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: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Monday, June 23, 2008

West Bank Safety Walk

Please join me and West Bank residents and business owners for the first West Bank Safety Walk tomorrow, June 24th, at 7pm. We will meet at the Brian Coyle Center.



This sort of proactive neighborhood organizing is especially important in the wake of the murders of Joe Sodd III and Abdullahi Abdi on the West Bank this year, and a number of non-fatal shootings. Thanks to the West Bank Safety Committee who, with help from the First Precinct, have organized this walking group.



I hope to see you there.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lurking Repeal Fails

Well, we got to within a single vote.



Joining me in voting to repeal the Lurking ordinance were Council Members Benson, Glidden, Hodges, Remington and Schiff. I thank them for taking this courageous stand with me to repeal this bad law.



Voting to keep it were Council Members Colvin Roy, Goodman, Hofstede, Johson, Lilligren and Samuels. CM Ostrow was not present, but voted against the repeal in committee.



I thank all of my colleagues for investing time and energy into this valuable public discussion. I'm proud of the good points that we raised, and the elevation of the citywide conversation about racial and economic disparities in general and in our criminal justice system in particular. I also believe that Lurking will be used more sparingly and carefully in the near future, as both the MPD and the Attorney's Office know that it is under the microscope.



Perhaps we'll get there next time. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing the UN Special Rapporteur's report on whether the Lurking ordinance violates international law.

Joe Sodd III

As you've likely heard, there was a tragic murder of a young man, Joe Sodd III, on the West Bank earlier this week. I know that he was a close friend to many people in our Ward and our City. His death is the second time this year a young man was killed in City Riverside and I hope we can all offer support and sympathy to the family and the community for the grief, pain and fear that they are feeling.

There is more about how friends remember Joseph Sodd III here.

There will be a public memorial event to Joe Sodd III this Sunday, at 3pm at Augsburg College's chapel followed by a gathering at Murphy Square Park at 4:00. There is also a memorial between 6th and 7th Streets S on 19th Ave S, where neighborhood volunteers and people who know and love Joe brought flowers and left sidewalk chalk and ribbons that people can write messages on. Everyone is welcome at the the memorial and also to visit the plaza and express your wishes for peace and safety in the neighborhood, especially for our youth.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Commentary on Lurking Repeal

I recently crafted a statement on the lurking repeal which served as the foundation of a commentary in tomorrow mornings Star Tribune. Since they did not have room to publush the entire piece I decided to share it here. In it I have tried to capture what I think are the most important points and relevant facts. It will also serve as the basis for the comments I will make at the City Council meeting Friday where this will be considered.

---------------
Since the Brooking Institute’s Mind the Gap report first made headlines in 2005, Minneapolis has done a lot we can be proud of to help close the significant racial and economic disparities the report identified as detrimental to the region’s future economic well being.

When the new City Council took office in 2006, it pointed the City in a new strategic direction where “all Minneapolis residents will have a better quality of life and access to housing and services.” It called for “one Minneapolis” where “there will be living-wage jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities for everyone” and we will “close the race and class gaps” in “housing, educational attainment and health.”

Later in 2006, the City and County plan to end homelessness was unanimously approved and called for us to “change the paradigm from managing homelessness to ending it, from funding programs to investing in the community, from serving people to partnering with people to achieve self-sufficiency” and to “eliminate panhandling and other livability issues through providing prevention and outreach services.”

In 2007, the City approved an ambitious multi-year Blueprint for Action to curb youth violence in Minneapolis. It called on us to change “our mindset from focusing solely on punishment” and to re-connect “youth exhibiting risky behavior with quality education and employment opportunities.”

This spring, when faced with the facts that 43% of Black Minneapolitans live in poverty, compared to 11% of Whites, and that the unemployment rate for Blacks it is nearly 14%, compared to 4% for Whites, we created a new Minneapolis/Hennepin County Racial Disparities Steering Committee to help focus on disparities in poverty, education and employment.

Now, on June 20, the Council has the chance to take another step to build on this record of redefining our approach to public safety and public policy by attacking the real causes of crime and violence and by addressing the persistent and costly disparities that exist in our City. We will consider the repeal of our lurking ordinance. This ordinance is short and states in its entirety: “Lurking. No person, in any public or private place, shall lurk, lie in wait or be concealed with intent to commit any crime or unlawful act.”

While on its face this law is clearly vague, overbroad and possibly unconstitutional, its connection to race and class disparities may be a little harder to see.

Consider the following:

Of the 167 people arrested or cited for lurking in Minneapolis in 2006, 133, or more than 80%, were people of color. In 2007, of the 231 people arrested in lurking incidents 70% were people of color.

In 2006, the Council on Crime and Justice published a report, “Reducing Racial Disparity While Enhancing Public Safety,” that examined the complex, sometimes subtle but often far reaching effects of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Minneapolis’ lurking law was highlighted: “The racial disparity is larger for low level offenses where police officer discretion is greatest. In 2001 the equivalent of one out of four Black residents were cited for such low level offenses as disorderly conduct, loitering and lurking. For whites, the number was one in 60.” The report articulated the connection between arrest records (even when charges were dismissed or people were acquitted) and the long lasting obstacles to employment and housing that they often create.

Unsuccessful prosecution seems to be the norm for our lurking cases. Of the 136 adults arrested for Lurking last year, only 77 cases (or 56%) went on to be tried by the City Attorney's Office. 19 of these individuals were convicted. That means there was a successful prosecution rate of 25% and an overall conviction rate resulting from the 136 arrests of 14%. In other words, 85% of adults arrested for lurking in 2007 have not been convicted. This is the worst conviction rate of any of our so-called “livability crimes,” and is a far cry from the City’s goal of increasing the conviction rates on livability crimes to 65%.

The costs of these unsuccessful prosecutions are harder to measure. Two nights in jail cost tax payers $230 per person. Since 2003 we have spent at least $184,000 just processing the tickets involved and no one has even begun to estimate the much higher costs to the police department, attorney’s office, pubic defenders and community corrections.

While the lurking ordinance rarely leads to conviction and consumes precious public safety dollars, it also does something more subtle and more costly to the future health of our City: it increases the racial and economic disparities that plague us. Having a lurking arrest on their record increases the barriers that keep our fellow Minneapolitans locked in poverty and homelessness. It makes it harder to get a job, harder to find a home and less likely that one will get the educational and health services needed to be a successful and productive participant in society.

The convincing case that the Lurking ordinance is necessary to public safety has not been made. In a study of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. we found that 87 do not prohibit lurking at all. Five prohibit it only with concealed weapons, two refer to it in their loitering ordinances and only two (Grand Rapids and Minneapolis) have distinct “lurking” ordinances. It is easy to see how most cities do without it. Police already have numerous alternative ordinances they can use and the ability to question any person if they suspect criminal activity in order to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest.

I believe it is time to repeal Minneapolis’ lurking ordinance, and I am not alone. This effort is formally supported by the following: Access Works!, African American Family Services, African American Men’s Project, American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Barbara Schneider Foundation, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), Church of St. Stephen’s, Council on Black Minnesotans, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Elim Transitional Housing, Homeless Against Homelessness, Human Right to Housing Committee, Integrated Community Solutions Inc., Jewish Community Action, Legal Rights Center, Metrowide Engagement on Shelter and Housing, Minneapolis Urban League, Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Our Savior’s Outreach Ministries, Peace House, Sabathani Community Center, Salvation Army, Simpson’s Housing Services, St. Stephen’s Human Services, The Advocates for Human Rights, Twin Cities Community Voicemail, White Earth Urban Office, Women Planting Seeds and 180 Degrees, Inc.

By taking the step Friday of removing this ineffective law, we can continue to build on our powerful and positive record of the past few years. We can be a national leader by following the lead of our plans to reduce youth violence, end homelessness and reduce racial disparities. We can move closer to creating a system of community-centered policing and social services that deal effectively and constructively with the underlying causes of crime as we attack the racial and economic disparities outlined in the Mind the Gap report, and not only make our region more economically competitive but safer and more just as well.


=======

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan - Open House

The City's open house to get public input for the new Bicycle Master Plan is today. I wish I could make it but it looks like I will be too busy elsewhere.

The 2008 plan will include goals, policies, and design guidance in addition to a map of future facilities. It focuses on what folks are calling "the 6 E's of making a city bicycle friendly:" Education, Enforcement, Engineering, Encouragement, Evaluation, and Equity.

The plan reportedly includes a prioritized list of projects and initiatives. Public ideas and suggestions will be solicited at this event. A brief presentation will be given at 5, 6, and 7 p.m. Members of the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee will be present to answer questions. The open house will be held from 4:30 - 8 p.m. in Room 319 of the Minneapolis City Hall.

If any of you get to go I would love to hear some feedback directly about what you think.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

University on Board for Central Corridor

It looks like we've finally achieved a sense of unity on the Central Corridor LRT project that has been eluding us for months: the University is moving towards support for the Washington Avenue alignment. U President Bob Bruininks is quoted to say that "the university does not want to be in the position of bringing this project to a grinding halt or jeopardizing its possible future."



I'm glad to see the University taking this position, after the data on their preferred Northern Alignment clearly indicated that it couldn't meet the federal funding formula. The City, County and University are making good progress on a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the mitigation that should be done as part of the project, betterments to the area that should be done outside of the project, and issues about design control on Washington Avenue. In the months ahead it will especially important for the City, County and University to work with neighborhoods to be sure the line serves the residents and business closest to it, as well as the larger region.

I'm hopeful that when we apply for federal funds this fall, we will have the full support of all of the project partners, making much more likely that this vitally important project will be built.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Today's Lurking Hearing

We had a very interesting and, in the end, disappointing Committee hearing and discussion today regarding the Lurking repeal effort.

We heard outstanding public testimony with some 20 people speaking in favor of repealing lurking, some supporting the repeal but not with any expansion to loitering and one person speaking in favor of keeping lurking.

In the end however, Council Member Paul Ostrow finally put forward a motion to return the item to author. This will go to the full Council for a vote on June 20 because it passed the committee 3-2, with CM Samuels abstaining.

I do not expect this repeal effort to succeed at the Council. I will continue to make my case however. It would not be the first time the majority of the Council overturned something from the Public Safety Committee, but it will not happen without some significant work from both within and from outside City Hall.

As disappointing as the vote was today and as hopeless as I feel about winning this one, I also feel very inspired and proud today to be standing with all the advocates and others who came in to speak both today and at our last meeting. They made the case beautifully and they helped me understand and remember why I am here.

Lurking Data Analysis

My office has gone through data on Lurking arrests and convictions in 2007, provided by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and City Attorney's Office (CAO), and here's what we've found:

231 people were arrested in Lurking incidents in 2007 The race of arrestees is as follows:
118 African American
61 White
22 Other
14 Indian
8 Asian
8 Unknown

This means that 51% of Lurking arrestees in 2007 were African American and 70% were people of color. These reflect the 2006 pattern pretty well. In '06 there were 167 people arrested or cited for “lurking” in the City. 133 of these people were people of color. 21 were homeless

If you look at it from how effective these arrests are in terms of actually leading to a conviction it gets more interesting. Of the 231 involved in incidents, at least 150 people were arrested for Lurking in 2007, 136 of them adults. Only 77 cases (or 56% of the 136 total) have been tried by the City Attorney's Office. 19 of these individuals have been convicted. That means there was a successful prosecution rate of 25% and an overall conviction rate resulting from the 136 arrests of 14%.

This means that 85% of the adults arrested for Lurking in 2007 have not been convicted. This compares extremely unfavorably to the successes the CAO has had in prosecuting other livability offenses. For instance, in 2007 the CAO achieved the following conviction rates for the following so-called livability crimes:

Graffiti: 82%
Minor Consumption: 77%
Prostitution: 72%
Public Urination: 64%
Public Consumption of Alcohol: 62%
Disorderly Conduct: 58%
Noisy Party: 57%
Loitering with an Open Bottle: 57%
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia: 54%
Trespassing: 52%
Aggressive Solicitation: 51%
Littering and Spitting: 44%
Even Loitering has a higher success rate of 32%.

For the record, the City Attorney's Office lists among its objectives in it business plan that, "perpetrators of livability crimes will be successfully prosecuted," and identifies the measure to "increase conviction rates on livability crimes to 65%."


I believe that this data strongly supports my argument that the Lurking ordinance is not an effective use of our precious public safety resources and does not support the goals of our Attorney' office. We are better served by focusing enforcement actions on crimes with specific, verifiable behaviors and relying on The Lurking ordinance simply doesn't keep us safe.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Repealing the Lurking Law - Public Hearing Tomorrow @ 2 p.m.

The final day of the Public Hearing on the Lurking Repeal will occur at the Public Service and Regulatory Services Wednesday, on June 11. The meeting starts at 1 and this item is listed as "time certain" to begin at 2 pm.The matter will likely be decided on by the full Council at its next meeting, Friday, June 20.

To accomplish this repeal effort, I am also proposing to add more behaviors to the loitering ordinance, making it cover crimes related to vandalism and theft.

As I have said before about the Lurking Ordinance, I believe that this poorly written, old law is an example of how our city government participates in a larger criminal justice system that is racist and criminalizes poor people. I have become convinced that the Lurking ordinance in particular, and laws like it, play a subtle, but very real, role in the criminalization of Black, Latino and Native American men in particular.

I oppose this law on practical as well as moral grounds. It is a waste of resources and does nothing to actually solve crime or livability problems in our communities. I prefer a “hot spots” strategy to community crime problem areas. Such a strategy has the flexibility and focus to actually address issues of livability and public safety for the long term rather than provide the short term, costly and ineffective kind of “revolving door” approach that lurking enforcement does.

I am asking all like minded individuals to let their voices be heard on this one. If you support this repeal, please consider letting the City Council know before Friday. At most I need people to come in tomorrow and speak at the public hearing; at least I need them to send an email to show that they support this small effort. If you do send an email (you can send an email, send it to me at cam.gordon@ci.minneapolis.mn.us) and I will make sure it gets into the public record. It would be most helpful to include the ward you live in (if you are from Minneapolis) or the business address that own or work in (if it is in Minneapolis). If you don’t know the ward, list the neighborhood.

You can see the specific ordinance amendments here:

And get more details on my reasoning behind the repealing by seeing all my posts on the lurking ordinance here:


Currently this effort is supported by the following:

The Coalition to Repeal the Minneapolis Lurking Ordinance

Access Works!
African American Family Services
African American Men’s Project
American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota
Barbara Schneider Foundation
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
Church of St. Stephen’s
Council on Black Minnesotans
Communities United Against Police Brutality
Elim Transitional Housing
Homeless Against Homelessness
Human Right to Housing Committee
Integrated Community Solutions, Inc.
Jewish Community Action
Legal Rights Center
Metrowide Engagement on Shelter and Housing
Minneapolis Urban League
Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers
Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless
Myron Orfield
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
Our Savior’s Outreach Ministries
Peace House
Sabathani Community Center
Salvation Army
Simpson’s Housing Services
St. Stephen’s Human Services
The Advocates for Human Rights
Twin Cities Community Voicemail
White Earth Urban Office
Women Planting Seeds
180 Degrees, Inc.

===

I am concerned that even this compromise won’t pass and could really use your help. Thank you for any help you can offer.


P.S. From the Children's Defense Fund:

"Why Do 1 in 3 Black Boys End Up in Prison?

Imagine coming into this world with a prison cell already reserved in your name. That is the tragedy that awaits at least one in three Black boys and one in six Latino boys. Millions of poor American children are condemned to prison by the time they reach their teens. According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s most recent report entitled "America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline"
...
Today, 580,000 Black males are serving sentences in state or federal prison, while fewer than 40,000 Black males earn a bachelor’s degree each year.
...
A child is born into poverty every 36 seconds in the U.S.
...
Minority youth represent just 39% of the U.S. juvenile population, but account for over 60% of the juveniles incarcerated."

Free Speech

The Remington/Ostrow protest registration policy passed the Council last Friday. Only CM Gary Schiff and I voted against it. Before it passed however we we able to successful divide it into two proposals. The first, which included the registration provisions, is the only section that passed. The second, which included all the police conduct provisions, was referred back to the Public Safety Committee where it will be taken up again on Wednesday June 11.



Before the registration portion passed, however, we managed to win an important victory with the help of CM Elizabeth Glidden: this resolution will not become a permanent policy of the City, but will only be effective during the week and a half around the RNC. Interestingly, I put forward the exact same amendment in committee, and it was voted down 3-2. We're not sure exactly what changed Council Members' minds, but the support for our position of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, Women Against Military Madness, Minnesota ACORN and OutFront Minnesota seem to have helped.



Another amendment that was made in committee and attempted again at the full Council was to remove the clause regarding sole and exclusive use and change the word "must" to the phrase "are encouraged to." This amendment lost on an 8-5 vote. Those who voted for it: me, Gary, Scott Benson, Elizabeth Glidden and Ralph Remington.

Another amendment that lost was one that would have created an appeal process for those assembly plans that were not approved by the Director of Regulatory Services. Now, because this failed to pass, the only recourse people will have who object to being denied is the courts.



This policy is still a bad idea, but at least its impact will be limited. I'll be interested to see if even one protest group comes forward to register an event and receive their sole and exclusive use of a City sidewalk during RNC.



The Police Conduct part of the resolution, a set of very specific police policies for dealing with public assemblies, was referred back to committee for more work. This does have some very good aspect. I have several ideas for improving it and hope to strengthen it as much as possible.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Central Corridor

The Governor and legislative leaders made an end of the session deal that includes $70 million in state funding for the Central Corridor LRT project. Lawmakers also passed a measure that will exempt the Central Corridor from state sales tax, which will save the project about $9 million.



Additionally, the Metropolitan Council has voted to proceed with the Washington Ave alignment, rather than the Northern alignment alternative. This decision was driven in large part by the data that showed that the number of anticipated riders did not justify the cost of Northern Alignment and it would not fit into the federal government’s Cost Effectiveness Index.



I am hopeful that this decision will now allow this project to go forward. The central corridor has the potential to be of great benefit to the neighborhoods in the area, the city of Minneapolis and to the larger region. Thanks in part to the studies of the tunnel, at-grade on Washington and the Northern Alignment options, we now have a clearer understanding of what kind of mitigation will be required if the Washington Avenue alignment is to be successful. I am convinced that the only way the Washington at-grade alignment will work is if it is closed to vehicles, other than buses and emergency vehicles, and if adequate improvements are made to area roads. I look forward to working with the University, impacted neighborhoods, City staff and others to craft a mitigation plan that will address the expected traffic impacts of closing Washington Ave and ensure that plans and resources are in place to address potential traffic problems and improve safety, walkability, and neighborhood-friendly development.

The Council held a public hearing today on this project, but you can still submit written public comments until June 9 to kelly.moriarty@ci.minneapolis.mn.us. The Transportation and Public Works committee will discuss this project at their regularly scheduled meeting on June 10, at 9:30am, and the Council will make a final decision about local approval on June 20. The County will also hold a public hearing on June 17, 1:30 pm - Hennepin County Government Center A-2400, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis. Open house in Room A-2350 at 12:30 pm.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bicycle Master Plan Open House

The City is hosting an open house to solicit public input for a new Bicycle Master Plan on Wednesday June 18, 4:30–8pm, in City Hall room 319. Unlike the last bicycle plan, approved in 2001, this new document will include policies and design guidance in addition to a map of future facilities, and a prioritized list of projects and initiatives. A brief presentation will be given at 5PM, 6PM, and 7PM. Members of the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (including yours truly) will be present to answer questions.

Road Rules for Cyclists

Partly due to a request by my office, Representative Phyllis Kahn has introduced a bill, for consideration next year, to substantially improve the traffic laws with regards to bicycles. For cyclists, the proposal would make stop signs function like yield signs, and stop lights function like stop signs. I am very interested in exploring this further and will be working within the City to support this on our legislative agenda. I'd appreciate finding out what you think about this and what possible concerns you think people might raise to it and how we might address these. To read the bill, look here.

Free Speech

At today's press conference, Council Member Schiff and I were joined by Chuck Samuelson, director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, and representatives of Women Against Military Madness, and Minnesota ACORN and OutFront Minnesota in opposing the proposed Ostrow/Remington protest registration process.




We have also received a letter from Bill McCarthy, President of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation that states, in part, the following:




"It remains our position that the proposed Resolution is a solution in search of a problem. We do not need it." Bill goes on to state that Labor remains "concerned... about provisions in the Resolution that appear to give broad discretion to the police to restrict First Amendment activities in the event that a particular organization chooses not to register... Thus, although there is no formal penalty for declining to register, it appears that in at least two places the Resolution grants to the police undefined discretion to restrict First Amendment activity based on the decision not to register."




I couldn't have stated these concerns better myself. I hope that my colleagues read this letter carefully, along with similar letters from the MCLU and others, before making their decisions Friday.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Longfellow Mural Project

The Longfellow Community Coalition has received one of the City’s Graffiti Innovation Grants and will be using this funding to create murals on sites often blighted by graffiti and vandalism this summer. Local youth will work with a contracted artist to design and paint the murals.



They are currently seeking volunteers and youth ages 12 – 16 to make this project a success. Youth will attend two afternoon sessions the week prior to the mural to learn about muraling and graffiti from an arts instructor and to develop a concept for the mural. The following weekend will be spent painting the mural with a celebration afterwards. They are also looking for adult volunteers to assist at the mural sites including priming the site ahead of time, being part of our arts advisory council to work with the artist and determine themes that reflect our neighborhood, and assisting our youth muralists on painting days.



If you are artistically inclined or have a desire to work with youth in our community, please contact Joanna at 612-722-4529 or email her at joanna@longfellow.org. For more information come to the LCC Community Connections meeting this Tuesday, June 3rd at Longfellow Park, which is located at 3435 36th Ave S.