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:

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Minnesota Pipeline on the "Lurking" ordinance

I will be speaking at a Minnesota Pipeline sponsored by the Minneapolis Urban League, calling for the repeal of the "Lurking" ordinance on March 7th, 6-8pm at the Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Ave N.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Library "Consolidation"

Two library advisory groups are wrapping up their deliberations on a possible "consolidation" of the Minneapolis and Hennepin County library systems. While I am still waiting to learn the details and have a chance to get answers for questions I have, I am growing more and more concerned about the rush some people seem to be in. Though no Council committee has formally reviewed the work of the advisory groups so far, there is growing support for turning the Minneapolis system over to the County. Apparently in an effort to meet a March 23 deadline of the state legilature there as been a series of community meetings planned. Additionally, there is some pressure in City Hall to have the City Council look at this next week and make a decision Friday March 9. So far no formal public hearing has been scheduled.

Representatives of the City, Library Board and County will discuss why a "merger" is being considered and what the proposed changes might bring at a series of upcoming meetings:

· Thursday, March 1, 7 - 8:30 pm, Walker Library, 2880 Hennepin Ave
· Saturday, March 3, 10 - 11:30 am, North Regional Library, 1315 Lowry Ave N
· Monday, March 5, 6:30 - 8 pm, Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall
· Thursday, March 8, 7 - 8:30 pm, Nokomis Library, 5100 34th Ave S

This is a very serious decision that will have long term consequences for our city for generations to come.

It is essential that questions and concerns about this proposal be brought up quickly. Even if the only concern is that we are moving too fast, that needs to be raised.

Right now, there appears to be strong support for this idea from the County Board, the City Council, Mayor and the Library Board. I have concerns that we, as a community and as a Council, are not taking the necessary time to study, consider and discuss alternatives. If turning our public libraries over to the County is the alternative that will be chosen, I think that it is very important that we make certain that the people of Minneapolis get the best deal possible in the transaction. This may mean that more discussion and creative thinking is required, and that a rush to agreement is unwise.

If this is a good idea now, it will still be a good idea 6 months or a year from now. If it is a bad idea, let's take the time to consider the issues involved and find out before it is too late.

If you care about the library system and have ideas or concerns about this, please get involved. For more information, please go here and see more on the rationale for the "consolidation" here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Transportation of Hazardous Materials

After listening to concerns from teh City Attorney's office and getting an update about the Court case pending regarding Washington D.C.'s ordinance, I decided not to move forward to introduce the subject matter of an ordinance that would require better regulation of the most dangerous materials that are routed through Minneapolis. At this time it appears we may lack the authority to do so as the railroads appear to be winning in the courts.

Washington DC has passed a similar ordinance and it is their authority to do so that is now being reviewed by the courts. One of the problems is that Bush Administration has not done anything at all on this issue. Until such time as the Federal Government steps in and exerts its authority to protect urban populations, the courts may well end up ruling that local governments have the authority. If they do, we will be ready to move forward on this.

St. Louis, Albany, Buffalo, Memphis, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and 2 state legislatures (NY and TN) have all introduced similar legislation. One of the purposes of introducing this ordinance would have been to stand with these communities and show the Federal Government that there is support in urban communities for restricting large shipments of deadly materials passing through densely populated areas.

But the primary purpose of this ordinance would be to protect public safety in Minneapolis. An accidental (or purposeful) release of a rail car’s worth of chlorine gas could kill thousands of Minneapolis residents in half an hour. This danger is not hypothetical. A Madison Burlington Northern derailment spread a toxic cloud over the Duluth-Superior area and forced the temporary evacuation of 50,000 people in 1992. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the spill caused long-term health problems among residents.

Still, there is a great deal of caution among my colleagues here about this and I am trying to respect that. I also think that even raising the issue to the level I have has sent a signal. Now, as the court case winds its way through the system in D.C. we will be ready to act should that seem appropriate.

I am convinced that this is a serious issue and there is a lot more we ought to be doig to protect ourselves from the transportation of dangerous materials. Hopefully, the federal government will take the necessary action or the courts will decide that local governments are empowered to do so before there is a tragedy.

For more information, go here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Saint Martin's Table March 10

Join me for a discussion sponsored by St. Martins Table’s Weekend Events, about current and pending city issues and my role as the sole Green Party Council Member. Learn about the results of the 2006 Second Ward Survey, my accomplishments of 2006 and plans for 2007.

Saint Martin’s Table
2001 Riverside Ave
Saturday, March 10, 10:00 AM

Friday, February 09, 2007

Condo Conversions - the end

An immensely toned-down and modest version of the Condo Conversion ordinance I have worked on for months failed on a 7-6 vote in today's Council meeting.

Those voting for protecting low-income renters and condo buyers: myself and Council Members Samuels, Glidden, Schiff, Remington and Hodges.

Those voting to do absolutely nothing to protect condo buyers and low-income renters: Council Members Ostrow, Hofstede, Johnson, Lilligren, Goodman, Benson and Colvin Roy.

The majority on the Council has apparently decided that they want our city to be less progressive and less compassionate than Folsom, CA, the State of Connecticut, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, CA, Manhattan Beach, CA, San Diego, CA, and Seattle, WA.

I wish I could have done a better job educating and convincing at least one more of my colleagues that we need to do a better job regulating this industry and protecting consumers (both tenants and condominium buyers). My fellow supporters and I knew that this compromise version offered us the best hope to strengthen our private-public partnership with the industry and fulfill our responsibility as elected officials to protect our residents from the free market that too often (at least in the case of condominium conversion) puts desire for profits before the needs of people.