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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pedestrian Master Plan Open House

The City is hosting a second public meeting to share results and seek input on the Minneapolis Citywide Pedestrian Master Plan on:

Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Presentation at 6 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall

Please attend and help us spread the word.

More information is available here.

Journalists Detained, Possessions Confiscated

I am concerned by the reports of the incident Monday night in which Minneapolis police officers detained three out-of-town journalists/videographers and confiscated personal possessions including two video cameras, two still cameras, two cellphones, notebooks, fliers, a backpack full of clothing and other personal effects, and even allegedly some cash.

However, I’m very pleased to say that after the media attention (see here, here, here, here and here) and my inquiries, the journalists’ property has been returned to them today.

I have heard from the MPD administration that these journalists were detained on suspicion of trespassing on railroad property, and that the personal belongings of these journalists were “held pending review by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

The journalists have flatly denied that they set foot on railroad land. There are several reasons that I suspect they are telling the truth:

- They claim to have been walking to the corner of 6th Ave NE and 27th St NE from the bus stop at Washington Ave and 27th, two blocks to the east, where they had just gotten off a number 17 bus. This is supported by the bus schedule, which indeed show that a bus stops at that corner at 1:28am, minutes from the beginning of the incident. The rail yards are to the west of the house at which they were staying.
- According to the journalists’ account of the incident, the police originally questioned them about car burglaries, not trespassing. This has not been contradicted by any statement of the MPD.
- The MPD claim that officers confiscated these possessions to search for documentary evidence that the journalists were indeed trespassing on rail land. This offers no explanation whatsoever as to why the bag full of clothing, notebooks, fliers and money were confiscated, as none of these possessions could possibly offer evidence of the alleged trespass.

The City Attorney is still deciding whether or not to press misdemeanor trespass charges.

I have joined with the journalists in calling for the MPD to release the squad car videos, which can quickly substantiate either the MPD or the journalists’ version of events.

If the evidence fails to prove that these folks were trespassing on railroad property, I think they deserve a public apology from the City.

This is unfortunately not the only incident in the last several days in which journalists have been targeted by the MPD. KSTP news has footage of one of their cameramen being pushed into an elevator by an MPD sergeant, to prevent him from filming a protest. Another person also claims to have been detained and verbally abused by MPD officers for taking pictures from a public sidewalk.

This is a disturbing pattern, and as I have said, it sets exactly the tone the Council was looking to prevent when we created the work group to create a model for how the City can preserve the right to political speech and civic debate without disrupting community life during the 2008 Republican National Convention last Spring, and when we passed the Police Practices Resolution just last month. Part the latter explicitly prohibits MPD officers from confiscating cameras.

I hope that by returning these civilians’ possessions we can put this incident behind us, and that by taking a careful look at all these incidents, we can prevent further missteps and establish a better climate of welcoming public scrutiny and the independent, free press and mass media to enhance and strengthen civic participation rather than stifle it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

2009 Budget

Mayor Rybak has presented his proposed 2009 budget to the Council. I'm thrilled about some of the priorities he has set forth:




Welcome new investments in infrastructure. RT is proposing $27.5 million in new transportation infrastructure spending, enough to repave or repair more than one third of all the heavily-traveled streets and parkways maintained by the City of Minneapolis. This includes $2.1 million for the Hiawatha Bike Trail lighting and extension project in 2013, $2.2 million for the U of M bike trail from Bridge 9 to the Transitway through Dinkytown, and $2.1 million for the Riverlake Greenway in south Minneapolis. It also includes the first-ever dedicated bike infrastructure maintenance budget line, which will invest $100,000 per year into keeping our off-street trails and on-street lanes in good condition.




Continued attention to preventing youth violence. The budget includes $75,000 in one time funding for implementing our Youth Violence Prevention Action Plan. The Mayor also recommends spending $150,000 on continuing the Youth are Here buses.




A smaller than expected property tax increase. For the past few years, Minneapolis property owners have faced levy increases of 8% per year. This has been quite a burden, especially to people on fixed and limited incomes. This year's proposed levy increase is 6.9%, still not as low as we would like but a step in the right direction.




The 2009 budget will be adopted in December. I look forward to learning and sharing more in the weeks ahead and I encourage you to share your budget priorities and concerns with me.

Washington Ave Bridge Repairs

From the Star Tribune:

Concerns about the strength of the pedestrian portion of the Washington Avenue bridge -- the distinctive double-decked span over the Mississippi River that connects the East and West Banks of the University of Minnesota campus -- have prompted Hennepin County to limit where bikes and pedestrians are allowed on the
bridge's upper level.



Pedestrians and cyclists will be limited to the 'breezeway,' the sheltered semi-indoor space at the center of the bridge. With the high ped/bike volumes on the bridge, it will be pretty congested until the County finishes its work, hopefully by next spring or early summer. While the U is looking into possibilities for keeping a bike facility on the bridge, it may be helpful for as many cyclists as possible to use Bridge 9 to get from the East Bank to the West Bank.

This unexpected closure emphasizes the need I see to build more redundancy into our non-motorized infrastructure network, an often overlooked benefit of new bike and pedestrian trails.

Curfew Reminder

From time to time, the Minneapolis Police Department puts out a reminder about the curfews for kids in Minneapolis. Curfew is an important tool for preventing youth violence, and ensuring that children get the sleep they need to do well in school. Make sure your kids are in by the following times:


Under 12
Weekdays: Home by 9:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: Home by 10:00 p.m.


12 to 14
Weekdays: Home by 10:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: Home by 11:00 p.m.


15 to 17
Weekdays: Home by 11:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: Home by Midnight

Friday, August 22, 2008

University District Moratorium

Today I got Council approval for a development moratorium in the University District neighborhoods (Marcy Holmes, Prospect Park, Southeast Como and Cedar Riverside). The moratorium prohibits demolition of single family homes, duplexes and triplexes, and also bars new construction of 1-4 unit residential developments. However, projects that wish to be exempted from the moratorium may apply to the City's Zoning and Planning Committee.



The purpose of the moratorium is to give City Planning staff the space to work with the University District Partnership Alliance and the neighborhoods on a study to address land use and development concerns in the University district, including parking, occupancy, design standards, zoning, inspections and the development review process. The moratorium will ensure that property owners do not make major changes while the study is being completed.

While the moratorium takes effect immediately, the matter is now referred to the Zoning and Planning Committee where a public hearing date will be set and more specifics about the conditions upon which waivers will be granted and other matters will be worked out. I welcome your thoughts and concerns (as always).

I believe that the establishment of the University District Alliance and it early effectiveness has been and will continue to be key to the success of this study and review. I am very hopeful that the moratorium will give us the breathing room needed to make zoning and other regulatory changes that will not only improve conditions for residents and businesses in the area, but also for future private development efforts and developers. Clearly framing and defining what kinds of future development is desired, allowed and appropriate will lead to better, easier and more productive private investment decisions


I look forward to working with members of the Alliance and others you live or do business in the area, as well as with City staff and the neighborhood organizations as we move forward to find unique solutions to the unique challenges facing University District residents, so that when development occurs it enhances, rather than diminishes, our neighborhoods.

Prospect Park Historic Designation

At today's Council meeting, I moved to nominate the Prospect Park neighborhood for local historic designation. The City's Planning staff have been directed to bring this nomination forward to the City's Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) by September 16. If the HPC approves the nomination, the neighborhood will be granted interim historic preservation, which will stay in place until a final decision by the neighborhood and the City's Planning Department about whether to put in place the historic district, what the boundaries will be, and what specific protections will be included.




Interim protections will cover all external alterations to buildings and accessory structures (like garages). This includes demolitions, additions, renovations and other improvements to properties are considered to be contributing properties to the district. Basically, if property owners want to tear down a house or put on a new porch, they'll have to bring their plans through HPC.



It might be interesting for folks to know the history of this issue. Back in 2001, the local historic consulting firm Hess-Roise drafted a study recommending historic designation of a district covering much of Prospect Park. After the study was given to the City, projects (including a demolition of a home on Bedford St SE) were brought through the HPC by Planning staff in 2002. After a staff change in recent years, several demolition projects were not brought through HPC, due to the fact that the neighborhood does not have formal interim protections. To clear up this confusion, recently the Prospect Park / East River Road Improvement Association unanimously voted to ask me to nominate the district for local designation.

If the HPC approves this nomination then we will begin a lengthy process of completing the local designation study. I am sure that we will use and rely on the work done to date, but it will also be very important inform property owners and to know that there is strong community support for this effort and that it is supported particularly by a good majority of property owners. Clearly, there are advantages to historic designation in terms of preserving historic resources but there may also be perceived disadvantages as certain limits and guidelines are put in place which may limit the flexibility property owners have to alter those buildings that are identified ans contributing to the historic district.

It is my intention to work closely with City staff and the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association to develop an extensive and effective community involvement process if this nomination and study go forward and well before any final decision is made about local designation as an historic district. To learn more about other historic districts in the City you may want to visit here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Parade of Community Gardens

This next Saturday, August 16, Gardenworks will host the 3rd Annual Parade of Community Gardens from 10am-2pm, all over Minneapolis.

Be sure to check out the community gardens in the Second Ward:

- 5th Street Community Garden, 1800 block of 5th St S.
- Accord Garden, 15th Ave SE and Como Ave SE
- Cedar Highrise Gardens, 630 Cedar Ave S
- Glendale Children's Garden, 92 St. Mary's Ave SE
- O.W.L.S Community Garden, behind 819 Weeks Ave SE
- Seward Youth Peace Garden, 2309 28th Ave S (Seward Montessori School)
- Van Cleve Park "Green Thumb" Cutting Garden, 15th Ave SE and Como Ave SE

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bohemian Flats Day

Please join me Saturday, August 16, at Bohemian Flats Day at Riverside Park. This is a celebration of the immigrant community that existed in Bohemian Flats in the early history of Minneapolis, and the Cedar Riverside neighborhood’s broader history as a first stop for successive waves of immigrants to Minneapolis.

Bike Walk Celebration

The City’s new Bike Walk Ambassadors invite you to a Bike Walk Celebration on Sunday, August 17th, from 1-3pm at the park along Historic Saint Anthony Main Street. Meet the Bike Walk Ambassadors and Youth Ambassadors! See bikes for all ages, ability levels, and needs! Gather resources for walking as transportation and Safe Routes to Schools! Bring your family and friends and help launch our new effort to increase biking and walking in Minneapolis and its adjoining communities through education, outreach and encouragement.

Email Utility Bills!

Save paper and money on postage by signing up to receive your utility bills online! Just go here, then fill out the form on the back of your next billing stub and mail it in with your payment. If all Minneapolis utility customers signed up for electronic billing, each year the City would safe 44 tons of wood (equal to 302 trees) and enough energy to power seven homes. It’s also a great way for us to make your tax dollars go further.