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, August 31, 2007

Morningstar update

See here for the Bridge Newspaper story on this topic.

Morningstar Coffee has received two $200 fines from the City's Environmental Management staff. Until the afterburner that Morningstar's management committed to install on July 16 is installed, they face fines that will double every two weeks ($400, $800, $1,600, up to a maximum of $2,000).

The good news is that the fines seem to be working. I have heard from Environmental Management staff that they have been in communication with a contractor that Morningstar has hired to install the odor control equipment next week. Note that this is later than the date of August 31 that Morningstar owner Jose Vido gave Bridge reporter Liz Riggs for when the equipment would be "up and running."

Our office's experience with this issue prompted a meeting earlier this week with high-level staff within Regulatory Services, to talk about possible improvements to their enforcement processes. I believe we're making progress on that, especially on the need to provide clear and firm due dates and timelines for when the City expects work on remediating livability complaints.

Lastly, we continue to hear through the grapevine that Jose Vido is thinking about not using the equipment once it is installed, and taking steps to reduce inspectors' access to his building, such as a buzzer system at the door. Environmental Management staff will be sending the company a letter informing them of the consequences of playing this sort of game with neighbors and the City.

Bike/Ped counters needed

From the Minneapolis Bicycle Update e-list:

On Tuesday, September 11th, the Department of Public Works will be conducting bicycle and pedestrian counts, and we need your help! Volunteers will be asked to count the number cyclists and pedestrians at several mid-block locations in the downtown area, in 2-hour shifts from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm. The purpose of the counts is to assess the historical trend of non-motorized travel in the downtown core. This year, for the first time, the Department of Public Works will exclusively count bicyclists and pedestrians.

These counts will help to measure the effects of the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTP), a $21.5 million federal program which was created to increase biking and walking in Minneapolis. The City of Minneapolis is partnering with Transit for Livable Communities, who will be organizing similar counts on the same day. If you are interested in volunteering please choose from a 2-hour time slot below. We need volunteers to arrive approximately 10-15 minutes before their shift. Please contact Shaun Murphy at or 612.673.2335, and leave your e-mail address, phone number, and a preferred time slot.

6:30 am to 8:30 am
8:30 am to 10:30 am
10:30 am to 12:30 pm
12:30 pm to 2:30 pm
2:30 pm to 4:30 pm
4:30 pm to 6:30 pm

There are two additional announcements; the first being the launch of a new Twin Cities website for bicyclists and pedestrians. An initiative of Transit for Livable Communities, is intended to serve as a resource for new and existing bicyclists in Minneapolis and the surrounding communities.

The second announcement pertains to two upcoming bike tours in the Twin Cities. The 13th Annual St. Paul Classic Bike Tour will take place on Sunday, September 9th. The inaugural Minneapolis Bike Tour will take place the following Sunday, September 16th. Each tour largely follows the scenic and historic parkway systems of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Happy Riding,

City of Minneapolis Bicycle Program

Monday, August 27, 2007

Plan to Reopen 10th Ave Bridge

The Department of Public Works are proceeding with a plan to open the 10th Ave Bridge by end of day Friday, August 31.

  1. The bridge will open to peds, bikes, and two lanes of traffic. A decision has not yet been made about opening to transit only or to general traffic but Public Works will decide soon after one more conversation with MetroTransit.

  2. They are installing a supplemental fence on the railing on the upstream (35W) side to raise its height to meet standards, to improve safety for the pedestrians that will undoubtedly come to view the 35W site, whether or not we permit them to be there.

  3. Concrete barriers will be installed to separate pedestrians on the upstream side of the bridge from the traffic lanes.

  4. Concrete barriers will remain in place until demand for viewing slows down to a point that opening the bridge to four lanes of traffic will not cause a safety hazard due to peds in traffic lanes.

The total cost is estimated to be not more than $120,000. The minimum safe option of temporarily blockading peds from access to the low railing (which would prevent any view of the site from the bridge) would cost around $70,000 so Public Works has decided to proceed with fence installation and a viewing area.

They will request an appropriation increase to cover this cost. It is not certain that the Federal Highway Administration will pay for it but they felt it was imperative to make a decision and move forward in time to have the bridge open before University and public school classes begin on September 4.

Friday, August 24, 2007

10th Ave Update

This just in from Public Works:

"We are proceeding with a plan to open the 10th Ave.SE bridge by end of day Friday, August 31:

The bridge will open to peds, bikes, and two lanes of traffic. A decision has not yet been made about opening to transit only or to general traffic but we will decide soon after one more conversation with MetroTransit.
We are installing a supplemental fence on the railing on the upstream (35W) side to raise its height to meet standards, to improve safety for the pedestrians that will undoubtedly come to view the 35W site, whether or not we permit them to be there.
Concrete barriers will be installed to separate pedestrians on the upstream side of the bridge from the traffic lanes.
Concrete barriers will remain in place until demand for viewing slows down to a point that opening the bridge to four lanes of traffic will not cause a safety hazard due to peds in traffic lanes."

MnDOT Open House on 35W Bridge Design-Build

MnDOT will hold 3 public open houses in the next two weeks about the design of the proposed new I-35W bridge over the Mississippi:

•Tuesday, Aug. 28 at the McNamara Alumni Center on the east bank campus of the U of M from 4:30 - 7 pm. The open house will be held in Al Johnson Room.
•Thursday, Aug. 30 at the Humphrey Institute Atrium, west bank campus, from 4:30 - 7 p.m. The open house will be held in the Atrium.
•Wednesday, Sept. 5 at the IDS Center in the Crystal Court from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Unpaid Judgments ordinance

The Unpaid Judgment ordinance I authored (see here for a previous post on this topic) has unanimously passed the Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee (PS & RS).

As I wrote back in July, the ordinance had hit an unexpected snag the last time it came before that committee, when several landlords showed up to speak against it. The committee referred the ordinance to the Rental Property Advisory Committee (or RPAC) for discussion.

On the 8th, my Aide Robin attended the RPAC meeting and offered a compromise, which the rental property owners accepted: along with the proposed ordinance, I moved a staff direction for Inspections staff to come back to the committee within a year of the ordinance's effective date to tell the committee where and how many times it has been used and make recommendations for any necessary changes. I also agreed to change the effective date of the ordinance to January 1, 2008, to allow landlords a few months to hear about the new licensing requirement and come into compliance, and made some smaller changes making explicit the situations in which the ordinance will not be enforced (if under appeal, stayed, removed to a district court, etc).

With this compromise in place and objections gone, the ordinance sailed through PS&RS easily, and I expect it to pass the Council on the 31st.

After hearing some more stories of the lengths to which certain bad landlords in Southeast Minneapolis have gone to avoid paying security deposits back to their former tenants - including registering their businesses in Wisconsin, to make it harder for Univeristy Student Legal Services to collect on legal judgments from Minnesota courts! - I am more convinced than ever that this is a necessary requirement for rental license holders in Minneapolis. I have also been pleased to learn that Inspections will be adding this to their checklist for annual reissuance of licenses, making sure that applicants do not have outstanding judgments against them. I believe it will help take away the option of simply not paying judgments, for the good of tenants across the City.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Proposed Street Lighting Policy

The Minneapolis Public Works Department is finalizing its Street Lighting Policy and Program which has been in the development process for several years. They will be having nine community open houses in September 2007 at various locations. These meetings will serve as opportunities to share information about the proposed Policy, as well as gather community input. Go here for more information.

The proposed Policy is designed to support the City's efforts around livable communities and urban development. Appropriate lighting levels are a security and safety issue. A policy will help to ensure that all areas of Minneapolis receive consistent treatment, and will give clear guidance to elected officials, residents, developers, and Public Works on all aspects of street lighting system installation and maintenance. It will address a number of issues including:
  • Clarification of internal practices
  • Equalization of independent initiatives
  • Areas with limited lighting
  • Improvement of lighting in pedestrian areas
  • Safety concerns
  • A simplified process for installation
  • Technical efficiencies and sustainability
  • Funding

The Street Lighting Policy objectives are:

  • Maximizing the quality, sustainability, and visibility of the street lighting system
  • Contributing to added comfort and safety for pedestrians, bicyclist, transit users, and Motorists
  • Creating a consistent and cohesive lighting system based in place-type characteristics throughout the City
  • Providing pole and fixture options that are aesthetically pleasing and high quality
  • Providing clear guidance on expected installation methods, procedures and maintenance service levels
  • Creating a system that is cost efficient, easy to operate, and maintainable
  • Addressing costs to the City's capital, maintenance, and operations budgets

The following is a list of dates and locations for the open houses. Each open house is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m. Please share the information regarding the meeting dates and locations with your neighborhood or business organizations.

  • Thursday, Sept 6, 2007-City Hall Room 220, 350 Fifth St. S.
  • Tuesday, Sept 11, 2007-Powderhorn Park, 3400 15th Ave. S.
  • Wednesday, Sept 12, 2007-Harrison Park, 503 Irving Ave. N.
  • Tuesday, Sept 18, 2007-Lynnhurst Park, 1345 Minnehaha Pkwy. W.
  • Wednesday, Sept 19, 2007-Creekview Park, 5001 Humboldt Ave. N.
  • Thursday, Sept 20, 2007-Waite Park, 1801 34th Ave. NE
  • Tuesday, Sept 25, 2007-Nokomis Park, 2401 Minnehaha Pkwy. E.
  • Wednesday, Sept 26, 2007-Van Cleve Park, 901 15th Ave. SE
  • Thursday, Sept 27, 2007-Kenwood Park, 2101 Franklin Ave. W.

Public Works will also be posting this information on its Web site along with related information. If you have comments, please forward them to Beverly Warmka, 612-370-3973.

Proposed Ordinance to License Protests

I have recieved a number of phone calls and emails recently from people concerned about a new ordinance that has been proposed by City staff, which would regulate protests. I do not support this proposal and have advocated against it.

On August 8, a number of community members attended a meeting of the Free Speech Work Group, which I helped create earlier this year to address potential free speech issues related to the upcoming 2008 Republican National Concvention, at which the new ordinance was on the agenda for discussion. There seemed to be some confusion as to where the proposed ordinance had come from. It was drafted by City staff from the Regulatory Services department and the City Attorney's Office, not at the direction of the Work Group. When the policymakers on the group learned of its existence we asked, through the Work Group's chair CM Ostrow, that staff bring these ideas to us for our review.

When I proposed this working group, I pushed for it to include representatives of the ACLU and other defenders of constitutional liberties. You can see the Work Group's operating principles, which the Council approved on August 3, here. I’m one of three Council Members serving on this group (CMs Ostrow and Remington are full members and I am an alternate). I have also been pushing (unsuccessfully at first) to make sure that all of the meetings of this group are open to the public. I am hopeful that they will be in the future.

I believe that the way the discussion of this proposed ordinance has evolved shows the value of having this Work Group. Reacting to a perceived need for greater control of protests during the RNC 2008 Convention, staff drafted an ordinance for discussion. At the meeting of the Work Group, Council Members Remington and I, as well as the civil libertarians included in the group and representatives of protest organizations, clearly told staff that the draft ordinance is 1) unnecessary, 2) counterproductive and 3) most likely unconstitutional.

Here’s a brief discussion of these three points:

1) I believe that City of Minneapolis employees can effectively and respectfully deal with the issues arising from nonviolent protests without new laws.
2) Giving police officers the authority and, arguably, the responsibility to break up unpermitted or unlicensed protests opens a pandora’s box of unforeseen negative outcomes, and will only serve to overburden our law enforcement systems, which will presumably be taxed to the maximum during the 2008 Convention even without the proposed changes.
3) This is especially important: the only characteristic that distinguishes between a group of 25 nonviolent antiwar protestors and 25 Twins fans on their way into the Metrodome is the content of their speech. The City does not, in my opinion, have a compelling reason to enforce rules against the former and not the latter – they have the same impacts on pedestrian and vehicle traffic and etc.

I personally prefer that Minneapolis follow the Washington DC model that our representative from the ACLU has alerted us to: a free and voluntary protest registration process, with no requirements for protests to be licensed or permitted, provide proof of insurance, etc.

Two other good things that came out of our last meeting include the direction that the ACLU lawyer will sit down and discuss these issues with the City attorney and we will review and discuss the “D.C. approach” at an upcoming meeting.

10th Avenue Bridge

One of the things discussed last evening at our community meeting on traffic issues related to the bridge collapse was the opening of the 10th Avenue bridge.

Now that the last victim has been recovered we will need to reach a decision about this very soon. There will also be a great deal of pressure to open it fully before the University semester begins on September 4th.

Suggestions range from keeping it closed to opening:

  • only to bikes and pedestrians,
  • or to bikes, pedestrians and public transit,
  • or to all of the above plus official University vehicles,
  • or to all traffic.

Even if we open it to all traffic, there have been some ideas about making that work better including:
  • adding a fence to the upstream side to increase safety in case people walk or bike out and want to see the site and
  • putting in a physical barrier of some kind (perhaps semi-permanent plastic bollards) to prevent northbound cars exiting 35W at Washington Ave from changing lanes and taking a left at 15th Ave S (near the Holiday Inn) to cross on the 10th Ave bridge. This would prevent the 10th Ave bridge from becoming the de facto northbound detour of I-35W.

It would be useful to me to use this blog to hear your thoughts and concerns about this and perhaps engage in a little discussion before the decision is made (this week perhaps). That way I can provide feedback to our City staff.

35W Bridge

Last Friday the City Council unanimously approved a set of principles that outline the City’s shared vision for building a new Interstate 35W Bridge.

I hope these reflect a view widely shared by people throughout Minneapolis that we need to build, not only a safe bridge, but also take the time to build the best brdige we can that will help meet future transportation needs.

I would also like to offer some of my own comments and observations about the tragic I-35W bridge collapse over the Mississippi.

First and foremost, my thoughts go out to all who have lost loved ones, who are missing family and friends and who are suffering because of the collapse. I hope that you and your family, friends and loved ones are safe and unharmed. For all of us, as individuals and as a community, this has been a shocking experience and a devastating loss. While things may seem stable and in many ways our community is coming to terms with this shock, let's not forget that some are still caught in the moment, grieving the loss of family members, co-workers and friends, in anguish for loved ones who are still missing, or struggling to recover and survive from injuries resulting from the fall. Please keep these people in your thoughts.

Second, I want to share a little of how proud I am of our community and all the personnel of the City and other government agencies, volunteers and others who were able to respond quickly and competently to this disaster. City staff and elected officials are, and have been, fully engaged in doing everything we can to respond to this terrible disaster. From the courage and competence on the street in the actions of the scores of first responders to the highly skilled and focused leadership at the Emergency Operations Command Center, we have a lot to be proud of.
We also have so much to be grateful for. I want to thank all the people in Ward 2 and the city for their patience, support and willingness to pitch in and help during this crisis. Special thanks go to the Holiday Inn and Augsburg College for opening their doors to house our emergency family response/operations center. They generously provided space for Red Cross workers, chaplains and city staff who were assisting families of victims and missing loved ones. Thanks also to the Brian Coyle Center for hosting the Muslim response to the tragedy last week, and the associated Red Cross blood drive. The outpouring of support from the emergency response teams from all over the County and State, the chaplains, Red Cross personnel, those who have donated food and supplies, all must be acknowledged.

The City Council has been very engaged in the response to this over the past weeks. In addition to the statement of principles we recently passed, Council Members Hofstede, Ostrow and I scheduled a community meeting on Monday in Southeast Como. We were joined by Public Works and Mn Department of Transportation staff who gave information and solicited input on transportation issues.

There will be a public hearing on the "Municipal Consent" process for the design of the new I-35W bridge on Thursday, September 20, 5:30 pm, Thrivent Financial Auditorium, 625 4th Ave S.

For more information go here.

Finally, I encourage all of you who will be coming to or through the Univeristy and downtown areas to consider taking a bicycle or public transit, both to speed up your own commute and to reduce congestion. Go here for transit information and here for a map of bike routes.

I am hopeful that in the months and years ahead, this catastrophe will help refocus our attention on maintaining our infrastructure, to prevent future tragedies like this.