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 Thursday, January 31st, starting 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.