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, 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! 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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Distracted Media

I am surprised and concerned about the recent media flurry (both mass and social media) resulting from a few limited social media actions taken by one first term Council Member in Minneapolis.

I certainly acknowledge that individuals and media outlets of all types have every right to engage in discussions about what should and should not be public and I share concerns about any individual, elected or not, whose family or personal safety is threatened. But I hope we can resist the inclination to let this distract us from the more critical and more complex story about systemic racism in our city, state and county, that we so desperately need to understand and analyze. Our democracy may well depend on it. The future of our society may depend on it. Black lives certainly depend on it.

Let me be clear, I share Council Member Cano’s commitment to justice and combating the implicit and explicit racism that plagues our city and larger society. But this is not about me or about any Council Member.

Black lives matter. The need to speak out against, protest against, and legislate appropriately against white supremacy and white privilege, bias and hatred, has never been greater. I commend and stand in solidarity with all elected officials in Minneapolis, in the state and from around the country who are calling and working for real transformative public policy changes to reverse white privilege, and bring about meaningful criminal justice reform.

So now, can we please get over this sidebar distraction and get serious about the much harder to tell and more complicated story behind the (apparently legal) violence and injustices we see today, and every day, that are disenfranchising, oppressing, imprisoning and killing people of color in our country? Can we please get real about ending the New Jim Crow, transforming our criminal justice system, dismantling institutional racism and preventing future deaths? And while we’re doing it, let’s keep seeking justice for and remembering those who have already been killed - Jamar Clark, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Terrance Franklin, Mya Hall, Michael Brown, Alexia Christian and so many, many more.

That’s what should matter to us.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Priorities for 2016

What Should the Ward 2 Priorities be for 2016?

I believe that 2016 offers enormous potential for the city to show leadership in addressing some of the most pressing and serious issues of our time, including environmental degradation and climate change; racial disparities in health, education and employment; criminal justice and police reform; the widening income gaps and shrinking middle class and much more. 

Below, in alphabetical order, is our working draft of 16 priorities for 2016.  Please take a moment to read through and think about them.  Then, let me know what you think is missing, what’s there that shouldn’t be and which of the ones remaining you think should be top priorities for next year.

  • Affordable, Fair, Decent Housing for All – Support preservation of existing affordable housing and construction of new affordable housing. Explore ways to better support public housing that serves those most in need. Regulate the inclusion of affordable housing into more new development; make our housing occupancy regulations flexible enough to accommodate more people living in intentional communities.
  • Children and Families – improve cooperation within all city departments and between the city, county, parks, schools, and neighborhood organizations as well as the city’s Youth Cabinet, Youth Congress and the multi-jurisdictional Youth Coordinating Board to make Minneapolis a healthier, better place to raise children that welcomes and supports all families, children and youth.
  • Clean Air, Water and Soil and Healthy Homes – Continue and expand efforts to measure and clean air, water and soil. Draft and approve a strong Green Zone Policy to help address past environment injustice. Invest in our tree canopy. Work with the MPCA and local businesses so businesses adopt more clean practices. Work with the parks, schools and private property owners to encourage adoption of pollinator-friendly, pesticide-free practices.
  • Clean Energy – Leverage the Clean Energy Partnership to further implement our Climate Action Plan and see the city conserve more energy. Participate in community solar and invest in our own power plant(s) to get more of our energy from clean, renewable sources.
  • Community Based Economics – Facilitate creation and growth of small independent and cooperatively owned businesses that provide good jobs and serve the needs of neighborhoods, with a special focus on redevelopment in Ward 2 commercial nodes and corridors like Como Ave SE, E Lake St. and in the Prospect North/ University Avenue Innovation District.
  • Complete Streets Approve and begin implementation of a Complete Streets policy that prioritizes pedestrians, bikes and transit users, and begins to correct for past transportation planning decisions where preference for the single use automobile was paramount, while also making sure the overall network accounts for and works well for all modes.
  • Crime Prevention and Public Safety – Support block club organizing, cooperative police-community relations and better policing practices to prevent crime and ensure public safety.
  • Criminal Justice and Police Reform – Repeal unjust laws that do more harm than good. End “broken windows,” over policing - over prosecution practices. Reform and improve community oversight of the police. Establish a Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform steering committee to guide the work and make policy recommendations to the City Council, City Attorney and Minneapolis Police Department to help address and eliminate racism in the city’s criminal justice system.
  • Effective and Equitable Neighborhood & Community Engagement- Approve and implement a strong plan for neighborhood organizing that will help organizations enfranchise more people, while strengthening, empowering and preserving a healthy, open, democratic and effective system of grassroots neighborhood-level planning, prioritizing and investing into the future.
  • Local Foods and urban agriculture – support urban farms, community gardens and small food producers.
  • Preserve and Invest in our Public Assets –Ensure that we are making wise investments now to sustain and protect our land, river, lakes, public park system, public schools, trails, roads, bridges and other public buildings and infrastructure to ensure that they serve the present and future needs of our city.
  • Racial Equity work to close the racial disparities in poverty, income, employment, educational attainment  and health by implementing a Minneapolis Racial Equity Tool Kit where all city decisions are evaluated using a racial equity framework, progress is tracked carefully through our Results Minneapolis community indicators and support the work of the Everybody In regional collaboration.
  • Thoughtful Growth and Development Both locally (on a project by project basis) and through the redrafting of the Comprehensive Plan, work to ensure that development is done in ways that preserve what we value most about our communities and serve the present and future needs of residents. Improve our livable, walkable neighborhoods and make every neighborhood a “complete neighborhood” while focusing smart density near existing and planned transit corridors.
  • Working Families and Economic Justice – Pass meaningful local reforms that will fight wage theft. Pass a strong paid sick time ordinance and continue efforts to regulate fair scheduling and set a higher minimum wage that is also a living wage.
  • Youth Violence Prevention – Implement the Blueprint to Prevent Youth Violence; bring to scale promising efforts, like the BUILD program, to provide resources for children and families at highest risk for violence. Work to reduce gun violence, homicides and injuries for 0 to 24 year-olds. Support youth re-entry services; tailor employment opportunities for high risk youth; provide chemical dependency treatment, mental health support, community healing and trauma informed care and promote alternatives, like restorative justice, to detention.
  • Zero Waste Adopt a comprehensive Zero Waste plan; fully implement the citywide organic waste collection system eliminate packaging (like the single use plastic carry-out bags), that cannot be effectively composted or recycled; and find ways to better organize and regulate waste from commercial properties and large apartment buildings to keep it out of landfills and the downtown garbage burner.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Surprise "Hearing" on 4th Precinct

I was surprised today when the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management Committee voted to take public comment on what is happening at the 4th precinct.

While I appreciate that members of the public were able to address a Council Committee on the situation at the 4th precinct today and voted to allow it, I was very concerned and confused about the timing and the motivation. The comment period was added at the last minute (during the Committee meeting) to an agenda that had been set days before. There was no general notice to the general public about the opportunity, although it appeared that a few people knew about it before hand. So, we allowed some members of our community, and the Police Federation president, to address the committee and have their views broadcast, without giving other members of our community any notice that this opportunity would be occurring. I am certain that many people throughout the city would have made time to come and speak on this topic. Indeed, it is the fact that this is such a critically important, complex and controversial issue that I am even more concerned about this action today.

Clearly, the police shooting of Jamar Clark and the protests that have followed are of deep concern to residents throughout the city. Many residents are anxious for a chance to share their concerns, views and ideas with their elected city leaders. A thoughtful, well planned and well facilitated listening session certainly seems appropriate. In fact, it might offer a chance for the Council to help people listen to each other, better understand their differences, and in doing so, move closer to finding common ground to help us move forward towards finding solutions, resolving conflicts and setting a course to reach the values and goals we all share.

Even if we just wanted to have a conversation about the situation at the 4th Precinct - and, as or more importantly, the REASONS that people are protesting - that's something that would be very much worth our committee's time. In fact, my staff, with my support, raised just such an idea at the Public Safety committee's last agenda setting meeting, but it was decided that the committee would not do that. So, I was especially surprised by the last-minute decision to open time up and to be addressed by the Police Federation president and a few, seemingly forewarned or invited residents.

I believe that most or all of my colleagues have had the opportunity to meet and talk with protesters and with organizers of Black Lives Matter, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Minneapolis NAACP and others who are part of the protests since the shooting of Jamar Clark. Perhaps too few of us have taken that opportunity. And now, today, it seems like the Council went a step further, declaring that not only won't some of us go on our own to engage in a discussion with the protesters, but we will actively hide an opportunity for them to address us openly, and only make that opportunity available to a few people.

After the meeting I was struck at how untransparent and even embarrassingly antidemocratic this decision was. When I got back to my office I had to check on the goals and values we voted unanimously to support last year that were intended to guide our work over the next 5 years. Among the 6 related to How We Work I found these:

Engaging the community - All have a voice and are heard.

Building public trust - We work in an open, ethical and transparent manner.

Collaborating - We work better together as one team. We are a valued partner in the community.

I know these are aspirational and we will not always hit the mark, especially when working in stressful situations. Today was likely one of those times. Today we heard a few voices. Tomorrow, and in the days and weeks ahead, I hope we can do better.

I also had to pull out my handy pocket sized copy of the constitution I keep on my desk and reread that first amendment.

If our goal is to protect "the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," we clearly missed the mark today. I am concerned that we actually may have had a chilling effect on free speech. As we complain and worry about the current location, are we providing and offering any alternatives? As we welcome in those with grievances about the protesters themselves, are we as welcoming of those with grievances who are protesting or who are supporting those protesters?

If our goal is to peacefully end the occupation of the 4th Precinct (a goal that I believe many of my colleagues and even some inside of the protest movement itself may share), I am concerned that today's actions by the Council may have made that outcome significantly less likely. The only way today's committee meeting made any sense was as an attempt to provide cover for, or put pressure on us for, clearing the 4th Precinct by force.

I hope we avoid that, and I was glad to hear the Mayor this evening on the radio assuring us all that she has not ordered any kind of action to end the protest and that she is not planning on doing that. I appreciate her patience, and I appreciate the community's patience in this.

I believe that we all benefit from an active and engaged electorate. Free speech and the rights of the people to organize and work for change have led to some of the greatest accomplishments and social reforms in this country's history. Democracy is not always easy. It is not always convenient, efficient, clean or tidy. But I believe that there is no better alternative.

A standard line at protests is "this is what democracy looks like!" I'm not sure that today's meeting of the Public Safety committee was.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thoughts On the Mayor’s 2016 Recommended Budget

In August Mayor Hodges gave her budget address, Transforming the Basics of the Twenty-First Century City, and outlined initiatives and priorities for next year’s spending.  I was glad to see the Mayor continue to emphasize equity and embed it clearly into the general health of our city, “Our work to grow the city and grow it well into the future is indistinguishable from our work to make sure life outcomes are not determined by zip code, race or current class status. Out brightest future and out best hope to become the city we are meant to be are in doing this work inside the context of that reality.”  I commend the Mayor for clearly identifying climate change, racial and economic injustice, the need for transportation alternatives and preparing for a new kind of economic future as areas demanding our focus. As she put it “We have entered a time when we are being asked to face and meet the changes of the twenty-first century: the warming of our atmosphere; the reawakened spirit to push harder for racial and economic justice; the inexorable press of people who want to live in cities, and live here without cars; the changing national demographics away from older white people to younger people of color; the new flexibilities that technology is bringing to our workplaces, our communication, our consumption, our manufacturing, and our connections to one another. We must not only match, not only meet, but we must precede the challenges these changes create with innovation, vision, and the bone-deep knowledge that to become the city of the future we must be a city that leads and weathers the transition and is in it for the long haul.”

That speech began the Council’s most active involvement in the process for planning and approving the 2016 budget. Since then we have received budget presentations and reports from all the city departments and the several independent departments or boards that are connected to city budget including the Park and Recreation Board, the Municipal Building Commission and the Youth Coordinating Board. This represents one of the most important decisions the Council makes each year.  I believe that the more the public can be informed and engaged in this process the better.  To that end, I will elaborate on my own initial thoughts and reactions.

In general, I was very impressed with the Mayor’s address and with the budget recommendations as put forward so far. Her focus on basic services, equity, children and youth, youth violence prevention, workforce development, and smart transportation are right on target.

So far I am not planning specific amendments but have been working with Ways and Means Chair CM Quincy on a few issues, including securing funding for our Healthy Seniors programs in Southeast, Seward and Longfellow. Broadly speaking,  I wish we could be doing more in four areas: leveraging our clean energy partnership to push harder for clean energy; growth and the need to balance it with preservation and conservation; the future of civic participation and our neighborhood organizations; and reform in the criminal justice system.  I will note that the current budget does support and leaves ample room to work on these issues next year.  A new idea that I would like to see incorporated into next year’s budget is participatory budgeting

For now, let’s dig in to the some of the details of the budget.

I am generally supportive of her proposed levy and overall budget increase. She is recommending a budget for all “City” funds of $1.22 billion. This is a $31.7 million, or 2.7%, increase from last year’s budget of $1.19 billion. This is reasonable and consistent with cost living increases.  When the independent boards are included, the overall recommended increase is 3.4% in the property tax levy, raising the total amount levied by $9.8 million, from $287.6 million in 2015 to $297.5 million in 2016. The recommended budget uses the growth in the “tax base” (from the increase of the total number of property owners paying taxes) as well as accumulated, unspent funds from previous years; unanticipated growth in city sales and entertainment tax revenues; and Local Government Aid (LGA) funds from the State, to make improvements in services and programs while minimizing the impact on the property taxpayers. They Mayor, and finance staff, project that because of these factors nearly 2/3rds of property owners in the city will see a reduction in city property taxes next year.   

You can watch the mayor’s budget address and upcoming budget hearings on Minneapolis 79 (Comcast Cable channel 79) or on a smartphone, tablet or computer by visiting the City of Minneapolis website here

Here are how some of the most noteworthy budget highlights that are in sync my goals and priorities. 

·         $400,000 to accelerate Minneapolis’ conversation of City-owned streetlights to LED technology and save about $113,400 a year over their life cycle and pay for itself in three and a half years.
·         Green Business Investment Matching funding to provide money for businesses that work with hazardous substances to operate more cleanly to reduce pollution.
·         $50,000 to create a Green Zone pilot program which will use economic development to catalyze environmental and economic justice in vulnerable neighborhoods.
·         $155,000 to support Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment along the river.
·         Ongoing funding for the Clean Energy Partnership to execute the 2016 work plan and meet goals to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis.
·         Funding for police body cameras and civilian staff to implement the program.
·         $13 million for affordable housing, which includes a increase of 2 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in general, $1 million flexible dollars to help create affordable housing options for large families, and targeted rental assistance for families leaving shelters and $800,000 targeted to support stable senior housing.
·         $300,000 for police to hire a recruit class to help fill the 862 sworn officer positions in the City.
·         $435,262 in funding for two additional analysts in the Crime Analyst Unit and two additional forensic scientists in the Crime Lab. The new positions will free officers up to spend more time in the community and process requests more efficiently and quickly.
·         A proposed $15,000 for the City Attorney’s office to increase the reach of their driver’s licenses diversion program which aims to reduce the negative impact driving related offenses has on communities of color.
·         Funding for a pilot program that gives the Attorney’s Office the responsibility to charge misdemeanors and ensures more direct feedback to officers.
·         Tripling investments the City makes in restorative justice to break the cycle of recidivism and negative community impact.
·         $112,000 to bolster the City’s BUILD Leaders program which takes young men of color and puts them in leadership roles where they also learn employment skills
·         Funding for 30 “TechHire Initiative” scholarships to provide women and people of color with job training in technology skills.
·         $200,000 in funding for two new positions to aid the roll-out of the City’s Working Family Agenda policy—expected this fall—that will be tasked with business outreach, employee education, and the development of enforcement mechanisms.
·         A new American with Disabilities compliance position to ensure the city is accessible and livable for all residents.
·         Funding for two new sworn police officers who will focus on youth outreach downtown.
·         $200,000 in funding for the Fire Department to implement innovative new programs to get youth and high school students of diverse background into pipelines that transition to jobs in the EMT and firefighter fields.
·         $10 million for the City’s portion of the 10th Avenue bridge rehabilitation.
·         A new position in the City Auditor’s office to handle the increased demand of property assessments.
·         $200,000 for elections to increase the number of polling places to facilitate a better election next year.
·         $85,000 for the implementation of the Business Made Simple working group recommendations to make it easier for businesses to invest in Minneapolis. 
·         Funding for four new construction and six new housing inspectors.
·         $50,000 to help more communities and residents engage the City’s Zero Waste programs.
·         Funding for two positions in for the next three years to focus on redrafting the City’s Comprehensive plan — which guides growth and operations for 10 years — with a focus on sustainability and equity.

It is worth noting that, despite some additional resources and staff, the 2016 budget includes over 100 fewer full time employees than in 2007, just before we made significant cuts to our staff and services in response to the financial conditions at that time. Given the economics, the growth in our city and the demands of today, I believe this makes sense.

This year the Council scheduled two public comment hearings on the proposed 2016 property tax levy and budget. The first was held November 18 at 6:05 p.m. in Room 317 of City Hall, and the second will be on December 9 at 6:05 p.m. General upcoming dates in the 2016 budget process include:
        1-4 p.m., Dec. 4 and 7 – Ways and Means Budget Subcommittee budget markup.
        6:05 p.m., Dec. 9 – City Council final vote on budget after the public hearing.

For more information about the budget, including the full budget  visit

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

National Statement to Local Progress on Recent Shooting at Minneapolis 4th Precinct

Dear Local Progress Members,

We write with an urgent update and a plea for solidarity.

Last night in Minneapolis, at a protest for racial justice, three people, with their faces covered, were reported to use racial slurs and then shot peaceful protesters, injuring five separate victims.

Indiscriminate violence, which could have resulted in a person’s death, was perpetrated in the name of hatred and bigotry. We are thankful for quick work to arrest two perpetrators and hope that soon all will be in custody, charged with a hate crime and domestic terrorism or to the fullest extent of the law.

Black lives matter. And our need to speak out against white supremacy and white privilege, bias and hatred, has never been greater. This is where we, as progressive local elected officials from around the country, can stand in solidarity – silence on this subject is statement in itself.

We can speak out in our conversations with each other. We can speak out at the Thanksgiving dinner
table. We can speak out with our stand on issues and causes. We can unite around our need for collective change and attention to the violence perpetrated by systems that promote racial inequity. We ask that you speak out publicly, via statements, on social media, and however you see fit.

As policy makers, elected by city residents to lead in our city, we view our role as making changes and improvements to the status quo, not accepting it. Racial equity guides our actions in creating transformative public policy change. Policy and budget decisions are where we can act to reverse white privilege: by fighting for paid sick leave, implementing policy to prevent wage theft, pushing for real criminal justice reform, and ensuring that our budgets invest in our communities and reflect our values. We hope others join our rallying cry for change in policy and budget priorities all the way from the federal government to states, cities, and localities around the country.

We hope that you have a safe and happy long weekend. We will be giving thanks for what we have and re-committing ourselves to the fights ahead.

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Glidden, Minneapolis City Council, Board Member, Local Progress

Lisa Bender, Minneapolis City Council, Member, Local Progress

Cam Gordon, Minneapolis City Council, Member, Local Progress

Shooting Last Night at Jamar Clark Gathering

I am deeply disturbed by the violence that occurred last night at the 4th precinct. It is totally unacceptable and must not - and WILL not - be tolerated.
I have heard from the Police Department that two of the people suspected of being responsible have been arrested. This is very good news, and I look forward to the persons responsible being held accountable for their violent actions. I want to express my deepest gratitude to the MPD for working so quickly and effectively to make this arrest.
Now more than ever we need to be united as a people, as a government standing arm in arm with those most impacted by this violence, to protect one another, ensure that all of us are safe, that the violence is stopped, that people’s rights - including the right to speak to their government, loudly and forcefully, for redress of grievances - are preserved.
Then, united and safe, we can move together, to find the truth and see that there is justice and healing, for Jamar Clark, his family and friends, and our entire community.
And let us not forget as we do this, that what happened last night is a horrific symptom that has erupted from a deeper malady that has plagued our city for decades and decades. This malady of injustice, violence, racism and hatred, must be faced, it must be treated and cured, as difficult, costly and complicated as that may be, or we will doom ourselves, and our children to be victims of more acts of hatred and violence like this in the future. We must respond to this violence and hate with nonviolence, justice and love. Let us hold these precious values in our hearts in the days and weeks ahead. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Monday, October 05, 2015

Why We Need Fair Work Practices Legislation in Minneapolis

In light of the recently proposed “Working Families Agenda” we, as a city, are deeply engaged in a much needed discussion about fair work practices in Minneapolis.  As we drill down into the details of what basic standards for fair scheduling and paid time off should be, let’s keep our focus on the bigger picture. 

It's no secret: our economy is increasingly rigged in favor of the very rich  

Its no secret: young adults are struggling harder than ever to gain economic independence when faced with steadily rising costs of housing, education and health care. 

Its no secret: Minneapolis is home to the worst racial employment and income disparities in the nation. 

Not only are more and more poor workers, young workers, single parents and workers of color not keeping up, their incomes are actually falling.  This is especially true for our black workers as you can see here and here.

We live in a thriving city that works wonderfully for many of us.  But for many of us, Minneapolis does not work well at all.  As hard as it is to admit, we live in a city where some are on track for success and prosperity, and where others – too often due to their race – are on track for poverty and hardship. This has to change, and we have to change it.

The Working Families Agenda done right will help do that. 

Yes, it’s complicated. We must think about unintended consequences. We need to listen to each other. We need to understand the perspectives of employees as well as employers, especially our smaller businesses who are feeling the most threatened.

We can be nuanced and we can be reasonable, but let’s not forget how critically important this work is to making Minneapolis a better city, and a city that works well for ALL of us.

Right now, most high- and middle-wage employees have basic standards that provide some protection from risks faced by any person or any business. We have consistent, stable schedules, paid time off when we’re sick and livable wages. Low wage workers lack many of these protections. 

The fact is that our economy today deals with risk by placing too much of it on the poorest and least powerful. If rain shuts down a patio, a server is cut from a schedule she had planned to work, missing out on income she needed to pay her rent. If a cook catches a cold, he is expected to take unpaid time off – and may choose instead to come to work while sick.

This isn’t right, and we know it’s not right. There has to be a fairer balance between the risks borne by businesses and the risks borne by the poorest workers among us. There has to be a fairer balance between the lowest-wage workers and the highest-wage workers. We can’t afford to create a permanent underclass of low-wage, often black, brown and native workers who are denied some of the most basic protections – protections which so many of us have taken for granted for decades. Because if we allow that to happen, it's bad for us all.

And because the “free market” economy and the federal and state governments have failed to do what needs to be done to adequately address the needs of working people, cities have to step up.

That’s why I support the Working Families Agenda.

The success of our city depends on our ability to face and address historic and structural racial injustice and close racial economic disparities.  To do that, we need an equitable economy. This includes establishing basic standards that provide some predictability to work schedules, and some protection from last-minute forced cancellations or other changes. This includes some standard for earning paid time off if you or a family member is sick. No dependable long term employee should have to choose between working while sick and losing a needed day’s pay. Additionally, no worker should have their wages stolen, and have no effective recourse. Every worker should make a livable wage.

I know that there are businesses out there, small and large, that agree with this. We can disagree about details, but we can forge a consensus that everyone can live with.

It’s important to put these proposals in context. At one time in this country, even more risk was placed on workers. Poor safety practices and bad working conditions killed, maimed and injured many workers. There was no minimum wage. There was no 40 hour limit on a work week. There were no laws prohibiting child labor. Workplace organizing was prohibited.  We rightly shifted those risks and costs to businesses and through them to consumers. Now businesses must maintain safe working conditions, pay at least a certain wage, and allow workers to organize. Those victories were good for ALL workers in our country and helped create the strong economically independent healthy middle class that has been critical to the economic well-being of our country.

Now, at this time of growing, glaring, stubbornly tenacious economic disparities plaguing our city, adopting modest, minimal fair protections for all Minneapolis workers is not only the right thing to do but I believe it is one of the smartest things we can for the long term economic health of our city.