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:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creative Vitality Index

This morning, the City's Director of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, Gulgun Kayim, presented a very interesting and helpful report on the City's Creative Vitality Index.

The CVI is a tool that measures annual changes in the economic health of highly-creative industries using information about organizational revenue, jobs, and other measures from creative businesses and nonprofits.  The Twin Cities metro area is sixth in the nation for our CVI score, or four and a half times greater than the national average.  Some other key metrics: the creative economy is responsible for over $700 million in local economic activity; charitable giving to arts organizations in the Twin Cities is thirteen and a half times greater than the national average; approximately 5% of Minneapolis residents work in a creative occupation, and 21% of creative jobs in Minnesota are located in Minneapolis.  

The five creative occupations with the most jobs, in order, are photographers, musicians and singers, writers and authors, graphic designers and art directors.  Southeast Minneapolis (area code 55414) is the part of the city with the third-highest number of artists, and the greatest number outside of downtown.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Council Action on Immigration Reform

In addition to this morning's changes to the City's legislative agenda on guns, the Council tackled another incredibly important issue: immigration reform.  You can read the action here, see a powerpoint on education policy here, and see the full recommendations of the City's Latino Engagement Task Force here.

The Committee of the Whole unanimously approved two changes to our legislative agenda.  The first makes clear that we support allowing all students - regardless of immigration status - who graduate from Minnesota high schools to pay in-state tuition to attend Minnesota public colleges and universities, and to apply for scholarships from the U of M and Minnesota State College and University system.  This puts Minnesota kids who happen to be undocumented immigrants in the same position as other students (including kids from Wisconsin) when it comes to paying for college.

The second action makes clear that we support modifying the Minnesota driver's license procedures to allow information regarding the applicant to be gathered from an identification card issued by a government other than the United States.

There are good examples of both of these policies from other states.  Many other states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington) allow students to pay in-state tuition, regardless of status.  California, New Mexico, and Texas allow students, regardless of status, to have access to state financial aid.  In New Mexico, the percentage of uninsured drivers dropped from 33 percent in 2002, before immigrants could receive driver’s licenses, to 10.6 percent after they could receive licenses.  These policies have proven to be successful in other states, and it's time Minnesota joined in this progress.

This action by the Council would not have been possible without a lot of hard work by the Latino Engagement Task Force, and I commend them and the staff with the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department for putting these important recommendations together.

City Legislative Agenda on Guns

This morning, the Council's Committee of the Whole voted to support a new slate of priority and support items for the City's state and federal legislative agendas on guns.  I strongly supported this action.  This is the time for Minneapolis policymakers to stand up and defend our community from gun violence, and I'm proud that we are responding to the tragedy of Sandy Hook - and the tragedies that occur on an ongoing basis in Minneapolis neighborhoods, like the death of Neengco Xiong.

It's important to understand that some of the items on this new gun-specific part of our state agenda are in the current agenda; they're just spread out within the public safety section.  We are getting clearer about our focus on guns by putting all of our existing and new positions in one central location.

We're also taking a stand on federal gun policy by explicitly supporting President Obama's “Now is the Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence.”  In doing so, we join (according to Gallup) large majorities - indeed, on most of the specifics, overwhelming supermajorities - of the American people.

I also pushed for more discussion of restrictions on handgun possession and especially purchase by people under the age of 21.  One of the key points made at the Mayors' Gun Summit was that communities that have restricted access to handguns by people between 18 and 21 have seen significant reductions in gun violence.  We will hear more on this at the next Committee of the Whole.

Of the staff proposals, one item - a priority item that would require guns being carried in public to be concealed - was postponed for more work and discussion.  Another - a priority item attempting to clarify that someone carrying a gun without a permit in someone else's yard should be defined as carrying that gun "in public" - was moved forward with a staff direction to further clarify our language.

I should note that I have received several fairly hysterical emails from gun enthusiasts opposing the Council's action today, questioning my fidelity to my oath of office, excoriating the Council for even considering gun policy, and misunderstanding the difference between requesting more legal authority and overstepping our current legal authority.  Only two of these emails were from people who clearly indicated that they were Minneapolis residents (and one of those is a well-known extreme conservative with whom I disagree on virtually everything).  I will be responding to the points raised in these emails later, in an 'open letter' on this blog.

The specific policies the Council supported this morning are below the fold.

Read more »

Friday, January 18, 2013

Peavey Plaza on National Registry

It looks like the federal government and national historic preservation experts may be more in line with our own Minneapolis Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) than the City Council is.

This week MPR reported that the federal government has listed Peavey Plaza on the National Register of Historic Places. When this came before the Council last year, I was the only council member who voted in support of the recommendation of our HPC to preserve the plaza, at least until after a formal study of its historical significance was completed. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Preventing Gun Injuries

I am working to identify effective actions the City can take to reduce gun deaths and injuries in Minneapolis.  This will include, first, a set of state and /or federal legislative initiatives the City formally supported through the Intergovernmental Relations Committee in late January and, second, items included in a resolution that will come to the Public Safety, Health and Civil Rights Committee in February. I am working closely with the Mayor’s office, Council colleagues, the Police Chief, City Attorney, the Minneapolis Commissioner of Health and the Intergovernmental Relations staff. I welcome feedback. Ideas so far include the following:

1)    Legislative agendas
a.    Repeal or amend the state preemption statute to allow local innovations,
b.    Ban on semi-auto,
c.    Ban on high-capacity magazines,
d.    More discretionary power to municipalities to grant or deny gun permits,
e.    Better, universal, background checks,
f.     Gun violence commission,
g.    Change age for purchasing guns from 18 to 21,
h.    Mandatory reporting of gun theft or loss,
i.      Renew the prohibition on people convicted of felony domestic abuse owning guns,
j.      Explore including violent misdemeanors in background checks,
k.    Raise the excise tax on ammunition to fund violence prevention efforts.

2)     Resolution
a.    Lay out the case for residents voluntarily getting guns out of their homes
b.    Remind residents that guns must be stored locked and/or unloaded if there are children under 18 in the home
c.    Ask residents to promptly report theft or loss of any gun
d.    Possible acceptance of funds and staff direction to develop a gun buy-back program or illegal gun reporting program (se below).
e.    Staff direction to MPD to come back to Council with costs and use projections for a voluntary registration program.

3)    Gun buy-back and/or  illegal gun reporting program
a.    Limit weapon types: handguns and semi-automatic rifles with greater than 5-round capacity
b.    Decide between a targeted gun buy-back program and/or a program to pay for tips that lead to the recovery of illegal guns (ex:
c.    Individual contributions: a Second Ward constituent is willing to donate $10,000 to this effort
d.    Business contributions: in other cities, retailers have stepped up
e.    City contributions: MPD officer support, possible monetary participation

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Self-Managed Special Service Districts

This morning, the Council's Transportation and Public Works (TPW) committee passed a motion directing staff to develop a strategy for self-managed special service districts.

For more than two years now, the West Bank Business Association has been working on a process to form a self-managed special service district, known as the West Bank Improvement District.  

Unfortunately, the City has not had a clear policy for responding to requests to form self-managed service districts.  There is interest from City staff and policymakers (including me), but there is no clear guidance.  The one self-managed service district in Minneapolis is the Downtown Improvement District (DID).  Early on in the process, folks on the West Bank (and elsewhere in Minneapolis) hoped that it would provide a template, but that wasn't a safe assumption.  The DID is huge, has a lot of money, has considerable political clout, and received exemptions from City ordinances that might not be extended to all neighborhood-level service districts that choose to become self-managed.

So the City has, at long last, formally begun the process to develop a policy on self-managed service districts.  This policy is on a very tight timeline.  Starting with today's staff direction, there will be just under three months to get the policy through the Council.  The reason for this fast timeline is that the policy must be in place by April 1 at the latest in order to allow the West Bank - and all other districts that are interested in transitioning to self management or forming as self-managed service districts - to proceed with the actions they need to take in order to get up and running at the beginning of 2014.  Council Member Lilligren and I insisted that we meet this timeline, in order to avoid pushing the West Bank off another year.  They have already been delayed at least one year by the City's lack of a clear policy, and making them wait two years is just not acceptable, from my perspective.

None of this presupposes that the West Bank will form a special service district.  There are some property owners who strongly support the idea, and some who oppose it.  But whether it goes forward or not, the West Bank should be given the opportunity to finally go through the process.

The questions the Council must answer through this policy decision are laid out well in the above link.  I'm hoping that we can come to a consensus that works well for City policymakers, staff, and the stakeholders who are interested in self-managed service districts.

There will be several opportunities to learn more about and comment on these questions.  First, Public Works staff have organized a meeting on ThursdayJanuary 31ststarting at 3:30pm at the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility, 1901 East 26th Street.  Then staff will present a draft policy to TPW at its meeting on February 26th.  A final recommendation will be presented to TPW on March 19th, and finally passed by the Council on March 29th.

Folks like the WBBA, who are interested in getting a self-managed service district up and running starting in 2014, will be working in parallel to this City process.  My office will be helping to make this process work as clearly as possible in any way we can.

Chief Harteau's Speech

A few weeks ago, Janee Harteau was sworn in as the new Police Chief for the City of Minneapolis.  In Chief Harteau's inaugural speech she presented her core values and a clear vision for teh department in the years ahead. As I listened, I wished more people could have heard it, so I asked her for the text.  She sent it to me, and I have posted it below.

Much of what she said inspires hope for an even better, more community-centered police department.  I especially appreciated the lens she said she expects all MPD officers to use to judge their performance: "Did my actions reflect how I would want a member of my family to be treated?"

I think that's a great standard for all of us in government, including but certainly not limited to police officers, to hold ourselves to.  I'm glad that the Chief has laid it out so clearly and emphatically, for the public to hear and understand that this is the police department's aspiration.

Here's the whole text:

Read more »

Report on Bike Crashes

This morning, the Council's Transportation and Public Works committee received a very informative report and presentation from Simon Blenski in the Public Works Bicycle and Pedestrian Office on bicycle crashes in Minneapolis.  The report is drawn from ten years of crash statistics in Minneapolis, and provides three key takeaways:

  1. Most crashes are occurring at intersections along major arterials.
  2. Motorists are not seeing or yielding to bicyclists.
  3. Bicyclists are not riding in a predictable manner.

Item 1 is very interesting, and speaks to a need to do more projects like Public Works did on 15th Ave SE, where we clearly identified conflict areas between bicycles and turning vehicles.  Most of the motor vehicles involved in crashes are making turns, especially left turns.  This confirms my interest in the "Copenhagen Model" of cycle track facilities, in which bicyclists are physically separated from cars and intersections are treated very carefully to reduce conflict.  In some cases, bicycle and vehicle traffic might need separate signal phases.  I believe that we should build this sort of facility on Minnehaha Avenue when it is reconstructed starting in 2014.  (This portion of Minnehaha is not currently in Ward 2, but will be the western border of the ward starting in 2014.)

Some of the intersections that show up on the list of the ten worst spots for crashes in Minneapolis are very familiar to me.  The worst in Minneapolis, East Franklin Ave and Cedar Ave, is on the western border of the Seward neighborhood in the Second Ward.  When the Seward Neighborhood Group did a pedestrian plan for Franklin, that area was referred to as "No Man's Land."  Currently, this intersection has no formal accommodation for bicyclists; I'm hoping that the Native American Community Development Institute's (NACDI) project will help extend the bike lanes from where they end at Minnehaha over to at least 16th Ave or Bloomington.  The fourth-worst intersection is also on the western border of Ward 2, at the Hiawatha LRT Trail and 26th Street E.  This used to be a triple-threat intersection (where bicyclists had to cross three lanes of traffic in the same direction) and is now a double-threat.  It's a complicated intersection with bikes and trains crossing a relatively high-volume street just before it crosses a very high-volume highway.  Though it's been slightly improved, especially with a widened refuge island in the middle of 26th, this crossing continues to need special attention.

Other conclusions from the report are worth noting.  The per-capita crash rate has declined as the number of bicyclists has increased.  My hope is that this effect will intensify as we build better, more comfortable facilities like cycle tracks, and attract more riders.  Other cities have shown that there is a real "safety in numbers" effect: as more people bike, there are fewer and fewer per capita crashes.

I strongly support the Bicycle and Pedestrian Office's plans to put together a targeted education campaign that will speak to both drivers and bicyclists.  It sounds like they plan to use mostly bus shelter ads, which means they can choose ad locations near the most problematic intersections.  This report is just the beginning of more focused work by the City to reduce motorist and bicyclists crashes, and I look forward to working on it further.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shaun Murphy: Mister 74

Congratulations to Minneapolis Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Shaun Murphy for being named the seventy-fourth most influential person in the Twin Cities by Minnesota Monthly!  He beats out every declared candidate for Mayor and every Council Member but Council President Johnson.

In all seriousness, Shaun and his staff are doing a great job, as today's report on bike crashes again makes clear.  Creating his position was one of the most important things the Council has done for bicycling in the past ten years, and it's paying great dividends.  I'm proud that Cam helped lead the fight (against the Star Tribune, among others) for the position, and that we won that fight so resoundingly (11-2).  I'm glad to see Shaun getting some recognition in the media - it's good for bicycling in Minneapolis.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Americans for Responsible Solutions

Representative Gabby Giffords was shot while speaking to her constituents two years ago today.  With her husband, she has launched a new organization to provide a counterbalance to the NRA: Americans for Responsible Solutions.

From my perspective, the more organizations we have out there arguing for common-sense gun legislation, the better.  Giffords is in a very strong position to do this work, as a survivor of one of the far too many gun massacres this country has seen in the past few years.

As we have seen in the aftermath of Newtown, the NRA is incapable of changing, unable to compromise, impervious to common sense.  They will oppose any and all regulations on guns, no matter how carefully crafted or how popular among the general public.  Their response to every massacre caused by military-grade weapons and indefensibly capacious magazines is to call for more guns in our society.

The NRA cannot be convinced, reasoned with, or negotiated with.  So those of us who want to protect our communities from the pain and suffering caused by unregulated guns have no choice but to fight them and win.  Every organization in this fight will help: Mayors Against Illegal Guns (which Mayor Rybak is part of) Protect Minnesota, and now Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Ward 2 2012 Report

2012 was a busy year for the Second Ward.  It was a year of some intense debate, some difficult losses, and great progress in many areas.  With the New Year upon us, Robin and I recently reviewed the past year’s work.  Here is summary of major accomplishments, projects started but still underway, as well as other initiatives we supported and a few we worked hard to oppose.

Read more »

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Father Charged in Death of Neenjco Xiong

Kao Chongsua Xiong has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of his 2-year-old son, Neenjco.  This shooting occurred in Ward 2.

I don't envy Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman the decision he had to make on this case.  This man has already suffered the worst outcome possible from his reckless storage of his guns, the death of his child.  However, the reports I've read make clear to me that the way he stored not only the gun used in this fatal shooting, but at least some of the many other guns in the house as well, was not only reckless but illegal.

It sounds like the guns have been removed from the family's home, and that the father has come to the conclusion that guns do not make his family safer.

I hope that this case, and the publicity it generates, will make Minneapolis gun owners reconsider having these dangerous weapons in their homes.  I hope that it will also generate a larger conversation about the use of guns in our city and how to better control them to prevent injury and death.