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, June 17, 2011

Commercial Recycling Ordinance Passes

The commercial recycling ordinance that passed committee last week passed the full Council unanimously this morning. 

I view this as a significant victory, and a step toward a greener, less wasteful city.  For the first time, all buildings in Minneapolis - every residence, and every business - will be required by law to have recycling service.  This sends the message to all Minneapolis communities that recycling is simply the way that we deal with waste.

It also makes clear to me that there is broad consensus around greening our homes and businesses.  It's not often that groups as diverse as the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce on the one hand and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and Sierra Club on the other agree on a policy change, but they agreed that it's time for all businesses in Minneapolis to have recycling service.  This gives me great hope and energy for moving forward other sustainability initiatives.

Specifically, I am interested in continuing to explore ways that we can more sustainably handle solid waste.  I will be excited to see the results of the dual-stream recycling pilot in the Seward neighborhood.  The theory is that making it easier for residents to recycle will increase the diversion rate.  If the results bear that out, I think we should seriously consider changing our citywide recycling regime.  I'm also very interested in continuing to expand curbside organics collection, and finding ways to increase the composting capacity of the region so that we can offer that service citywide.

Over the coming months, I will be working with City and County staff to build a robust technical assistance program that we can offer to the few businesses who do not currently recycle, along with educational materials for tenants and employees.  This has to be in place before we can begin enforcing the new mandate.

Thanks to all those who made this possible: Director of Solid Waste and Recycling Susan Young, Sustainability Director Gayle Prest, Travis Bunch from the Minneapolis Chamber, Adam Leusse, Josh Winters, Dakotah Johnson and all the others at MPIRG.

Elections Department

Today, the Council voted not to explore contracting with Hennepin County for elections services.  The vote followed a report provided by a consultant, hired in May to study consolidation of all or a part of the City’s elections responsibilities with Hennepin County.  The consultant, Connie Schmidt, was also asked to look at process improvements, potential cost savings, and other operational enhancements.  Ms. Schmidt identified little to no cost savings with consolidation and did not recommend a merger.  

In her report, she carefully outlined the different election functions the City and County do and suggested several ways for the city to save costs including eliminating 12 to 14 precincts.  Schmidt commended the election division for its work on the Senate recount of 2008, the implementation of Rank Choice Voting in 2009; and the gubernatorial recount of 2010.  

The report identifies an immediate need to purchase RCV-capable voting equipment and states that, “The City election staff, in partnership with the Secretary of State, Hennepin County and other counties in the State of Minnesota, should join arms to work cooperatively to develop required RFP specifications. There can be significant cost savings to all jurisdictions (cities and counties) through a joint effort to purchase new equipment.”  In my role as Elections Committee Chair, I am working to convene a discussion between City and County Elections staff, appropriate elected officials, and Ranked Choice Voting experts on this voting equipment issue.

The report also recommends that the City election office continue to build on their renewed partnership with the County election office, conduct a Business Process Analysis to determine whether the division is operating efficiently and identify ways in which operations could be improved; consider relocating offices to share space with the clerks office and develop a strategic plan for the next 3 to 5 years.  The vote by the Council will allow us to move ahead filling the position of Election Director that (although filled by two different interim directors) has remained vacant since mid-2009.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Commercial Recycling ordinance passes committee

The commercial recycling ordinance I have been working on for over a year has passed the Regulatory, Energy and Environment committee unanimously.  A number of folks - Ross Abbey, chair of the Citizen's Environmental Advisory Committee, Adam Leusse, the constituent who first brought this issue to my attention, Magda from the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and Leo Sanders, the operations manager for the Seward Co-op - came to testify in favor of it.  No one spoke against it.

I think this sets the ordinance up well for the full Council meeting on June 17th.  Once it becomes law, I will work with our Solid Waste and Recycling, Sustainability, and Regulatory Services staff to put together an implementation plan.  Before we start enforcing this ordinance, I want the City to do some good outreach to businesses and offer technical assistance to the small number who are not currently recycling.

In some ways, this is a pretty small step towards making this a greener city; according to the surveys done by the Chamber of Commerce and Building Owners and Managers Association, the vast majority of businesses are already recycling.  But I believe it's important that we change our mindset about solid waste, and I hope that this ordinance is helping to do that.  Recycling isn't a new thing.  It's not difficult.  It's the baseline expectation for how we manage waste in Minneapolis.