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:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Healthy City; Thriving Families

The Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support has completed its summer edition of Healthy City; Thriving Families. This is the department’s quarterly publication and this issue has articles on the Youth Violence Prevention grants I worked so hard to get as well as public health emergency plans; a decline in sexually transmitted diseases in Minneapolis and more. It also includes new department goals and a call for the development of an Urban Health Agenda for Minneapolis. These goals could prove to be powerful in guiding future work and resources.

They include:

• Improve infant and child health
• Promote youth development and prevent violence
• Improve teen and young adult sexual health
• Increase physical activity and healthy nutrition
• Assure health care safety net for underserved populations
• Assure preparedness for public health emergencies, today and into the future

Thursday, July 20, 2006

CRA Update

The Civilian Review Authority work group decided on some recommendations today:

1) Forming a Police Accountability Coordinating Committee (PACC), comprised of the MPD/CRA Liaison, the Director of Civil Rights, the CRA Manager, the Chair of the HE&E committee, the Internal Affairs Unit Commander, the Chair of the PS&RS committee, the CRA Board Chair, the Mayor and the Police Chief, or any of the above's designee. The group will meet monthly to address "police accountability issues and concerns among the CRA, Civil Rights, and MPD, by promoting communication and greater understanding among the entities dedicated to public safety and police accountability." Topics discussed include, but aren't limited to:

a. Administrative issues concerning CRA, IAU, Civil Rights
b. MPD policy recommendations
c. Disciplinary decisions
d. Community outreach
e. Emerging trends: patterns of complaints
f. Other matters deemed appropriate

2) Establishing two different processes - "routine" and "extended" - for the CRA to recommend changes in MPD policy.

In the "routine" process, the CRA board or staff send a recommendation to the PACC (see above). The MPD then decides whether to accept or reject the recommendation within 60 days. If the recommendation is rejected, the CRA Board may vote to initiate the "extended" process.

The "extended" process can also be started at the CRA Board's discretion. It involves a more formal policy review at the CRA Board level, which is sent to the Mayor, the Chief and the Chairs of both HE&E and PS&RS. The Chairs may choose to put the issue on the committee agenda for discussion, take public comment, and ultimately make a recommendation to the Mayor. Again, the Chief (and Mayor) take action within 60 days: either to accept or reject the recommendation or to send it back to the CRA for more work.

I believe that both of these recommendations are steps in the right direction. Having a formal process for the CRA to follow to recommend policy changes will truly empower them for the first time to do one of their central missions: influencing police policy. The Board's considered, high-quality output on the taser issue convinced me that they are a vitally important voice on any police policy discussion.

I am optimistic that the PACC will establish clear lines of communication between the CRA and the MPD for the first time, and could very well prevent the sorts of disputes and lack of MPD "buy-in" to the process that have marred the CRA process since its inception. I am especially pleased that the CRA staff and Board Chair will have a venue to ask MPD higher-ups about disciplinary decisions. This could make it much harder for future Chiefs to decline to act on sustained CRA cases for more than two years, as is the current case.

As with all recommendations of this work group, these are open to public comment. Email with your comments. And stay tuned - all of the group's recommendations will be moving through HE&E and PS&RS in the next several months.

Monday, July 17, 2006

NRP Future Funding options

I want to post two additional links relating to civic engagement in general and to future funding for NRP in particular.

This is the latest issue of the NRP Link, the Mpls. NRP Newsletter.

On the first page it does a nice job of summarizing the work of the NRP Future Funding Task Force and outlining some of the options for the future funding of NRP.

The full report can be read here.

These recommendations make an excellent starting place for finding ways to fund NRP in the future. They have been forwarded to all the jurisdictions involved in NRP: City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Minneapolis Library Board, Minnesota State Legislature and Minneapolis School Board, for comment.

If we are to secure future funding for NRP it will take a great deal of grassroots support and effort. Please take the time to look these over and share your thoughts and ideas with me, other elected officials, community members and neighbors.

Friday, July 14, 2006


My office has organized a meeting of City staff members from a number of departments (Housing Inspections, Environmental Services and the Attorney's office) and Paula Maccabee from the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota to talk about arsenic.

Here's the scoop: decades ago, a pesticide company called CMC Heartland contaminated a large area of south Minneapolis with wind-blown arsenic. From Environmental Protection Agency wind dispersion models, the affected neighborhoods include Midtown Phillips, East Phillips, Ventura Village, Powderhorn Park, Corcoran, Longfellow, Seward and Cedar Riverside.

Since 2004, the EPA has been testing soil at residential properties within what they term the "South Minneapolis Neighborhood Soil Contamination Site." As of mid-June of this year, the EPA has tested about 3,100 properties.

The EPA will clean up yards with soil contamination above 95 parts per million (ppm), the level they've judged to be "acute," contingent on the landowner's permission. However, the EPA does not at this time have funding or authority to clean up any yard found to have a level of contamination below 95 ppm.

From what I have heard, there is not consensus on a "safe" level of arsenic in soil. It seems clear to me that there is significant risk from chronic exposure to levels above 10 ppm, such as elevated risk of cancer, especially for children. State officials have repeatedly asked for all yards over 30 ppm to be cleaned up by the EPA, but it looks like it will be some time before this cleanup is completed.

The EPA is prohibited from giving test results (in this case on the arsenic level in the soil) to anyone but the property owner. Many of the affected neighborhoods are very high in rental housing. These facts combine to create a dangerous situation: parents with young children renting apartments where the soil poses serious chronic health risks, who don't know of the contamination.

Here's where the City comes in. We're looking into passing an ordinance requring landlords to inform tenants of soil contamination in the range that has been determined to pose a chronic risk. Additionally, we're looking into requiring property owners to cooperate with free EPA remediation programs when available. Lastly, we could try to include EPA test data in the Truth-in-Housing requirements, to ensure that homebuyers will be informed of known arsenic contamination.

This is a preliminary meeting to hash out these issues. Some may well not be within the City's jurisdiction or have some other sort of obstacle, but I'm eager to do what we can to help protect the health of residents until the contamination has been completely cleaned up.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

CRA work group moves forward

There were some definite sparks at the 6-29-06 CRA work group meeting. My esteemed colleague and fellow work group member Betsy Hodges introduced an ordinance amendment for the work group's review. Here's the text:

"172.130 Disciplinary Decision. (a) Upon conclusion of the hearing and request for reconsideration process, the review authority shall forward the investigatory file, the findings of fact and the panel determination to the chief of police, who shall make a disciplinary decision based upon this information. A disciplinary decision is the issuance of a verbal warning, written warning, suspension, or termination. The chief's disciplinary decision shall be based on the adjuicated facts as determined by the CRA Board, and shall not include a de novo review of the facts by the MPD's Internal Affairs Unit or any other police officer, unit, or division. Under this ordinance, a sustained CRA complaint shall be deemed just cause for disciplinary action by the chief of police or the mayor of Minneapolis.

In cases where the CRA Board has determined that specific facts constitute a violation of the MPD Policy and Procedure manual, under no circumstances should the MPD Internal Affairs Unit or any other police officer, unit, or division be allowed to alter, augment, or reviese the designation."

I strongly supported all aspects of this amendment, and it became clear through the ensuing discussion that most of my Council colleagues and the majority of the group supported it as well. At that point I did something that has become somewhat controversial: I called the question. Council Member Ralph Remington seconded, and the majority of the group voted to proceed directly to a vote. The majority of the group then voted to forward the Hodges amendment with the group's recommendation.

I considered this and still consider this a step in the right direction. I realize that these amendments are controversial - effective civilian oversight of the Police Department always has been. I believe that police accountability advocates have waited long enough for the CRA to be empowered to do the job it was set up to do - sixteen years have gone by since its inception. I also realize that the Hodges amendment may be altered to deal with concerns that have been expressed, especially regarding the definition of "disciplinary decision."

I believe it is healthy and proper for reasonable persons on the Council and City Staff to disagree, and to do so in public committee meetings.

As to the future of the work group, I was greatly heartened by this morning's meeting. All work group members but two attended, including all those members who disagreed with the action taken on 6-29. People were engaged, constructive, and highly professional. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the incredibly high quality of all of my "co-workers" down here in City Hall, Council Members, staff and volunteer activists alike.

To make your opinions part of the official record, written comments may be sent to Natalie Collins at or 350 S. 5th St., Room 307, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

The work group will also hold at least one additional public hearing (date to be announced) and the Council will have official public hearings before any recommended ordinance changes can be adopted. So stay tuned.

To learn more about or the CRA work group efforts so far check out the following reports:
Item #6 Item #9

A Study of the Policy and Process of the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority – 02/01/06

National Night Out - register now!

If you apply to close your street for National Night Out by July 18 (next Tuesday), the street closing will be free.

After July 18 the fee is $100, and after July 27 the City won't accept applications, so be sure to register your NNO party now!

To register, go here:

Have fun at your gatherings, and maybe I'll see you there.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

July Roundtable - Community Engagement

As part of my ongoing series of roundtable discussions on issues important to the Second Ward, I will be hosting a forum on community engagement. It will be held on Tuesday, July 25th from 7-9pm at Brackett Park, 2728 39th Ave S.

In the months ahead the City Council will consider ways to improve citizen participation. At the same time, many neighborhood organizations are struggling to survive and the future of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program is in question. We will be discussing these and other important questions:

· How can we involve more people in City decisions?
· How can the City better support neighborhood organizations in their important work?
· How will citizen participation efforts and neighborhood groups be funded in the future?
· How can neighborhoods better support the work of City Hall?
· How can we all be more inclusive of those who too often go underrepresented in our meetings?

Here are some links to check out from the City and outside groups, with some good ideas and guidlines for Civic Participation:

Minneapolis Citizen Participation Program Guidlines
Center for Neighborhoods State of the Neighborhoods Address
Center for Neighborhoods Cultural Diversity and Inclusiveness ideas

And here's what a couple of other cities around the country are doing: see Los Angeles.

I hope to see you there on the 25th to discuss these and other ideas and issues regarding civic participation. After all, effective communication between local government and residents is essential to everything we hope to do together.