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, February 21, 2014

City Supports Phasing Out Triclosan

This morning, the Council unanimously passed the resolution I authored calling for the state and federal governments to phase out triclosan in consumer products, and urging all Minneapolis residents, businesses, and public agencies to stop buying products containing triclosan.

Here's the City's news release: Feb. 21, 2014 (MINNEAPOLIS) The Minneapolis City Council today approved a resolution that supports phasing out the antibacterial chemical triclosan from consumer products in Minnesota. Triclosan in consumer products causes known problems without having demonstrated benefits. The chemical appears in a wide range of consumer products – including soap, mouthwash, detergent, deodorant and even packaging – even though in these products it has not been proven to protect health.

Triclosan has been shown to break down in lakes and rivers into potent, cancer-causing agents that accumulate in the food chain. Triclosan has been shown to disrupt healthy hormone production and pose risks to healthy muscle function and reproduction. Studies show that antibacterial products may result in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

About 75 percent of Americans test positive for triclosan – mostly from exposure to household consumer products – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The City encourages Minneapolis residents, businesses and public agencies to protect human health and water quality by avoiding buying products that contain triclosan.

The Minnesota Legislature is considering a prohibition on triclosan in consumer products, and the United States Food and Drug Administration is considering a rule to require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that their products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. The City urges the Minnesota Legislature and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take these actions.

Expertise from Clean Water Action and Friends of the Mississippi River supported the resolution.

Previous healthy water actions

The City has internal policies designed to use less polluting products to eliminate or reduce toxins that create hazards to our community. These policies already prohibit triclosan in municipal operations.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On My Vote Against the Reappointment of the City Attorney

On February 12th  at the Executive Committee meeting I voted against the reappointment of Susan Segal to the positions of City Attorney.  I also intend to oppose her reappointment when it will likely come before the full council next month following a public hearing that will be held on Monday, March 3rd at 1:30 before the Ways and Means committee.
As much as I admire the skills, knowledge and commitment that the City Attorney has, I do not support her reappointment for two main reasons: her handling of the stadium decision and her approach to prosecuting peaceful protesters.  Let me explain, below the fold.

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Conservation Districts - to the "anti" side

I’m working on an ordinance that would allow areas in Minneapolis to form conservation districts.  For an overview of the ordinance’s intent – and a response to some of the supporters who feel my ordinance isn’t going far enough – go here.

The point of this post is to respond to some of the concerns from people who aren’t sure they support the idea of allowing conservation districts at all.  Most of these folks seem to be under the impression that the purpose of conservation districts is to limit growth and density.  As the author of the ordinance, I can tell you that’s not the intent, and I don’t think it’s the correct interpretation.

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Conservation Districts - to the "pro" side

For months now, I have been working with Planning staff and interested stakeholders on an ordinance that would open up the opportunity for communities to create “conservation districts.”  A conservation district is a tool that a given area could use to, as the ordinance says, “perpetuate and proliferate” its notable visual character.

My work on this has been driven by the experience of the Prospect Park neighborhood with the existing process for designating historic districts.  There was substantial interest in Prospect Park in creating a local historic district, but it turned out that the regulations such a district would have placed on individual property owners were more stringent than most people in the neighborhood were willing to accept.  More importantly, there was little flexibility in crafting guidelines for this local district that would meet the needs of the community while not placing onerous requirements on property owners.

My hope is that the conservation district concept can be a tool for neighborhoods like Prospect Park that want some level of historic preservation, but want more flexible design guidelines than standard historic preservation can allow.  I view it as a middle ground between full historic preservation and no protections at all for historic neighborhoods – a middle ground that might be more likely to be used.

I have heard a few reactions from supporters of the conservation district ordinance about ways in which they don’t think it goes far enough.  One is about the high bar of community support to create a conservation district.  Another is that conservation districts might not be a tool for restraining density.  My thoughts on each are below the fold.

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