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: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Getting Serious about Guns

Yet again in the United States, a single man has massacred innocent strangers in a public place.  This time, twenty young children and six adults were killed.

This event has shocked our nation, but it is tragically unsurprising.  We have grown accustomed, in this country, to hearing about horrific mass killings.  We even have a naming convention, in which the community's name becomes forever associated with the horror: Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood, Wisconsin Sikh Temple, Virginia Tech.  Sandy Hook simply joins that painful list.

We have grown even more accustomed to the daily toll of lives lost to gunfire in our communities.  It is not common for so many children to die to a single gun in the hands of a single man, but children all over this country are killed by guns almost every day.  Just a little less than weeks before Sandy Hook, I stood with grieving family members and shocked neighbors for a vigil for just one beautiful child killed by a gun, two-year-old Neejnco Xiong, who was accidentally shot and killed by his four-year-old brother with a handgun that was stored loaded and unlocked.

This completely unnecessary and tragic loss of lives will continue, with new names being added to the list of children killed by guns every day, until and unless political leaders decide to get serious about guns.  As Pastor Jane Buckley-Farley from Trinity Lutheran Church said at the vigil for Neejnco, there is simply no place in a civilized society for these weapons.  We do not need them, we do not benefit from them, and they are quite literally killing our children.

I am heartened that the Sandy Hook tragedy, precisely because it is so shocking, seems to have seized the conscience of the nation, and of our political leaders.  I am encouraged to hear President Obama say:
"We can't tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law, no set of laws, can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every act of senseless violence in our society.  But that can't be an excuse for inaction.  Surely we can do better than this."
I agree.  We can and must do better, and I welcome the President's new attention to this issue.

I am encouraged by the fact that legislation has been reintroduced at the federal level to address the military-style weapons, unconscionably capacious magazines, and other aspects of the gun industry that make tragedies like this possible.  It is good to see that many Representatives and Senators, even those who have supported the NRA in the past, are awakening from the spell of fear and inaction that the NRA has cast over Washington (and Saint Paul) for so long.  Sensible prohibitions on military-style weapons and regulations on handguns are not unconstitutional, and do not infringe on the rights of hunters and other legal gun users.  We can protect the rights of gun owners while also protecting our children's right to live.

I will also act, in whatever capacity I can as a Minneapolis Council Member.  I plan to push for the City to take a strong stand in our legislative agenda, especially at the federal level.  Our current federal agenda does not mention gun control, and that must change.  Our recently adopted state legislative agenda does mention gun control:
"Legislation supporting significant gun control measures including the mandatory reporting of any lost or stolen firearm, strengthening laws regulating the transfer of firearms, the prohibition of possessing replica guns in public, and measures to stop the flow of handguns to youth."
This can and should go much further.  I think it is time for the City to push for the repeal of the state law from the 1980s that prohibits local units of government from regulating guns.  Minneapolis should be able to develop our own community standards and laws for guns, as we can for restaurants and bars, taxis, and many other much less deadly objects.

I will also be pushing for the Council to adopt a resolution about guns.  My hope is that such a resolution will make clear what we believe the higher units of government should do, commit the City to doing what is within our power, and calling on our residents to make voluntary changes regarding guns.  Specifically, I believe that the City should encourage all residents of Minneapolis who own guns to voluntarily give them up.  Having a gun in one's home does not make one safer, it increases the chances of injury and death - whether through mass shootings like Sandy Hook, homicide, suicide or accident.  I hope that the City will also remind those who do not choose to get rid of their guns to store them locked and unloaded, with the bullets stored separately, and to promptly report the theft or loss of any gun.

If we are serious about wanting to prevent a future Sandy Hook, we must get serious about guns.  As the President said, we can't tolerate this anymore.  Surely we can do better.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth-Telling

On December 26, 1862 the mass execution of 38 Dakota, the largest in the history of the United States, occurred in Mankato, Minnesota. It was part of the genocide of the Dakota people in Minnesota and the United States.


This morning, December 14, 2012,  City Council unanimously passed a resolution, signed by the Mayor, that will help us move one small step closer to addressing the grave injustices done to the Dakota people in Minneapolis and Minnesota over the years. It calls for a year of remembering, honoring and truth-telling to help us understand and rectify the wrongs that were perpetrated during, and since, 1862 on the Dakota People and designates“The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth-Telling,” from December 26, 2012 to December 26, 2013.

Here is the text.

======================

RESOLUTION 

of the

CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS


By Lilligren, Gordon, Reich, Hofstede, Johnson, Samuels, Goodman, Glidden, Schiff, Tuthill, Quincy, Colvin Roy, and Hodges.

Recognizing the 150th Anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 and Declaring 2012-2013 the Year of the Dakota in Minneapolis.

Whereas, the year 2012 is the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 that led to the mass execution of 38 Dakota, the largest in the history of the United States, and the genocide of the Dakota people; and

Whereas, much has yet to be learned about issues revolving around land, reparations and restitution, treaties, genocide, suppression of American Indian spirituality and ceremonies, suppression of Indigenous languages, bounties, concentration camps, forced marches, mass executions, and forcible removals; and

Whereas, Indigenous women, children and elderly were held in a concentration camp at the base of Fort Snelling, separated from the men, before being exiled to reservations in neighboring states and Canada, and later being stripped of their culture and traditions in boarding schools and subjected to white culture and religions; and

Whereas, the complete history of Minnesota must be taught from the perspective of all people that have lived it;

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by the City Council of The City of Minneapolis:

That every effort must be made to ensure that the Dakota perspective is presented during the year 2012-2013, through discussions at forums, events, symposia, conferences and workshops, to include the complex issues listed above;

Be It Further Resolved that the City of Minneapolis works to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian community, including Dakota People.

Be It Further Resolved that these efforts during the years 2012 and 2013 will mark the beginning of future dialogues and efforts to rectify the wrongs that were perpetrated during, and since, the year 1862, a tragic and traumatic event for the Dakota People of Minnesota.

Be It Further Resolved that the year 2012-2013 is hereby designated “The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth-Telling,” from December 26, 2012 to December 26, 2013.

===============

My sincere thanks to Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D. (Former Associate Professor Indigenous Nations & Dakota Studies) for helping and inspiring us to get this done. He is also Chairperson of the Seven Fires Summit.

You can also find some information about the history of 1862 in the local paper here  and here.

I look forward to a year of remembering, honoring and truth-telling. I welcome you to join me and share you ideas about how we can best use it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Climate Action Plan Survey

Addressing climate change may be one of the most important things we can be working on next year.


I am very excited about the new Climate Action Plan the city is currently drafting that will measure the impact of current City efforts and develop new initiatives that will focus on transportation, buildings and waste. The draft goals and strategies are available for public comment and we are asking people to take a short survey on them to provide feedback. The survey  will be available through December 14th.

Please consider taking the survey and feel free to drop me a note letting me know what you think about the goals and strategies so far.

Help make this a strong, aggressive plan.

You can find more information on the Climate Action Plan here.



Friday, December 07, 2012

War Spending Resolution

This morning, the Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on the federal government to shifting its funding priorities from military operations to meeting the needs of local communities.  This resolution was sponsored by the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project, (MN ASAP), an organization headed by Second Ward resident, peace activist and author Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.

Saint Paul had already passed a similar resolution, and the campaign will be asking for Duluth and other Minnesota cities to follow suit.  There is also a robust and growing list of endorsers that includes churches, nonprofits, and individuals.

The resolution we passed this morning is entirely in keeping with House Resolution 733, authored by Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison, which calls for a solution to the fiscal crisis our country faces that cuts the military budget but leaves essential spending for our communities unscathed.

For much of the past decade, we have been living through a time of austerity in local government.  We've had to work hard to find ways to keep essential services running as we face steep cuts from the state and federal governments, along with the results of the Great Recession.  Most recently, the City Council has struggled to find ways to hire two much-needed 911 operators.

While local needs have been so difficult to meet, our country has been spending (and, as my colleague Barb Johnson eloquently pointed out, borrowing) billions of dollars on war and on what Dwight Eisenhower called the Military-Industrial Complex.  As Washington attempts to come to grips with the "fiscal cliff," the City of Minneapolis is now on record calling on them to balance our nation's budget by cutting military spending, not programs that benefit our communities.

As Jack pointed out at a press conference we held this morning, we cannot continue to be successful as a nation if we spend more than fifty cents of each tax dollar on the military.  It is simply not sustainable.  We need to reinvest that money in good jobs, education, transportation and the environment.

It's important to note that this resolution clearly distinguished between spending on war and spending for our veterans.  We must continue to give back to those who have given so much to our country, and this resolution does not call for any cuts to benefits, medical care, or any other support for our veterans.

I hope that today's vote by the Council will give additional momentum to a movement that will sweep across our state and country, telling our leaders in Washington that we are spending too much on war and weapons, and not enough on the real needs of our communities here at home.  I am proud of our City Council today and of Minneapolis for taking a stand. I hope the state legislature will take a simliar stand and that our representatives in Congress and president will lead the country to a national budget that reflects the priorities of the people, away from short term military solutions and towards lasting peace.

Open Streets - Four Events for 2013!

This is an exciting day for Minneapolis Open Streets events.  This morning, the Council unanimously approved accepting a $50,000 "Play Streets" grant from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to do four Open Streets events next year (one per quadrant of the city), and a resolution to formally cosponsor those events and commit to covering up to $50,000 in public costs.  Minneapolis is one of only 10 cities around the country to receive this grant.

Open Streets events temporarily close major commercial corridors to cars for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, and open the street up to walking, bicycling, and other forms of physical activity and enjoyment.  The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has sponsored three Open Streets events in Minneapolis so far: on Lyndale Ave S in June of 2011 and 2012, and on Lowry Ave N in September of 2012.  Many other cities both in the US and around the world hold Open Streets-style events, calling them Ciclovia, Sunday Streets, Sunday Parkways and more.

These events have been a tremendous success.  The number of people who attended the Lyndale event doubled from 2011 to 2012, from 5,000 to 10,000.  Businesses along the routes do very well on the day of the event, and the reaction from participants has been extremely positive.

So when an opportunity arose this past August to apply for a $50,000 grant from the PHA, my office worked to make sure the City applied.  My aide, Robin, helped coordinate a group of City staff and volunteers from the Minneapolis Bicycle to write an application that I signed along with Mayor Rybak, Council President Johnson, and Council Vice President Lilligren.  (Full disclosure: Robin is a board member of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which may end up being the City's contractor to organize the events next year.)  We found out in late October that the City of Minneapolis had been selected, and worked to bring an action to the Council to accept the grant and pass the resolution committing the City to formally cosponsor.  That action passed the Transportation and Public Works committee unanimously on Tuesday, and the Council this morning.

I'm especially excited to have the City playing a more helpful, supportive role in Open Streets events.  Public costs - barricades, traffic direction, no-parking signage, waste and recycling service - have been by far the greatest costs to Open Streets events so far.  Open Streets events help the City make progress on many adopted policy goals, around non-motorized transportation, health, air quality, economic development and  Most of our peer cities that have successful Open Streets-style events (Portland, San Francisco, New York, LA and others) provide these as public support.  Oakland, CA, on the other hand, did not support its Open Streets events and they have been discontinued.  I want to make sure that Minneapolis can have sustainable, long-term success with Open Streets, and I believe that requires support from the City.

And I'm not alone in wanting to see the City become a better partner for Open Streets.  The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) recommended, as part of the Bike Plan Implementation Plan, that the City do more to help make these events successful.  That recommendation was unanimously adopted by the Council in 2011.  The BAC also recommended that the City apply for the "Play Streets" grant in August, and  in November supported the Council action and resolution that passed today.

Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Minnesota also strongly supported today's action.  They helped get Minneapolis Open Streets off the ground with a $20,000 grant in 2011 and an additional $20,000 in support for the Lyndale and Lowry events this year.

And of course, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition did a great job both letting the Council know that they supported today's action, making clear that they have the capacity to successfully organize next year's events if they're chosen as the contractor, and informing their members that this exciting opportunity was on the Council's agenda.

Many people helped make this happen.  The PHA, of course, deserves our thanks for creating this program.  My fellow policymakers who signed the application - the Mayor and Council Members Johnson and Lilligren - all also helped to ensure its passage at the Council today.  Many City staff helped edit the City's successful application: Jon Wertjes and David Peterson in Public Works, Sarah Stewart and Patty Bowler in the Health Department, Phil Schliesman in Licensing, Andy Holmaas and Peter Wagenius from the Mayor's Office, Kris Arneson from the Police Department and Gene Ranieri in Intergovernmental Relations.  Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition volunteers Colin Harris, Ben Olson and Molly Sullivan also helped edit the application.

Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works committee, attached a good staff direction to this action.  It directs Public Works to draft a policy that will help the City decide which types of events we will support with public funds, as we have decided to do for the 2013 Open Streets events, and to return with that draft policy in February of 2013.  In speaking in favor of the staff direction, Council Member Lilligren made a point that I agree with: that Open Streets events should be considered a new class of event, dealt with separately from the way we license large block events.  I look forward to making this case in February.

Tragic Handgun Accident in Ward 2

As you can read here, a Second Ward two-year-old named Neejnco Xiong was accidentally shot to death yesterday by his four-year-old brother.

I cannot begin to express how tragic this is and how devasting it must be the child's family.  My thoughts and prayers go out to them all.

Let's commit ourselves to make sure this kind of tragedy is not repeated again.

It seems that this child's father brought a handgun into his home for "personal protection."  It sounds like the gun was stored loaded and unlocked, which Minneapolis Police were right to point out is against state law.

There is a vigil for Neenjco this Saturday, December 8th, at 3:00 pm on the 1900 block of South 7th Street.

There is some question as to whether the gun owner was told in his gun safety training that he could store the weapon in this loaded and unlocked state.  Protect Minnesota is calling for an investigation by Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman into whether the gun safety training was conducted properly.  They have a letter online that concerned people can sign to join this call.

I am convinced by the evidence I have seen from, among other sources, the Harvard School of Public Health, that handguns are simply not safe to have in our society.  More handguns mean more deaths of children - whether accidental, suicide or homicide.  Handguns are rarely used by law-abiding for self-defense.  Having a handgun in one's house increases the chances of suicide, homicide, accidental death, and does not meaningfully increase one's safety from outside threats.  A handgun does not increase your safety, it puts you and your family at risk.

If you have a handgun in your home, please consider getting rid of it - especially if there are children in the home.  The police are available to take and properly dispose of handguns.  To turn on in please call 311. If you decide to keep it, please follow the law and store it unloaded (no rounds in the chamber or the magazine, and bullets stored separately from the weapon) and locked.

One child's tragic handgun-related death is too many.  Unfortunately, in Minneapolis and around the country, these deaths - whether accidental, self-inflicted or homicide - are all too common.  We have to change this.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Arrest in Riverside Park Sexual Assault


On November 19, a Saint Catherine's University student sexually assault in Riverside Park on the West Bank.  A suspect description was obtained and a composite sketch was developed and distributed to the media.

This past Tuesday, a man named Louis Richard Oliver was arrested near Region's Hospital in St. Paul, after having been reported "approaching females" near their parking lot.  He matched the sketch from the victim's description, and was interviewed by Minneapolis police.  He has been charged with the sexual assault on the 19th.

This is good news for the Riverside Park area, and I hope it will bring some closure to the victim.


Congratulations to New Chief Harteau

This morning, the Council unanimously approved the Mayor's appointment of Janee Harteau to head the Minneapolis Police Department.  I strongly supported her appointment, and congratulate her on this new chapter in her career.

I was struck, during the public hearing earlier this week at the Council's Public Safety committee, by the number of West Bank residents and business owners who were so thankful for Janee's service as first a Sector Lieutenant and then Inspector of the First Precinct that they came down to speak on her behalf:

  • Todd Smith, owner of Nomad World Pub and President of the West Bank Business Association
  • Russom Solomon, owner of the Red Sea Bar and Restaurant and head of the West Bank Safety Committee
  • Lynn Johnson, Riverside Park resident 
  • Rosemary Knutson, Riverside Park resident and past president of the West Bank Community Coalition

New Chief Harteau's passion and competence have made a lasting impression on folks from the West Bank, and I know she'll bring those qualities to her new position.

I am also confident that Chief Harteau shares my belief that, while the Minneapolis Police Department does great work in difficult situations day after day, there is always room for improvement.  I believe she will bring a focus on continual improvement to the department, and that will be extremely valuable.

Congratulations, Janee.  Well earned.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Food Council Open House

The Minneapolis Food Council is holding an Open House tonightDecember 5, from 5:30-9pm at East Phillips Park Cultural and Community Center, 2307 17th Ave S.  

Participants will hear an update on Minneapolis’ progress with urban agriculture initiatives, hear from two urban farmers and weigh in on possible future policies and programs.  The open house will include an information fair with organizations that support urban agriculture; lessons on composting, gardening and beekeeping; and a discussion on the future work of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council. Sisters Camelot will serve a light dinner from 6-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and there's still time to RSVP.