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:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

FBI's Infiltration Revealed

I'm deeply disturbed by the revelations about the Federal Bureau of Investigation's infiltration of local peace and justice organizations, through an undercover agent who went as "Karen Sullivan." It is inappropriate, unnecessary, and simply wrong for the FBI to target nonviolent peace and justice organizations for this level of harassment and intimidation. Worse, it chills Constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and association. I call on US Attorney Fitzgerald to leave these folks - who are simply working for a fairer and less violent world - alone.

We're Number One!

Minneapolis has won another "best-of" to add to our list of plaudits: we've been named "Gayest City in America."

Here's their rationale:

"Over the past decade, Minneapolis has become the gay magnet city of the Midwest. It makes sense: People here are no-nonsense, practical, and don’t deal well with hypocrites. This is where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America took a historic leap forward and voted to accept gay and lesbian pastors, including the Reverend Mary Albing, the denomination’s first openly lesbian pastor. And Minnesota senator Al Franken introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBT youth from school bullies. But that’s not all. Minneapolis also has the very hot Mayhem rugby team ( and a thriving bear community with events like Bob’s Bear Bash, every Wednesday night at the Saloon ("

They didn't even mention some of our GLBT-supportive policies, such as the City-staffed domestic partner registration system, or the fact that two of my colleagues on the Council are gay. It's great to see this recognition for Minneapolis.

Transgender Woman Murdered - Media Response Varies

Tragically, Minneapolis has our first homicide of the year: Chrissie Bates, a 45-year-old transgender woman.

I don't usually write about homicides that occur outside the Second Ward, but I thought it was worth pointing out that some of the local news media did a stellar job reporting on this event with clarity and sensitivity, while others did not.

The good and the pretty good: City Pages and the Star Tribune. Both outlets used the personal pronoun "her" when describing the victim, as in the phrase "in her apartment" from the Star Tribune article. But the City Pages, and particularly reporter Erin Carlyle, did far and away the best job. They have, at the time of this writing, posted not one but two informative articles, quoting extensively from neighbors and public employees.

As importantly, Erin and the City Pages embraced who Chrissie was, unapologetically, clearly, and as if her identity was not a question or assertion. For example, where the Star Tribune used the phrase "transgender person," the City Pages used the phrase "transgender woman." Where the Star Tribune explained the victim's transgender status by stating that "[a]lthough police said the victim was a man, neighbors say she lived as a woman," the City Pages simply noted that she was "[f]ormerly known as Christopher Bates." And where the Star Tribune put quotation marks around the victim's name of choice, "Chrissy," the City Pages openly used her name, sans quotes, in the headline. City Pages even went a step further, reaching out to the GLBT community and finding out about the vigil planned for January 21, from 6-7:30pm.

But at least the Star Tribune tried. All other major media sources referred to the victim as a man, used her former name, and used male personal pronouns. The bad: Fox 29, KARE 11, MPR, KSTP, WCCO, and the Pioneer Press.

Kudos and thanks to the Star Tribune and especially to the City Pages and Erin Carlyle for reporting on this tragic event in a way that respected the victim enough to describe her as she described herself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making Minnesota Arizona

Some legislators in the Minnesota Legislature have put forward a list of pro-gun, pro-violence bills designed to make Minnesota like Arizona - if not worse. That's right, some of our state law makers apparently want Minnesota to emulate the state that is rated second-worst in the nation by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the state called "the Tombstone of the United States of America" by Pima County, AZ Sherrif Clarence Dupnik.

1) Shoot First. This bill would allow people to shoot anyone you don't know if they set foot on your property - including a fenced yard. This appears to mean that any political candidate, volunteer, canvasser, delivery person, or mailman who happens to walk onto the wrong property at the wrong time could be legally shot and killed. It will also eliminate the "rule of retreat" that means if a person can safely walk away from a situation, they are not entitled to kill someone just because they seem threatening. It would also allow the killing of anyone in a public place who seems "threatening." Arizona has a version of this law on the books.

2) Guns on campus: This bill would prohibit state colleges and universities - including the University of Minnesota, located in the Second Ward - to ban concealed guns on campus. Yes, you read that right: the state legislature, rather than school administrators, would make the decision for every school in the state. A gun in every classroom. (This is even worse than the current state of law in Arizona, which does not yet have this law in place. But just like in Minnesota, elected officials in the Arizona legislature have introduced a mandatory guns-on-campus bill.)

3) Proliferation of Assault Weapons. Minnesota is home to at least one assault weapon manufacturer. This bill would exempt any assault weapon manufactured in Minnesota and sold in Minnesota from Federal background checks. (It also relies on the extremely dubious "tenther" belief that the Federal government has overstepped the authority granted by the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution.) Though we should give credit where due: the Republicans have found some limits on weapons that they can live with. The bill wouldn't apply to cannons, bazookas, rocket-propelled grenades, or any weapon "that cannot be carried and used by one person."

4) These aren't the only bad ideas being cooked up by law makes on guns. They're also trying - because the Second Amendment isn't enough? - to push through a Minnesota Constitutional amendment to "keep, bear and use arms." This would open the door to lawsuits attempting to undermine what few laws we have on the books seeking to protect the population from guns. The laws that differentiate Minnesota from Arizona - an age limit of sixteen to buy guns, gun permit processes involving law enforcement, background checks longer than 3 days, police inspection of gun dealers and requirements that gun dealers put security in place to prevent guns from being stolen - would be threatened.

It seems to me that these ideas are moving us in the wrong direction. In Minneapolis, I think we should be doing more to control and regulate guns, not less. Unfortunately, (as I have said before) even if the entire City Council supported enacting legislation regulating guns in Minneapolis, we would be unable to do so because in 1985 the state legislature took away Minneapolis’ authority to do so.

Before it does anything to protect people's ability to buy, own and use guns, I'd prefer if the legislature would restore the cities' and counties' authority to regulate guns so that we would once again have the ability to at least register guns and restrict their use in some areas, as long as it is consistent with federal law, as Chicago and many cities in other states have done.

In the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Gifford and the murders of six innocent bystanders, an event that is drawing national attention to the weak gun laws in Arizona that made such a tragedy possible, I hope these legislative efforts will quickly fall by the wayside and into the paper shredders and recycling bins at the Capitol. There may be some things about Arizona we want to emulate, but this is NOT one of them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Commercial Recycling

One of my goals on the Minneapolis City Council is to help reduce solid waste and manage it more effectively. I am very concerned about the amount of our waste going to landfills and to the downtown garbage burner.

To help address this, several months ago I authored an ordinance amendment that strengthened our recycling ordinances related to multifamily residential properties. This passed the City Council unanimously. I have also supported and helped develop pilot programs to explore organic waste curbside pick up programs and a more simplified recycling sorting system.

Last year I began work on an ordinance that would require recycling at commercial properties. As part of this work I researched what other cities do, and met with business owners, city staff and county officials. The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce recently conducted a survey of businesses on recycling. The results indicated that over 90% of businesses currently recycle, with the supermajority recycling paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic; that over 90% of businesses have had no issues with their recycling service; and that 65% of businesses either supported or were neutral towards a commercial recycling mandate, the plurality of businesses, 48%, were supportive, and only 35% opposed a mandate.

The City has the capacity to enforce this new requirement. The Fire Department (MFD) has been charged with inspecting all commercial buildings in Minneapolis. MFD staff has assured me that it would be practical to include compliance with the recycling requirement as one of the things they look for.

Last fall I formally introduced "the subject matter" of a new ordinance in Minneapolis that would require commercial entities to recycle. Now the language has been drafted based on the following components and I am continuing to reach out to community and business organizations and individuals to get feedback.

Minimum Requirements

All commercial establishments that provide on-site garbage collection service shall also provide on-site recycling service that includes collection of materials for recycling at least equal to the level of service provided to the residents of Minneapolis.

An owner or other person required to provide recycling services will provide:
· regular collection service (at least two times each month);
· recycling receptacles and
· adequate recycling collection and storage areas.
An owner or other person required to provide recycling service to a business must provide recycling information and instructions to:
· its employees annually;
· a new employee no later than the seventh day after the employee begins work; and
· all employees not later than the 30th day after a change in the service offered.

Reporting Requirements

The building or business owner responsible for providing recycling services shall create a recycling plan within 14-30 days of beginning operations.
The recycling service provider/hauler shall file a semiannual volume report that includes the volume and type of recyclable materials collected in the preceding period. A person required to provide recycling service shall notify the department in writing if the person changes service providers.


Enforcement will be part of the regular commercial inspections program. In addition, tenants, employees, haulers or others can report out-of-compliance properties or businesses.

The penalty for noncompliance will include a written warning and a fine (likely starting at $200)that increases in amount with each consecutive violation. In extreme cases it could include the revocation of a license.

Technical Assistance

The City will develop a technical assistance program to help commercial business meet the minimum requirements of the ordinance. This will include providing lists of licensed haulers as well as help with development of collection infrastructure (areas and containers) as well as educational materials.


This ordinance amendment has been referred to staff by the City Council and the final language is being drafted. I am currently gathering input from the community on the proposal, clarifying details and drafting language. I suspect that it will be scheduled for a public hearing before the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee early in 2011 and presented for approval to the full Council before April. If approved I will be advocating for an extensive outreach and education program prior to any enforcement.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Urban Agriculture Policy Plan

A draft of the new Urban Agriculture Policy Plan is now available for Public Review and comments until January 31.

This plan represents a significant part of the work of the Homegrown Minneapolis effort I have been helping lead for many months as co-chair of the Homegrown Minneapolis Implementation Task Force. If you are interest in more opportunities for growing, or processing or eating, more food produces in the City please take some time to read the draft plan.

The plan is a land use policy guide for urban agriculture in Minneapolis and and contains recommendations related to land use, zoning, access to land, design options and allowing farming in the city.

The development of the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan was a directive from the City Council when the Homegrown Minneapolis Report was adopted in June of 2009.

Two community meetings will be held to discuss the content of the plan:
  • Tuesday, January 11, from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at the Sabathani Community Center (3rd Floor) 310 E. 38th Street
  • Thursday, January 20, from 2:00 to 3:30 at North Central Library, 1315 Lowry Ave. N.Background

Comments and concerns about the plan should be directed to me or to: Amanda Arnold, Principal Planner, Minneapolis Department of Community Planning & Economic Development Planning Division, 250 South 4th St., Rm 110, Minneapolis MN 55415.

You can also submit feedback by responding to a short survey about the plan here.

All comments will become part of the public record and be included in a report that will be forwarded to the City Planning Commission when they consider the adoption of the plan. A public hearing is tentatively set for February 22, 2011 in City Hall, Room 317, during the City Planning Commission meeting.

After adoption by the City Planning Commission, the plan will be forwarded to the City Council for adoption and will be amended to the Comprehensive Plan.

My Policy Aide, and sometimes blogger here , Robin Garwood, has been chairing the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan Steering Committee and this has been a major priority of his, and mine, throughout 2009.

It is very exciting to see it reach this level and it is very important that people with interest and expertise in local foods take the time to review the plan now before the final draft is written and before it is approved by the Council later and incorporated into the City's comprehensive plan, the Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth.