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:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Honoring Mike Trdan

This morning, the Council passed a resolution I authored honoring Seward resident Mike Trdan for his long and successful career in recycling. I was delighted and proud to follow up on a constituent’s idea to honor Mike, whom I have known for years as a neighbor and fellow Seward Neighborhood Group Board member and more recently as a knowledgable and skilled advisor and strategist, especially when in comes to waste management and recycling. Mike is someone who can actually get things done to help improve how we manage waste in Minneapolis. For example, he recently led the effort (working with the Seward Neighborhood Group as well as County and City staff) to apply for funds for a pilot project in Seward to test out a new dual-stream recycling program. I'm excited about partnering with him on this and on other environmental initiatives in the future.

Here's the text of the resolution:

By Gordon, Reich, Hofstede, Johnson, Samuels, Lilligren,
Goodman, Glidden, Schiff, Tuthill, Quincy, Colvin Roy, and

Honoring Mike Trdan for his career-long efforts to establish
recycling programs throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan

Whereas, Mike Trdan spent 10 years working for the City of
Minneapolis in the beginning of his career as a “recycling expert”;

Whereas, Mike has worked as an Environmental Specialist for
Dakota County for over 20 years; and

Whereas, Mike started his
career in recycling by supervising the first Minneapolis pilot program for
curbside recycling; and

Whereas, through Mike’s supervision and
management he and his staff implemented the first citywide curbside recycling
program; and

Whereas, Mike credited his fledgling staff and
volunteers for their accomplishments, consistently downplaying his own
achievements; and

Whereas, Mike was responsible for the
establishment of the “Area Recycling Managers” (ARM) group, to share information
and data regarding recycling programs; and

Whereas, the Minneapolis
recycling program is one of the most successful programs throughout the country
in the amount of material recycled and financial return for the material, thanks
in part to Mike’s early leadership; and

Whereas, Mike is a lifelong
resident of Minneapolis and longtime resident of the Seward neighborhood, and
served on the first Seward Ecoteam; and

Whereas, Mike is embarking
on a new role as a neighborhood activist by co-chairing the Seward Neighborhood
Group’s Environment Committee and helping the City complete an application to
Hennepin County for a composting and dual-stream recycling project in Seward;

Whereas, Mike and his wife Diane concern themselves with all
things environmental, the Twins, and of course all things

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by the City Council of the
City of Minneapolis

That the City of Minneapolis recognizes Mike
Trdan for his tireless contributions to the environment through recycling,
marketing recyclable materials, and most important education of the people of

Be it Further Resolved that the City of Minneapolis
wishes Mike well in retirement and thanks him for the years of service he has
given, and will give, the City of Minneapolis.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guilty Plea in Seward Triple Slaying

As you can read here, 18-year-old Ahmed Shire Ali has pleaded guilty to the aggravated robbery that led to the shocking triple murder in the Seward Market on Franklin Avenue on January 6th. He has agreed to testify against the alleged murderer, Mahdi Ali.

It's tragic that this young man made the terrible decision to rob the Seward Market, setting in motion the chain of events that ended three innocent lives and put him in prison until he's in his 30s. But I commend him for taking responsibility for his actions,

I thank the Police Department for their great work, and those in the community who helped them identify the perpetrators. I also thank the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for building a strong case against the alleged shooter.

It's my hope that this can help the healing process for the families of the victims and the Seward neighborhood.

Bicycling Magazine: Minneapolis is #1

According to Bicycling Magazine, Minneapolis is the nation’s best city for bicyclists. They specifically called out the hardiness of those cyclists (like my Aide) who brave our sub-zero winter, our 123 miles of on- and off-street bicycle facilities, our abundance of bike parking and lockers, and our vibrant cycling culture.

I’m proud that we’ve come so far. It's not accidental: Public Works staff, with support from the Council, the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the cycling public, have been hard at work for the last fifteen years to build more and better bike infrastructure, from [x] off-street facilities like the Midtown Greenway, to bike lanes, to bike/walk streets through neighborhoods. We've installed innovative treatments like the First Avenue bike lanes, as well as funding standard needs like bike racks. We've given developers density bonuses for installing bike racks, and are embarking on a project to encourage more City employees to bike to and for work.

It's also clear that there is more work to do. We need to keep innovating, and give the innovations we've already tried (like First Ave) a chance to work. We need to finish the projects that were funded by the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot, which will dramatically increase the miles of bike facilities in the city - from 123 to 175! We need to focus more on education, enforcement and encouragement, and work towards our sustainability indicator target of 7% bike mode share by 2014.

I know that our Public Works staff and the bike community aren't going to rest on our laurels, and neither is the Council. We're just getting started making Minneapolis the most bike-friendly city in the country.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moody's: Minneapolis is "Aaa" Material

The City of Minneapolis has regained our triple-A (or Aaa) rating from Moody's Investors Service. The City was already rated triple-A ("AAA") from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poors. By regaining the "triple-triple A" status Minneapolis joins an elite, small number of cities (less than 5%) with the highest ratings from all three major rating services.

This is the result of outstanding work over the past eight years by both Minneapolis elected officials and our financial management staff, especially our invaluable and extremely droll Chief Financial Officer Patrick Born, and our skillful, dedicated Director of Management & Budget Heather Johnston. Together, we have constantly improved our financial condition - which was nowhere near as positive at the turn of the millenium as it is today - and withstood the financial crises caused by reduced state support while laying a solid foundation for the future. We've significantly reduced our debt, kept up our reserves, and made structurally balanced five-year budgets.

Contrast this to the state, where structurally imbalanced budgets have been the standard over the last decade (especially the last eight years under the Pawlenty administration) and you can see why Minneapolis is able to weather the Great Recession, even while watching the state return less and less of the sales and property tax that it takes from us. And now it's not just us saying it, but all three of the major rating services.

In practical terms, this will reduce the cost of the capital bonds that the city uses to do things like build roads and sewers. Cheaper bonds will, in the long term, lessen the burden on property taxpayers.

This is wonderful news, and I commend everyone - Mayor Rybak, all of the Council members of the last two terms, and especially our professional staff - for making it possible.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Judge Rules Against Anti RCV Lawsuit

Recently the Distrcit Court of Northern California, San Fransico Division, was asked if the City and County of San Francisco’s ranked choice voting system, which limits the number of rankings to three (as the 2009 Minneapolis municipal election did) unreasonably infringes upon voters’ rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Its response? No. The court found that ranked choice voting is constitutional.

You can read the full decision here.

This decision affirms, again, that ranked choice voting is legal, workable and fair, in addition to being popular with Minneapolis voters. I am confident that if ranked choice voting opponents bring an "as applied" lawsuit against Minneapolis in regards to the 2009 election, they will get the same response.

Monday, April 12, 2010

City's Youth Violence Effort Gets National Look

The U.S. Department of Justice just released a report, “A Review of Minneapolis’ Youth Violence Prevention Initiative”. The report, created by the National Center for Victims of Crime, describes the City’s initiative to prevent and reduce violence by and against youth.

It is interesting and helpful to see how national experts on this topic understand our efforts.

The report concludes,

"The city’s Blueprint for Action: Preventing Youth Violence in Minneapolis attacks the root causes of violence while holding juvenile perpetrators accountable for their actions and offering rehabilitation where appropriate. In the process, the initiative has woven a citywide fabric of partnerships that other jurisdictions can replicate. Community members and professionals from juvenile justice, law enforcement, community programs, and public health—no longer feeling isolated—have a renewed sense of purpose as part of a larger effort, moving in the same direction toward the same goal. Crime statistics are showing preliminary positive effects. A young but promising initiative, the Minneapolis Blueprint offers grounds for further research and potential for the quest to end youth violence."

Hopefully, the report will help keep us focused and build interest in our work preventing youth violence in Minneapolis.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Mobile Food Vendors

The Council has adopted a landmark policy allowing more types of food to be sold on the street downtown. There are ways that I don't think this policy went far enough, but I am delighted that it's gone forward.

Before this change, only highly processed and packaged foods were allowed downtown - hot dogs, junk food, that sort of thing. The new policy allows vendors to sell any sort of food, including fresh, whole foods, within the Downtown Improvement District boundaries.

I made one amendment: to allow vendors on private property (like parking lots) to use grid-connected electricity. One of my concerns has been that by making this generally good change, we may be unintentionally diminishing air quality downtown, through the proliferation of small gas generators to keep refrigerators running. My amendment changed what had been a blanket ban on cleaner energy from the grid to a more situation-dependent policy.

I also supported a staff direction offered by Council Member Hofstede, which would have directed our staff to measure what happens this year, as the first vendors come online, especially in terms of health and sustainability. Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues voted it down.

I look forward to seeing how this works. I am very interested in taking this "pilot" and expanding it to commercial areas in my ward, such as the West Bank and Stadium Village. I'm also keen to follow other cities' leads and craft a policy that will incentivize healthier food options (as advocated by The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN), here) and sustainable business practices (such as green energy, low- or no-emissions vehicles, and recycling and composting of waste). It's a great start.

Dave Bicking and the CRA

Last Friday, my colleagues declined to give me a "second" on a motion to reappoint Dave Bicking to the Civilian Review Authority.

I was disappointed in this outcome. I did not expect my motion to prevail, but looked forward to an opportunity to present my reasons for reappointing Dave. The most important of these is the simplest: he did a good job on the CRA. He worked hard. He did his homework. He did his research. He helped the CRA write a report on the performance of the Police Chief in regards to his relationship with the CRA that was clear, cogent, evidence-based, and highly influential, at least in terms of my own vote on the Chief's renomination. Dave also helped my office track the multiple ways in which the Police Department had changed its policy manual without the input of the CRA or policymakers (see here for more on that).

I realize that Dave may have ruffled some feathers, especially by participating in anti-Dolan forums and by embroiling himself in a public fight with the CRA Board Chair Don Bellfield - even going so far as to sue Bellfield in an effort to compel him to do what was, in Dave's estimation, his job. These actions on Dave's part contributed to a sense that he is not capable of being a fair, neutral arbiter of allegations of police misconduct. I do not share that assessment, but I understand it.

From my perspective, this was an unfortunate outcome. The CRA has lost a good, hardworking volunteer who deeply valued the work he was doing and the organization he was serving. While he may no longer be serving on the CRA Board, I am hopeful that he will stay involved in his community and in working for a more just City, and also as someone I can turn to for advice, assistance and help developing policy and researching issues as I have done in the past.

I'm the New Tree Guy

One of the smallest, least controversial actions at the last City Council meeting had more impact on me than most: the Council formally appointed yours truly as their representative to the Tree Advisory Commission, a joint effort between the City and the Park Board. My alternate is Shannon McDonough, Aide to First Ward Council Member Kevin Reich.

My impending appointment led to Council Member Robert Lilligren asking me a question about Emerald Ash Borer with an interesting preface: "you're the new tree guy, right?"

This struck me as somewhat strange. I'm as much of a 'treehugger' as the next Green, but I don't know much about our leafy neighbors, other than that they're good for our city: they reduce energy use, increase water quality, reduce stormwater runoff, combat urban heat island effect, and make our streets more pleasant. I will bring nowhere near the expertise to this position that former First Ward Policy Aide Lorrie Stromme did; she not only values trees, she knows quite a bit about them. She was a great advocate within the City, and her shoes will be tough to fill.

But I'll try. One of my first missions is to set up a presentation by the TAC before the Regulatory Energy and Environment committee on the subject of the Ash Borer. A longer term goal is to be able to tell an ash from a linden from a maple - anything beyond the coniferous/deciduous divide is pretty much beyond me at this point. For the time being, I'm enjoying the opportunity to soak up some of the knowledge of this great group of tree experts, and help the City put more tree-friendly policies in place.