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, October 24, 2008

ABC Referendum

Please join me in voting YES on the ABC referendum on November 4th. The referendum will appear on your ballot as the following question:

"SCHOOL DISTRICT BALLOT QUESTION 2 – ESTABLISHMENT OF ELECTION DISTRICTS FOR SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1. Shall the Board of Special School District No. 1, Minneapolis Public Schools consist of six members elected by district and three members elected at-large for a total of nine members? Board of education members elected on or prior to November 4, 2008 shall complete their terms. The six districts shall be of equal population and shall initially coincide with the six park board districts for the Minneapolis Park Board. Three districts shall be given even numbers and three districts shall be given odd numbers."

I believe that this amendment will improve the School Board's representation of the people of Minneapolis. It will ensure that every part of the city has a representative, which the current at-large election cannot do. Equality of geographic representation will help the public trust that tough decisions that can sometimes pit neighborhoods against each other - like the decision to close schools - are being made with equal concern about the fate of all Minneapolis neighborhoods. This new election method will provide more opportunities for diverse cultural and political voices to gain a seat at the table. At-large plurality elections are known for being the very hardest for minor party candidates to win.

If you're interested in learning more, please join State Representative Jim Davnie on Monday, October 27th, at 7pm at Brackett Park, 2728 39th Ave S.

Please also vote join me in voting YES on the Strong Schools, Strong City referendum.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Community Engagement and NRP

Last month, the Council voted to establish a new Department of Neighborhood and Community Relations and a new Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission. These lay the foundation for what will likely be a similar, but significantly different, neighborhood revitalization program and a potentially much more effective City community engagement system in the future.

The Neighborhood and Community Relations Department will function under the supervision of the City Coordinator and is intended to both serve residents directly and support all other City departments in their work to engage the community. It will be charged with strengthening our City’s quality of life through vigorous community participation, promoting resident involvement in neighborhood and community organizations, and supporting clearly defined links between the City, City services and neighborhood and community organizations.

The Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission will provide overall direction to a next phase of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and be responsible for the review of neighborhood plans and recommendation of their approval to the City Council. It will also make recommendations on, and monitor the distribution and use of the basic Citizen Participation Services funds, and the new Neighborhood Investment Fund. It will also help guide and improve all aspects of community involvement and civic participation in the City and carry forward the work Community Engagement Task Forces recommendations started last year. The Commission will be made up of at least 16 city residents. Eight of these will be selected by the City’s officially recognized neighborhood organizations through a process that is yet to be defined by those officially recognized neighborhood organizations. Seven will be appointed by the City and one by the Park Board.

I supported both of these actions, after I (with the help of CMs Schiff and Colvin Roy) was able to grant the Commission, modeled on the existing Planning Commission, significantly more power than the proposed "advisory board" it replaced and secure a place on it for a Park and Recreation Board appointee. I was also successful in amending the resolution to require that all meetings to be open to the public, televised (when possible), and subject to the requirements of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law.

However, we were unable to convince a majority of Council Members to support giving the Commission the power to appoint (with Council approval) the Director of the new department, the authority to set neighborhood boundaries and hear neighborhood grievances.

Even with these setbacks, however, I think this is an important step forward for the City. Through these actions and the identification of a funding source for a new Neighborhood Investment Fund that will be used by neighborhoods to implement their plans, the Council has made clear that support for neighborhood groups, both in terms of administrative funding and project-based dollars, is an essential part of our City. Now I will be working to make sure that the new commission is effective; that the new department improves civic participation, and that both support, empower and improve the ability of neighborhood organizations to improve their communities. For this to happen, there will need to be sufficient funds to make sure that neighborhood-driven planning is as inclusive, inspiring, accountable and effective as possible. We still have a great deal of work to do to build trusting relationships of mutual respect and improve how we work as a city government in partnership with all residents, neighborhood groups and other community stakeholders to make this a better City for everyone.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hennepin Ave Two-Way

A public meeting will be held next Wednesday, October 8, 5-6pm at the Central Library to discuss the upcoming conversion of Hennepin Ave and 1st Ave N from one-way to two-way. This discussion will focus primarily on options for retaining the bike lane and options for providing for left turns.

I'm very interested in increasing the safety of this corridor (one of the most-used bike corridors in the state). I am very resistant to placing the bike lanes in the middle of the road on Hennepin, one of the options being explored. I'll would like to see some of the of treatments that the Council directed staff to explore when we passed the Downtown Transportation Action Plan, including traffic lights with bike signalization. There is an abundance of great ideas we can look at, including the Copenhagen Model (for more also look here). Some we should also explore inlcude "bike boxes," painted bike-only spaces near crosswalks that help cyclists safely make turns, and bus unloading zones that do not interfere with bike lanes. If you've got ideas for how Hennepin and First can work best, please make sure to attend the meeting next Wednesday.

Lead Group Gets Well-Deserved Reward

The joint Mpls/Hennepin Lead Poisoning Prevention Work Group, on which I serve with CM Glidden, has won the 2008 Community Health Service Award.

The Work Group exists to establish and monitor plans, align efforts and build capacity for eliminating lead poisoning. We've collaborated to help reduce childhood lead poisoning in Hennepin County by over 50% since the group’s inception in 2002. In 2001, 6% of children under six who were screened had elevated blood lead levels, while in 2006 this figure had fallen to 2%. During the same period, we screened significantly more kids: 5,487 more in 2006 than in 2001.

It's a good group, and it's great to see this welcome recognition of its work.

Low-Heat / No-Heat in Effect

The low-heat/no heat ordinance I worked on with CM Remington has taken effect. Starting October 1, landlords in Minneapolis are required to keep interior temperatures at 68 degrees or above. If you’re a renter, and your unit is cooler than 68 degrees, you can call 311 and make a complaint to housing inspections. Of course, if you are comfortable and prefer a lower temperature that is fine. What we learned, however, when we studied the issue, is that for some older people, infants and people who are ill, temperatures below 68 can have serious and detrimental consequences to their health.

My office spearheaded the effort to get this new ordinance passed, replacing the old, complicated external-temperature formula that was so difficult for our staff to effectively enforce. Now it's simple: landlords must provide at least 68 degrees between October 1 and May 1. In the transition periods in late fall and early spring (defined in the code as September 15 through October 1 and May 1 through May 15) landlords must provide 65 degrees.

Minneapolis Closes Bike Gap

According to newly-released census information, Minneapolis is closing in on Portland in terms of bicycle mode share. Between '06 and '07, we moved from 2.5% to 3.8% bike commuter mode share (from 4,840 to 7,200 riders/day), a bigger increase in ridership than any other city. Portland, on the other hand, went from 4.2% to 3.9%.

You read that right: we're within .1% of being the number one large city in the country for bicycling.

But we're not going to rest on our laurels. There are a host of other, smaller cities with bicycle mode shares that make ours look pale in comparison, for instance Boulder, CO (8.9%), Eugene, OR (8.5%), Chico, CA (7.4%), Berkeley, CA (7.0%), and Cambridge, MA (6.0%). With our ongoing investments in both bike infrastructure and education - bike ambassadors, miles and miles of new lanes, next year's construction of the U of M trail, the Mayor's proposal to light up the Hiawatha LRT trail and dedicate $100,000 per year to bike infrastructure maintenance, among other things - I'm confident that we'll continue to improve on this number in the coming years.

You can read more about the census figures here, and read all about our ongoing initiatives to increase the percentage of people who bike to meet their daily needs here.

Lastly, this mode share increase is accompanied by a predictable, though tragic, increase in accidents involving cyclists. However, despite what you read in the media (like this inaptly-named article), there is safety in numbers. I have heard from staff that the evidence from other cities is that bicycle accidents increase at a slower rate than mode share. You can also see it in the data: between '06 and '07, crashes increased by less than 40% while the mode share increased by almost 50%. This leads to the somewhat paradoxical result that, while accidents involving bikes increase, each individual cyclist's chances of getting hit go down.

Suspect Arrested in 9/30 Homicide

As you can read here, Minneapolis Police have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of Ahmednur Ali on September 30, outside of the Brian Coyle Center. I'm heartened to see this quick response.

There are other important steps being taken to improve safety on the West Bank.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7 The Westban Community Coalition Safety Committee with host a Community Safety discussion at 7:00 at the Brian Coyle Center and the safety walk around the neighborhood immediately follows. From 7:30-9 everyone is invited to stop by the intersection of Cedar Avenue & 5th Street to participate in a collaboration with neighborhood art on wheels, to literally project a more positive image of the West Bank.

We're also moving closer to an investment by Sherman Associates, owner and operator of Riverside Plaza, in more beat officers for the West Bank. City staff is working to put a request for Council action accepting Sherman's contribution of $20,000 on the Ways and Means agenda for next Monday. I'm hoping that the neighborhood can leverage this donation to get other neighborhood stakeholders to help out.

I know there opther ideas and iontiatives uybnder way as well and I will try to keep people informed here, but also invite you to also use this space share the good work that you are doing.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sign Standards Open House

The City is revising its on-premise sign standards. The intended outcome is to amend the City’s zoning ordinance to ensure that these standards allow for effective signage appropriate for each zoning district, promote high-quality signage, minimize sign clutter and minimize adverse effects on nearby properties.

Staff is holding an open house Thursday, October 30th 4:30-6:30pm at the Public Service Center, 250 South 4th Street, in room 300.

There you can review the revised policy framework, ask questions, and comment on draft changes affecting the sign chapter of the zoning code. City Planning Commission and City Council Review and adoption of ordinance revisions are expected later this year.

University District Moratorium

This morning, the Zoning and Planning committee unanimously approved keeping in place the University District moratorium on demolition and new construction of 1-4 unit residential properties. This action, which the committee took despite hearing some complaints from area developers, will give our staff, District residents and the University District Parternship Alliance some breathing space to work on a U District zoning and land use study.

Many thanks to everyone who sent in letters and came down to listen and speak this morning to support this interim moratorium. I think that my colleagues on the committee all gained a better understanding of the concerns involved and this will help when we return with plans for how we will address these. We also were able to hear some of the concerns builders and developers had with the proposal and some other issues in the area. This too will be helpful. I was also impressed with the quality report and support and understanding about neighborhood concerns from our City staff.

This is another important step in the work we are all doing to preserve and improve the character of the U District neighborhoods, that has been made possible by the atmosphere of trust and hope we have been able to build by working together through the Alliance.

Memorial Ride October 4

The bicycle community will come together to honor the memory of cyclists who've been killed in recent accidents in the Twin Cities metro, this Saturday, October 4. The group will meet at 10:30am at the corner of Summit and Snelling Avenues in St. Paul. Go here for more details.

The ride will visit sites of three of the most recent crashes, where "ghost bikes" have been placed as memorials to the victims, Jimmy Niser, Nik Morton, and Virginia Heuer. Riders are asked to wear a black shirt with orange ribbon either on their arms or handlebars, and expected to be orderly and respectful of traffic. This is not a Critical Mass ride, and cyclists who disrupt traffic or ride recklessly will be asked to leave.

In the afternoon, organizers have put together another ride to Blaine, to place a ghost bike for Dale Aanenson.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I know, it sounds sort of like a psychopath with one eye, but really it's the coolest bicycle route finder I've ever seen:

In some ways, it works just like the route finders on mapquest and google, with one major difference - it's for cyclists. If you've ever tried to use one of those programs to find bike routes, you know how frustrating it can be. They aren't aware of off-street trails or bike lanes. They direct you to get on freeways. With cyclopath, you enter a starting and ending point, and you get a bike route.

To test this out, I entered my morning commute - Brackett Park to City Hall. Sure enough, cyclopath directed me to take the route I use: the Greenway to the LRT Trail into downtown. This may not sound like much, but no other mapping program I've ever used has been able to do it.

Even more excitingly for less-experienced cyclists, you can tailor the route to your comfort level by indicating whether bike-friendliness or speed are more important to you. Are you willing to go out of your way to take the most bike-friendly facilities you can? That's the kind of route that cyclopath will give you.

Now we get to the really fun part. Cyclopath is a wiki, meaning that you can edit the map (for a very meta experience, see the wiki definition of wikis here). Know of a patch of road that's particularly bad? Write it in the notes. Is a path you know not on the map? Add it. This tool, if it gets much use, can help aggregate the wisdom of the twin cities bicycle community and make it available to anyone. I can see this being a great help to visitors, first time riders and longtime commuters alike.

So - please use it. The more people use it, the more successful it will be.

One last thing: cyclopath was developed by PhD students at the University. They deserve congratulations and thanks, and this helps point out the great value that the U brings to the city.