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:

Friday, September 29, 2006

IRV Roundtable

As one of Cam's ongoing series of roundtable discussions, he will be hosting a conversation about Ranked Choice Voting (also known as IRV) at Matthews Park on October 26th, 7-9pm.

More information on IRV is available from the Better Ballot Campaign and FairVote Minnesota.

Be sure to check out their fun new "Introducing IRV" video, and be doubly sure to join Cam and me (and many, many others) in voting YES this November 7.

taxi cap

In last Wednesday's PS&RS committee, I voted in favor of an ordinance change to gradually take away the artificial cap on the number of taxi licenses granted in Minneapolis.

Here is my main reason for doing so: I believe that gradually lifting the cap on taxi licenses in Minneapolis will be good for taxi drivers (present and future), customers and the city at large, in the long term.

I also believe that this will make the taxi industry similar to other industries, in terms of City regulation. We put all sorts of restrictions and regulations on bars, restaurants, coffee shops, rental housing, etc. What we don't do in any other industry is regulate the number of people who can participate. I think this is a question of basic economic fairness and justice: if I want to start a coffee shop, it doesn't matter how many other coffee shops already exist. If I want to drive a cab, I have to convince someone else (a competitor) to sell me a license for $20,000.

I understand that many of the current license holders are concerned about losing income and the investment of more than $20,000 that the artificial cap has forced them to make. I am sensitive to those concerns, and I will be watching to see if they are borne out over the next few years. I will work to explore what support the City can provide to current drivers to ease this transition.

I supported Council President Johnson’s proposal to create a task force on taxi policy. I believe that such a group should include policymakers, City staff, people currently working in the Minneapolis taxi industry and also people not currently working in the Minneapolis taxi industry.

During the committee I highlighted three things in particular that I thought the task force should focus on:
- Ending the prohibition on Minneapolis Licensed cabs from also being licensed in the suburbs.
- Exploring how to mitigate the hardship that phasing out the cap will place on current holders of licenses, and
- Examining further the recommendations of the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities regarding wheelchair accessible cab service.

I also believe that increasing the level and quality of taxi service in Minneapolis is one step towards crafting the multimodal transportation system ecological wisdom require and our recenbtly passed Sustainability Indicators call for. With the reforms we will put new incentives for both more accessible and more fuel efficient vehicle. I think it's important to note one move the committee took yesterday in particular: ALL new cab licenses must go to fuel efficient vehicles and existing companies must increase their percentage of fuel efficient vehicles by 10% every year until 2016, when 100% must be fuel efficient. This is a big deal. Now we still have a little more work to do on this. We need to make sure that we define "fuel efficient" in the right way.

I am facing some legitimate criticism on this vote, some of it within the Green Party. I want to be clear that I believe Green principles demand that this cap be lifted. It is the socially and economically just thing to do. It is the only way to begin to economically decentralize the taxi industry in Minneapolis - allowing more people more economic power and choice.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Arsenic subject introduction

Today the Council voted to introduce the subject matter of my ordinance on arsenic. The proposed ordinance will require landlords within the South Minneapolis Soil Contamination Site to inform their tenants (and prospective tenants) of the level of contamination the EPA has found in their soil, and require people selling homes citywide to disclose known soil contamination to prospective homebuyers.

The public hearing on this is likely to be on October 12th, at 1:30pm in the HE&E committee.

So far, the Seward Neighborhood Group Environment Committee, the Northstar Chapter of the Sierra Club, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, the Women's Enviromnetal Institute and the Green Institute have signed on supporting the ordinance.

In other arsenic news, the EPA will be holding the first public input meeting on the "risk assessment" next week: Tuesday September 26th, 7-9pm at the Midtown YWCA.

The risk assessment is how the EPA will determine what minimum level of arsenic contamination they will clean up. Arsenic in soil is generally measured in parts per million (ppm). The EPA is currently cleaning up yards where they find 95 ppm or higher.

Having studied reports from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, I believe that 10ppm is the very least we should be cleaning up, if not lower. The MPCA recently downgraded the level of arsenic in soil that they consider to be a chronic risk to children from 10ppm to 5ppm. MDH considers 10ppm an acute risk to kids with pica (an eating disorder marked by eating dirt, which is linked to poverty).

I join Environmental Justice Advocates of MN, SNG Environment Committee, the Sierra Club Northstar Chapter and others in calling for the EPA to clean up soil contamination above 10ppm.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Roundtable: Central Corridor

Cam would like to invites you to one of his ongoing series of roundtable discussions:

Light Rail Transit in the Central Corridor

In June, the Met Council voted to support building light rail on the Central Corridor connecting downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis, designating the University Ave route, and moving forward with preliminary engineering. This fall, they are expected to establish a project office and management structure, name a Corridor Management Committeee and establish a Community Advisory Committee to provide local input.

Join us to learn more about this important project and explore what we can do to make sure it is designed and built in ways that serve local residents, businesses and neighborhoods as well as our city and the region.

September 21st, 7-9pm

St. Francis Cabrini Church

1500 Franklin Ave SE

For more information contact Cam: 612-296-0579,

Friday, September 01, 2006

Alley Ordinance voted down

The "alley ordinance" that Cam opposed on this blog, in local media and electronic forums was resoundingly defeated by the full City Council on a vote of 10-3.

It is gratifying to see that the vast majority of Council Members agree that we must protect and preserve our civil liberties even during an acknowledged public safety crisis.

Our office received more contact from constituents on this topic than any since the term began in January. All but one were resoundingly opposed to the proposed ordinance. This helped push us to do all the work we did to help defeat this proposal - walking the halls, talking to other Council Members and their staff, and encouraging residents to voice their opposition to this bad idea.

Take a celebratory walk down your neighborhood alleys.