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, February 05, 2008


As you've likely heard, the Ostrow/Hodges Circus "regulation" ordinance has passed the Council, and I've taken a bit of a beating in the press.

In committee, I moved an amendment to the ordinance that prohibited direct contact between wild animals and the public. Most of the injuries and deaths associated with wild animal circuses over the last 10 years have been due to direct contact (rides, etc). Such a prohibition would also have prevented most risk of human-animal transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis.

I was very upfront with my colleagues about the intent and effect of this amendment, and it passed in committee unanimously, with CMs Ostrow, Hofstede, Samuels and Johnson (who later "flip-flopped" and voted against this provision in the full Council) voting for it. Then the industry lobbyists made their rounds, and this public safety regulation was stripped out in Council.

I was unable to vote for the Ostrow/Hodges "regulation" ordinance, in the end. I do not believe that it will do anything substantive to protect animal welfare, or to protect members of the public from harm. Additionally, I believe it will be overly burdensome to our animal care and control staff, increasing their workload without any possibility of increasing their staffing. They will simply be less able to respond to "third-tier" animal complaints such as barking dogs when the circus is in town.

This issue has been a very strange experience for my office. We've spent considerably less time on this than we do on any single neighborhood-specific issue such as the recent Good Neighbor Agreement my staff helped broker between Fairview Children's Hospital and the Riverside Park neighborhood, or the time and energy we put into making the move of the Seward Co-op possible, or our participation in the Grand Rounds planning process, or our work on the University District Partnership Alliance, or even a proposed gas station re-build on University. But this in-the-trenches work gets little to no press from the larger media, while "zany" issues like the circus ordinance gets oodles.

Why is this? It's especially odd, given the main argument of every negative article, column, and letter to the editor: "this issue is a waste of time." If the issue is waste of time, unsubstantive, not the "real work" the Council should be doing, then the Star Tribune (and others) should devote less space to it, and more to the "real work" we are doing, which often appears to get short shrift on their pages, from my perspective.

Still, this is to be expected and is understandable. Reporters (and readers perhaps) are drawn to controversy and novelty, and this issue fit the bill. So a small issue, towards the bottom of my list of priorities, is suddenly elevated in the media to being my only work worth mentioning.

Lastly, I should note that the response from Second Ward constituents throughout this process has been overwhelmingly positive, which has helped motivate me to take the positions I have taken. Thank you all for your willingness to listen to both sides of this issue and understand why I took this position. Thanks especially to those who've taken the time to share your thoughts and support.


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