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:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Press on Diversity Audit

The Diversity Audit of the City's boards and commissions that my office is conducting has gotten some great press this morning from Briana Bierschbach the Minnesota Daily.

I am hoping that we will be able to survey everyone on our boards, commissions and committees this summer and can have an accurate picture of the make up of our appoint positions this fall.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Minneapolis Second Fittest City

The American College of Sports Medicine's American Fitness Index Report ranks Minneapolis the second fittest of the fifty largest cities in the country. The only fitter city, according to ACSM, is Washington, DC.

The reasons they give for Minneapolis' fitness include the number of people biking and walking to work, the amount of parkland within the city, the number of park facilities (tennis courts, dog parks, golf courses, playgrounds, etc), and the number of farmers markets in town.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cyclist Killed in Downtown

I was incredibly saddened to read yesterday that a cyclist was crushed by a truck in downtown Minneapolis, at the intersection of Park Ave and 14th St S.

Today, I read that the driver of the truck will not be cited in any way for his role in the accident. From the news reports, it's fairly clear that the cyclist was proceeding through the intersection legally, in a marked bike lane, and the driver of the truck violated the rules of the road by turning left into him.

Cities and countries that get more people biking and walking do not do so only through better infrastructure. They also make very clear that drivers who hit and kill cyclists and pedestrians will face severe consequences, and by doing so increase the safety of bicycling. The decision by the Minneapolis Police Department to allow this driver entirely off the hook sends the opposite message: drivers are free to hit and kill cyclists, while violating traffic laws, without fear.

This is not new. My aide was struck purposefully by a hit-and-run driver in 2006. He made a police report. The City chose not to pursue the case, and the driver suffered no consequences.

I will be making my displeasure with the MPD's response to this and other car/bike accidents clear to the MPD Administration, and working to improve the patchy, inadequate enforcement of traffic laws against drivers who hit cyclists.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Burning Proposed at the HERC

I want people to be aware of this and am hoping some of you can follow it closely in the weeks ahead.

Covanta energy, on behalf of Hennepin County Environmental Services, has submitted an application to amend their existing conditional use permit for their downtown facility known as the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC aka "the garbage burner"). They are asking to be allowed to burn an average of 212 more tons of garbage a day at the HERC plant. The maximum allowed now is 1000 tons so this is a 21 percent increase. It could amount to over 77,000 more tons a year.

This matter will now go forward to the Planning Commission for a public hearing and a decision on June 8th. The staff report should be completed by June 2. The report will also likely include a recommendation. The Planning Commission is the decision making body about this issues since it is considered an Amendment to a Conditional Use Permit. If the Planning Commission decision is appealed it will go the city Council’s Zoning and Planning committee and then to the full Council.

If this does come to the Council on appeal, I am bound to withhold a final decision until the committee meeting and to base it on the public record. So, while I will be careful not to make a final decision prematurely, I will also be very careful to encourage and heed any and all information and views provided and I will help make sure that they are made part of the public record. If you have questions that you would like to ask planning staff or if you have comments or information you would like entered into the public record you can contact Kimberly Holien, City Planner at 612 673-2402 or at

I welcome your reaction, guidance and help. I will work to keep you informed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2009 Climate Change Grants

Congratulations to Second Ward recipients of the 2009 round of Climate Change Grants: Seward Neighborhood Group, which will buy down the cost of energy audits and encourage people to walk to local businesses; and Bedlam Theater, which will encourage attendees of its shows to take the Minnesota Energy Challenge and use bikes and transit to get to the show. You can find out more about these and all the other great grantees at the Minneapolis Sustainability website.

Mpls Economic Recovery Website

The City has launched a new website about our economic recovery strategy. It will help us be as transparent as is possible about how Minneapolis is pursuing federal economic stimulus dollars, and how we are putting taxpayer dollars to work to create jobs and get our economy moving.

Water Survey

As part of the City's ongoing work to promote drinking high-quality, inexpensive and environmentally-preferable public water, we are attempting to gather resident input through an online survey on drinking water habits. If you’d like to help the City better understand water consumption habits, please take about five minutes to complete the survey, which does not ask for identification or contact information.

Bike/Walk to Work Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow, May 14, is Bike Walk to Work Day. I'll be leading a ride from the Birchwood Cafe, where there will be free coffee and baked goodies for anyone with a bike helmet. The ride leaves for the downtown celebration at 7:30am, and we'll stop to pick more people up at Currie Park at about 7:45. The downtown event will feature music, appearances from local officials, prize giveaways, free food and vendor exhibits. To find a ride near you, go here.

Even if you can’t join me at the Birchwood or walk or bike to work on your own, the event is a great reminder that many short trips can easily be replaced with biking or walking. In the Twin Cities, 40 percent of trips made each day are less than two miles. That would take about 12 minutes on a bicycle or 30 minutes to walk. And, you’d be saving gas, helping the environment and increasing your fitness.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Transportation Electrification

I'm incredibly excited by a new partnership City staff have worked hard to put together. The City has now officially applied for federal stimulus dollars along with Ford Motor Company and, we hope, Xcel Energy, on a project to show just how it will work to electrify the way we move people in our city.

As you can read here, we'll end up with more than a hundred parking places where people can plug in and recharge electric vehicles, along with 18 new electric (or plugin electric hybrid) vehicles. It's a great step towards making it easier for residents to decide to purchase electric cars. I want to specifically mention and thank the two City staff who helped make this happen: Dan Huff in Environmental Services and John Scharfbillig in Public Works.

Alcohol at the New U Stadium

I'm glad to read that University President Robert Bruininks remains opposed to selling alcohol throughout the new University Stadium. I hope he sticks to this position, and if the choice is offered between selling alcohol in the whole stadium or in none of it, I hope he chooses the latter. As we've seen in the recent past, alcohol, University undergraduates and large U-sponsored events don't mix well.

Second Ward Green Businesses in the Headlines

In just the last few days, a couple of Second Ward businesses have been in the press for their forward-thinking environmental business practices.

First up, the location where Mayor Rybak and I celebrated Earth Day this year: the Southeast Como business Murphy Warehouse. It's great to see a business owner like Richard Murphy prove to his fellow businesspeople that there's a bottom-line reason to make green investments. I'm also deeply satisfied with the role that the City has played in helping create a financial motivation for greening his operations through the stormwater fee. Rather than continuing to dump raw sewage into the Mississippi every time we get a heavy rain, or increasing everyone's taxes equally to pay for the improvements we need to make to prevent these overflow events, the City decided to charge people for the stormwater their property generates. This means that enterprising, environmentally-minded entrepreneurs like Richard can make smart investments that both help their balance sheets and the City's work to protect water quality.

Second, the Seward Coop is adding a new service to their green portfolio, along with locally-grown and sustainable food: they'll be the city's newest HourCar car-sharing hub. This fits right in with the Coop's mission and the Seward neighborhood's focus on sustainability.

It's great to see this attention being paid to the good work our homegrown businesses are doing for the environment.