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, August 31, 2006

CRA Work Group final meeting

The CRA work group that I helped set up met for the last time this morning.

Our last official action was to recommend that the City go to the Legislature and actively pursue granting subpoena power to the CRA. If we can't get the Legislature to grant the CRA this authority, the group recommends that we go forward with a charter change.

Coming into this morning's meeting, the recommendation from the subpoena power subcommittee was to pursue limited subpoena power for the CRA, which could be used only for documents and materials. I moved to remove that limitation, and the group agreed.

Concerns were expressed about how the Police Federation might not support this at the Legislature, but it was clear that they also would not have supported the limited power either.

This recommendation joins the rest of the recommendations that the group has already made, which you can view here.

Last night the group held our final public hearing at the Brian Coyle Center. It was fairly well attended, and the comments from the public were very eloquent and impassioned. Many of the speakers supported the ordinance amendment language regarding the Police Chief disciplining officers who have sustained complaints against them. It was clear at the meeting that most people support the language recommended by the work group on 6/29/06 (see here for the text), and opposed "weakening" it.

Aside form all the formal recommendations I also think that the process of working together in this group helped improve communication and understanding among different people and groups and build trust. I am hopeful that this process will continue through the work of the Police Accountability Coordinating Committee that we established as well as ongoing efforts by the police department, Civil right Department and the Civilian Review Authority.

Though the work group is done, the work goes on. Building the kind of partnership and trusting community-police relations we want and deserve is an enormous task.

But even passage of some of proposed reforms has few more hurdle to clear. All of our recommendations will be presented to the HE&E and PS&RS committees, and those items that call for amending the code of ordinances will go through the regular ordinance change process which includes at least one public hearing before going to the full Council for final approval.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Alley Ordinance Concerns

Today, the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance amendment changing how pedestrians can use alleys in Minneapolis.

The proposed ordinance was forwarded to the Council without recommendation on a 2-3 vote. My motion to return it to author failed on a 2-2-1 vote (two votes opposed, two in favor and one abstention). A substitute by CM Johnson, to send it to Council with the committee's recommendation, also failed on a 2-2-1 vote.

The proposal would amend Title 15, Chapter 385 of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances relating to Offenses—Miscellaneous: In General, prohibiting use of alleys for through pedestrian traffic, except for abutting property owners, tenants, their guests and invitees, law enforcement personnel, emergency medical or fire personnel, persons performing public service activities or inspections, and person performing services for public or private utility, garbage collection, or communication companies.

I have concerns about this proposal and feel obligated to raise them.

This kind of prohibition is unprecedented in the United States. I am concerned that it will move us in the wrong direction. It may well move us away from the proactive, preventative and accountable approach to public safety that we know works and towards a system that criminalizes harmless behavior and opens the door to more discriminatory and selective enforcement revolving-door placebo practices that are so frustrating to so many people. It may well bring us closer to a privatized, suburbanized city and not towards the safe, pedestrian-friendly community of close-knit, caring neighborhoods that so many of us want Minneapolis to be.

“Placebo” Public Policy

Everyone recognizes that there is a public safety problem in Minneapolis. I believe that to solve it we must invest in public safety and change the way we police ourselves. We need to change police officers’ role from chasing 911 calls to being active, constructive participants in our communities – both knowledgeable about our neighborhoods and known by neighbors. We need to rebuild true community policing in this City.

We also need to make sure that there are real consequences for those people who do commit crimes. When the laws we have on the books are violated, our public safety personnel must have the resources to investigate crimes, catch offenders and effectively prosecute them. We must invest in block clubs and neighborhood groups, to give neighbors opportunities to know one another and keep one another safe. We must invest in restorative justice programs, to give first time petty offenders input about the negative impacts of their behaviors and reduce recidivism. We need the resources to investigate violations of laws that are already on the books.

What we do not need is yet another law that the public may believe the police department will actively enforce, when policymakers know that the department does not have the resources to do so. Like other misdemeanors (fireworks, loud parties, et cetera), this ordinance will fall below more serious crimes when called in to 911. This ordinance will not keep “strangers” out of alleys.

Even when tickets are given or arrests are made under the proposed ordinance, they will likely follow the pattern of the “lurking” ordinance, which has a dismissal rate of about 90%. And even when dismissed, the incident will remain on the pedestrian’s arrest record for years to come. Is this really what we want to spend our public safety resources on?

The proposed ordinance is an opportunity for policymakers to look and feel like we’re doing something about the acknowledged crime problem, likely without making any actual impact on crime.


Faced with the crisis of global warming and obesity pandemic, Minneapolis should be taking the lead on encouraging residents to walk and bike whenever possible. One thing we should not do is erect another obstacle – or even perceived obstacle – to pedestrian uses.

Selective Enforcement

The proposed ordinance would give police officers yet another tool for selective enforcement. We should not fool ourselves: this ordinance will be used primarily against the homeless, the poor, people suffering mental illness and members of racial and ethnic minorities. Just as the “lurking” ordinance is used now, just as the ridiculous “dancing in streets” ordinance was used until the Council wisely removed it earlier this year.

We should not willfully blind ourselves to this reality. Racial profiling exists in Minneapolis, as in the rest of society.

Make no mistake, if a police officer thinks you look like you don’t belong in a given alley, he or she may question you to develop what attorneys call “articulable suspicion” that you are in an alley that is not “yours.” The officer may then ask you to prove somehow that you do indeed have a right to be in the alley. If you are unable to prove that you belong, you could be ticketed or arrested.

Because a violation of the proposed ordinance will be a misdemeanor, it would be a “ticketable” offence. That is, like a traffic stop, an officer would generally be expected to write a ticket to the “offender.” However, the officer has full discretion to decide whether “the person poses a threat to self/others, will not respond to the citation, or will continue criminal activity,” and make an arrest.

Even though our police officers are generally highly professional, statistics have shown that this sort of discretion inevitably leads to disparate, unequal outcomes. In my opinion, we should be taking the City in a different direction: removing opportunities for subjective, selective enforcement, not creating more.


The presumption in our society is that people have the freedom to do what they want unless their behavior significantly negatively impacts others. When an act negatively impacts others, we criminalize it. A peaceful walk down an alley does not negatively impact anyone, and therefore should not be criminalized. The City has laws prohibiting behavior in an alley that could negatively impact neighbors, and these existing laws can and should be fully enforced.
Too often, the trend in our society is towards greater and greater criminalization.

Unsurprisingly, the net effect of this trend is that we now have more people incarcerated per capita than ever before. I do not believe this is a good direction for our society – we should be helping people live full, meaningful and healthy lives, not taking unprecedented steps towards greater criminalization of harmless behavior.

Away from Prevention

We should be doing everything we can to change the public safety paradigm in Minneapolis from punishment, arrest without consequence, and pushing certain people out of certain spaces towards preventing and addressing the root causes of crime: poverty, hopelessness, homelessness, addiction, lack of opportunity. It is infinitely less expensive to invest in people through chemical treatment programs, jobs programs, homeless outreach and support programs, and early childhood education than it is to treat the symptoms of disinvestment with the police department.

At best, the proposed ordinance is yet another opportunity to deal with larger social problems using the least effective, least efficient means possible: arrest-and-release. At worst, it diverts resources better used in more constructive ways.


The proposed ordinance would effectively privatize over four hundred miles of common space dedicated by City ordinance “to the public use.” The loss of shared public space is one of the most disturbing trends in our society, whittling away the areas in which free speech and assembly are respected, increasing the areas that are accessible only to those with money. When progressive cities like Minneapolis go this direction, what can we expect from the rest of the country?


Defenders of the proposed ordinance have pointed to the existence of “gated communities” and “private streets” as precedent. That is the sort of precedent I think we should avoid emulating. Minneapolis residents choose to live in a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban setting. Even our streets that are closed to cars remain open to pedestrian uses. If we wanted to live in gated communities, we would move to one.

Towards a New Requirement: Carry Identification at All Times

There is currently no law that requires residents of Minneapolis to carry identification at all times. The proposed ordinance would essentially require residents to carry some proof of address even in our own alleys. “Articulable suspicion” on the part of a police officer is grounds to ask for a resident to identify her/himself. Refusal or inability to provide identification or proof that one lives in the alley would be probable cause for the officer to believe that a crime (being in an alley that is not “yours”) is being committed. I believe that we should not move in the direction of requiring Minneapolis residents to carry identification or proof of address at all times.

If you have comments or concerns about this proposal I encourage you to make them heard. Written comments are welcome. Send Comments to:
Jackie Hanson
City Clerks Office
Room 304, City Hall/Courthouse350 South 5th StreetMinneapolis, MN 55415-1316

Friday, August 18, 2006

CRA Public Hearing

There will be public hearing on the new Civilian Police Review Auithority reforms we are proposing. Here are the details:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006, 7 p.m.

Brian Coyle Center, 420 15th Ave S
The Coyle Center is near Cedar-Riverside. (Coyle Center – 338-5282). The location is within walking distance of Metro Transit Bus Routes 2, 3, 7, 16, 19, and 50 and the Hiawatha Light Rail line. (Metro Transit – 373-3333). There is bike and vehicle parking on site.

The Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) investigates complaints about any Minneapolis Police Officer and decides if the Police Chief should discipline the officer. People that feel they have been mistreated by a Minneapolis Police Officer can file a complaint with the CRA.

We have been working to improve the way the CRA handles complaints and have recommended
- changes to improve communication between the CRA and the Police Department
- research on how complaints are handled by the CRA and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit
- identifying problematic behavior by Police Officers early
- training on police accountability issues.

We are considering ordinance changes having to do with complaint dismissal, CRA scope of authority, disciplinary decisions, and subpoena power. A detailed report from the group will be available soon on the City’s website.

It is important that you participate so that your voice is heard on this important issue!

CONTACT: Natalie Collins, 612-673-3301,

Reports to Council Item #6 Item #9

A Study of the Policy and Process of the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority

Hmong - Ceeb toom. Yog koj xav tau kev pab txhais cov xov no rau koj dawb, hu 612-673-2800; Spanish - Atención. Si desea recibir asistencia gratuita para traducir esta información, llame al 612-673-2700; Somali - Ogow. Haddii aad dooneyso in lagaa kaalmeeyo tarjamadda macluumaadkani oo lacag la' aan wac 612-673-3500. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Access number: (612) 673-3220TTY lines: (612) 673-2626 or (612) 673-2044 Facility is ADA compliant.

Ethics and the Greens

In regards to the ongoing discussions on e-lists and elsewhere about the Greens, the Zimmermann trial and ethical standards, I feel the need to make a public comment.

I am proud and honored to be a Minneapolis City Council Member, Green Party member and Green Party endorsed elected official.

One of the things that first drew me to the Green Party was that it was based on principles, not personalities, and put its platform and grassroots democracy before politicians and party leaders. One of the things that helped me make it my political home is the fact that it is part of a larger global movement to transform humanity and make the Earth a more peaceful, just, democratic and sustainable place.

Recently, with the trial and conviction of one of our members and a local party leader we are being challenged with something the Greens, as a political party, have not faced in Minnesota before.

I know that this is an incredibly delicate situation, perhaps more so for me than other people in the party and in the City.

A primary challenge for me concerns finding an honest way to be supportive and loving towards a long time friend and ally, while also helping to heal injuries to the Greens and to Minneapolis, as well as be true to my own values, convictions and ethical standards.

I care a great deal about Dean and his family. I have known Dean for decades. I admire a great deal about him and will continue to be his friend.

At the same time, I think that it is very important that I and the Greens be clear with ourselves and the public that we do not condone unethical, or even the appearance of unethical, behavior.

For me, doing that involves reflecting on my own standards and behavior.

For me, that must include taking personal responsibility for my actions and setting crystal clear standards to guide my behavior so that there can be no doubt about when and if those standards are violated.

I believe that as a Minneapolis City Council Member and Green Party-endorsed elected official I have entered into a solemn trust to be honest and maintain the highest possible ethical principles to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Here are some of the ethical guidelines I have set for myself and I think the public should be able to expect from every Green Party-endorsed candidate and elected official:

1) I have never and will never knowingly take any money from developers, or anyone who has business pending before the City Council, campaign contributions or otherwise. I support changing Minneapolis campaign finance rules to prohibit candidates from knowingly taking money from people with business before the City.

2) I do not let anyone else, or any group (other than my family or the City for legitimate business reasons), pay for a meal, trip or admission to any event.

3) While in office, I will never accept contributions for any entity other than my campaign committee.

4) While in office, I will not serve on the board of any outside organization except in my official capacity as a City Council Member.

5) I will never advise anyone about how to “get around” campaign finance rules. I demand that my campaign volunteers and contributors follow the exact letter and spirit of campaign finance rules and I reject any contributions that I find questionable.

6) I will work within the Minneapolis/5th District Green Party to clarify and raise our expectations of our candidates and elected officials, including stipulating that no endorsed Green should accept money from people with business before the City.

The Green Party is committed to changing the ethical culture in public affairs, and reducing the influence of money in politics. As the highest Green elected official in Minneapolis, I will not only do my best to personally exemplify ethical representation, but I will push to strengthen the ethical standards by which we measure all Minneapolis officials.

I will continue to work to strengthen our Ethics Code, improve ethics education in the City and reform campaign finance rules. I welcome you to join me in taking part in future discussions about how to improve and reform the ethical culture of our political parties, our City and our state.

For your reference, I include the following excerpts from the City of Minneapolis Ethics Code:

“Minneapolis government exists to serve the people of Minneapolis. In order to do so effectively, the people must have confidence and trust in the integrity of their city government. They deserve elected and appointed officials, city employees and volunteers who maintain the highest ethical principles and avoid misconduct and conflicts of interest, apparent or real.
Effective democracy depends on a government that is fair, ethical and accountable to the people it serves.”

….We put the public interest ahead of our own personal advancement and financial interests. We disclose conflicts of interest and refrain from participating in decisions where we have a financial interest. We avoid actions that might impair independence of judgment or give the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest. We do not use our positions to gain privileges or special treatment and do not use public property or personnel for private or personal purposes….

….We act honestly, fairly, and openly so that others can rely in good faith on our words and actions….

Department of Peace

Today the City Council passed a resolution supporting federal legislation that would create a United States Department of Peace and Nonviolence. This effort is being led by the Peace Alliance and the legislation is sponsored by both Martin Sabo and Mark Dayton. Several other cities have passed similar resolutions, but this makes Minneapolis the first in Minnesota. I hope that others will follow.

Clearly, this is only a very small step in the effort to make this a more peaceful and nonviolent City and world. Still, in light of the recent wars throughout the world but especially Iraq and Lebanon and the recent 61st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki it is nice to think that I was able to be of use to do something to further the cause of peace and nonviolence.

One of the things that made this resolution appealing to many of us on the Council is the proposed Department's direct link to promoting nonviolence domestically, through an Office of Domestic Peace Activities and an Office of Peace Education and Training, and its potential to bring much needed information and resources to cities like Minneapolis to end and prevent violence in our city.

If we spent even one percent of the money we spend studying and engaging in war to study and engage in peace, imagine the impact that could have.

I am grateful that the adovcates of this program brought it to my attention, that fellow Council members were supportive (especially CM Schiff, who helped lead this effort, and CMs Remington and Hofstede, who joined us in authoring it) and proud that my City has signed on to support this potentially far-reaching and powerful proposal.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hazardous Waste Collection

Hennepin County’s fall Household Hazardous Waste collection is coming up:

August 17-19, 9am-4pm, at 2231 Garfield St NE.

The next collection date is September 14-16, 9am-4pm, at 3607 E 44th St.

The county will accept many items, including:

  • mercury items (fluorescent and HID lamps, thermostats and thermometers)
  • pesticides
  • consumer electronics (computers, televisions, video cassette recorders, stereos, etc.)automotive wastes (fuel additives, starter fluid, waxes)
  • aerosol cans, paint, lead-based paint chips, fuels, solvents and thinners
  • pool, photographic and hobby chemicals
  • rechargeable tools, household batteries and lead-acid batteries

Items are accepted from households only.

Find out more here.

The Future of Our Parks

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is holding a series of public meetings to help set their long term vision for our park system. The last such plan was prepared more than four decades ago.

Go here for more information, including locations and date/time of events.

Ward 2 E-Survey

Please take a moment to fill out the Ward 2 E-Survey at the Ward 2 website. We developed this survey to get general feedback and help assess which issues residents find most pressing in their neighborhoods. Your input is important to me and the results will help me understand people's views better and prioritize my own work in City Hall. I plan to communicate the results widely.