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:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Healthy Communities

The Minneapolis Health Department has developed a new Healthy Communities Assessment Tool. This online resource provides information about the physical, social and economic conditions of community health in Minneapolis Includes 41 health indicators at the neighborhood level. The indicators were determined at a national level and we are one of four pilot cities in the United States selected by Healthy Housing Solutions Inc. and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in this pilot project. The way it is being presented now may make too big a deal out of rankings, but this offers a way to look at strengths and weaknesses and may provide insights into what needs more research and focus in your neighborhood.]

I am very excited to see this coming forward and look forward to seeing how we can use it to make better decisions and investments in Minneapolis.

Check it out at here  .

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cradle to K Draft Plan

I was very excited to see that in January, the Mayor’s Cradle to Kindergarten (K) Cabinet released its draft plan to address early childhood disparities. The plan outlines policy, legislative and collaboration recommendations intended to help ensure that all Minneapolis residents are able to thrive during their first years of life. 

Please take a few minutes to read the draft plan

I commend the group and the Mayor for this overdue focus 0 – 3 year-olds and for the practical, research based recommendations it makes under each of the following three goals:

Goal One: All children 0 to three will receive a healthy start rich with early experiences that prepares them for successful early education and literacy.
1. Increase early childhood screening at age three.
2. Improve mental health services of children birth to three.
3. Decrease the “Word Gap” of children birth to three.
4. Expand targeted home visiting services.
5. Increase community awareness and engagement in the importance of early childhood development

Goal Two: All children are stably housed.
1. Increase housing options for the lowest income families at 30% Area Median Income.
2. Target funding to address the needs of homeless children and families to improve their stability while on the path to housing.
3. Provide resources for very-low income families to become economically stable.

Goal Three: All children ages 0-3 have continuous access to high quality child development centered care.
1. Ensure that low-income families have access to financial resources to afford high quality early learning programs.
2. Increase the number of available high quality child care slots in Minneapolis.
3. Partner with family, friend and neighbor providers to ensure that the children they serve are prepared for kindergarten.

Over the next few weeks, the City, though the Mayor’s office,  will be accepting and reviewing feedback to incorporate into the final report. That report is due out later this spring.

You can provide feedback using a web- form here or, and especially if you have attachments to share, you can send those here. I look forward to being part of participating in the draft of the final plan which I hope to see approved and implemented in the years to come.

Additionally the Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee will get a presentation of the draft plan, discuss it and offer feedback on March 2nd at 1:30 pm. The meeting in the Council Chambers in room 317 of City Hall will be open to the public and televised. 

2015 Budget Recap and Resources

Last year, on December 10, following an intense and often passionate public hearing; and a lengthy and sometimes emotional debate by the City Council, the 2015 budget was approved. This followed an earlier Budget Committee meeting where the Council voted 7-6 to support amendments to the proposed 2015 budget that reduced funding for several high priorities of mine including the newly formed Clean Energy Partnership, homeownership support, community engagement funding for the One Minneapolis Fund, an outside evaluation of our community engagement system and a Civil Rights Department Disparity study. Fortunately, at that meeting, a proposal to shift funding for pedestrian and bicyclist safety from ongoing to one-time dollars was withdrawn and an attempt to cut a proposed racial equity position in the City Coordinator’s office failed on a 7-6 vote.  Subsequently, on the 10th, funding for the Clean Energy Partnership and the One Minneapolis Fund was restored by shifting some funds from other sources, and cutting from two staff positions focused on improving communication with non-English speakers. This was passed after the seven-member majority rejected an alternative compromise I moved that would have instead used funding slated for a $500,000 Convention Center enhancement for Meet Minneapolis’ tourism marketing efforts. In the end these cuts reduced the property tax levy by approximately $790,000. The final approved levy amount is $222, 814,000, of which $153,929,000 is for the general operating fund for city departments. 

The cuts came from the following:
  •  $150,000 deducted from the 300,000 needed for the Civil Rights Disparity Study effectively delaying or derailing this important study needed to justify and target efforts to close gender, racial and other disparities in employment.
  •  $100,000 from what I considered an unwise and unnecessary $500,000 enhancement to the Convention Center budget to go to Meet Minneapolis for tourism promotional and marketing activities.
  • $75,000 taken from a Homeownership and Foreclosure prevention counseling and outreach program aimed and helping middle and low income people keep their homes and become first time homeowners.
  • $120,000 from the Health Insurance expenses unneeded because of unanticipated reduction in costs.
  • $80,000 for a new neighborhood specialist staff person to support neighborhood organizations
  • $174,000 from money intended to fund 2 additional Communications department staff to boost collaboration with the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department and non-English media outlets to ensure that City news and information reach diverse communities across the City.

While happy to have preserved and recovered funding for some of my priority items and generally supportive of much of the budget, I ultimately voted against it.  I did this because I believe the modest levy increase approved by the Board of Estimate and recommended by the Mayor was financially wise and I remain concerned about some of spending priorities that put support for some of the wealthiest sectors of the city ahead of efforts to improve the lives of and those whose needs may be the greatest.  Additionally, I voted no to show my opposition to the Council’s inability or unwillingness to work harder find a consensus, and to forge a compromise that would have better reflected not only the priorities and interests of all Council members, but also the priorities and interests of all Minneapolis residents. You can watch a broadcast of the almost 5 hour long December 10 meeting under 2014 Budget Hearings under 2014 City Council meetings online.  You can find the official record of the December 10th meeting here

Here are a few notable highlights of this year’s budget that came up during the December deliberations:
  • $250,000 to fun two new positions in the Coordinator’s office to focus on racial-equity.
  • $3.5 million to fund the $50 million redesign of Nicollet Mall.
  • $250,000 in planning dollars for the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor.
  • $790,000 for a network of protected bike lanes, plus funding for snow management of these.
  • $150,000 to fund staff and program resources working on the new Clean Energy Partnership.
  • Funding to start and operate a curbside organics recycling service.
  • $55,000 for downtown youth workers.
  • An additional $70,000 in education and support for parents and caregivers of adolescents.
  • $250,000 enhancement  for the Convention Center to go to Meet Minneapolis’ marketing efforts
  • $400,000 to support the Downtown Council’s new Holiday Market
  • Funding to support 10 more police officers, for an authorized strength of 860 sworn officers.
  • $1.14 million over two years for body cameras for the Police Department.
  • Close to $1 million for community service officer training.
  • $960,000 for training a police cadet class of 18.
  • $800,000 for two new fire fighter classes, and one class added to the department’s base.
  • $346,000 for an additional four 911 operators.
  • $250,000 for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • $25,000 added for public art.
  • $55,000 for the Minneapolis Highrise Representative Council for Project Lookout.
  • Increased and consolidating housing dollars to bring the Affordable Housing Trust Fund up to $10 million.
  • No funding for the Great Streets Program but an additional $100,000 to support small business development through the Business Technical Assistance Program.
  • $150,000 for the One Minneapolis Fund to support the development of diverse leadership and civic participation. 

One additional budget amendment that I was able to move through with the help of Council Member Palmisano was to allocate $70,000 for an external assessment of our neighborhood engagement system. We are developing the scope of the study now and hope to issue a Request for Proposals in February and have an evaluation back in August.

You can find the final approved 2015 here.

Additionally just this week the City launched a new financial transparency online platform powered by that provides unprecedented access to the City’s finances. The software allows people to see financial data in a variety of interesting ways which may help people understand the City budget better. You can get started and learn more about using the system here . The platform can also be accessed at

I hope residents, reporters, bloggers, business owners and staff will make use of this to explore the budget, long-term trends and details in new ways.  People can compare the 2015 budget to previous years dating to 2008 and view revenues and expenses by fund, department and expense type on interactive graphs. The current year report provides insight into spending and revenues year-to-date. I am also excited to see this might be used to create custom reports and shed light on details within the finances of the city.