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, October 20, 2006

Police Chief Dolan

The decision on Mayor Rybak’s selection of Chief Tim Dolan has been an extremely difficult one for me.

On the one hand, I represent communities that have seen dramatic increases in crime over the past two years. When I conducted a survey of Second Ward residents over the summer, crime and safety were the number one concern of neighbors. I have heard from many, many of the residents of my Ward that they want a permanent Chief now, and they will accept Tim Dolan.

On the other hand, I am deeply committed to helping create lasting, systemic change within the Minneapolis Police Department. The Department must connect better to our communities, especially our communities of color, and our community members must know that when officers engage in misconduct, there will be accountability. I have heard from many that Dolan will be an obstacle to this necessary progress.

I held a public meeting on the Chief selection on October 9th. Not one person who attended supported the nomination of Chief Dolan, and many raised serious concerns. I was also the one Executive Committee member who was present to meet with the anti-Dolan protest on October 10th.

Through this Chief selection process, I have raised these concerns. I have been undecided on whether Tim Dolan will be a force for positive change in the Department, whether he will be able and willing to hold his officers accountable, and whether he truly believes in civilian oversight of the Police.

Though I continue to have concerns, Chief Dolan has made commitments to me and backed them up with clear actions that make me comfortable enough to vote for him:

  • Dolan has provided my office with evidence that he has dealt with the backlog of sustained CRA complaints that former Chief McManus had allowed to sit on his desk for over two years.
  • Dolan has committed to a goal of issuing discipline for 100% of complaints sustained by the Civilian Review Authority. He has committed to reporting the actual level of discipline issued on a quarterly basis to the Council.
  • Dolan has clearly established the reasonable cases in which he will not issue discipline for CRA sustained complaints: incidents in which an officer violated one ordinance but followed another and incidents in which an officer was following explicit MPD policy.
  • Dolan has committed to moving the MPD into compliance with all requirements of the Federal Mediation Agreement.
  • Dolan has committed to building a real community policing model for Minneapolis

In addition, my concerns were assuaged by the willingness of my colleagues to resoundingly endorse the Safe City Resolution, which explicitly lays out the Council’s expectations for the leadership of the Police Department. The Safe City Resolution is based on the 12-point Reform Agenda sent to Mayor Rybak by Council Members Glidden, Hodges and myself. I was also given hope by Mayor Rybak’s willingness to publicly discuss these difficult issues with us. The commitments that Chief Dolan has made to me are strengthened and codified in the Resolution, giving them real weight. Most positively, the Chief actively participated with my colleagues and me on crafting the resolution, proving to me that he is indeed committed to substantial reform in the Department.

Our expectations are now on record, and I will be holding the Chief accountable by these clear standards as long as we’re both in office.

I am committed to increasing police accountability in Minneapolis, and to reforming the Department to better serve Minneapolis residents. I believe that this goal, like the other important goals we share, cannot be accomplished by one person alone. Tim Dolan won’t make or break Minneapolis. Our focus should not be on personality, but on long term, lasting systemic change.

The reforms to the Civilian Review Authority ordinance which also passed today, along with the Safe City Resolution, are steps in the right direction. I will continue to push for more needed reforms, working with (and sometimes disagreeing with) my colleagues, the Mayor, the residents of my Ward, police accountability advocates, members of the Green Party, and Chief Dolan.

I am optimistic that by continued constructive conversation we will get it right.

Response to Library Closings

Today, I sent a response to the Library Board's Finance Committee's decision to close three community libraries, including the Southeast Lbrary, with my colleague Diane Hofstede (who represents Marcy Holmes, the one Southeast neighborhood outside the Second Ward).

Response to the Library Board’s decision to close three community libraries


From Council Members Cam Gordon and Diane Hofstede

We were extremely disappointed that the Library Board Finance Committee voted last night to close three community libraries, including the Southeast Library. We have both heard from numerous residents of our neighborhoods, urging us to find a solution that will save our neighborhood libraries.

Working with other Council Members, we drafted a letter to the Library Board expressing our willingness to work with them to find alternatives to closure. This letter was signed by nine Council Members, which indicates broad support for keeping neighborhood libraries open. We also had personal conversations with Trustees in advance of the vote, in which we asked them not to close the libraries.

We have been working to identify stopgap funding that could keep the community libraries open until the Stadium tax revenue begins to support the Library budget, and there are some additional concrete proposals that we were willing to fight for in City Hall.

The Finance Committee chose to disregard our letter and voted to close the three community libraries. We are disappointed by this decision, though we thank Trustee Laura Waterman Wittstock (a Southeast neighborhood resident) for her vote against closing the community libraries.

We will continue to work with the Library Board, our residents and our colleagues on the Council to prevent these three neighborhood libraries from being closed. Libraries are a high priority, as they impact education, public safety, and the livability of our neighborhoods.

Please contact your representatives on the Library Board and ask them to delay making a final decision at their meeting next week. Encourage them to engage with the Council on identifying sources of funding that will allow us to get through this difficult period with all of our libraries open.

You can find their contact information here:

As always, please feel free to contact us with your questions and concerns

Cam Gordon
Council Member, Second Ward
612-673-2202 (w)
612-296-0579 (c)

Diane Hofstede
Council Member, Third Ward

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Arsenic Finale

Today the arsenic ordinance I authored unanimously passed the Health, Energy and Environment (HEE) committee.

Thanks to the good work of Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM), especially Paula Maccabee and Representative Karen Clark, the City is stepping in and doing what needs to be done to protect renters' right to know that the soil at their unit is contaminated.

The ordinance will now go to the full Council for final passage. I think its chances of passage are very good.

Then landlords within the South Minneapolis Contamination Site will get notice that they must inform their tenants. Then the work begins - EJAM, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the Women's Environmental Institute and other outside organizations have agreed to help let renters know their rights. My office will be organizing the impacted Second Ward neighborhoods (Seward, Longfellow and Cedar Riverside) to make sure residents know their rights.

Here's what Paula recently wrote about ths accomplishment:

Dear Friends:
Thank you to everyone who helped achieve an important step forward in enactment of arsenic and toxic contamination right-to-know ordinances in the City of Minneapolis.
As you recall, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM) and Women's Environmental Institute have been working in collaboration with residents, Minneapolis City staff, Council Member Cam Gordon, Council Member Gary Schiff and the MPIRG Environmental Justice Task Force to enact Minneapolis right-to-know ordinances to protect citizens.

The first ordinance is targeted at the arsenic contamination in South Minneapolis and requires landlords to give notice when property is tested by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Provisions of federal law to date have prevented the U.S. EPA from informing many tenants of their risk of arsenic exposure.

The second ordinance applies to any environmental contaminant in the City for which the government requires testing on the property and requires that a right to know of this testing be included in the Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale-of-Housing disclosure.

Everyone's help and participation were important yesterday. Regulatory Services staff Tom
Frame and council aide Robin Garwood helped address landlord and the potential for a sunset when all cleanup is done without undermining the ordinance. Testimony from Karen Clark on behalf of WEI and from Rus Lyons an MPIRG Environmental Justice Task Force organizer, in addition to our EJAM testimony, was helpful in keeping the focus on passing the ordinance when other Council Members raised questions and concerns.

We greatly appreciate Council Member Gordon's strong and precise advocacy and Chair Benson's willingness to take a position in his committee, rather than referring the issue and allowing delay.

At the end of the day, the committee's recommendation for passage of the ordinance was unanimous! The committee also directed City staff to begin a process to study whether there should be a broader right-to-know policy or law in Minneapolis. This is all good.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions. If City staff could please also let us know when the full Council will consider the ordinances, that would be great. Feel free to forward this email if you know other folks who would appreciate an update.

Best regards,

Paula Maccabee, Esq.
Just Change Consulting

Ross Abbey

I wanted to take a moment to talk about how people outside City Hall can have a major impact on the policies that those of us on the Council enact. The best illustration of this that I've seen since taking office is the story of Ross Abbey.

Ross is a great, energetic, intelligent guy. He knocked on doors for me in both my 2001 and 2005 campaigns, the latter while in town for his summer vacation from law school. He's now an attorney at a respected downtown law firm.

He contacted my office in February or March with an idea: Minneapolis should follow the lead of other major American cities and launch a public campaign to convince residents to use renewable energy. His idea was that we would ask folks to sign up for the Xcel Energy program Windsource.

That idea has morphed and changed as the policymakers, the Citizens Environmental Advocacy Committee, and others have met, discussed, studied and weighed in. The end result: the Minneapolis Energy Challenge that is being launched this week. I'm hoping this is the first year of a public campaign that will go on for a long time, and get better and better at convincing Minneapolis residents to reduce our energy consumption.

Just goes to show that dedicated individuals with good ideas can have a great effect on public policy. Thanks Ross.

CRA Finale

We're moving towards the big finale for the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) reforms that started all the way back in February.

In today's joint meeting (see previous posts), the recommendations of the Work Group passed both the Public Safety and Regulatory Services (PS&RS) and Health, Energy and Environment (HEE) committees.

I understand that this piece of good news might be subsumed by the Dolan nomination, but I'd like to mark it. Council committees have voted to substantially improve the CRA process, resulting in the best civilian oversight system Minneapolis has ever had.

When I originally moved and fought to form an internal work group to review and reform the CRA based on the recommendations of the a Civil Rights Department Report, I was hopeful that we had a real opportunity to make some positive difference.

Now, even though compromises were made regarding the imposition of discipline for sustained CRA complaints, I believe that my optimism was well-founded - the Work Group has done incredibly positive work, and that work is well on its way towards becoming law.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Taxi Cap Outcome

The majority of our time at the Council meeting today was spent discussing and amending (and re-amending, and re-re-amending) the Minneapolis taxicab ordinance.

This has been a tough issue for me. As I've outlined in a previous post, I do not believe the cap is good public policy. I think it should be gradually, carefully lifted. People who want to start a cab company in Minneapolis should be able to do so.

However, I did not vote for the Ostrow amendment today.

I should note that I have had numerous discussions just this week on this issue, with Greens, current taxicab owners and drivers, and folks who are kept out of the market in Minneapolis currently. I understand very clearly that the people currently involved in the taxi industry in Minneapolis stand to be hurt by lifting the cap.

In response to these concerns and others, my office prepared four separate amendments to the Ostrow amendment in the last three days. I knew that CMs Schiff, Hofstede, Johnson and Lilligren also had amendments they were planning to bring. I was handed several amendments while walking into the meeting this morning at 9:30am.

I have come to believe that when there's this sort of frenzied last-minute activity, it means that we perhaps have not given ourselves enough time to do our work carefully and thoughtfully. So my first attempt was to postpone the taxicab item for one cycle, or two weeks. This motion failed on a 6-6 vote.

CM Schiff then moved to reduce the fuel efficiency requirement on new cabs from the 100% that the committee had unanimously passed to 10%. Notwithstanding a letter of support from the Sierra Club and the City's own Sustainability Indicators, the Council passed this motion. I later attempted to increase the fuel efficiency percentage to 50% but was again unsuccessful in convincing my colleagues to put the environment first.

I was able to convince my colleagues to take the Institute for Justice, a libertarian lobbying organization, off of the Taxicab Task Force that we voted to set up. However, I was unable to convince them that the Task Force should study ways to make the transition away from the taxi cap easier on drivers, unionization of drivers or living wages and health care for drivers.

I voted for Council President Johnson's motion to study the impacts of the City's policy and report back to committee. I will definitely keep watching this industry to see if the predicted harms to taxi drivers materialize.

As it was, I could not vote for the Ostrow amendment. Anything that could have made this transition easier on the current drivers, many of whom I represent, had been stripped away by my colleagues. The significant environmental protections we had included in committee had been almost completely removed.

Worse, the frantic last-minute process, with its competing amendments, suspended rules and numerous confusing procedural points of order ended up creating what I believe is a pretty sloppy ordinance. For instance, it calls for all existing companies to submit documentation to the city that 110% of their fleets are fuel efficient in 2017, an impossibility. That's the kind of shoddy work we do at the last minute - work that we have to later take time to correct.

And by the way - the outstanding staff in the City Clerk's office are worked well after 5pm on a Friday afternoon to try to make sense of the mess we passed today, long after all the Council Members have left the building.

In end I was more convinced than ever that postponing our decision would have been the wise option. Next time it is suggested I hope we all, on the Council, remember this experience and consider that more carefully.

Big Stone II Resolution

In another move to help halt global climate change, the Council unanimously passed a Sierra Club-sponsored resolution voicing the city's strong opposition to the proposed Big Stone II coal-fired power plant. You can view the resolution here, near the end of the agenda. Co-authors included myself and Council Members Benson, Glidden, Hodges, Hofstede, Lilligren, Remington and Schiff.

Big Stone II is an expansion of an existing 450 Megawatt (MW) powerplant in South Dakota, which would add 600 MW in new dirty coal capacity.

The carbon dioxide this plant will dump into the atmosphere is greater than all of the aggressive Minneapolis emissions-reduction plans. Even if we're able to reduce our carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 (as we've committed to do in the Sustainability Indicators), we will be offset by this plant.

Worse, the plume of mercury and particulate-laden smoke will regularly come our way.

Most tragic of all, this dinosaur-era project is an incredible waste of ratepayers' money. Conservative estimates of the price of new windpower facilities make clear that the $1.8 Billion slated to be spent on Big Stone II could fund over 1200 MW of new wind, or more than twice what Big Stone will generate.

I'm glad the Council has followed Sierra Club's good advice and added our voice to the many people asking the Minnesota Public Utility Commission to rule that we shouldn't allow transmission lines through western Minnesota to carry the electricity from this ill-advised plant our way.

Let's hope it makes some sort of difference.

Energy Challenge

A resolution supporting the Minneapolis Energy Challenge passed the Council unanimously today, with all twelve present Council Members signing on as co-authors. The resolution (which you can see here, near the end of the agenda) formalizes our partnership with the Center for Energy and Environment, the folks putting together the MN Energy Challenge.

The concept of the challenge is that residents can go to the website and calculate our current emissions, commit to actions steps that will reduce our energy use, learn more about available resources to help us change our energy habits, and participate in online forums with energy experts. It's a way to help those of us who know that we should do something to halt global climate change figure out what that "something" should be. It connects a positive impulse to real, effective action.

In addition, the Energy Challenge will put on a number of Energy Fairs in the city, with speakers including WCCO's Don Shelby and polar explorer Will Steger:

Monday, Oct. 16, 6-9pm at Hale Elementary, 1220 54th St E
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 6:15-9pm at Jenny Lind Elementary, 5025 Bryant Ave N

We've come a long way since Ross Abbey (a Green and a supporter in both of my campaigns for City Council) sent me his proposal to challenge Minneapolis residents to reduce their fossil fuel consumption. I'm proud of the work we've done so far with my colleague Scott Benson, the Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee, the Sierra Club, Ross and others.

But now is when the work starts. We have to take the infrastructure that CEE is providing in the form of this wonderful website and get people out there to use it.

Nothing less than the future of the planet is at stake.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Big Important Day

Next Thursday, October 12th is shaping up to be a Big Important Day.

That afternoon, a joint meeting of the Health, Energy & Environment (HE&E) and Public Safety & Regulatory Services (PS&RS) committees will hear public testimony on the recommendations of the Civilian Police Review Authority Work Group. You can see the recommendations here.

Then, later in the same meeting, the HE&E committee will hear public testimony on my proposed arsenic ordinance. The final draft of that ordinance is below.

Two of the major projects that my office has been working on all summer will come to the committee on the same day. When it rains it pours.


Tenant Notification of Environmental Testing and Remediation


244.380. Tenant to be notified of arsenic testing, removal and remediation in South Minneapolis Neighborhood Soil Contamination Site.

a. For the purpose of this section, the “South Minneapolis Neighborhood Soil Contamination Site” shall mean the area of South Minneapolis that has been or shall in the future be designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for testing, removal and/or remediation of arsenic contamination from residential properties.

b. Any person allowing to be occupied or let to another for occupancy any dwelling unit located in the South Minneapolis Neighborhood Soil Contamination Site area shall provide to the tenant or lessee copies of all written or electronic information received from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) or its agents or contractors concerning arsenic testing results, and removal or remediation activities pertaining to the leased premises.

c. Information regarding environmental testing, removal and remediation required to be provided under this section shall be provided to the tenant or lessee at each of the following times:
1) Within 30 days after the effective date of this section;
2) Within 30 days of receiving new information from the USEPA or its agent or contractor; and
3) Prior to signing a lease for the premises or prior to agreement upon a tenancy, if no lease is provided.

d. The property owner or the owner’s representative shall retain an Arsenic Notification Advisory in a format prescribed by the City of Minneapolis, stating that the property owner has complied with all notification requirements under this section, the dates of compliance, and the signature of the tenant or lessee attesting to compliance. If there is a contract or lease for the tenancy, the Arsenic Notification Advisory must be attached thereto.

Environmental Information in Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale-of-Housing

248.10. Definitions

Environmental testing, removal or remediation: Testing, removal or remediation of environmental contamination on residential property by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency or other governmental agency or under the direction of such governmental agency.

Environmental testing, removal or remediation disclosure: Disclosure by the owner or representative of the owner as part of a truth-in-housing disclosure report of environmental testing, removal or remediation in a format prescribed by the City of Minneapolis.

248.30. Seller Disclosure Required
(a) The truth-in-housing disclosure report, the code compliance orders or certificate of code compliance shall all contain a statement signed by the owner or representative of the owner:

(5) As to whether there has been environmental testing, removal or remediation as defined in 248.10