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

Thursday, March 06, 2014

More on the City Attorney Reappointment

My decision not to support the reappointment of Susan Segal as City Attorney has gotten a bit of interest and generated some discussion.  I’m going to take the opportunity to share some additional thoughts below the fold.  To see my original statement on this reappointment, go here.
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Sunday, March 02, 2014

More Information Emerges about TCE Contamination

Last week I had an interesting and disturbing meeting with Dr. Lorne Everett and the legal team pursuing a class action lawsuit against General Mills related to the trichloroethylene (or TCE) problem in Southeast Como.  Ricardo McCurley, Southeast Como Improvement Association staff person, was also present.  The meeting raised two major concerns for me: that the MPCA’s handling of the TCE soil contamination has been less aggressive and protective than it should have been, and that the current mitigation is seriously inadequate.  There's more information on these concerns below the fold.
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Friday, February 21, 2014

City Supports Phasing Out Triclosan

This morning, the Council unanimously passed the resolution I authored calling for the state and federal governments to phase out triclosan in consumer products, and urging all Minneapolis residents, businesses, and public agencies to stop buying products containing triclosan.

Here's the City's news release: Feb. 21, 2014 (MINNEAPOLIS) The Minneapolis City Council today approved a resolution that supports phasing out the antibacterial chemical triclosan from consumer products in Minnesota. Triclosan in consumer products causes known problems without having demonstrated benefits. The chemical appears in a wide range of consumer products – including soap, mouthwash, detergent, deodorant and even packaging – even though in these products it has not been proven to protect health.

Triclosan has been shown to break down in lakes and rivers into potent, cancer-causing agents that accumulate in the food chain. Triclosan has been shown to disrupt healthy hormone production and pose risks to healthy muscle function and reproduction. Studies show that antibacterial products may result in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

About 75 percent of Americans test positive for triclosan – mostly from exposure to household consumer products – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The City encourages Minneapolis residents, businesses and public agencies to protect human health and water quality by avoiding buying products that contain triclosan.

The Minnesota Legislature is considering a prohibition on triclosan in consumer products, and the United States Food and Drug Administration is considering a rule to require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that their products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. The City urges the Minnesota Legislature and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take these actions.

Expertise from Clean Water Action and Friends of the Mississippi River supported the resolution.

Previous healthy water actions

The City has internal policies designed to use less polluting products to eliminate or reduce toxins that create hazards to our community. These policies already prohibit triclosan in municipal operations.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On My Vote Against the Reappointment of the City Attorney

On February 12th  at the Executive Committee meeting I voted against the reappointment of Susan Segal to the positions of City Attorney.  I also intend to oppose her reappointment when it will likely come before the full council next month following a public hearing that will be held on Monday, March 3rd at 1:30 before the Ways and Means committee.
                               
As much as I admire the skills, knowledge and commitment that the City Attorney has, I do not support her reappointment for two main reasons: her handling of the stadium decision and her approach to prosecuting peaceful protesters.  Let me explain, below the fold.

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Conservation Districts - to the "anti" side

I’m working on an ordinance that would allow areas in Minneapolis to form conservation districts.  For an overview of the ordinance’s intent – and a response to some of the supporters who feel my ordinance isn’t going far enough – go here.

The point of this post is to respond to some of the concerns from people who aren’t sure they support the idea of allowing conservation districts at all.  Most of these folks seem to be under the impression that the purpose of conservation districts is to limit growth and density.  As the author of the ordinance, I can tell you that’s not the intent, and I don’t think it’s the correct interpretation.


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Conservation Districts - to the "pro" side


For months now, I have been working with Planning staff and interested stakeholders on an ordinance that would open up the opportunity for communities to create “conservation districts.”  A conservation district is a tool that a given area could use to, as the ordinance says, “perpetuate and proliferate” its notable visual character.


My work on this has been driven by the experience of the Prospect Park neighborhood with the existing process for designating historic districts.  There was substantial interest in Prospect Park in creating a local historic district, but it turned out that the regulations such a district would have placed on individual property owners were more stringent than most people in the neighborhood were willing to accept.  More importantly, there was little flexibility in crafting guidelines for this local district that would meet the needs of the community while not placing onerous requirements on property owners.


My hope is that the conservation district concept can be a tool for neighborhoods like Prospect Park that want some level of historic preservation, but want more flexible design guidelines than standard historic preservation can allow.  I view it as a middle ground between full historic preservation and no protections at all for historic neighborhoods – a middle ground that might be more likely to be used.


I have heard a few reactions from supporters of the conservation district ordinance about ways in which they don’t think it goes far enough.  One is about the high bar of community support to create a conservation district.  Another is that conservation districts might not be a tool for restraining density.  My thoughts on each are below the fold.

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Conservation District Proposal - background and overview

Much of the most recent discourse about the proposed Conservation District ordinance I am bringing forward has turned into a pro-density vs. anti-density debate. While I can see why and how this has happened, and how in some instances a Conservation District could be used to protect a less dense area, it doesn’t reflect my intentions. I am a strong advocate of smart growth and increasing density in the urban core especially where there are walkable communities, connections to the cultural, commercial, recreational and natural amenities people appreciate and when it is located on, or near, transit corridors.

It is, in large part, because I am convinced that having the Conservation District tool available will help ensure the harmonious, efficient and successful growth of greater density in our city that I am bringing it forward and have been working on it for over a year.

Because of the recent discourse and because I want people to better understand and carefully consider ways to improve my draft proposal, I thought some additional explanation might be helpful. This will be the first of three blogs. It will provide the background and overview, the second will be targeted at those who favor this idea and the third to those who may be opposed.  Much more below the fold.
 

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee

I am very excited about the new Health, Environment and Community Engagement committee that I will be chairing this term. The Committee is roughly based on the Health Energy and Environment Committee I vice chaired my first term.  I also vice chairs both the Publ and a Health Energy and Regulatory Services Committee I vice chaired my second term.

Joining me on the committee will be Council Members Andrew Johnson (who will vice chair), Lisa Bender, Alondra Cano, Jacob Frey and Elizabeth Glidden.

This term, the committee will oversee the work of a strengthened and larger Health Department which took on some functions from the Regulatory Services restructuring the Council did last year.  The key components of the Health department include:
  • Food Safety, Lodging and Pools
  • Healthy and Safe Children and Youth
  • Healthy Sexuality
  • Healthy Seniors
  • Environmental Services
  • Healthy Homes and Lead Control
  • Healthy Living
  • Public Health emergency preparedness.
The Health Department has been supported in recent years by state and federal grants including the State Health Improvement Program, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, and the Community Transformation Grant. These programs focus on policy, systems and environmental change to reduce obesity, increase physical activity, and reduce tobacco use.  The department has also been the lead on the our Youth Violence Prevention work that I have been closely involved in since 2006.

The HECE Committee will also be the Council's home for policies related to the environment.  A major part of that work this year will be on the priorities established from the Climate Action Plan and the Energy Pathways Study which will help us move towards more sustainable, affordable and reliable energy from our energy utilities.  This will also include the ongoing work of the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative and the Minneapolis Food Council, and all other environmental sustainability issues.  For example, I expect that the HECE committee will consider formal City comments on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's proposed rules on composting.

We will also lead the Council's community engagement work, including the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department and the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission.

Finally, we will be the home committee for Animal Care and Control.

Several City boards and commissions will report to the HECE committee: the Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC), the Public Health Advisory Committee, the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission, the Minneapolis Food Council, the Animal Care and Control Advisory Board, the Minneapolis Commission on People with Disabilities, the Minneapolis Tree Advisory Commission, the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, the Youth Violence Prevention Executive Committee and the Youth Coordinating Board.

The new committee has already gotten some well-deserved media attention.  I am extremely excited by the enthusiasm of the members of this new committee, and look forward to working with them to make Minneapolis healthier, more sustainable, and more democratically engaged.

To start that work, I am meeting one-on-one with each of the new committee members and have scheduled a meeting for early February with all of the relevant department and division heads to begin developing a common vision for our next four years of work together.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

New Ward Office Hours


Because I have changed my City Council Committee assignments and will now be serving on the Transportation and Public Works committee (which meets on Tuesday mornings), I have had to find a new time to hold my "office hours in the ward."  Because the boundaries of the ward also changed due to redistricting and one of my locations, the Hard Times Cafe, was no longer in the ward and the new ward two stretches much further south, I felt the need to also adjust one of my locations.  While I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated my monthly visits at both the Hard Times and the Birchwood Cafe, after much deliberation, I have decided to change locations.  I have decided to relocate my West Bank location to the Nabo Cafe located in the new second ward on the Augsburg campus.  I am hoping that this will also be convenient to the University and to Seward residents.  I have decided to move my Seward/Cooper location from the Birchwood Cafe to the Blue Moon Cafe.  I think that this location will work well for the Cooper and Longfellow area and well as much of Seward.  Of course, people are more than welcome to venture to any of the locations no matter where they live. 

In order to open Tuesdays for the committee I have decided to set aised Thursday mornings to be in the community and in the following locations every Thursday, from 9:30-11:00am: 
  • First Thursdays: Nabo Café in the Oren Gateway Center, 2211 Riverside Avenue; 
  • Second Thursdays: Muddsuckers Coffee at 1500 Como Ave SE; 
  • Third Thursdays: Pratt School, 66 Malcolm Ave SE; 
  • Fourth Thursdays: Blue Moon Coffee Café, 3822 E Lake St. I hope to see you at an office hour soon!
Please feel free to use these hours to meet if they work for you, but also know that I am more than happy to set up alternative to meet in my City Hall office, or at a location convenient to you.  To set up a meeting you can always feel free to contact me and my office anytime at 612 673-2202 or via email at cam.gordon@minneapolismn.gov.

Minneapolis Named "Healthiest City"

Minneapolis and St. Paul have together been named the healthiest city in the US by the  American College of Sports Medicine's American Fitness Index.  Some of the assets of our community are things that I'm working within the City to improve: the number of bicyclists per capita and access to healthy foods.  We also get points for having more parks per square mile than most other cities.