being an ordinance vs. a charter provision. In my view, the charter is also legislation. I respect the Attorney's opinion, (and admit that voters and judges might agree with her in the end) but I disagree that this test gives the Council the authority to block the people from amending their city's charter. I'll note that I agree with one of the coalition's attorneys: the City Attorney's opinion is based nearly entirely on a single paragraph in a single court case, which was not even referenced in the decision of that court case. There are not clean statutory definitions of "legislation" or limitations placed on the sorts of topics charters can cover.
The question as to whether an issue is more appropriate for a charter amendment or an ordinance is, in my opinion, an unfortunate distraction. It was proposed as a charter amendment, and thousands of people signed petitions to bring it forward as a charter amendment. Chapter 410 itself says very little about subject matters but does state that a petition must contain a summary of "any proposed new scheme or frame work of government." So, it seems clear that the subject ought to be a scheme or framework of local government. Granting the authority to the Council to set a minimum wage, and defining what that is and how it will regulated is most certainly a scheme of government. So, because it was before us and met the strict legal requirements as I see them, it should be up to the voters to determine if this belongs in the charter. Whether it's something most appropriate to be in the charter is a great point to debate during a campaign, not something the Council had the proper authority to decide.
As I said yesterday, the Council majority and City Attorney have valid arguments, but they are beside the critical points we need to consider and went beyond the legal test that the petition needed to pass.
I might even agree that something like a minimum wage might be better as an ordinance, or that taking more time and drafting it as an ordinance might be a better strategy for getting it, or something like it, passed, but that is not what we were to base our determination on. Also, and clearly, past Minneapolis City Councils and voters have seen fit to include many things in the charter that I and others might have felt were better suited to be ordinances. These included provisions about horses, bread, food and liquor sales at restaurants and more. A few years ago we decided that it would be a good idea to remove some of those from the charter - and we did it. Not by a simple Council vote however. No, we the right way, by putting the question forward to the voters.
Others, including legal experts, have given voice to the ambiguity as to the legality of yesterday's decision, and when there is that level of ambiguity I believe we should err on the side of democracy.
Still, the pressure from this decision and the clear message sent from the thousands of people in Minneapolis calling on us to do something, may have moved us a little closer to taking future action to set a local minimum wage and, in doing so, help address the deep and unjust economic disparities in our city by raising the wages of the lowest-wage workers in Minneapolis.
Seeing it as a needed opening and positive sign is why I then voted in favor of motion to direct City staff to begin work on a Minneapolis minimum wage - a motion which passed 9-3. That is a very important step in the right direction, and a step I don't think we were ready to take before now.
I thank Council Members Frey, Warsame and Bender for putting this staff direction forward. I also thank Council Member Cano for her attempt to make that staff direction even stronger and more specific (which unfortunately failed on a 6-6 tie). It is good to see a clear majority of my colleagues expressing support - new, explicit support - for a Minneapolis wage increase. I look forward to seeing this staff direction pass the Council tomorrow.
And make no mistake: the progress we made this morning was due in very large part to this charter amendment campaign. The organizers - 15NowMN, NOC, CTUL and others - and the thousands of people who signed petitions to place this issue on the ballot, the hundreds who showed up, called and emailed, have changed the conversation in Minneapolis. Before this campaign, the chances of the Council passing a strong minimum wage ordinance before the next municipal election were somewhere between slim and none. Now I am more than optimistic, I am confident that we can pass such an ordinance by next spring.
In September I expect us to get our report back on the effects of raising the minimum wage in Minneapolis and the region. I hope we can use that to further understanding and build more support for a strong city consensus on a fair, reasonable and strong minimum wage ordinance in Minneapolis.
I realize that, depending on if and how the court may end up intervening, we may still end up seeing this on the ballot this November.
But if not, I am ready and eager to work on and vote for a strong and broadly supported $15 minimum wage ordinance as a Council Member in early 2017.
Either way --- if a judge ends up ordering this on the ballot and a campaign follows or if a coalition of Council Members puts together an ordinance next year ---- to pass it we will need the ongoing help of all supporters, advocates, organizers and others who worked on the charter amendment petition effort. And if you gathered signatures, called, carried a sign, signed a petition, sent an email or talked to friends and family about putting the minimum wage on the ballot, that victory will be yours.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Accomplishments for 2015

It has become a tradition in the Ward 2 Office to look back at the end of each year and review our accomplishments.  There is little doubt that 2015 was a challenging year for the City of Minneapolis.  With the death of Jamar Clark in late November and through the protests that followed, we have had to face ongoing impacts of historical and present-day racism and injustice and our City government is struggling to find a way to respond with meaningful changes.    

But 2015 also saw the success of many initiatives the Second Ward office has championed.  Here is our list for this year:

For Justice:
-          I coauthored (with Council Member Blong Yang) the successful repeal of the City’s antiquated and unjust ordinances that criminalized “lurking” and spitting
-          I coauthored (with Council member Lisa Bender) an ordinance that allows more flexibility for siting emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness
-          I stood with the community and actively supported the people’s right to peaceably assemble in response to the police shooting of Jamar Clark and the protests at the 4th Precinct
-          I authored a staff direction that required the Police Department and Attorney’s Office to provided a detailed multi-year report to the Council, for the first time, on low-level offenses with data on who has been arrested, where and what  the consequences of those arrests have been.
-          I opposed a last-minute amendment to devote more than $600,000 to security investments at the 4th Precinct
-          I fought for the City to adopt a fair scheduling ordinance, but was ultimately unsuccessful
-          The City hired our first Racial Equity staff in the Coordinator’s office, something I have advocated for years, and supported in last year’s budget

For the Environment:
-          I authored (with Council Member Linea Palmisano)a resolution declaring Minneapolis a pollinator-friendly city, pledging to not use synthetic pesticides, planting more forage for pollinators, and urging others to follow our example
-          I coauthored (with Council Member Alondra Cano)a resolution divesting from fossil fuels and urging other entities to divest
-          The Clean Energy Partnership, which I worked to create and on which I serve, appointed a strong Energy Vision Advisory Committee, adopted its first 2-year work plan and metrics, and funded free Energy Squad visits for low-income homeowners and zero-percent financing for energy efficiency improvements
-          The Council voted to subscribe to community solar, and directed staff to start a process to put out a City-led request for proposals for community solar
-          I submitted formal comments on the draft Xcel Energy resource plan, and the later draft of that plan includes significantly more reductions in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions
-          I directed public works staff to overhaul the City’s Urban Forest Policy in light of the clear evidence from a Tree Failure Report that our sidewalk repair practices have damaged tree roots, leaving trees vulnerable to wind storms

For Smart and Equitable Development:
-          I authored a resolution that creates a new City designation for Innovation Districts, and authored a second resolution designating the University Avenue Innovation District to support Prospect North
-          I took a firm position against a tax giveaway for a privately-owned soccer stadium

For Local Food:
-          I authored an ordinance changes that allow more flexibility for “limited production and processing” in commercial areas, to support small local food processors
-          I shepherded a policy through the Council that opens up more City-owned land for food growing, for longer lease terms, and for the first time allows market gardeners to access that land
-          I authored an resolution supporting seed sharing libraries, which the legislature subsequently legalized in Minnesota
For Active Transportation:
-          The Council passed the City’s first protected bikeway plan, something I have advocated for years, and has fully funded its implementation
-          One of the first protected bikeways in the City opened this year on Oak Street Southeast, with the strong support and active participation of my office
-          Ward 2’s first-ever Open Streets events were held in the University area and on Lake Street
-          With leadership from my office, the Public Works department has begun a winter maintenance evaluation for bikeways and sidewalks
-          I coauthored a letter of support for Minneapolis to host the 2016 Winter Cycling Congress, and we were chosen as host city

For Youth:
-          Building on the strong advocacy of the Youth Congress, I coauthored (with Council Member Yang) an ordinance prohibiting flavored tobacco except at tobacco-only retailers, and set a minimum price for cigars and cigarillos
-          As Chair of the Youth Coordinating Board, I helped oversee development of the Afterschool Network citywide program finder: What’s Up 612! www.whatsup612.com that launched in June. 

For Zero Waste:
-          The City, led by my office, sought and received funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to conduct a study on commercial recycling and waste diversion, and that study is underway
-          I coauthored a resolution establishing an aggressive recycling and waste diversion goal for the City and supporting the adoption of a Zero Waste Plan, which is underway
-          My office crafted an amendment that significantly increases the amount of composting that can occur at community gardens, market gardens and urban farms, while simplifying these regulations

For Democracy and Community Engagement:
-          The Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) department is finalizing a Blueprint for Equitable Engagement, to ensure that City-supported community engagement activities truly serve all members of our communities
-          I supported an external evaluation of the NCR department and neighborhood organizations
-          The Council has passed a major update to the City’s language access plan for better serving people with limited English proficiency

Local Issues:
My office also works on many issues of local importance for Second Ward neighborhoods.  A few of the local issues we worked on this year include: 
-          Staffing the University Avenue Innovation District and Prospect North Partnership
-          Ensuring that no development would occur in the Glendale Townhomes area without the support of Glendale residents and the broader community
-          Testing a closure at 29th Ave S and the Midtown Greenway, as part of a planned bike boulevard
-          Welcoming a host of new small businesses to our neighborhoods
-          Tracking major developments including 22 on the River, multiple new hotels, the Kemps/Overflow site and much more
-          Starting a Grain Elevator Task Force to respond to the dangers and opportunities created by the mostly vacant elevators in our city
-          Pushing the City to begin the process to purchase right-of-way for the Prospect Park Trail





Work led by my colleagues:
And, as always, my colleagues have been working on good policies that I have been happy to support, including:
-          A rail safety resolution coauthored by Council Members Reich and Palmisano
-          Council Member Bender’s significant reforms to the City’s off-street parking rules
-          Many equity-related activities led by Mayor Hodges including the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice
-          A 2016 Budget that invests more in racial equity, police accountability, biking and clean energy than any the City has ever adopted
-          An ordinance establishing a clear 1% for public art requirement for City projects, authored by Council Members Glidden and Reich


In addition, there are many initiatives that my office has worked on in 2015 that are not yet finished, but that I expect to pass in 2016.

For 2016:
-          An ordinance requiring Minneapolis employers to offer earned sick and safe time to all employees
-          A strong, visionary complete streets policy that will establish a clear, meaningful priority for walking, biking and transit
-          A “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance prohibiting retailers from providing plastic bags at the point of sale, and establishing a fee for single-use paper bags
-          An ordinance to allow people to form intentional communities that are exempt from our maximum occupancy code
-          A Green Zones policy that will help address historical environmental injustices, help drive City environmental investments to where they are most needed, and support green jobs
-          Ending the requirement for food trucks at farmers markets to have more than one license