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

Friday, May 26, 2006

Blog resolution

In other good news from the meeting today, this blog you're reading has now been officially authorized by a resolution of the City Council.

Robin and I (with Robin really playing the more active role to be sure) have been working on this since January, when I took office. I promised in last year's campaign to blog, as part of my commitment to communicate with residents of the Ward, thinking that it would be easy. Someone on the Council must already be blogging, I thought. Some system must exist.

Wrong. We had to invent the system ourselves. Robin took part in a number of meetings starting in late January with the City Clerk, Merry Keefe, (who was extremely helpful throughout this process) and staff from the Attorney's Office, the City's technology folks, the Communications department and sometimes representatives from the Mayor's office. That group decided that Elected Official's blogs would have to be authorized by a resolution, which Robin and the Attorney's office then wrote. The group also wrote a preliminary set of policies and procedures.

Then we brought it to the Council, and it was much more difficult getting my colleagues to sign on than I ever would've expected. Some Council Members were worried about costs and liability. At least one was concerned that Elected Officials' blogs would be used to bash people, having just lived through a very rancorous reelection fight. CM Ostrow needed an extra check-in in 60 days (in addition to the already-scheduled report to Council in 6 months) in order to support the resolution.

We ended up winning 7-4, after a lenghty and interesting discussion. (CMs Glidden and Lilligren, both of whom agreed to co-author the resolution, were not present for the vote.)

We were quite surprised at how difficult it was to do this, but I'm happy we did the work. It's important to be able to share my thoughts with you in this way and read your responses.

I do encourage you to comment. Now that we have passed this hurdle, let's make the most of this new tool.

Thanks for reading and responding. You make it worth the trouble.

IRV passes Council

It's an amazing, historic day.

Today the Council referred Instant Runoff Voting to the Charter Commission to be placed on the ballot this November.

Going into the meeting, we IRV supporters knew we had just enough votes: seven Council Members (myself, Samuels, Glidden, Schiff, Remington, Benson and Hodges) had signed on to the measure to refer IRV to the Charter Commission.

Amazingly, the final vote was 11-1. The seven supporters were joined by CMs Hofstede and Colvin Roy (neither of whom voted for the measure in the IGR committee) and Goodman. Only President Johnson voted against the measure.

Congratulations to Jeanne Massey, Tony Solgard, FairVote Minnesota, the Better Ballot Campaign and the Minneapolis/5th District Green Party, which has been advocating for this for years. It was great to see Jeanne, Tony, Bill Barnett, Jim Cousins, Tim Jordan, Leif Utne and others from the campaign and the Green Party at the Council meeting today. When the final vote was taken today in the Council Chambers many (probably all) of them stood up and applauded.

On a personal note, I am espeically thrilled by the astounding progress that electoral reform has made since I first got interested in it over 10 years ago. I remember participating in a small study circle at Matthews Park on alternative voting methods in the mid-90s with Tony, John Kolstad, Ken Bearman, Dave Shove, Diane Hinderlee and others. I recall well gathering signatures in both of the previous campaigns to put IRV on the ballot (1997 and 2001). I have advocated for the system every time I've run for office and worked to make it something we use in Party elections and a top priority for the Greens.

After all this work over the years, hearing again and again how IRV would be great but it just can't happen in Minneapolis, I can hardly believe this ringing mandate from the City Council. It's a great day.

While there is still more work to be done to get this passed by the voters in November, as well as work on other important reforms like campaign finance reform, bringing ranked choice voting to the state and national levels and implementing proportional representation, let's be sure we take time to celebrate this significant, major milestone.

Thanks to everyone who has worked on this. Congratulations.

Disclaimer

To bring this blog into compliance with the resolution enabling Elected Officials' blogs that passed the Council today (more on this later), here's our new and improved disclaimer (from the new Elected Official Blog Site Procedures document):

BLOG DISCLAIMER

This blog is supported by the City of Minneapolis through City funds, supplies, equipment and/or personnel. This blog is created as a limited public forum. The purpose of this limited public forum is to allow for an open discussion of issues related to the governance of the City of Minneapolis. Comments not within the purpose of this limited public forum will not be placed onto this blog. Further, comments will not be placed onto this blog if they fall into any of the following categories:

· Defamatory comments
· Profane language
· Comments that promote, foster, or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability, affectional preference or sexual orientation
· Sexually explicit remarks or material
· Comments related to political campaigning
· Comments related to soliciting for charities, unless the charity is sponsored by the City of Minneapolis

Any comments placed on this blog are public. The City of Minneapolis is not liable for the defamatory, offensive, or illegal comments of persons who provide blog comments and the risk of injury from the posting of such blog comments rests entirely with the person who provides the blog comments. The placement of blog comments onto this blog does not constitute an endorsement of those comments by the City of Minneapolis.


This post will also be available from the header of this blog. Please follow these ground rules, treat everyone with respect, and help prove that blog readers are responsible, civil, civic-minded folks.

I know you will. Cheers.

Note: this post was edited 5/26/06 with an updated disclaimer.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

CRA Work Group Update

At the 5-11-06 CRA Work Group meeting (see this post for more information on the Work Group's creation) Working with others, I succeeded in convincing the body to reject the recommendation that the CRA Board (the “Civilians” in “Civilian Review Authority”) only rule on complaints originally “sustained” by CRA staff.

I consider this an important win for police accountability in Minneapolis. The Board must continue to have the authority to rule on every legitimate complaint – the credibility of the process rests on this.

I’m excited to delve into what I consider the real problems with the CRA system: what happens to complaints after they are received by the Police Department. I am increasingly hopeful that after this Work Group is finished the CRA process will be the best system for police accountability that Minneapolis has ever seen.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Let Us Vote

I submitted the following Op-Ed to the Star Tribune earlier this week and they have not printed it yet. I'm putting it out where people can see it before the issue is moot.

***

Let Us Vote

As a City Council Member it would be easy to just ride this one out. After all, this Twins stadium proposal is the County’s deal. Now it’s up to the Legislature. It isn’t “City” business. Right?

Wrong. I feel it is my duty as a Minneapolis elected official to stand up and add my voice to the chorus calling for a referendum.

As the stadium proposals work their way through the final days of the Legislative session I call on our legislators: please don’t thumb your noses at either state law or the will of the people of Minneapolis. Don’t impose a local sales tax without voter approval.

The Legislature decided, with statute 297A.99, that voters should approve the imposition of local sales taxes. Minneapolis voters decided in 1997 that no more than ten million dollars should be given in corporate welfare to a professional sports stadium without a referendum. But the Hennepin County/House proposal does just that, raising nearly $10,000,000 a year for thirty years from Minneapolitans.

We should abide by our statutes and clear direction from voters. This is the essence of good government. It is not good government to allow moneyed interests to find ways around our laws.

Let me be clear, I don’t believe that people are opposed to paying taxes. The people I talk to want to share the burden of providing for the common good. They know we need to pool our resources to provide parks, libraries, schools, public safety, fire protection, smooth streets, good water, better transit and effective government. Many are happy to share what they have to help those who have less or nothing.

What they are not happy about is handing over their money to benefit one wealthy individual or a single successful business with little or no public benefit in return – an inappropriate redistribution of wealth. And if their government is going to ask them to take from the poor and give to the rich, at least they deserve the opportunity – provided for by law – to answer in the polling place.

This is an era when the people of Minneapolis hear from the Legislature time and time again that there are not enough resources to meet our vital needs. Thanks to the Local Government Aid cuts, Minneapolis continues to subsidize the rest of the state as we struggle to provide adequate public safety and patch our roads. Now, representatives of parts of the state outside Hennepin County feel that there is political cover for using my constituents’ money without their consent.

The people of Minnesota can recognize the unwise funneling of public dollars into private hands. Legislators should not feel safe in allocating public dollars to boondoggles just because the dollars in question don’t come from their districts.

I call on all public policymakers to oppose any attempt to give huge amounts of taxpayer money to private interests without the necessary consent of those being taxed.

Put it on the ballot.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Safe City Initiative

Cam just heard a presentation in the PS&RS committee from Interim Chief Dolan And Mayor Rybak about the MPD's Safe City Initiative. The presentation is available online here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Dancing on the street

I attended the last Transportation and Public Works committee (which is notable because I'm not on that committee) to speak in favor of my motion to remove this ordinance from the City code:

427.240. Dancing on streets. No person shall dance or engage or participate in any dancing upon any public street or highway in the city; and no person shall provide for, promote or conduct any dance or dancing upon any public street or highway in the city, except at a block party. (Code 1960, As Amend., § 583.340)” (Look it up here by its number.)

My arguments were these:

a) This law is outdated and embarrasses the City when it’s used.

b) This law is used to discriminate against persons experiencing homelessness and mental illness.

c) There are other laws that hold people accountable for doing generally disruptive things in the street: 385.65, Interference with pedestrian or vehicular traffic; 427.220, Congregating on streets or sidewalks; 466.240, Assemblies obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic. (Look these up here, again by their numbers.)

I’ve been surprised by the response from local media to this issue. (See the Strib and Downtown Journal.) I thought it was a relatively easy ordinance change to get done early in my term, and help that it would help pave the way for addressing other ordinances against loitering, lurker and trespassing often used in apparent discriminatory ways against people with mental health issues. I was asked by advocates for persons experiencing homelessness and working to decriminalize poverty to get it off the books. At the same time it appears to have made for an irresistibly fun little story.

My motion passed TPW unanimously. I thank everyone who came to testify and I expect it to pass with full Council approval next Friday.