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, September 02, 2011

2011 Budget, Firefighters, and the Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator

This was an exciting, difficult morning and early afternoon in Council chambers.

The top-line actions:
  • The Council failed to override the Mayor's veto, on the same 8-5 vote as the original motion.
  • We voted for a compromise motion put together by the Mayor and Council Members Hodges, Samuels, and Goodman, that saved four firefighters through 2012.
  • We voted not to take away the funding for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.  I strongly opposed the attempt to take this funding, for the reasons you can read here.  I should note that I also heard loud and clear from the bicycle community that there is strong support for this position.  Within less than twenty-four hours, my office heard from over two dozen bicyclists and pedestrians in support of this position.  This is a testament to the good organizing of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition,  The final vote was extremely lopsided: all of my colleagues ended up joining me in supporting the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator but Council Members Barb Johnson and Sandy Colvin Roy.  This
  • The Council voted to transfer funds from unfilled positions in both Communications and Health and Family Support.  I voted against both of these motions, which passed on very close 7-6 margins.  A third motion to take funding from the Assessor's office for an unfilled position failed 8-5.  These votes ensured that 6 of the 10 laid off firefighters will be hired back.
  • The Council voted not to dip further into our contingency fund to keep the rest of the positions.
There is reason to be optimistic that many of the laid off firefighters will be rehired, due to changes in the pension program that will incentivize several firefighters (some sources have pegged the number at around 7) to retire.

Even if these laid-off firefighters are able to get back on the job, there will still be questions about the standard of coverage.  I look forward to the results from the consultant's work on how we can best manage the Fire Department's resources to maximize the level of coverage, during this time of fiscal duress.  In my opinion, our discussions about fire staffing have been placed in artificial constraints.  I take the firefighters union at their word that their primary interest is public safety, and hope that they are willing to entertain new ideas about work schedules and more.

The most important thing to keep in mind throughout this discussion, however, is that the Local Government Aid system at the state level is completely broken.  If the State cannot be trusted to return the property taxes that they take from us according to their own established formula, they should stop taking our property taxes at all.


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