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:

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator: Shaun Murphy

Public Works Director Steve Kotke has appointed Shaun Murphy as the City’s first Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.  You may be familiar with that name, as Shaun has coordinated the incredibly successful Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot since 2007, and has been one of the public faces of the City’s bicycle program. 

I think very highly of Shaun, having worked with him on several projects in the ward, including Riverside, 27th Ave SE, 26th Ave S, 15th Ave SE and Como Ave SE.  His work in all parts of Minneapolis over the past few years has given him a wealth of knowledge about bicycling in this city, about the City’s bureaucracy, and about our neighborhoods.  He is quite adept at working with community members, and is focused on the right goal: making Minneapolis a place where everyone, no matter their level of comfort riding with traffic, can use a bicycle to get around. 

I’m excited to welcome Shaun into this new role, in which he will have substantially increased clout and capacity to make positive change.  It is vitally important, especially as our resources don’t keep pace with our needs, to coordinate the work of the various transportation departments in Public Works (Traffic, Transportation Planning and Engineering, and Maintenance and Repair) and across both City departments and outside agencies (the County, MnDOT, etc). 

As you may recall, there was some controversy when this position was created earlier this year (partly generated and fueled by the Star Tribune), but it was supported by eleven of thirteen Council Members earlier this fall.  I think Shaun is the right person for this important job, and I’m thrilled that he’s moving to this new role.

New Solid Waste and Recycling Director

The Public Works Director has appointed David Herberholz as the City’s new Director of Solid Waste and Recycling.  He is currently employed by the city of Tampa, Florida, as the Residential Services Manager for their solid waste department.  He has also had fifteen years of experience in solid waste in the private sector.  He is originally from Michigan, so he is familiar with Midwestern winters.  I want to thank Interim Director Jeff Jenks for his great work over the last few months.

I look forward to meeting David and working him in the months head to improve both our recycling and our organics/composting efforts in Minneapolis.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bike Plan - Implementation Plan Passes

This morning, the Council unanimously passed the Implementation Plan for the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan. This document was developed by the Bicycle Advisory Committee (or BAC), in conjunction with Public Works staff, and represents a major step forward for bicycle policy in Minneapolis. The Plan includes aggressive recommendations for City actions such as:
  • Pass a Complete Streets Policy
  • Advocate for Municipal State Aid (MSA) standards that allow Minneapolis to design streets that safely meet Minneapolis needs
  • Support a study on the economic impact of bicycling
  • Minimize both travel lane widths and number of travel lanes where possible and desirable
  • Develop a process by which the City shall consider the conversion of low-volume roadways to “greenway”-style bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • Create a specific permitting process for closing streets to motorized vehicles for “Open Streets” events
This is a momentous occasion, and a few people deserve special thanks and recognition.  The BAC has been extremely effective in putting these recommendations forward.  All of its members deserve thanks, but I'd like to call a few people out in particular: Nick Mason, the chair, who did a great job moving this through the BAC's process and presenting to the Council; Matthew Hendricks, who chairs the Engineering subcommittee of the BAC and wrote much of the final text of the recommendations; advocates Ethan Fawley, Lisa Peterson Bender and Hokan, who helped push for the strongest possible Plan; and my staff Robin Garwood, who was involved in drafting the recommendations as the Council's appointee to the BAC.  Public Works staff Heidi Hamilton and Don Pflaum were instrumental in getting this passed.

I look forward to acting on some of these policy recommendations in the next year, and will look to the BAC for guidance on which we should start on first.

Minneapolis Food Council

Recently, the City Council voted to create the first-ever Minneapolis Food Council, an advisory group to the City on issues regarding food and food policy, especially regarding local food. This group will continue to oversee and drive the work of the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative.

There is real excitement in the community for this work – ninety-eight people applied for fifteen seats! Four Second Ward residents have been chosen to be on the Food Council: Tracy Singleton, owner of the Birchwood Café; Kurt Schreck, Chief Operating Officer of At Last! Gourmet Foods; Rhys Williams, Buyer for Coop Partners Warehouse, a fruit and vegetable distributor; and Sarah Nelson-Pallmeyer, Director of FoodShare for the Greater Metropolitan Council of Churches. I thank these folks for their willingness to serve, and thank all of the many other Second Ward residents who applied for seats on this commission.

Other appointees to the Council: small grocery store owner Neil Oxendale, Alison Rotel from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Giving Tree Gardens owner (and master composter) Russ Henry, Kristine Igo with the U of M's Healthy Food Healthy Lives initiative, Mill City Farmers Market manager Aaron Reser, urban farmer Eric Larsen, Phase I Homegrown Co-Chair Julie Ristau, Author Beth Dooley, Northside Fresh Coordinator Mustafa Sundiata, Zenteotl Project Director Deborah Ramos, and Rebecca Reed with Sustology.

These folks represent a well-balanced diversity of voices.  As a group, they include diversity of food system expertise, with commercial growers, community gardens, processors, restaurateurs, grocery store owners, distributors, farmers markets, food shelves, and composters represented.  They include strong links to the Latino, African American and American Indian Communities.  The slate builds relationships with the philanthropic and academic communities, and include diversity of experience with the Homegrown initiative (people who have been involved to date and people who have not).  And all sectors of Minneapolis are represented: folks on the Food Council live or work in North, Northeast, South, Southwest and Downtown.

The Food Council slate was developed by a nominating committee that included the following people: Grover Jones from the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (or NEON); John Brosnan from Gardening Matters; JoAnne Berkenkamp from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Neisha Reynolds from Hennepin County; Migdalia Loyola, Blue Cross Blue Shield Center for Prevention; Susen Fragrelius from World Tree, consultant for Little Earth; Ross Abbey, chair of CEAC; Collie Graddick, consultant with the MN Department of Agriculture, the Coop Project; Taya Kaufenberg; Megan O’Hara, co-chair of the first phase of Homegrown; June Mathiowetz, Homegrown Coordinator; Erica Prosser from the Mayor’s Office; Robin Garwood from my office.  I want to thank them for their great work - I know it wasn't easy to winnow such a large number of very qualified applicants to the final list, but they were successful.

I am confident that this new Food Council will carry forward Homegrown's work, and continue to make Minneapolis a leader on local food policy.

Ahmed Shire Ali

Ahmed Shire Ali, the accomplice in the Seward Market triple homicide, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Along with the conviction of the murderer, I hope that this gives the families of the victims and the neighborhood some closure and peace. 

This young man made a terrible decision that helped bring about the deaths of three innocent people.  Robbery backed by the threat of violence is never conscionable, precisely because in these sorts of fast-moving, chaotic events, sometimes those threats escalate to acts.  Ahmed Shire Ali's decision to put himself in the Seward Market for that purpose that night can't be condoned.

But, from the details I've read, this young man is to be praised for most of the decisions he made after that.  He did not kill anyone.  He urged his accomplice to stop.  According to victim Jamiila Ahmed, he may have saved additional people from being killed that night.  He gave himself up to the police.  He testified against his one-time friend.  He apologized to those whose lives he helped turn upside down.  And he has accepted the consequences of his actions and his sentence.

I hope that he follows through with his intention to "do something productive" with his life, and that he can leave prison better able to do so.  I thank him for his words and deeds in the aftermath of his crime.

Alcohol Spacing Requirements

This morning, the Council voted on two changes to the alcohol spacing requirement ordinances.  Both passed, one with my support and one without.

The amendment I supported removed the restriction on microbreweries being within three hundred feet of churches, mosques, and other religious places of assembly.  This change is fairly contained, because there are a number of other regulations on microbreweries.  It also opens up new opportunities for local food-related businesses, in keeping with the overarching goals of Homegrown Minneapolis.  I am not concerned about spillover effects from these establishments.

The amendment I opposed removed the restrictions placed on restaurants that serve alcohol within three hundred feet of churches and religious places of assembly.  Currently, restaurants that close to churches can make no more than 30% of their revenue from alcohol sales, may not have a bar area, and may not advertise alcohol on the outside of their building.  (These same restrictions remain in place for restaurants near schools.)

I heard from several neighborhood residents, including activists involved in the West Bank and Prospect Park neighborhood groups.  There are unique concerns about alcohol on the West Bank, where there are many mosques and ongoing tensions between alcohol-serving establishments and the predominantly muslim population, and near the University campus, where underage drinking is a continuing concern.  I've also heard positive comments, mostly from Seward and Longfellow residents, but the majority of constituents who have contacted me about this have been opposed to it.

I must also note that the map of current places of religious assembly provided by staff in advance of this vote was incomplete at best.  Among the religious places of assembly that were not listed on the map: Prospect Park United Methodist Church, Dar Al'Hijrah Mosque and Darul Quba Mosque.  At least two of the churches on the map were shown in the wrong location - across the street in one case, a block away in another.  The assurance I received from Council Member Schiff's office that there are no current alcohol-serving establishments operating under the 70/30 because of their proximity to a church is therefore somewhat suspect - how do we know if this is really the case if we don't have a reliable handle on where the churches actually are?