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, January 25, 2008

Cedar Riverside Small Area Plan

The Cedar Riverside Small Area Plan has been completed and is available for public review. You can review the draft plan here. The City is encouraging any interested stakeholders to read the draft plan document and send any comments to Beth Elliott, Principal City Planner.

The 45-day public review period began on January 4, 2008 and will end on February 17, 2008. City staff will review all comments and make necessary changes to the draft document prior to the approval process. The official City approval process will begin with a public hearing at a City Planning Commission meeting in March 2008. Submit your comments to Beth here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crime Stats in Cedar Riverside

One piece of good news I've received this month: serious crime in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood in 2007 was down 16% from 2006 levels. The most dramatic decrease was in the number of robberies, one of the crimes that has caused the most concern in the neighborhood. There were 40% fewer robberies in Cedar Riverside in 2007 than in 2006.

The most concerning statistic is that there was a homicide in the neighborhood in 2007, as well as several non-fatal shootings. I am working with my colleague Robert Lilligren to set up a meeting between several Council Members and leaders in the Somali community to discuss the ongoing problem of witnesses to these serious crimes not coming forward to the police.

Even with that concern noted, however, these statistics are a very good sign. Thanks to the West Bank crime and safety committee, the LRT safety committee (who have done fantastic work fundraising for lighting and cameras), but especially to the First Precinct of the MPD. The targeted enforcement and beat cops seem to have had a substantial positive impact. I hope we can keep these efforts going throughout 2008. We are making progress, but we still have a ways to go.

Here are the raw stats:

Year: 2006 2007

Total Crimes: 660 554

Homicide: 0 1

Rape: 12 7

Robbery: 91 51

Aggravated Assault: 45 38

Burglary: 64 67

Larceny: 283 246

Auto Theft: 162 144

Arson: 3 0

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dangerous Animals

As you can read here, I had some significant concerns about a proposal to broaden the City's "dangerous animals" ordinance, which moved through the Council last week.

I'm pleased to say that I succeeded last Friday in taking some of the sharper edges off of the proposed ordinance. It took some concerted effort, some compromises on my part, and one hard-fought vote on the Council floor, but I got my colleagues to agree to the following:

- The new provisions that empower staff to declare pets potentially dangerous for actions that "constitute a physical threat" or "require defensive action" included a new exemption for behaviors on the pet's owner's property. So if I enter someone's fenced yard while doorknocking, and their dog runs towards me, causing me to quickly exit the yard, that dog would not be declared potentially dangerous. (Under the original proposal, it could have been.) A dog that bites someone on its owner's property could still be declared dangerous or potentially dangerous (depending on the severity of the bite). This was the closest and most controversial vote, but my side prevailed 9-4.

- The authority to declare an animal dangerous if its owner possesses dog-fighting paraphernelia - which I had successfully deleted from the proposal at committee - was re-inserted, but with some important changes. It will only come into effect if it seems like the animal has fought, or been prepared to fight.

- I moved to delete the overly broad language empowering staff to declare dangerous any animal with a "known propensity" to attack. My colleague (and ally on this issue) Lisa Goodman amended my motion to limit the "known propensity" to information that is held by Law Enforcement or Animal Care and Control staff - not unfounded rumor and supposition.

These changes, along with the earlier victory in committee (limiting the prohibition on felons owning larger dogs to violent felons only), have made this proposal much more reasonable and palatable. I'm confident that the changes I've made will help prevent innocent pets from being declared potentially dangerous, and good pet owners from having to go through the hardship of appealing such a declaration, while still doing more to protect residents from truly dangerous animals.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Violence Prevention Plan Gains Momentum

I am delighted to report that the Health Energy and Environment Committee unanimously approved the “Blueprint for Action for Youth Violence Prevention” yesterday afternoon. This means it moves forward to the council with recommendation. We had a good presentation from Gretchen Musicant, the Mayor and Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, from the Minneapolis Foundation. Kelly and RT were two of three co-chairs of the Steering Committee that drafted the plan. The presentation was followed by a few comments, including some great words from Shane Price who serves with me (and 30 plus others) on the Steering Committee. There were some questions and discussion, mostly commending the group for doing such a great job and some about how to use and target resources wisely. One community member (Omar Jamal) expressed concern about the sense from some that more people could have been kept informed about this and that they need to be included as we move forward. The plan will be voted on by the full Council on January 18th.

I am hopeful that the Council’s action later this month and the Minneapolis Foundation's Minnesota Meeting on Youth Violence Prevention tomorrow will help jump start this effort. The city should have a staff person hired early in February and we will need to stay engaged and keep pushing this if we are to really make progress. Youth violence is one of the most tenacious (and in some respects well funded in terms of the drug, gun and violent media industries) problems we face. We will have to be equally as tenacious in getting our plan implemented, (and funded) in a successful way.

One of the next steps I have taken to help bring this forward is to convene a community meeting in my ward to present and discuss our plan. It would be wonderful to have some of you join me and also to help spread the word about the meeting to help get others to attend. It is open to all and I hope it will be only one of many many such meetings and discussions throughout the community and city and the county figuring out how we can best use these good intentions and best laid out plans to really make a difference in the lives of our kids and their families and neighborhoods.

The Ward 2 Roundtable Discussion on the (then passed and city approved) Youth Violence Prevention Plan will be Tuesday January 22, 7-9 Matthews Center, 24th St. E and 28th Ave. S. Gretchen Musicant, the head of our Health and Family Support Department, who was central to the initiation and development of this plan, will be joining me.

I am also hopeful that soon we will take the plan to our government and community partners for their approval and buy-in. Your input and advice about how to do that would be greatly appreciated.

As many of you know, this has been a major priority of mine for over a year and this is a very significant step in the ongoing work. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What do you think my priorities should be for 2008?

I find it very helpful to continuously focus on and reflect on my priorities.

When I campaigned and was first elected I identified five major priorities that I still use and have posted on my wall right here next to my computer:
  1. Make civic involvement more meaningful, lasting and effective parts of what we do across departments, communities and government.
  2. Make Minneapolis a national leader of environmental sustainability and a greener, cleaner, more walkable, healthier city for ourselves and the generations to come.
  3. Recognize that community centered approaches to crime prevention and policing are key to improving public safety.
  4. Fight racism, poverty, prejudice and homelessness.
  5. Focus on fairness, civility, openness and service in my office and throughout city government.

Then in late 2006 and early 2007 I used these to developed four major areas to focus on 2007. These were: Community Engagement and NRP, Public Safety and Youth Violence Prevention, Neighborhood Friendly Development, and the City’s Energy and Environment Agenda.

Now a new year is upon us and I thought it might help inspire some comments and help me as I reflect on what to focus on this year if I encouraged you all to advise and guide me.

What do you think my priorities should be for 2008?

University Neighborhood Alliance

As the New Year is here I see this emerging as one of my priorities for 2008.

On December 19 at Morrill Hall The University Area Neighborhood Alliance had our first real working meeting. This is the new collaborative effort we worked so hard to get formed as part of the legislation that funded the new Gophers football stadium. It grew from the 2007 report by the University of Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis, and area the neighborhoods entitled “Moving Forward Together”.

In response to the report, and along with approving funding for the stadium, the legislature appropriated $750,000 to support the creation of the alliance and to provide for one or more demonstration projects. The alliance includes the neighborhoods of Cedar Riverside, Marcy-Holmes, South East Como, University and Prospect Park.

The seventeen-member alliance steering committee is comprised of a representative of each of the neighborhoods, as well as four business association representatives, two student representatives, three City of Minneapolis representatives and three University of Minnesota representatives. I am one of the City’s representatives. Each of the neighborhood organizations represented on the alliance has two votes in matters that come before the alliance.

The Alliance is Charged to.

1. Facilitate, initiate, or manage projects with the Board of Regents, City of Minneapolis, or other public or private entities that are intended to maintain the university partnership district as a viable place to study, research, and live.
2. Develop and implement through its member partners one or more demonstration projects provided for in the legislation, pursuant to the direction expressed in the neighborhood impact report.
3. Develop a vision and master plan for the University Partnership District.
4. Identify and engage other partners, financial resources, and potential leverage to achieve the vision for the district.
5. Enlist the participation of other essential stakeholders in the University Partnership District.
6. Communicate effectively with the broader constituencies of the alliance members and other partners, to build and sustain consensus and support for the work of the alliance.
7. Review and assess effectiveness of the organizational structure, geographic boundaries, scope, and strategic direction of the alliance, and adjust as necessary by January 2009.
8. Submit a report to the MN Legislature that shows positive outcomes from the demonstration projects, the accomplishments of the alliance, an inspiring plan for future action, and a proposal for sustained and substantial State support for the future work of the alliance by January 2009.

At the first meeting we elected two co-chairs: Dick Poppele, Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association President, and Karen Himle, Vice President for University Relations.

We also established four work teams. I will be leading up and convening meetings the Demonstration Project(s) work team.

Here’s a list of the teams and members:
a) Demonstration Project(s) Work Team: Cam Gordon, Marilyn Burns, Doris Wickstrom, Kris Nelson, Mike Christenson, Melissa Bean, Jan Morlock.
b) Early Start Initiatives Work Team: Wendy Menken, Kendre Turonie, Jan Morlock.
c) Resources and Partnerships Work Team: Arvonne Fraser, Karen Himle, Jan Morlock.
d) Vision and Long Term Plan Work Team: Wendy Menken, Dick Gilyard, Fitz, Alex Fink, Jan Morlock.

At this time there is great pressure and a great opportunity centered about the "demonstration project." I think that if we can show that the Alliance is an effective tool for really making positive change in the area we can leverage that success to leverage more resources and establish the Alliance and more lasting organization to insure the long term quality of neighborhoods around the University.

Clearly this group has enormous potential to transform the relationships between the neighborhoods, the University and the City in more effective and positive collaborative ways.

I am very excited about the next steering committee meeting Thursday, January 24, and all the work ahead on this in 2008.