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:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Streetlight on 17th Ave SE

Normally we don't put "constituent service" issues on this blog. It's tended to be more for policy-level ideas and events. But what I'm finding is that the majority of my day-to-day work (and a large chunk of Cam's work as well) is on these "little" issues that don't feel so little if they're on your block.

In the spirit of showing more of this in-the-trenches side of the office, therefore, here's the story of the streetlights on 17th Ave SE.

Back in early 2006, a house was moved into a lot on 17th Ave SE (it was constructed elsewhere, I've heard). This necessitated that the overhead line connecting the streetlight directly in front of that lot to its power service in the alley be cut. Unfortunately, the new house interfered with that line, making a simple replacement impossible. The streetlight - one of just two on that block - went dark.

An active and concerned neighbor brought this to our office's attention. I contacted City staff and Xcel, and heard that Xcel would have to bury any replacement power service, which is expensive. For some time, the discussion was monetary: who should pay for this costly replacement? Xcel? The City? The developer who moved in the new house and cut off access? Who compels whom to pony up? During these discussions, the streetlight stayed dark.

Our office kept pushing this issue until we heard something positive from Xcel in late 2006: they would replace the single light with two new lights, substantially improving the lighting situation on the block. Both new lights would require overhead service. This, we heard, should take no more than a few weeks.

However, by March the lights still had not been installed. The holdup seemed to be Xcel's need for signed easements from affected property owners (Xcel strings streetlight powerlines over property lines when they can, so they require four signed easements to install two lights). We worked with the involved neighbor to contact the affected property owners, all of whom gave verbal permission, which we passed on to City staff and Xcel.

Still, 17th stayed dark. The formal, signed easements trickled in, the third of four only coming back to Xcel in July, after I called the absentee owners to remind them to sign the second copy Xcel had sent them and return it.

Sadly, however, one of the homeowners from whom we needed an easement died before he got a chance to sign the paperwork. His sister, acting as executor of his estate, decided to wait until the house could be sold and allow the new owners to decide whether or not to grant the easement.

All through 2007, our office continued to get calls from residents, homeowners and student renters alike, all complaining that the lack of light on 17th was a public safety hazard and demanding that we get the problem solved. I agreed, and tried to communicate the reasons for the delay and what our office was doing about it.

Finally, the house sold. The last easement was signed by its new owners. Yesterday, Cam and I quietly celebrated a small victory - but an important one if you live on 17th Ave SE - when he signed the necessary paperwork to ok the installation of these two new lights, a year and a half after the street went dark.


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