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:

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Thank you email from 311

Every so often (and on a pretty regular basis actually) we get emails about what a good job some City staff person has done. Frequently these are about our police or fire department.

This compliment was emailed into 311 and it was such a touchy and dramtic storyI wanted to share it with you.

My name is Sally Smith and I wanted to take the time to let you know of
my gratitude towards the firemen of station #2, and Raul Ramos of station

Some men from Station #2 were grocery shopping on Memorial day when my
daughter Madeline, she’s 2, and I were shopping at Rainbow Foods at The
Quarry. Although she’s had probably HUNDREDS of grapes, she was munching
on some in the cart when I was pushing her around the store, and she
started to choke on one. I did all that I remembered from my
lifeguarding days 20 years ago to get that grape out, but no go. I turned
and basically threw Maddy into the arms of a fireman who was shopping in
our aisle I later found out this was Raul Ramos from station 11 who was
working for someone from station 2. He tried everything to no avail, that
grape was stuck. But because he and the others were there, he hit some
call button on his hip and about 12 firemen came running to our spot.

Some others tried the Heimlich, etc. I think one persons name was Matt May
nothing was helping. She was turning blue and losing consciousness.
Thankfully because the firemen were there, 911 was called pretty
immediately when it first happened, so an HCMC ambulance was there within
minutes. Of course to me this all seemed to take hours, but I guess it
was less than 5 minutes! But at the end, we were up and running to the
ambulance, Maddy in the arms of a lifelink ambulance crew that ALSO
happened to be shopping in the store.

By the grace of God the paramedic was able to pull that grape out with one
pull with the McGill forceps which I will never forget the name of!.
Maddy coughed, then cried….it was the best sound I have ever heard.

I have since talked to Raul and someone named John from station #2 and
thanked them, but I thought someone higher up should know of our
gratitude. We spent the night in HCMC since Fran did have some pulmonary
edema, but were home the next day and I doubt she remembers a thing! She’s
as sassy as ever, and has even had grapes again although I will admit,
they were cut up into such small pieces it was practically grape soup!.

But I just want someone to know that these men were wonderful and I am so
thankful. Raul did not hesitate a second, he grabbed Frannie and threw
her upside down, hit her back, tried to sweep it, etc. Other firemen
there were telling me that she was crying a bit, so she was getting some
air, and it was okay...and because they said it, I felt it. I know I was
panicking, VERY much panicking...and I was crying and begging and yelling
at these guys to do something! And through it all they were doing
everything they could with calmness, support and skill. In our eyes these
men are heroes even though they were not the ones to pull the grape out,
and it was not a fire they were in the middle of.

My family, which includes my husband and our 10 month old son,
along with Madeline, are beyond grateful and thankful to these men. I am
proud to live in such a city where these firemen exist. I feel safer
knowing they exist. You should be VERY proud too.
Again, thank you does not seem enough. But...thank you."



Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pawlenty's Unallotment

As you've likely heard, outgoing Governor Tim Pawlenty has "unalloted" $2.7 billion in State spending, rather than negotiate with the DFL-controlled legislature to find a workable compromise that would both raise revenues and cut spending.

Yet again, he has chosen to balance the State's books on the backs of local governments. Local Government Aid to Minneapolis will be cut by $8.5 million in 2009 and $21.3 million in 2010, for a total cut of $30 million through 2010.

With the Governor’s action today, on top of his previous draconian cuts to LGA, the City of Minneapolis receives 43 percent less from the State than we did six years ago.

The real kicker? The State of Minnesota is still using Minneapolis as a piggy bank. On top of the income tax the State collects from Minneapolis residents and workers, they take about $74 million off the top from our property taxes, and rake in $390 million in sales taxes generated in Minneapolis. Given what Pawlenty did today, the State now only returns 15% of those dollars back to Minneapolis and prohibits us from collecting any kind of income tax ourselves and restricts the use of our citywide sales tax (.05 percent that generated 29.5 million dollars in 2007) for use on Convention Center maintenance and debt.

The Minnesota Miracle has been destroyed, a victim of the misguided, bankrupt state financing philosophy of of Tim Pawlenty. I will be working with my colleagues to radically reframe the relationship between the City and the State, so that we can keep more of the nearly half-billion dollars in non-income tax revenue we generate for the State every year. We must stop depending on the Local Government Aid that Pawlenty has made clear we can no longer rely on.

Draft Pedestrian Master Plan

This morning, Public Works presented a draft of the City's first Pedestrian Master Plan to the Transportation and Public Works committee. I'm pleased to see this document, which the Council directed staff to create as part of the larger Access Minneapolis process. This marks the first time that the City has taken a comprehensive look at how our infrastructure and planning affect the walkability of our neighborhoods. I'm hoping that it will help us improve on the existing strengths in our pedestrian system, and close some of the gaps that I know are out there. My long-term goal is to get more people to choose walking over driving, to meet their daily needs.

The current plan is a draft, and is now going out to the public to gather input. Staff has scheduled a public meeting on Thursday, July 16, at the Minneapolis Central Library, with the following planned events:

5:30pm Walking Workshops
6:00pm Meeting
6:30pm Presentation

I hope to see you there.

Congratulations, Sharon

Minneapolis Police Department Assistant Chief Sharon Lubinski has been recommended by Senator Amy Klobuchar to be the next US Marshal for Minnesota. Congratulations to Sharon, and good luck in your new endeavor.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Homegrown Minneapolis Moves Forward

This afternoon, the Council took an important step toward a healthier, more sustainable, and more local food system. The Health, Energy and Environment (HEE) committee received and filed the fantastic Homegrown Minneapolis report and sent forward a resolution that puts Minneapolis on record supporting local food and will create a Homegrown Minneapolis Implementation Task Force to put into action the recommendations from the report. I was the lead author on this resolution, which was written primarily by my staff, and was joined by Council Members Glidden, Hodges, Hofstede, Remington, Schiff and Samuels as coauthors.

The committee also passed an amendment I brought forward clarifying that I will co-chair the Implementation Task Force, and adding another Council Member to the group. I have heard from Council Member Diane Hofstede that she's interested in taking that seat. I look forward to putting my time and energy into this important and continuing work.

Civil Rights Investigations

I agree with the cautious tone of last weekend's Star Tribune editorial on the proposed elimination of the Civil Rights office of investigations. They raise some good points about why local Civil Rights investigations are important and not necessarily a function that the State can adequately take on:

- Minneapolis has our own Civil Rights ordinance. Our investigators are trained to work with it. Will state investigators understand it and effectively enforce it? If not, is there any reason for us to retain our ordinance, or should we cede not only investigations but the definition of Civil Rights violations to the State?

- Minneapolis has a long history of leading on Civil Rights that goes back at least to Hubert Humphrey in the 1940s. If we give up our position of leadership - as the most diverse and one of the most progressive communities in the state - and instead follow the State's lead, what effect will that have on the future of Civil Rights for all Minnesotans?

I oppose scrapping Civil Rights investigations. If there are concerns about the quality and timeliness of our investigations, we should both raise our expectations and increase the support for the department.

The City of Minneapolis has gone through hard budgetary times before. For decades, through these fiscal tribulations, our Civil Rights has survived. Let's not let this crisis be its last.

Protest for Ahmednur

Last Friday, the family of Ahmednur Ali, the young man shot last year in front of the Brian Coyle center on the West Bank, gathered at City Hall to protest the release of the young man charged with his murder. I share their pain and frustration, and welcomed them when they arrived. This case was particularly disappinting because we a credible witness had stepped forward, but at the last minute, decided not to testify.

I spoke with the protester when the visited City Hall and committed to working with them to find more and better ways to encourage and support witneses you have the courage to step forward and to follow through and testify. I look forward to scheduling a meeting with some of the protest leaders in the weeks ahead.

I'm thankful to groups like Students Against Violence for their organizing - I hope that more and more Somali youth will hear their positive message of hope, peace, and responsibility.

The City's focus on youth violence prevention means, in part, that we are no longer treating youth violence as simply a criminal justice issue. However, in order for this program to work, the criminal justice aspect of the City's response must work; there must be meaningful consequences for crimes of violence, especially homicide. Unfortunately, none of the three homicides that occurred last year on the West Bank have resulted in convictions, to date.

This means that we all need to do more. Members of the ommunity who witness violent crimes need to listen to Students Against Violence and come forward. The Minneapolis Police Department and Hennepin County Attorney's Office need to make witnesses who come forward feel safe and protected from possible retribution. I will be advocating for them to do more to make the case and to demonstrate that they can keep witnesses safe. The rest of us, the community in which this terrible violence is occurring and going unpunished, need to support the families of the victims, encourage the witnesses, and set a positive example of solving our problems without resorting to violence.

On that last point, I'm encouraged to see the anti-violence work that's going on in the community. In addition to SAV, there is a new "culture of peace" program that has made great progress on the West Bank. It's a collaboration between the West Bank Community Coalition and the Somali American Education Program, with support from the Center on Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA). Two weeks ago, a large and diverse group of Somalis - men and women, young people and elders - graduated from their peacemaker training. The next step is for these folks to engage their neighbors around nonviolent problem-solving and mediation.

It's terrible to hear that a young man's murderer has gone free. But the great work of so many people on creating a culture of peace in our neighborhoods gives me hope.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Council Votes to Move Forward on RCV

This morning, the Council made a momentous decision: to use ranked choice voting in the municipal election this fall. It passed in the wake of yesterday's slam-dunk Supreme Court decision on a 10-2 vote.

This decision is the culmination of years of effort on the part of many people, both inside the City enterprise and out. Here's a list of some of the major players and their contributions:

- Council Member Elizabeth Glidden: chaired the Elections committee and shepherded ranked choice voting through the implementation process.

- Former Elections Director Cindy Reichert: though never completely convinced that 2009 implementation was possible or advisable, still laid the groundwork for using ranked choice voting this fall.

- FairVote Minnesota Executive Director Jeanne Massey: passionately, effectively and tenaciously pushed the City to put ranked choice voting on the ballot in 2006 and to implement this fall. Never lost sight of the goal and never doubted that, with a lot of work, we could reach it.

- City Attorney Susan Segal: led the City's extremely successful response to the Voters Alliance lawsuit, gaining yesterday's victory at the Supreme Court.

- Mayor Rybak: weighed in unequivocally, time and time again, in favor of implementing this year, and put $75,000 in this year's budget to make ranked choice voting happen.

- Secretary of State Mark Ritchie: convened a ranked choice voting issues group that highlighted equipment issues and culminated in the Minneapolis ranked choice ordinance and the ranked choice voting bill at the Legislature.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to point out all the resources my office has put into ranked choice voting since I took office in 2006:

- I led the IRV Task Force in 2006, which made the report to Council that resulted in putting ranked choice voting on the ballot.

- I endorsed the ballot initiative in 2006, and my Aide Robin and I campaigned for it.

- Robin, at my direction, participated in the Secretary of State's issue group throughout 2007. He helped write what is now the Minneapolis ranked choice voting ordinance. He also traveled to Pierce County, Washington last fall to observe their first ranked-choice election, and wrote a detailed report with recommendations for how Minneapolis could copy their successes and avoid their mistakes.

- At every decision point, I have been crystal clear with my colleagues: I expected to use ranked choice voting this fall, and would only vote to not move forward as a true last resort.

Lastly, there is one other group that I believe deserves special recognition for this victory: the Minnesota Green Party. The Greens have been advocating and agitating on this issue for more than a decade. It's been a major plank in our platform since our inception. An unsuccessful ballot initiative in 2001 - which I believe planted the seeds for the successful initiative five years later - was primarily led by Greens. We accomplished what successful third parties typically do to make change in America: we convinced people in one of the major parties to take this issue on and make it their own.

One person in particular summed up this dynamic for me at today's meeting. Diane Steen-Hinderlie has worked for ranked choice voting for years. I first met her as a Green in the late '90s. She gathered signatures in '01, and again in '06. She's followed the issue closely since it passed in '06, and was present to watch - and, as it turns out, applaud - the Council's action this morning. Along with all of the powerful people I named above who played some part in making ranked choice voting happen this fall - Mayors, Council Members, Secretaries of State and department heads - this victory belongs to Diane, and many others like her.

Dania Hall Site Planning

The City is moving forward with plans to sell the old Dania Hall Site on Cedar Ave and 5th.

Earlier this week we held of first meeting of a newly formed advisory group to help navigate the process. We will be looking at both short term and long term solutions.

To help with information sharing and planning efforts the City has set up a Dania Site website here. You can find the notes from the advisory committee meeting here.

The West Bank Community Coalition is also hosting a meeting June 24 regarding the interim use of the site. Here is a flyer for the meeting.

Joe Bernard is the City staff person heading this up and he is happy to take comments or questions.

This is a very important parcel of land on a major commercial corridor in the community and is full of emotional and historical significance me and for many others. I recall some wonderful evenings performing in the Dania ballroom with my brothers in our old Rock band, the New Psychenauts, back in the 70s. It was a great tragedy when the beautiful Hall burned down and I will do whatever I can to make sure that what is built there in the future will be something that will serve the community in a way we can all be proud of.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

City Wins on Ranked Choice Voting!

As you can read here, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the City (and our allies in this case, FairVote Minnesota) on the question of the constitutionality of ranked choice voting. Their decision leaves no doubt: ranked choice voting is constitutional. Congratulations and thanks are due to our great City Attorney and her staff, who did a fantastic job defending the City's position. Jim Dorsey, who represented FairVote pro-bono, did wonderfully as well. My colleague Elizabeth Glidden, who chairs the Elections committee, also deserves quite a bit of credit for shepherding this difficult issue to this successful conclusion.

As I see it, the last impediment to using ranked choice voting in this year's election has been removed. I will be voting no on Council Member Barb Johnson's introduction of an ordinance declaring we're not ready to implement ranked choice voting this year. We will be ready, and we don't need two more weeks of confusion as to whether we're moving forward. I will be encouraging all of my colleagues to do the same. It's my hope that as of tomorrow, it will be clear to everyone in Minneapolis - voters, candidates, Elections staff and elected officials - that we will be using ranked choice voting this fall, and that our task from now until November is to get it right.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Future Funding for Neighborhood Revitalization

The proposal to establish a new tax increment financing (TIF) district to help pay off Target Center debt and fund neighborhood revitalization activities will be coming up for review, possible amendments and final approval this summer. . The Plan can be found here. The Consolidated Redevelopment TIF District is being established in accordance with the legislation many of us worked so hard to get passed in 2008.

I am a strong supporter of the TIF district and believe that it is essential to future funding of neighborhood controlled planning and revitalization efforts in Minneapolis. I am also concerned, that given the tough economic times and likely short falls in our City budget because of cuts to our local government aid

I support funding Target Center debt relief, (which will help our general fund and lighten the load on property tax payers,) and neighborhood revitalization equally and will fight hard to ensure the neighborhoods get their share.

The district will be comprised of all of the property currently located within 15 existing TIF districts that are due to terminate on August 1, 2009. Maps and a list of parcels that are in the District are included in the TIF Plan. The TIF Plan is being sent to the Hennepin County Board , the School Board, the City Planning Commission, neighborhood organizations and other interested parties for review and comment.

The official public hearing for this will likely be at the Community Development Committee at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in Room 317 City Hall. The City Council is expected to consider the proposed plan on Friday, July 31, 2009. The Council can approve, amend or reject the proposed plan. Comments are due by noon July 20 to be part of the official record. If you or your organization would like to meet to discuss the Consolidated TIF District, if you would like paper copies of the TIF Plan, or if you have any questions, you can contact me or Jeff Streder, at (612) 673-5130