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, March 30, 2012

Redistricting - Final Map Adopted

The Charter Commission has adopted a new ward map.  I appreciate all the time and effort put into this and the involvement of the community. The new map also creates some problems. Let me review and explain.

Before beginning to draw any maps, the Redistricting Group of the Charter Commission adopted a set of key principles for its work.  These principles included a) creating compact and contiguous wards, b) changing the existing ward boundaries as little as necessary, and c) keeping communities of interest whole to the extent possible.

As far as I can tell, the Redistricting Group then essentially disregarded these principles.

For an example of a non-compact ward, see the new Ward 6 (scroll down), especially in contrast with the old Ward 6.  Indeed, Ward 6 seemed to become less compact with every iteration of the Redistricting Group's work - the February 15th map featured a Ward 6 that was roughly as compact as the existing.

The changes between the February 15th map and the final map also highlight the extent to which the Redistricting Group threw another of its "key principles" out the window: that the boundaries should be shifted as little as necessary.  Compare the existing ward map to the new ward map to see what I mean.

I believe that the Charter Commission would claim that it took the "community of interest" claim seriously.  After all, most of these changes to the ward boundaries were ostensibly to put racial and ethnic communities of interest together in wards.  However, the choice to focus on that goal to the exclusion of all others did major damage to the "communities of interest" that are geographical neighborhoods.  Where the 2005 redistricting process took neighborhoods seriously and strove to keep them whole in particular wards to the extent possible, the Charter Commission seems to have disregarded neighborhoods entirely.

For proof of this, let's look again at Ward 6.  The old Ward 6 represented four whole, undivided neighborhoods.  The new Ward 6 will represent six neighborhood, but all of only two.  The Elliot Park, West Bank, Stevens Square and Seward neighborhoods have been divided, and had their poorer sections agglomerated into Ward 6.  Where the old ward lines used the same logical divisions (freeways, highways, major roads, railroad lines, etc.) that define the border of geographical neighborhoods, the new ward extends across those natural barriers to use small, low-volume neighborhood streets (like 30th Ave S) as ward boundaries.

Revealingly, this division of Seward occurred despite the strong, repeated, and well-documented objections of actual Seward residents and the Seward Neighborhood Group.  They were ignored, in favor of a special interest group based outside of Seward.  So not only did neighborhoods not matter in the final map, they didn't matter in the process either. 

And not all the ways in which this map ignores neighborhoods can be defended in terms of creating minority opportunity wards.  Note the small sliver of Ward 9 that jumps over Highway 55 to use the smaller Minnehaha Avenue as the eastern boundary.  That tiny strip of land is the only part of the Longfellow neighborhood in Ward 9.  Few people live in it.  There are development pressures there that mostly impact people on the east (or Longfellow) side of 55.  Why on earth was this piece of Longfellow cut off from the rest of the neighborhood?

On the test of keeping communities of interest together, this map also fails.

There are other problems with this map.  As a result of trying to pack minority residents into two south side wards, it dramatically reduces the number of wards in which they will have any meaningful influence.  Now that Ward 6 is the "East African Ward," other surrounding policymakers will have less direct, electoral reason to pay attention to the needs and wishes of that community.  Another unintended consequence of this map is that poverty has now been concentrated in two southside wards. 

It is hard to know what might happen in the future because of the new boundaries.  I am hopeful that the decisions and wisdom of the Charter Commission will not have long lasting negative effects on the city and that next time we can all remember these decisions and learn from them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Yard Waste Rules

Starting this spring, the City will no longer pick up yard waste in plastic bagsResidents may use compostable bags, paper lawn bags, or sturdy reusable containers.

Using compostable plastic bags, Kraft paper lawn and leaf yard waste bags, or a reusable container, eliminates the need to debag yard waste before composting. This results in an improved collection program with lower yard waste processing costs and higher quality finished compost.

From April 9 to May 7 there will be a four-week transition period for folks who have plastic leaf bags from last season. Through collection day the week of April 30, you may set out plastic bags of leaves from last fall or early spring for collection. Your yard waste crews will debag and collect your yard waste placing the empty plastic bags in your garbage cart and information about the new rules will be left behind. After May 7, 2012, all yard waste in conventional plastic bags will not be picked up but will be left and tagged to be repackaged.

I think this is a great step forward for Minneapolis.  I questioned whether it was wise for us to seek and receive an exemption from the compostable bag mandate that surrounding communities have been operating under for the past few years.  We should be doing more to reduce the amount of plastic waste we're generating as a city, and this is a concrete example.

For more information, go here.

Compost and Urban Ag in the Press

There's a great article in the TC Daily Planet detailing my office's work with Russ Henry on the compost ordinance amendments.  MinnPost also has a good description of the Urban Ag Text Amendments passing the Zoning and Planning Committee last Thursday.

Great Stadium Op-Ed

My colleagues Betsy Hodges and Elizabeth Glidden have coauthored a great op-ed on the problems with the stadium proposal that the three of us do not support.  I agree with their points, and would especially underline the sixth: a proposal that relies on legalese and loopholes to get around the referendum requirement written into the Minneapolis charter is fatally flawed from the outset.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Urban Agriculture Amendments Pass Z&P

This morning, the Urban Agriculture Text Amendments unanimously passed the Council's Zoning and Planning Committee, and in very strong shape.

On hoop houses: their height will be limited to 6.5' on parcels with 1-4 unit residential buildings.  Everywhere else, they will be able to be 12' tall.  This would allow properly-sized hoop houses not only on market gardens, community gardens and urban farms, but also as accessory uses to institutions (schools, churches, etc.) and large apartment buildings.

On market garden sale days: market gardeners will be allowed to sell directly to the public 15 days per year (down from staff's recommended 25 days, up from CM Tuthill's proposed 2 days).  They will not be restricted to one sale day per week, as staff recommended, but will have to post contact info on their farm stand each day they're open and notify their neighbors at the beginning of the season.

And on raised bed materials: CM Tuthill moved a version of her amendment that my office worked on with growers, which ensures that metal and ceramics can be used but tires and bathtubs can't, and clarifies that green-treated lumber is not required.

The amendments now move forward to the full City Council on March 30th, where I expect them to pass with strong support from the rest of my colleagues.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Compost Ordinance Passes

This morning, the Council unanimously passed the compost ordinance I authored.  This is a big deal for Minneapolis, in two important ways.

First, it fits into the broader Homegrown Minneapolis initiative to grow more food in our city.  Much of our soil is compacted, depleted, or contaminated from decades of urban use.  If we really want to grow more healthy local food, first we have to grow more healthy local dirt.  Composting is the best way to do that.

Second, this ordinance fits into the City's broader environmental initiatives.  We have aggressive goals to create less waste - for instance, by burning less garbage.  One of the key ways to increase our diversion rate will be to get the reusable organics out of the waste stream.  And if we're going to compost that material, there is literally no better place to manage it than in our backyards and community gardens, where it's generated.

This ordinance makes major progress on both of those goals.  It dramatically increases the amount of composting folks can do in their backyards, and increases the amount of composting people can do at community gardens even more.  It gives folks flexibility in the design of their composting bins.  It makes clear that people don't need to use (and really shouldn't use) green-treated lumber to build compost bins.  And if folks create problems (odors, attracting pests), our staff can now require that they take a course in how to compost properly.

I want to thank a few people specifically. As I said in the last post, Russ Henry got this initiative started and was an invaluable asset all through the process. Sarah Sponheim presented the environmental/waste reduction case very well in committee. Kirsten Saylor presented the community garden case very well. Beth Dooley and Mustafa Sundiata wrote a great letter from the Food Council. Anna Cioffi successfully organized the grower community to call their Council Members on this. Eric Larsen, Nate Watters and others from Stone’s Throw farm helped write the ordinance amendments and organize support around them.

On the staff side, Patrick Hanlon did a great job presenting to committee, assisted by JoAnn Velde. Aly Pennucci prepped some very effective sample site plans that really helped make clear what the amendment would do. My Policy Aide, Robin Garwood, provided irreplaceable coordination and leadership throughout the process. Ginny Black from the MPCA and John Jaimez from Hennepin County vetted the ordinance and Ginny gave us a formal letter of support.

I look forward to having similar success on the Urban Agriculture Text Amendments next Council cycle.

Earth Hour

The Council has again adopted a resolution supporting Earth Hour.  On March 31, from 8:30pm-9:30pm, the City will participate in Earth Hour by turning off all uses of electricity in municipal buildings not required for life, safety or operations, and will turn off the decorative lighting on the Stone Arch Bridge for the entire night as a symbol of the City’s commitment to being part of the solution to climate change.

The resolution also honors the major downtown buildings that are participating in Earth Hour.  See a list below the fold.
Read more »

CeCe McDonald

I am adding my voice to the growing number of those speaking up to support CeCe McDonald and call for fairness, transparency and expediency in her case. Chrishaun CeCe McDonald’s case started with a tragic incident that occurred last summer that left one person dead.

The basic facts don’t seem to be an issue in this case that now centers on CeCe, a 23 year-old African-American transgender woman charged with second-degree murder.

According to Outfront Minnesota, “CeCe and several of her friends, who are all African-American, were walking by a bar in South Minneapolis early on the morning of June 5, 2011 when the incident occurred. A group of much older bar patrons standing outside the bar verbally assaulted CeCe and her friends with transphobic and racist slurs: “faggots,” “niggers,” “chicks with dicks” and more. That group, led by 47-year-old Dean Schmitz of Richfield—a man with a swastika tattooed on his chest, remarked that Cece was dressed “like a woman” in order to rape him. Another member of the group removed CeCe’s jacket and hit CeCe in the face with a glass beer mug which shattered on impact and tore a hole through CeCe’s cheek. In the ensuing melee Schmitz was stabbed and killed.”

It appears that CeCe was the victim of a hate crime that involved many people but she was the only person held by the police. Here is another example transgender women of color being targeted for hate- and bias-related violence. It is unfortunate that in this case, as in so many, the hate crime itself appears to have been ignored. All reports indicate that after her arrest she was held in solitary confinement and denied adequate medical care for her injuries.

I stand in solidarity with CeCe, her family, Outfront Minnesota and a growing number of people in the community who are working to ensure that she is treated with dignity and respect and has access to safe and supportive legal services. This matter should be resolved quickly and fairly, so that she and her family can go on with their lives, without a prolonged court case and trial looming over their heads.

For more information you can find visit here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Vikings Stadium - Another Deal

The Governor, Mayor Rybak, and the Vikings have come out with a deal.  Unfortunately, it changed very little from the previous proposal that the Mayor and Council President presented several weeks ago to the Council's Committee of the Whole.  I had hoped that the fact that seven Council Members had gone on record at that meeting opposing the plan would have inspired some compromises and changes on key objections, including the refusal to put it to a referendum, but, regrettably, it did not.

I continue to oppose any scheme for the City of Minneapolis to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars ($338.7 million in this proposal), to a private enterprise without a referendum.  It is also worth noting that the City Finance Director estimates that that $338.7 in present day dollars will actually amount to $650 million by the time everything is paid off in 2046. I will not vote for this plan.

One reason why I oppose this plan is because I think it disproportionately and unfairly punishes Minneapolis in general, but downtown area residents, businesses and visitors in particular. According to one recent report, we are already one of the highest, if not the highest, taxed downtowns in the nation.

The most important reason I will vote no is that I believe a yes vote would be in direct violation of the spirit of the City's charter, which calls for a referendum on support for stadiums over $10 million.  There may be legal loopholes that allow stadium proponents to think they can get away with this, but it's clearly not in keeping with the spirit.

This whole debate highlights a philosophical divide on where Minneapolis city government gets its authority  to govern.  It's true that we are a creation of the Legislature, empowered by them to be a self-governing municipality.  It's also true that we have our own fundamental compact between the people of Minneapolis and their government, in the form of the Charter.  We exist in a critical nexus between the power of institutions above us and the grassroots beneath.

The question is: which is more important?  Should the City of Minneapolis be seen mostly as a creation of the Legislature, which we can and should ask to meddle in our affairs to get around our laws and even our Charter when it's deemed to be convenient?  Or should the City be seen mostly as a creation of the people of Minneapolis, whom we are elected to represent?  Put differently, do we get our power from the top down, or from the bottom up?

I believe our authority - in both legal and moral terms - comes from the bottom up.  The key value of Grassroots Democracy that guides my work helps inform this perspective.  The City of Minneapolis exists to serve our residents and businesses, not as a projection of power down from the state.

From this bottom-up perspective, it's clear that while we arguably can go to the Legislature and ask them to preempt our Charter, we should not do so.

This isn't just an ethical argument, either.  It's a strategic one.  Right now, municipalities in Michigan face the real prospect of having their local governments disbanded and replaced with a state-appointed "manager."  When the City plays with this kind of fire, there is a risk that we might get burned.

The argument that stadium supporters are making - that sales tax dollars have really always been State tax dollars, and we've just been using them - is quite a stretch.  The State authorized the City to impose a sales tax.  The City then decided, by ordinance, to impose that tax.  We then used it for a City-controlled facility (the Convention Center) for decades.  But those were actually State tax dollars all along!

It's a slippery-slope sort of argument.  If it's true for the downtown sales taxes, why isn't it true for all taxes levied by the City of Minneapolis?  How do we draw that line, from this point onward?

And so we see quotes like this gem from Ted Mondale: "The money is never touched by the city.  The state in the end spends the money. So therefore the city's not spending money."  It sounds akin to defending embezzlement by saying: "I didn't take the money from you. Your never touched the money. I took it from your bank account."

There are other specifics of this deal that I question.  How is it that the same sales taxes that currently pay for the Convention Center will be extended to pay for the Vikings Stadium, Target Center, and continue to pay for the Convention Center?  Is it at all reasonable to expect that this taffylike extension of those tax dollars will actually meet all of those demands?  Or will some portion of those three major liabilities outpace the limited resources?  Is Minneapolis alone in shouldering this risk, as it appears?  (Note that under this deal, the State of Minnesota has no ongoing operating maintenance responsibilities.)

The plan is being sold as requiring "no new taxes" at the local level.  But what happens if and when there are maintenance overruns?  What tax dollars will be used to hold the Convention Center, Target Center and Vikings Stadium harmless?

We're being asked to take on outsized risk, in clear violation of the spirit (and possibly also the letter) of our Charter, in order to give hundreds of millions of public dollars to a private enterprise.  I suspect that the legislature could craft the law to not even require a vote from the Council.  But so far the governor and the leading legislators have said that will not do that.  They believe that a special law like this needs to have local government approval.  I believe it also needs the approval of the people.

Urban Agriculture Text Amendments at Z&P

At the end of a record-breaking Zoning and Planning committee meeting (five and a half hours long!) the committee continued the Urban Agriculture zoning code text amdendments until its next meeting on March 22nd.  Before tabling it, the committee received some possible amendments that will be voted on on the 22nd.  You can find them here under item 6.

I'm going to briefly describe the four amendments and one motion below, and then offer some reaction and analysis of each.  The first three are from Council Member Tuthill:

1) Limit Hoop Houses to six feet, everywhere in the city.  (Hoop houses are temporary season extension structures that are often constructed in half-cylinder shapes from metal braces and covered in transparent plastic sheeting.)

Analysis: this is a bad idea, for many reasons.  Growers have been very clear that six foot tall hoop houses will not meet their needs, making this effectively a ban on hoop houses in the city.  As such, this amendment would significantly damage our chances of having any meaningful season extension - and given our cold climate, that's a real blow to the whole idea of local foods.

It's interesting to note that all other accessory structures (sheds, pergolas, etc) in Minneapolis can be up to 12 feet tall.  In fact, someone could construct a 12' tall hoop house in their backyard today.  These are available, as well: there are hoop house kits for sale in local stores that are over 6 feet tall.

One of CM Tuthill's key arguments is that we don't allow fences to be over 6' tall, and that we should protect people from seeing hoop houses over their neighbors fences.  It's true that we don't allow tall privacy fences in Minneapolis, but because we allow accessory structures to be 12' tall, many residents can see their neighbors' accessory structures today.  I have a childrens' play structure in my yard that's over 6' tall.  Should we really be protecting my neighbor from its unsightliness?

Lastly, this amendment ignores that there are different uses and different zoning districts in the city.  I would be open to a limited height for hoop houses in backyards, perhaps even as low as six and a half feet (the height of the commercially available versions).  But market and community gardens - whose whole purpose is to grow food - should be allowed more height, something like 10 feet.  And urban farms, which must be in industrial or commercial zones and which would be allowed to have much more intense uses, should be allowed the full 12 feet.

2) Reduce sale days at market gardens to two 72-hour periods every year

Analysis: This is also a bad idea.  The staff recommendation is 25 days, or about once a week during the growing season.

Many market gardeners will bring most of their produce to sell it elsewhere - farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.  But some market gardeners will also want to have some limited opportunities to sell directly to their neighbors.  This amendment would effectively ban that.

One argument CM Tuthill has made is that this is the current zoning restriction on yard sales (twice per year, 72 hours at a time).  This argument doesn't work, though, for a very simple reason: farmstands are not yard sales.  Two 72-hour garage sales per year are enough for most residents.  We're hearing loud and clear from growers that a similar time wouldn't be sufficient for them.  Yard sales have an arguably greater impact on their neighbors, with racks of clothing and tables of other items out on the lawn.  Farm stands would be prohibited from taking place in the required front yard, meaning that any customer would have to walk up onto the lot, rather than being able to buy something right on the sidewalk.  Additionally, the farm stand is only allowed to sell products grown on site. Holding yard sales and farmstands to the same standard just doesn't make sense.

Lastly, it's important to recognize one of the key motivations of some market gardeners and their supporters.  In addition to increasing production of local produce, they want to increase access to it.  Even with the mini markets and the City's work on produce in corner stores, there are still parts of our city with too little access to produce.  One way that other cities (like Seattle) have addressed this problem is by allowing market gardeners in those communities to sell directly to their neighbors.

I might be willing to compromise down from 25 to a slightly smaller number of days, but two is just unreasonable.

3) Establish material standards for raised beds in front yards.  Raised beds would be required to be made of "wood, brick, masonry, landscape timbers or synthetic lumber," and would not be allowed to be made of "wire, chicken wire, rope, cable, railroad ties, utility poles, or any other similar materials."  Any wood used would be required to be "resistant to decay."

Analysis: this idea is fine in concept, but I do have some concerns about the specifics.  Having standards makes sense, especially if there have been concerns about some residents' choices of materials for their raised beds.

However, some of the specific language might be overly restrictive.  I don't see a problem with the list of prohibited materials - ruling out both highly permeable materials and wood treated by toxic chemicals seems smart - but the list of required materials might not be inclusive enough.  (Also, if we have a list of prohibitions, why do we need a list of requirements as well?)

I'll give a concrete example.  Actually, it's a metal example.  Russ Henry, a local landscape company owner and member of both the Minneapolis Food Council and Environmental Advisory Committee, has installed some beautiful planters on the Seward Coop's property and boulevard.  They're made of what seems to be iron, and have a very interesting rusty red finish.  It seems to me that CM Tuthill's list of materials would rule out these lovely planters, and possibly even require them to be removed.  I represent Seward, and have received no complaints about those planters.  In fact, I've heard from people that they really like them.  If we're going to adopt a list of allowable materials, it has to be comprehensive enough to include these sorts of creative solutions that don't cause problems and complaints.

Lastly, I have concerns about using the phrase "resistant to decay" when talking about wood.  The only way to make most wood that is in direct contact with soil resistant to decay is to treat it with toxic chemicals.  The same impulse that seems to have driven the ban on utility poles and railroad ties should pull us back from enacting this requirement.

Luckily, this is something that the Council has just addressed on a different subject - composting.  One of the recommendations from the composters was that the City stop requiring (or even seeming to require) green-treated lumber in the construction of compost bins, due to the concern that it will contaminate the compost.  There is an extremely simple solution: rather than requiring that the wood be resistant to rot, just require that it not be rotten.  This gives our staff the same capacity to make someone fix a rotted raised bed, but doesn't indicate that folks should build their beds out of lumber that might cause problems.


I also put out an amendment and a staff direction.

The staff direction was for Planning staff to ensure that the Temporary Use Permit application require prospective farmstand operators (selling food from their market garden) to notify their near neighbors, the neighborhood organization, and their Council Member's office.  I believe staff would've required much of this anyway, but I wanted to make sure it's clear that folks will hear about these activities before they happen, and that they'll have a chance to have a conversation with market gardeners.  My hope is that conversation between neighbors can disarm any friction a farmstand might cause.

The amendment would establish a maximum size for market gardens.  The staff proposal is for market gardens up to 10,000 square feet of growing area to be permitted uses.  This means that they won't have to ask anyone's permission or apply for anything, just go ahead and grow.  Above 10,000 square feet, staff are recommending that market gardens require a Conditional Use Permit (or CUP).  This is a process that costs over $500 and requires a public hearing, and gives the City the chance to place conditions on an activity.

I'd heard that some of my concerns about the maximum size of market gardens.  One suggestions was to limit them to 10,000 square feet in low-density residential areas.  I heard from growers that that would be a major problem for them; some market gardeners are already pursuing leases at lots with more growing space than 10,000 square feet.  I also heard from growers that the largest conceivable market garden in the foreseeable future is one acre. 

So I have drafted an amendment that would continue to permit market gardens from 0-10,000 square feet, require a CUP for gardens between 10,000 and 43,000 square feet, and cap the maximum size at 43,000 square feet.

Again, all of these will be discussed in greater detail at the Zoning and Planning committee meeting on March 22nd. It is also possible that more amendments could be brought forward then. Assuming that the item is moved forward by the committee, it could also be amended at the subsequent Council meeting on March 30th.

Governor Vetoes Shoot First

I want to thank Governor Dayton for vetoing the terrible Shoot First bill yesterday.  As much as we might disagree about the City's role in financing a stadium for the Vikings, I'm glad he's there to block bills like this from becoming law.

Bottom line: this bill would have made Minneapolis residents much less safe.  It would have increased the risks to Minneapolis police officers.  It would have done away with any expectation that people in threatening situations seek to leave the situation before resorting to deadly force.  It would have opened Minnesota up to a flood of guns from other states with much less stringent licensing requirements and made it harder to remove guns from households with domestic violence problems.

And it's just not necessary. Even the bill's most fervent backers admit that no one in Minnesota has been unfairly prosecuted for shooting someone in self defense.  So if there isn't actually a "castle doctrine" problem to be solved, what's the point of this whole exercise?

Obviously, the point is to incrementally erode what's left of Minnesota's common sense gun controls, bringing us down to the level of other, more dangerous states.  And to curry favor with powerful special interests like the NRA who do not have the best interests of Minnesota residents in mind.

I must admit that this whole debate is mystifying to me.  Months after a three-year-old child was tragically killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis, is the most important issue for legislators to address really that not enough people are being shot in the state of Minnesota?

Civilian Review at Risk in the Legislature

The Minnesota Legislature is considering a terrible bill that would dramatically weaken the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority by preventing it from making findings of fact (as authorized by the Minneapolis CRA ordinance).  As someone who has fought to strengthen the CRA, I strongly oppose this awful idea.  It’s interesting to note that it is not supported by any members of the Minneapolis legislative delegation.  I find it very disappointing that some any members of the legislature have signed on as supporters of this.

Another Terrible Bill: Rulemaking Moratorium

The Republicans in the state legislature have introduced yet another ill-conceived bill that would impose an unnecessary and destructive moratorium on rulemaking by state agencies. 

Among other things, this would stop work on the Pollution Control Agency’s amendments to their composting rules which would, ironically, significantly loosen the existing regulations on composting businesses both large and small.  So in an effort to prevent government from getting in the way, they're inadvertently keeping government from getting out of the way. 

That’s the kind of unintended consequence that results from this sort of broad-brush anti-government extremism, and shows what happens when the Legislature is controlled by folks who seem to have no real interest in governing.  It's good to see that no DFLers have signed on to this one.

Tenants Rights Meeting March 27

In light of the concerns I heard at the most recent meeting about the Riverside Plaza renovation project, my office has scheduled a public meeting for West Bank residents regarding tenants’ rights on Tuesday, March 27 at 7pm at the Brian Coyle Center. City staff and legal experts will be there to help people understand their rights as tenants and what they can do if they have concerns about their housing, maintenance, management or landlords.

Solar on Fire Station 19

In February new solar installation was put on Fire Station 19 to provide electricity and hot water to the building. The station is one of six Minneapolis buildings that have new solar installations funded by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and using Xcel Energy rebates. The roof of Fire Station No. 19 features 58 new solar electric panels, which will provide 9.83 kilowatts of power, and three solar thermal panels, which will provide the fire station with 50 to 70 percent of its hot water needs.

Friday, March 02, 2012

CLIC Appointee Needed

Seward resident Becca Vargo-Daggett, who was one of my appointees to the Capital Long Range Improvement Committee (or CLIC), has moved out of Minneapolis.  I thank her for her years of service on CLIC and wish her well.

I need a new CLIC appointee, and I am looking for someone from the west side of the river – Seward, the West Bank, or Cooper.  CLIC makes recommendations to the City Council and Mayor on capital improvement program development and annual capital improvement budgets, and has tremendous influence on the infrastructure investments the City makes.  If you are interested, please contact my office, or apply here.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sabo Bridge

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Martin Olav Sabo bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 55 suffered a critical failure of two of its support cables on Sunday, February 18th.  Public works staff presented an update to Council yesterday that you can read here.

The Sabo bridge's problems disrupted traffic on Highway 55 and operations on the Hiawatha LRT for a little more than a week.  Public Works staff have responded quickly and professionally to this unexpected problem, shoring up the bridge and getting traffic and LRT service reopened as soon as possible. 

Problems with other cables and their connections to the bridge have been discovered, and the City has hired a contractor to investigate what caused these failures.  These cables are a little over five years old, and were inspected just last year and found to be in good condition.  The bridge itself is closed to bicycle and pedestrian traffic indefinitely. 

I support this important and highly visible investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and I’m confident that we will be able to isolate the cause of these failures and make the repairs necessary to reopen it.  I am confident that the costs of the repairs will be covered by whichever party is found by the investigation currently underway to have caused the problems with these cables.