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, April 29, 2008

Bike/Walk to Work Day

For the second year in a row, I'll be leading a bicycling commuter convoy from the Seward and Cooper neighborhoods on Bike/Walk to Work Day, May 14. We'll leave the Birchwood Cafe at 7:30, after having some free pastries that Birchwood is graciously providing, and bike into downtown via this route. In downtown, we'll join the celebration in Hennepin County Government Center's north plaza.

Due to the success we've had on Bike/Walk to work day in recent years, this year we've decided to extend the event to a week. For other Bike/Walk Week events, see here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bisphenol-A and Canada

Canada is poised to declare that the chemical Bisphenol-A (also known as BPA) is toxic, laying the groundwork for a ban similar to what the Minneapolis City Council, at my urging, supported last month. The tide appears to be turning against this ubiquitous estrogen-mimicking chemical, and that's a very good thing.

Non-Motorized Transportation Grants

Today, the Council voted to apply for the 2008 round of Non-Motorized Transportation grants. Our list of projects includes some important opportunities for the Second Ward:

  • A better pedestrian connection between Seven Corners and Downtown along Washington Avenue, across the I-35W trench.

  • Pedestrian upgrades to three important intersections on the West Bank, including Cedar and Washington, Cedar and Riverside (one of the worst intersections in the city for pedestrian/auto crashes), and Cedar and 5th. This last idea is especially exciting, because it will include a long-awaited new public sidewalk connecting Cedar to points east on vacated 5th.

  • Turning 29th Ave S into a "bike/walk street" between E Franklin and Minnehaha Ave. This could include some modifications to the physical layout of the street, including “throating” and traffic circles, and would likely include extra signage, reduced speed limit, and could potentially include removal of stop signs. This facility will connect planned bike lanes on Franklin and Riverside to existing bike lanes on Minnehaha and the Greenway, and connect Seward Montessori and Matthews Park to all of the above. My office submitted one of the proposals for this project.

The purpose of these projects is to help shift mode share away from automobiles and towards biking and walking, and to explore innovative strategies like bike/walk streets, also known as "bicycle boulevards" in other cities where they have been used to great effect. I'm excited about this round of applications, and I hope that Transit for Livable Communities chooses to fund them all.

Dining Out for Life

I'm participating in Dining Out for Life again this year, by hosting a lunch on Thursday, April 24, at noon, at Tam Tam's African Restaurant at 605 Cedar Ave S in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. Tam Tam's will donate 20% of proceeds to the Aliveness Project, a community center for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Other Second Ward restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life include: Birchwood Cafe, Cliquot Club Cafe, the Cupcake, Pi Bar and Restaurant, the Seward Pizza Luce, St. Martin's Table, and the Seward Cafe.

Today, the Council passed a resolution honoring the Aliveness Project and endorsing this event.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ranked Choice Voting Implementation

The Elections Committee has passed a Request for Proposals for equipment and/or services to allow us to conduct the 2009 election using Ranked Choice Voting. The Election Department, led by Cindy Reichert, did a great job of putting together an RFP on a fast timeline - they were directed by the Council to do this work on March 7. The RFP is great, just what I was looking for. It offers flexibility on the question of error notification, making clear that we want full notification of all errors (overvotes, skipped rankings, ranking candidates more than once), but that it is not a hard requirement.

The committee also passed an ordinance establishing our ranked choice counting rules. This ordinance was based on the output of Mark Ritchie's Ranked Choice Task Force that met last year, and was initially drafted by my Aide Robin and Jeanne Massey of FairVote Minnesota, along with Cindy Reichert and others.

There was one small edit that I felt needed to be made, dealing with Normalization and Advancement. This is a process used in 5 of the 6 other jurisdictions in the US that use Ranked Choice Voting (and may be used in the sixth - we're not sure), to ensure that we do not prematurely exhaust votes if voters skip rankings. Under this system, if a voter skips a ranking, for instance by filling in ranks 1, 2, 4 and 5, the voting equipment continues over the skipped 3rd rank, in effect treating 4 as 3 and 5 as 4. I strongly believe that we should, wherever possible, count every vote, and when voters make mistakes we should assume that they are honest mistakes, and not attempts to vote incorrectly on purpose (as my colleague Betsy Hodges so eloquently pointed out).

Steve Hill, an organizer in California who helped lead both the ballot campaign and implementation of San Francisco's ranked choice elections, has said this about N&A: “…we felt it was important in California for us to err on the side of maximum voter enfranchisement. California law has a long history of 'counting every vote' and doing all that is possible to ensure that goal, and that the policy of 'jump to the next valid ranking' was the right decision that came closest to fulfilling this goal.” I agree wholeheartedly. I believe this position is also in keeping with Minnesota's Voter Intent statute, which states that "“A ballot shall not be rejected for a technical error that does not make it impossible to determine the voter's intent.”

It's also important to note that the two major election equipment companies (ES&S and Sequoia) who have developed ranked choice software for use in the US have only developed software that includes N&A processes. Minneapolis would have to pay more to get software without it, and this might have also prevented us from working out a deal to share development costs with other jurisdictions looking for ranked choice-capable equipment.

I'm glad the Council voted with me on this. For the record, CMs Remington, Glidden, Lilligren, Hodges, Schiff, Benson and Ostrow voted in favor of using N&A, and CMs Johnson, Goodman, and Colvin Roy voted against. CM Samuels was not in committee today, and CM Hofstede was not in the room for the vote.

I consider the totality of the committee's actions today to be a major victory for better democracy in Minneapolis, and a huge step towards possibly holding our first ranked choice election in 2009. After tomorrow's Council meeting (which I expect to reaffirm the actions of the committee today), the next move belongs to the equipment vendors.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Critical Mass Acquittal

As you can read here, here and here, the first trial of an August, 2007 Critical Mass arrestee has ended in an acquittal. For a day-by-day recap of the trial, look here.

I continue to have serious concerns about both the MPD response to this event (see my previous post in this blog), and the subsequent decision to bring these charges forward to trial. This verdict strengthens my concerns, especially given the very short jury deliberation time before returning an acquittal.

It's clear that the defense (led by the skilled civil rights attorney Jordan Kushner) was able to successfully put the MPD response on trial. Testifying officers made claims that were very clearly contradicted by photographic and video evidence - perhaps one of the reasons that officers last August targeted those with cameras and video-enabled cell phones for enforcement action and physical force.

This whole episode is an embarrassment to the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Department, and now the City Attorney's Office. I continue to fear that the City will make the same mistakes this summer, when the whole world is watching (which is why I continue to push for a voluntary protest registration process, which may help shield protest groups from this sort of arbitrary and violent enforcement). I hope the City will seriously consider dropping the charges now on the last two participants from last August and try to put this behind us - and only restrained and constructive law enforcement and legal action this summer will do that.

April 16 Bike Plan Open House postponed

The planned City Open House on the Bicycle Master Plan has been postponed from April 16 until June.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Human Rights Torch Relay

Today, I won unanimous approval for a resolution I sponsored supporting the Human Rights Torch Relay.

This is part of an international effort to help raise awareness about and change the inhumane, unjust and oppressive practices of the Chinese government. This group, which is advocating human rights in China and using the Olympic games as way to focus international attention on this issue is made up of a broad coalition including

The Human Rights Torch Relay began months ago in Athens.

The Relay will be in the Twin Cities on Thursday 4/16/2008. Here is a statement from the coalitions coordinator and an outline of the activities planned for that day. I hope to present out littel resolution of support at Coffman Union around noon.

"As the Beijing Olympic gets closer Human Rights violation by the Chinese Communist Regime is in escalation. Chinese military forces opened fire to Tibetan protesting monks and civilians in Lhasa on Friday, March 14. Hundreds of Falun Gong Adherents Arrested in "Preparation" for Olympics.

"Hosting the Olympics is an honor few nations are granted. In 2001, Communist China was awarded the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics— with the condition that it improves its human rights record ahead of the Games. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has, instead, escalated its human rights abuses, which include rampant political incarcerations of so-called dissidents and journalists, forced abortions, illicit organ harvesting, and religious and ethnic persecution. In addition, countless families have been forcibly removed from their homes in preparation for the Olympics.

"In light of this, the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG) initiated the Human Rights Torch Relay. The relay began in Athens last August and has traveled to Europe, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. It will eventually span six continents, scores of countries and at least 150 cities. The relay has garnered the support and participation of concerned individuals, church leaders, government officials, civic and professional groups, as well as non-profit organizations committed to universal human rights.
Here in Minnesota we are forming a coalition with non-violent and powerful efforts to end the CCP human rights violation.

Please join us.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
Akiko Tsutsui
Human Torch Relay MN Coalition"

April 16th Wednesday.
Tentative plan
9:00a.m. to Noon
1: Relay Run/walk/wheelchair by each participating> group/individuals from Capitol to Coffman Front.
2: Coffman Front : Networking 10:00-11:00

Noon -1:00p.m. Coffman Front Main Rally: speakers and messages
1:30-3:30 : Round Trip Walk/Wheelchair between Coffman via Washington Bridge Carlson –with Banners, signs demanding Human Rights in China.

I am sure your participation in any of these events would be wlecome.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Franklin Great Streets walks

Seward Redesign and Seward Neighborhood Group are sponsoring two “Walks on the Avenue” this month. Small groups will walk down Franklin Ave, identifying and photographing aspects of the Avenue that work well or present a problem. Everyone who works, lives or owns property in Seward is invited.

Walk #1 will take place Thursday, April 17, 4:30-5:30, meeting at Pizza Luce (2200 Franklin).

Walk #2 will take place Saturday, April 19, 10-11am, meeting at Second Moon (2225 Franklin).

A Community-wide Workshop will be held on April 26th, 10:30-noon at Matthews Center, 2318 29th Ave S, to review the results of the walks and identify areas and topics that will be the focus of work in the weeks ahead. You can go here for more information about these events, and about the Great Streets kiosks that have gone up along Franklin in the past few weeks.

I'll be attending the second walk and the workshop, and I hope to see you there!