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, August 30, 2013

Dinkytown Moratorium Fails

At this morning's Council meeting, a motion to create a moratorium on development in Dinkytown failed on a 6-6 vote.  I voted for imposing the moratorium.

As I predicted when the Council was discussing the Opus project, our decision to grant the rezoning for Opus has been taken as a signal by the development community that it is open season in Dinkytown.  At least one additional developer has brought forward a project that will demolish existing commercial buildings and replace them with new student housing.  This development is on 4th Street, the heart of Dinkytown, one of the corridors that works very well today.  It is vibrant, pedestrian friendly, and home to an eclectic, welcoming mix of small, independent businesses.  By the time the Dinkytown small area plan is finished later this year, a substantial chunk of Dinkytown will already be slated for demolition, and I fear that the pattern will be set: the Council will support any and every redevelopment project a developer proposes.

It didn't have to be this way.  As I wrote in July, the Council could have voted to allow the Opus development but made clear that we were not signaling support for wholesale redevelopment of Dinkytown.  We could have adopted a moratorium at that time, and I think it would have been more likely to pass.  By not offering that compromise, those who are working to preserve Dinkytown and let the small area plan have some actual effect made a dangerous bet that, in the end, did not pay off.

During the Opus debate, I heard from at least a few Dinkytown stakeholders who supported the development.  This time, it seemed like every person I've heard from with an actual stake in Dinkytown has supported the moratorium.  The only opposition to the moratorium has come from a single private developer - who has not even made a formal application for his project.

This morning, the Council made clear that placating favored developers is more important to us than listening to the small business owners and others who are most impacted by development.  I will continue to fight to conserve the treasured character in this part of town but I no longer have much hope for the effectiveness of the Dinkytown plan - the Council seems to have already decided to allow this unique part of town to be demolished and replaced, if that's what will make money for private developers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Sad Day for Ward 2

This past weekend, Ward 2 lost two men who worked hard to improve their communities: Hussein Samatar and Clem Engen.

Hussein led the African Development Center (ADC), a lender and financial services company specializing in meeting the needs of African immigrant communities in Minnesota to sustain successful businesses, build wealth, and promote community reinvestment.  Hussein built ADC into a significant force for good, helping immigrants access capital for small business investment and buying homes.  It was due to a great partnership with ADC that the City was able to create a program for Sharia-compliant small business lending, to ensure that immigrant entrepreneurs can start, maintain and expand businesses serving their communities.  In addition to its broader work, ADC has added to the vitality of the West Bank business corridor, creating a beautiful building and open space at the corner of Riverside and 20th Ave S.

Hussein was the first Somali elected to the Minneapolis School Board, and he is rightly being celebrated for breaking that barrier.  He was less well known for the extremely important roles he played as a community leader on the West Bank.  He served as a member of both the West Bank Community Coalition and the West Bank Business Association and participated in the Cedar Riverside Partnership.   Hussein’s work on the WBCC and WBBA made both groups more sensitive to the needs and perspectives of the West Bank’s immigrant residents and entrepreneurs, and the community remains indebted to him for his service.

Clem worked for years, with quiet dedication, to make the Seward neighborhood a better place to live.  He was one of the key leaders and participants in the Seward Crime and Safety Committee and the Seward History Committee.  He regularly volunteered with his good friend Dick Westby to clean graffiti from signs and other public infrastructure, and helped with the project to write a history of Seward.  Clem’s low-key, positive outlook and commitment of his own time and effort helped welcome people to Seward and set a great example for community service.

Hussein and Clem were very good people, who served their communities in different ways but with the common goal of making their parts of our city better for everyone.  They will be missed.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Op-Ed on Energy Framework

Today, MinnPost published an opinion piece I coauthored with Council Member Betsy Hodges on the Energy Framework the Council passed last week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Framework to Meet Our Energy Goals

I am working on a resolution with several of my colleagues on the Council that will, if passed, put the City on record as supporting a cleaner, more affordable, more reliable energy future for Minneapolis.

It's very exciting to me that energy has become a priority issue in Minneapolis.  Both Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy have come to the table, offering some specific commitments and - more importantly, from my perspective - a commitment to partner with the City meet the energy goals the City has laid out through the Climate Action Plan and elsewhere.  The Minneapolis Energy Options campaign has made clear that they support working with the utilities to translate those commitments into tangible action, rather than putting the question on the ballot this year.

The resolution commits the City to doing five major things:
  1. Developing a comprehensive energy vision for our city, as part of the Energy Pathways Study, that will incorporate the great work of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission,
  2. Advocating at the Legislature for the flexibility the City needs in order to use our franchise agreement to meet our energy goals,
  3. Continuing to explore all of our options, especially through the Pathways Study,
  4. Finalizing our negotiations for the franchise agreement by June 30 of next year, and,
  5. Directing our staff to work with Xcel and CenterPoint to make the utilities' proposed partnership a reality and achieve our energy goals.

I would note that I have heard from constituents and advocates from the Energy Options campaign that they support this resolution.

The full text of the resolution is below the fold.

Read more »

Monday, August 05, 2013

Power Outage in Seward Today

Many of the people who attended the public hearing on Minneapolis' energy future last week wore these little red stickers that said "don't mess with success," and one of their key messages was that Xcel Energy provides much more reliable electrical service than a municipal utility could ever match.

Tell it to small businesses on Franklin Avenue today:

How much revenue will this local restaurant lose today?  How much of their inventory will have to be discarded due to this power outage?

This is not an isolated incident.  I am aware of four electricity outages in the Seward neighborhood so far this year, and only one was the result of a major storm.

We can and must do better.