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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MPD Actions at "Tour de Fletcher"

My office has received multiple contacts about the Minneapolis Police Department's response to the bike ride and fundraiser organized by the supporters of the RNC8 this past Saturday. Forty to fifty cyclists, who rode peacefully and obeyed traffic rules, were trailed by at least four bike cops, one marked and one unmarked squad car, and two booking vans. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct.

After the morning ride, the group met, as planned, at Walker United Methodist Church for lunch. They declined to continue with their First Amendment-protected, peaceful and legal assembly, because they were intimadated. It sounds like MPD officers waited around the church for about two hours, waiting for the ride to resume.

Yesterday I asked for more information from Minneapolis Police administration. I was concerned, given the evidence I had seen so far, that the MPD's actions last Saturday were in violation of the Council's "Police Policies for Public Assemblies" resolution from July of last year (see here and go to page 572). The twenty-fifth clause of that resolution states that "MPD presence at public assemblies will be based on legitimate public safety concerns and not be based upon intent to chill First Amendment rights." It is extremely difficult for me to believe that there was a "legitimate public safety concern" that justified this level of police presence. The materials the RNC8 distributed and the web page notice of the event make clear that the ride was to be legal and family friendly, making pretty clear that the organizers did not intend even nonviolent civil disobedience.

What I've heard from folks in the MPD Administration is that they mistakenly assumed that this bike ride was fundamentally the same as a Critical Mass, and implemented the same level of response that they use for CM rides. It was not a fundamentally similar event - the ride was planned as a fully legal event with a planned route. The number of participants was significantly smaller than the average CM. A Deputy Chief has admitted that the MPD response should have been scaled back when it became clear that this was a different kind of event.

I have asked that if MPD has any questions when trying to plan for future events of this sort, they call my office. I can help find out the intentions of the organizers and let MPD know where this level of public expenditure and police presence is not just unwarranted, but likely to be viewed as intimidating.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Heritage Preservation Ordinance Changes

This morning, the Council voted on a significant overhaul of the City's Heritage Preservation ordinance. Though everyone is relatively clear that these changes are a step in the right direction, there has been a certain level of controversy in the neighborhoods and among heritage preservation experts. Many of the questions that have been asked are about whether the proposed changes go far enough. Folks wanted to have a better idea what is included in a new definition in the code: 'destruction' of a historic resource. Neighborhoods also wanted to have more notice about demolitions.


Yesterday, I was prepared to bring two amendments to what staff had proposed. The first, which had full support of staff, was a better definition of destruction: "the removal, damage, or enclosure of architectural, mechanical, or landscape features that may have an adverse effect on the historical integrity and significance of a property including, but not limited to, the removal of the primary façade(s), character defining façade(s), or the removal of the roof of the structure for the purpose of raising the overall height of the building or roof." While I would have been happy with even more specificity, I think this met both staff's need for flexibility and the community's desire for clarity.


The second amendment was more controversial. I have heard concerns from a number of residents, many of them in Prospect Park, about demolition decisions being made without their knowledge. I put together a motion that would have required people applying for demolition permits to notify the appropriate neighborhood group(s) and Council Member(s), before the application would be considered complete. This would have given neighborhoods the opportunity to share any information they might have about the historic value of a structure with our staff before a determination is made as to whether it is a historic resource. I think we need to be honest with ourselves that neighborhoods may sometimes have information that City staff do not.





Heritage Preservation staff believed this was unnecessary, because they will be emailing a list of all demolition applications to all neighborhoods every Monday. This will be an administrative policy change and will not be codified in ordinance, however, and so could change in the future without Council action. They also questioned whether such a requirement belongs in the Heritage Preservation ordinance, rather than the building code. However, we heard from the Attorney's Office that there were no legal concerns with putting it there, and we also heard from Regulatory Services staff that they could effectively implement the new requirements. I understood HPC staff's concerns and applaud them for committing to email this info out to neighborhoods every week. However, there is no commitment that staff will make designation decisions only after neighborhoods have been notified, so it didn't go far enough for me.

Council Member Betsy Hodges strongly opposed this amendment, and spoke against it yesterday. She had done a great deal of work on the amendments. The author of the larger amendment, Council member Gary Schiff also had concerns. This morning, it was clear that the motion would not prevail if I brought it forward and that there may be some ways to address some of the concerns raised by my staff and colleagues.



So, rather than bringing it forward, I decided to hold off. I communicated my continuing concerns to my colleagues, and put them and staff on notice that I expect neighborhoods to receive adequate notice without this amendment. If I start hearing again, despite the commitments of staff and my colleagues, that houses are being OK'ed for demolition before residents have a chance to share information with us, I will move forward with an amendment to the Building Code requiring notice of all demolition applications.



I am convinced that the demolition of a property is a big enough issue that some kind of notice to neighborhood associations and council members is appropriate. Since it is the practice in other kinds of applications and it would represent the earliest possible was to get notice out to people, I am also convinced that making it a part of the competed application process also makes sense.



Here is the text of the process I drafted, but did not move:

(The portion in italics is the new language that did not get introduced or passed today.)



Z&P #1
Amendment #2
By Gordon

599.460. Review of demolitions permits. The planning director shall review all building permit applications that meet the definition for demolition for a demolition permit to determine whether the affected property is an historic resource. Before making a determination, the planning director shall require that applicants submit evidence that notification of the application has been mailed or delivered to the ward council office and the neighborhood group(s) for the area in which the property is located. The neighborhood group(s) to be notified are those organizations that appear on the list maintained by the planning director for this purpose. The notification shall include the following information: the address of the property for which a demolition permit is sought; and the applicant's name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address, if available. Where the property for which a demolition is sought is located on a public street that acts as a boundary between two (2) or more neighborhoods, the above information shall also be provided to the neighborhood group(s) representing the adjacent area(s). If the planning director determines that the property is not an historic resource, the demolition building permit shall be approved. If the planning director determines that the property is an historic resource, the building permit shall not be issued without review and approval by the commission following a public hearing as provided in section 599.170.

New Police Feedback Form

The Police Department has created an interesting new tool: a web page that makes it easy to share your feedback - positive or negative - on police officers and the work they do. It basically repackages in one place the intake forms for the Civilian Review Authority and Internal Affairs Unit, along with a new form that you can use to compliment an officer for a job well done.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Como Ave to Close on Monday

Starting at 7am next Monday March 30, Como Ave SE from 22nd Avenue SE to 24th Avenue SE will be closed to all traffic to complete the Como Avenue road and bridge project. It's proposed to reopen in late May of 2009. The detour will be 18th Ave SE to East Hennepin to 29th Avenue SE to Como Ave SE in the eastbound direction and 29th Avenue SE to East Hennepin Avenue to 18th Avenue SE in the westbound direction.

Teen Job Fair

The third annual Minneapolis Teen Job Fair will take place on April 25, from noon–4pm at the Hennepin County Library. Teens 14 and up will have an opportunity to attend workshops, meet employers, and get information about jobs, volunteering and internships.

This event is sponsored by the Hennepin County Library, the City of Minneapolis Employment and Training Program, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, AchieveMpls and others. Contact Pat Behrend at 612-673-6220 for more information.

Welcome to Blogging, RT!

I'm pleased to have been joined by a new Minneapolis blogger: Mayor RT Rybak. Check out his new blog here. It looks great.



I've heard from his staff that the SecondWard blog was an inspiration to jump in the blogging waters, and I'm happy to have been able to blaze this particular trail. Though there are some potential pitfalls - and we've found them - I strongly believe that blogging is a good tool for elected officials. We can get into more depth on this blog than in any other public communication (newsletters, for example), delving into the complexity that each issue demands. I think the public is well-served to know not just what issues are before us, and not just how we vote on them, but why. What's the background information, what principles motivate us, what arguments do we find most persuasive? Blogging lets elected officials address these questions much better than any other medium I've found. I think the city would be better off if more policymakers blogged, and I'm happy the Mayor has started.



Lastly, I take some satisfaction from seeing the blogging resolution that I pushed through the Council in May of 2006 get some use. This was one of the first policy successes I had on the Council, and it's good to see that it will benefit more blogs than this one.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

For the second year running, Minneapolis will be participating in Earth Hour. From 8:30-9:30pm, local time, people all over the world will turn off their lights to call attention to global climate change. This Friday, the Council will vote on a resolution that commits us to participating by turning off the lights on the Stone Arch Bridge, the City Hall clock tower and all other uses of electricity "not required for life, safety or operations."

Thanks to all of the downtown buildings that are also participating:
701 Building
Accenture Tower
Hennepin County Central Library
Hennepin County Government Center Plaza
Hennepin County Century Plaza
Hennepin County Environmental Services Building
Hennepin County Family Justice Center
Hennepin County Juvenile Justice Center
IDS Center
Target Corporate Offices
US Bancorp Center
US Bank Plaza
Wells Fargo Center
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Center
Xcel Energy – Nicollet Mall

Many of these same buildings are also participating in the Lights Out program of Project Bird Safe. This is intended as a wildlife-preservation initiative, but it will have positive side effects for carbon emissions as well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Youth Violence in the News

There was news story about violent youth crime that shares some of the work the City has been doing. While they did not mention to work of our Youth Violence Prevention committee and staff coordinator, it is this work that has led to many of the improvements in policing and criminal justice practices that are mentioned in the story.

Here some of the story and the link:

"Minneapolis juvenile crime continues downtrend Minneapolis police arrested a 15-year-old Wednesday for a shooting near Fairview Park that left two kids wounded. The shooting got us thinking about young people and crime in the Twin Cities…That's why we took a look at the very latest numbers on juvenile crime in Minneapolis…Juvenile crime is down 17 percent from 2007 to 2008. Violent juvenile crime is down 25 percent.Trisha Volpe, KARE11, http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=542706&catid=2"

Even if we are making progress we must do more to keep guns away from our kids and to prevent more of these injuries and deaths in the future.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Health Department Open House

To celebrate Public Health Week, the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support is offering an open house on Wednesday, April 8 from 11 am-1pm at their offices in the Public Service Center (250 South 4th Street) on the 5th floor. The public is invited to come see our efforts to build a healthy city. Staff will be available to discuss our current programs, initiatives and our partnerships with the community. If you have any questions, contact Hattie Wiysel here.

Ranked Choice Voting Challenge Goes to Supreme Court

As you can read here, the Minnesota Supreme Court has decided to expedite their review of the appeal that the Minnesota Voters Alliance brought to the City's courtroom victory on Ranked Choice Voting. Briefs from the City, FairVote Minnesota (which is intervening on the City's behalf) and the Alliance are due in mid-April, with a hearing scheduled in May. This is great news.

Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 Climate Change Grants

To build on the great success we've had in 2007 and 2008, the City is again offering grants to organizations that want to help people in Minneapolis take steps to fight climate change. Any Minneapolis nonprofits, including neighborhood groups, business organizations and churches, are eligible to apply.



The results of these grants have been pretty impressive. Small amounts of City funding have been translated into significant reductions in carbon emissions - and energy costs to residents. For instance, last year's participants committed to saving about 2.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide and $647,220 annually on their energy use. Minneapolis was the first city in the country to offer this sort of program, and a number of other cities are now following our lead.

We're offering two different types of grants this year:


Grassroots Climate Change Micro Grants of up to $1,500. The application deadline is 4pm on April 16. Climate Change Innovations Grants of up to $10,000. The application deadline is 4pm on April 20. The application is relatively short and easy to fill out. Applicants are asked to submit their plans to use the money for a project that results in meaningful, measurable steps to reduce climate change.

To learn more about the grants, to get an application, and to see project ideas, visit the City’s sustainability site here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Forum on Affordable, Supportive Housing in Seward

This Sunday, there will be a forum at Faith Mennonite Church to talk about affordable housing in general, and proposals for the Bystrom site in Seward near the Franklin Station in particular.

Representatives from Touchstone, PPL, Redesign, and MICAH will be there. I have been asked to help spread the word and think this offers the area a great opportunity to learn and more and discuss important issues and a particular proposed development in the area.


Here is the official notice I got today:

Forum on Affordable, Supportive Housing in Seward , Sunday,

March 15, 5:30 - 6:25 pm at Faith Mennonite Church (2720 E. 22nd St., Mpls)

The Community of St. Martin and Faith Mennonite Church are offering an Adult Education session about a new affordable housing project that is proposed in the Seward neighborhood. Please come join this discussion to learn more about this project. MICAH, the Metropolitan Interfaith Council for Affordable Housing, will be presenting a program on the impact of the housing crisis on our neighborhoods along with a brief legislative update on housing and foreclosure bills.

This presentation will be tied to the Bystrom site Franklin LRT Redevelopment planned by Seward Redesign. Currently, a partnership of Project for Pride in Living and Touchstone are proposing 40 units of permanent supportive housing in the first phase of this four-acre parcel redevelopment. Come to discuss current housing issues and the great potential in this critical transit oriented development right in the Seward neighborhood.-- Michael Bischoff, Faith Mennonite Church612-521-1889

Assessors Open Houses About City Property Taxes

The City of Minneapolis is hosting two open houses to give property owners an opportunity to learn more about their property taxes, as well as programs that may provide some property tax relief. Folks can get information on subjects ranging from homestead credit and market value to lead abatement rebates, senior citizens deferrals and disabled veteran programs.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR PROPERTY TAXES
  • Wednesday, April 8, 2009 4:30 to 7 p.m. Webber Park Community Center4400 Dupont Ave. N.
  • Thursday, April 9, 2009 4:30 to 7 p.m. Pearl Park Neighborhood Center 414 E. Diamond Lake Road

Staff from the City Assessor’s Office will be on hand to provide you with information about Minneapolis property taxes, and to answer your questions. Cookies and refreshments will be served.

This flyer has more details on the open houses, including information on translation services.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kudos to Fire Department

Today I received a letter from the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), thanking the Minneapolis Fire Department for some great work on Saturday, February 28.



Sometime that afternoon, a water main broke in the basement of one of the Cedars highrises on the West Bank. Four feet of water flooded the boiler rooms, damaging both of the building's boilers and shutting off heat to the building. MPHA couldn't solve this problem on their own, so they called the Fire Department.



Engine #8, Ladder Truck #3 and Rescue #1 responded, and our firefighters helped to remove the water quickly enough that the boilers could be repaired and restarted by early Sunday morning. Without their work, the building may have sustained serious freeze damage, resulting in serious disruptions to the lives of a large number of low-income residents of the ward.



I wanted to take this opportunity to thank both the Minneapolis Fire Department as a whole and those who responded to this situation individually:



Battalion Chief John Szczech

Captains Jason Ehmek, Pat Swaggert and Melanie Rucker

Fire Motor Operators Elondo Wright, John Levens and Jerry White

Firefighters Ben Biorn, Tom Burnley, Al Daher, John Hupp, Chuck Senko, Trevin Mitchell and James Ujke



Thank you for the good work, on February 28th and every day.

Bike Walk Event

I was glad to join Mayor Rybak, University President Robert Bruiniks and Transit for Livable Communities Director Lea Schuster and a number of others for a celebration of the most recent Nonmotorized Transportation grant recipients: the Minneapolis bike sharing system and a new U of M Bike Center.


The bike sharing system, which I've written about before, is an incredibly exciting opportunity. People in downtown, uptown, midtown, the University area and the West Bank will be able to pick up a bike at one kiosk and ride it to another, either by preregistering or on a one-time basis. The Bike Center will feature a first-of-its-kind rider frequency measurement program, a great way for individuals to log their miles and for the U to measure its progress towards increasing the percentage of students, faculty and staff getting to campus on bikes.


The event took place this morning, March 10, at the MN Oak Street Parking Ramp at the corner of Oak & Delaware Streets - where the new Bike Center will be built.

Cradle to Prison Pipeline Study Session

This Friday, the Council will hold a study session I've sponsored on the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.



The Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign is a national effort of the Children’s Defense Fund to engage families, youth, community leaders, institutions and policy makers in the development of healthy, educated children. It promotes policies that put children on track to productive adulthood and opposes those that punish and criminalize children at younger and younger ages. The report, issued in 2007, served as a foundational document for Minneapolis’ Blueprint for Action: Preventing Youth Violence in Minneapolis.

At the study session we will be joined by Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund. She is on town from Washington DC and we are inviting her to share her thoughts on the progress of the campaign, how our Youth Violence Prevention Plan supports it and how we, as local policymakers, can work better together to focus more attention on the crucial points in a child's development where risks and disadvantages converge to disrupt the successful path to adulthood.

Judge Pamela Alexander from the Council on Crime and Justice will also make a shorter presentation about how the Pipeline affects the children of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. There will be some time for questions and a brief discussion about possible policies and strategies we could use to dismantle the “Pipeline” at the local level.

In addition to Minneapolis Council Members and Mayor, we have invited the City Council Members and Mayor of Saint Paul, as well as Minneapolis School Board Members and Park and Recreation Board Members, and some of them have confirmed that they will be attending. The session will be broadcast and recorded, and you can watch it online here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Seward Coop Finalist for Best in Real Estate

I've heard that the Seward Coop has been selected as a finalist for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal's 2008 Best in Real Estate awards. I'm proud that the City was able to play a role through the Great Streets program in bringing this great project to fruition, and I'm pleased that my office was able to play a role in helping it navigate the City's approval process. Congratulations to the Coop, to Redesign, and also to the Seward residents who helped design this project through their participation on the Riverside Market Task Force.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Taxi Fare Decrease

I'm disappointed by another action taken by the Council this morning, related to the decrease in taxi fares.



This goes back to the action the Council took last year to lift the cap on taxi licenses. Drivers asked the City to institute a process to change the fares every year, rather than every two. The Council wanted to depoliticize the process - which I completely support - and we established a formula for staff to use in coming up with a new fare rate.



Unfortunately, the first time we used this process the fares dropped precipitously from $2.35 to $2 per mile, a decrease of almost 15%. Try to imagine a 15% in your own wages, to see how this feels to cab drivers.



I asked drivers to talk to Ricardo Cervantes, the Licensing staff person in charge of the rate formula. He came up with an elegant solution: delay the fare change until March 1, 2010. In the intervening year, we can come up with a formula that will be less dependent on the price of fuel, and therefore less subject to volatile swings. I committed to bring this forward to Council this morning and ask my colleagues for unanimous consent, which would have changed the ordinance without going through the long committee process.



My colleagues refused. Even more frustratingly, Council Member Paul Ostrow refused to even vote for introduction of the ordinance, an action which has no consequence other than making us sit on our hands doing nothing about this issue for three weeks.

We did give notice, with my great ally on this issue Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, of the intent to introduce an ordinance amendment at the next Council Meeting. So while this has been seriously delayed, I am hopeful that we can improve this over the next 5 to 7 weeks as the matter slowly makes it way through the Council process.

With 13 votes this would have passed today, so I'm still disappointed, and I'm sure the many taxi drivers who live in Ward Two will share my disappointment as they continue to work long, grueling days for 15% less than they made last week.



All in all, it wasn't a good day at the Minneapolis City Council for small businesses.

Commercial Property Registration

Over my strong objections and dissenting vote, the Council has voted to put in place the Commercial Property Registration program and associated fee that many, many Second Ward business owners have contacted me to oppose.

This finally passed the Council, after kicking around in committee for months, in large part because Mayor Rybak proposed using the revenue it's expected tol raise from businesses – approximately $950,000 every year – to prevent laying off about 21 firefighters.

I have opposed this program since it first came to the Council, for a number of reasons:


  1. No one has been able to make a convincing case that this program is necessary to prevent fires. This makes it very clear that the program is being put in place simply to fill an existing budget hole, and I do not believe this is responsible or fair.

  2. I am opposed to the increasing reliance of government on fees and fines for our revenue, rather than relying on progressive taxation. These are the sorts of gimmicks that Governor Pawlenty has used to (temporarily) balance the State's budget, and I'm disappointed to see Minneapolis give him political cover this way.

  3. The fee structure passed by the Council puts a much, much larger burden on small businesses than large ones. In fact, the smallest building owners will pay almost 40 times as much per square foot as the largest building owners. This is simply a new, regressive tax that falls on those who can least afford it: our struggling small businesses.

  4. Other cities' experience with similar programs has not always been good. Portland, for instance, has scaled back a similar program after the fees imposed raised only 36% of its cost (they had expected 50% cost recovery).

  5. It will be very hard to measure the effectiveness of this program, because we will have to prove a negative: fires didn't occur because this program was in place. This is basically impossible.

  6. As mentioned in the Star Tribune article yesterday, not all businesses will receive the same level of service under this program. Folks in areas with lots of small businesses - like Seward, the West Bank, the University area and on Lake Street, all represented in the Second Ward - will be inspected less frequently.

  7. Some of my colleagues talked about it being reasonable for businesses to be charged $65 for an inspection. Plumbers, for instance, charge $70 just to come over! Unfortunately, that's not the way the program works. Rather, the business will pay $65 every year for an inspection that may occur every five years - if not longer - making it a $325 visit from a Fire Captain. And again, those in dense small business nodes will pay more per inspection than others, just due to their location.

I am extremely disappointed that this passed, and I apologize to Second Ward businesses for being unable to block it. I thank Council Members Gary Schiff and Sandy Colvin Roy for joining me in voting no.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Unsung Sustainability Programs

The City has been quietly working on a number of important initiatives that will help us reduce the amount of energy we use, decreasing our costs and our carbon footprint. I wanted to let folks know about some of these great projects that you probably haven't heard much about.





  • We began offering paperless utility billing in October. You can sign up here to get your utility bills electronically instead of in the mail.


  • We purchased two electric fleet cars, a ZENN and an e-ride, in November.


  • The Convention Center has made investments in sustainability, including computer-controlled lighting that dims or shuts off whenever possible to save energy.


  • We have three solar arrays producing a total of 11.8 kilowatts of power, and in 2006 they saved the City $1,250 on its electricity bill and reduced carbon dioxide output by 21,400 pounds.


  • We are continuing to pursue a major solar installation - the largest in the upper Midwest - on the roof of the Convention Center.


  • The idling ordinance we passed in June will help reduce pollution and carbon emissions caused by idling engines. 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel then restarting the car.


  • In 2006, we adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards, which require new or significantly renovated City facilities to meet some of the highest standards for sustainability. Staff are currently working on proposals to require some level of green building for private development as well.


  • We recently installed energy efficiency lighting at some of our parking ramps and installed a high efficiency boiler at Parking Ramp A.


  • We're testing solar powered parking meters in the Dinkytown area.


  • We have decreased fuel consumption in City fleets 3.8% compared to two years ago.


  • For a number of years we have been removing “no turn on red” signs at intersections where warranted, reducing unnecessary idling.


  • Metropass use for city employees went up 27% in 2008 compared to 2007.


  • Solid Waste and Recycling is broadening the pilot areas for organics collection.
I'm proud of the great work our staff - in a great variety of departments, including Public Works, Community Planning and Economic Development, Human Resources, Regulatory Services and others - is doing to put Minneapolis on a more sustainable path.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

RT Spars with Pawlenty over Budget

I'm happy to see Mayor RT Rybak openly challenging Governor Tim Pawlenty's false assertions regarding the Minneapolis budget.


For instance, Pawlenty charged that the Mayor's proposed budget would lay off police officers. It's not true - no police layoffs are proposed. In fact, the Mayor would spend more and provide a larger police force than ever. Pawlenty also went after a nonexistent “department that relates to the cultural and artistic affairs,” which has not been in place since 2002. It does not seem that the Governor's budget advisors are keeping him well informed.


As RT points out, we balance our budgets in Minneapolis, and we plan for the next five years, unlike Pawlenty's strategy of one-time fixes and budget gimmicks that have helped produce this more than $5 billion deficit. Moreover, our spending has increased by a much slower rate (3.5%)than the State's (11%) over the past five years, adjusted for inflation.



More importantly, Pawlenty has the fiscal relationship between Minneapolis and the State entirely backwards, when he talks about Minneapolis' dependence on the State to bail us out. We send more than $464 million in property and sales taxes to the state every year, and we're slated to receive $71 million back. This is why I am so strongly supporting the move to reexamine our financial relationship, to keep more of the tax revenue we generate, rather than hoping that an undependable State will live up to its commitments to us.


You can read more here, and see RT's video response to the Governor's misstatements here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

City Commits to Homebuyer Incentive Program

I learned today that the City's Community Planning and Economic Development has fully committed $50,000 to our portion of the University District Partnership Alliance's Homebuyer Incentive Program. This program will offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to people seeking to buy and homestead properties in one of the University District neighborhoods: Cedar Riverside, Southeast Como, Prospect Park, the West Bank and Marcy Holmes.



This was one of my major goals for the City's participation in the Alliance, and I am glad to have been able help the City match the amounts contributed by the University and the state legislature through the Alliance. I'm optimistic that this investment will not only help us increase the home ownership rate in the U District, but also send a signal that the City is dedicated to preserving the character of the U District neighborhoods.