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: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Monday, June 01, 2015

Second Ward May 2015 E-newsletter

News from Cam Gordon, 
Minneapolis Council Member, Second Ward

Rail Safety Meeting. In response to growing concerns about the significant increase in dangerous rail traffic in Minneapolis, Council Members Reich, Frey and I are co-hosting an Eastside Minneapolis Rail Safety Forum on Thursday, June 18, from 6:30 – 8pm, at East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 2nd Street NE.  Panelists will include Congressman Keith Ellison, Rep. Frank Hornstein, Sen. Kari Dziedzic, Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel, Grant Hosmer from City of Minneapolis Emergency Management and representatives from BNSF, CP Rail and MN DOT.  The forum will allow the community to learn more about strategies in place to ensure public safety, as well as an opportunity to share questions and concerns with local, state and federal officials as well as railroad representatives.

Clean Energy Partnership Sets Work Plan.  The Clean Energy Partnership between the City and our energy utilities approved its first two-year work plan on May 29th.  This plan calls for the City and utilities to increase energy efficiency, increase renewable energy, and develop strong City-utility coordination.  The work will be done in five key segments: 1-4 unit residential, multifamily residential, small commercial buildings, large commercial buildings, and the City enterprise.  I’m especially excited that we will be doing more to increase energy efficiency in rental housing, increase renewable energy use in all segments, get the City to adopt some new policies like energy transparency at time of sale or rent of housing units, and move the City towards more sustainable practices like using renewables ourselves, transitioning to LED streetlights, and supporting innovative pilot projects like district energy in large redevelopment areas.  I look forward to working on implementing this plan over the 18 months and I thank the members of the Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC), and the City and utility staff Planning Team, who did a lot of work in a compressed timeframe to develop this work plan.

Better Regulating Tobacco Products. A public hearing has been schedule for June 8th at 1:30 pm in the City Council Chambers regarding the ordinance Council Member Yang and I are co-authoring that would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco to adult-only tobacco shops, and establish a minimum pack size and price for cigars and cigarillos. Late last year, we heard from the Youth Congress – echoing data our Health Department staff has garnered from national studies – that these products are a principal ‘point of entry’ to nicotine addiction for youth smokers.  We hope that making it more difficult for children to get access to low-cost candy-flavored tobacco products will assure that thousands of kids never become addicted to tobacco, which is one of the leading causes of death and disease in our city.


Overnight Shelters.  Council Member Bender and I are working on an ordinance amendment to better regulate “Overnight Shelters.” Minneapolis currently has confusing, inconsistent and relatively restrictive rules regulating overnight emergency shelters for people who are homeless. Some shelters are licensed as motels, one has a special overlay district that allows it to operate and most exist because they are an accessory use to a place of religious assembly. Current rules make it challenging to open new shelters and are putting some of the existing shelters at risk of being closed. Because of the intense need, especially in the winter, some shelters operate well over capacity and with accommodations that lack dignity and are far from ideal. At the same time, many people object to having overnight shelters operating in their neighborhood. Over the years our rules, combined with community concerns, have resulted in a system of a few larger shelters being concentrated in a few areas of the city. I am hopeful that we can find a better, clearer system that would at least allow the current shelters to continue operating and at most would allow more well run shelters (as needed) to be welcomed in more parts of the city.  To help us have a broader community conversation about this important but sometimes controversial subject, we are holding two community meetings this summer.  The first will be held near the Second Ward at the Minneapolis American Indian Center (1530 E Franklin Ave)Monday, June 22 from 6-7:30pm and the second will be at the North Regional Library (1315 Lowry Ave N)Monday, July 27 from 5:30pm to 7pm. Please join us and learn more about our current rules, what other cities do and help us create a vision of what an ideal shelter system would look like in our city.

Complete Streets Policy.  Along with my colleagues Lisa Bender, Kevin Reich, and Abdi Warsame, I am serving on the Steering Committee for the process to develop a Complete Streets policy for the City of Minneapolis.  I have supported having a Complete Streets policy for years, and want to make sure it is as strong and reflective of the values of Minneapolis residents as possible.  I think we are ready, as a community, to declare that walking, biking, and transit are our top priorities for transportation infrastructure, and for the City to adopt a clear policy to that end.  My Policy Aide, Robin Garwood, will also be sitting on the Stakeholder Advisory Group for the planning process.

Decriminalizing “Lurking” and Spitting.  After 3 community meetings and 2 lengthy public hearings at the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management Committee, the committee has recommended passage of the ordinance amendments I am co-authoring that will, if approved, repeal the City’s prohibition on lurking with intent to commit a crime and spitting on the sidewalk and certain other places.  I favor repeal of these ordinances because they are outdated, poorly crafted, unnecessary, ineffective and contribute to persistent racial and economic disparities in our city. Visit here to see coverage on the community forum on this topic held in Seward on May 14th and here if you wish to watch the full committee meeting.  The full City Council will consider these matters in the morning on June 5th at our next City Council meeting.

New Homeownership Program. The City has launched a new housing program, called Homeownership Opportunity Minneapolis (HOM), aimed at increasing the number of homeowners and reducing the racial disparity gap in homeownership. In the City’s 2015 adopted budget, the Council approved $940,000 ($840K for affordability assistance and $100K for outreach efforts) for HOM. It is anticipated that about 125 families will be served by the program this year.  The racial disparity gap in homeownership is defined as the difference between the percentage of white households that own their homes and the percentage of non-white households that own their homes. Minnesota has one of the worst racial disparity gaps in homeownership in the country at approximately 38 percent. In Minneapolis, it is also alarmingly high—at approximately 36 percent (2011-2013 American Community Survey). The HOM program will provide up to $7,500 in down payment and closing cost assistance to eligible Minneapolis homebuyers in the form of a zero percent interest loan, without a monthly payment.  The loan will be completely forgiven after the homeowner lives in the home for five years (all of the funds are repayable if a homeowner moves out before five years).  HOM funds may be used towards any single family home, duplex, townhouse, or condo anywhere in Minneapolis.  Eligibility is based on income. Learn more here. 

Racial Employment Equity Forum. Everybody In, created to eliminate the racial employment disparity gap in the Saint Paul/Minneapolis seven-county metro area, will host a Super Connector Forum on June 10 to accelerate the capacity of businesses of color.  This forum will bring educators, capacity builders, policy makers and corporate leaders together to develop system-wide strategies that will speed up business growth to boost hiring capacity.  It is estimated that the current employment gap of 45,000 additional jobs (at or above 130% of poverty) for African Americans and American Indians can be closed through businesses of color. 

Pepper Spray Used in Protest. Like most people, I was very disturbed to learn that a young boy was pepper-sprayed during a protest in downtown Minneapolis. I support the right of people to peacefully protest, and recognize that much of the progress we are making in our discussions about racial disparities in the criminal justice system are due to the power of grassroots organizing and protest. I thank Police Chief Janee Harteau and Mayor Hodges for taking this incident and conducting a thorough investigation.

Permit Fees.  The Council has voted, with my support, to discontinue the automatic annual minimum adjustment of three percent to permit fees and to have no increase in permit fees for 2015. Examples of the fees include those for building, plumbing, mechanical, elevator, street use, sign, environmental and soil erosion permits. Vacant Building Registration is also included in the fee schedule. Since 2010, the fees associated with these permits have increased 15% while the Consumer Price Index increased only 8.0%.

Bird-safe Skyways. I have formally introduced, with Council Member Palmisano, an ordinance amendment that would require, or encourage, bird safe design practices to be used in the design and construction of new or renovated skyways in Minneapolis.   We are doing this with the support and encouragement of the Minneapolis Audubon chapter and after reviewing research conducted at the University of Minnesota that demonstrated the significant contributions of skyways to collision mortalities of birds.

New Innovation Team. This month six newly hired people began work at the City as our Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Team, or i-team. The i-team is made possible with a $2.7 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The program aims to improve the capacity of 14 different Cities to effectively design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives. Grant funds allow mayors to hire and fund i-teams for up to three years. The Minneapolis team will focus first on investigating and analyzing whether the City delivers services equitably throughout Minneapolis. Team members will study how City policies, services and service-delivery mechanisms contribute to racial and place-based disparities and then develop strategies and responsive new interventions to fix these problems and deliver measurable results. The Innovation Team Director is Don Joseph,  a business process professional who previously worked at Target Corporation; Bloomberg L.P.; Citigroup, Inc. and Moody’s Corporation.

Zero Waste Plan.  In June, Council Member Kevin Reich and I plan to bring forward a resolution that will establish recycling and composting goals for the City of Minneapolis, and approve the intention to develop a zero waste plan over the next 12 months. The resolution will calls on the Zero Waste Policy work group that I serve on to continue to provide overall guidance to this effort and establishes comprehensive citywide recycling and composting goals of 50% by 2020 and 80% by 2030, while maintaining the overall total waste stream at or below 2010 levels. It also directs Solid Waste & Recycling and Sustainability staff to organize community stakeholder meetings and, perhaps most notable, direct the completion of a draft  zero waste plan to be ready for City Council consideration in the spring of 2016.

Building Energy Use. In May, the city released its second Energy Benchmarking Report, as required by our Commercial Benchmarking and Transparency Ordinance passed in 2013. This is the first report that tracks energy use in commercial and industrial properties over 100,000 square feet in size. Using 2013 data, the study 365 public and large commercial buildings revealed that if the buildings (overall) reduced consumption by just 10%, $11 million of energy costs per year and avoid more than 62,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emission could be avoided. Of the 146 largest properties, 27 were ranked high performers, 51 perform above average and 68 perform below average. In general, hospitals, hotels and schools we the lowest performers and have the greatest potential for energy savings. Building age doesn’t appear to predict the amount of energy the buildings use because older buildings retrofitted with modern systems have high ratings. The energy use of these 365 buildings represents 26 percent of Minneapolis’ commercial and industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Energy use in commercial and industrial buildings accounts for 47 percent of emissions in the city. You can find the full report here. In 2015 the ordinance will be fully in effect, with energy and water benchmarking requirements applying to over 300 commercial properties over 50,000 square feet in the city. 2015 is also the first year the City will begin to publish the benchmarking scores for buildings over 100,000 square feet. The scores for buildings between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet will not be published until they benchmark again in 2016.

Parental Leave. The Council has approved a parental leave policy for City employees that provides up to 120 hours (3 weeks) of paid leave to the new parents following the birth or adoption of a child. I was a strong supporter of this and am delighted that we are able to provide this as benefit to city employees. The United States is the only “industrialized” nation, and one of only 8 countries in the entire world, that does not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborn children.

“Stop and Frisk” Report. The Police Conduct Oversight Commission’s study of Minneapolis Police practices in recording and reporting suspicious person stops came to the Public Safety, Civil Right and Emergency Management Committee in May.  You can read the report, including recommendations for improvements, here. 

Century Link Cable Franchise.  The Council has approved a new CenturyLink cable television franchise ordinance that now allows Century Link to provide cable television services in Minneapolis.  I see this as a way of making more choices and potentially better services and/or lower costs to cable television and internet service to consumers in the city. Regrettably, however,  it appears that service will only be available to about 15% of the city the first year with a goal to have then available for the entire city over 5 years. At that time the franchise will be up for renewal and can be reevaluated.

Plastic Bags. I am looking at a plastic bag ban in Minneapolis. I am working with the Community Environmental Advisory Committee, fellow Council members and trying to coordinate with efforts in other cities like St. Louis Park to come up with a specific proposal, and hope to move it forward this summer. The ban would focus on the general use retail point-of-sale plastic bags, and would also likely include a fee for paper bags intended for one time use.  These bags create litter, pollute our river, lakes and streams, are not easily recyclable and in fact create a real problem for recycling facilities. More importantly, I hope this will move more people towards using reusable bags and our city to a reduction our carbon footprint.

Minnesota Legislature. As the legislators appears to be headed into a special session, I hope they will pass a jobs bill to support Minneapolis youth employment programs, and an alterntive agriculture and environment bill that includes pollinator protection and urban agriculture provisions. There is also a critical need for state funding to rehabilitate the 10th Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River. We have already delayed repairs for several years and if we do not make the needed repairs a much more costly full reconstruction may be needed. I am also concerned that there could be cuts to Local Government Aid funding. The House bill proposed cutting Minneapolis’ share of Local Government Aid by $34 million in 2016. Additionally l would like to see progress on a comprehensive transportation and transit funding package during a special session.
Seed Sharing. I was glad to see the Minnesota Seed Law was amended to exempt non-commercial seed sharing from requirements on industrial labeling, testing and permitting. In February the City Council approved a resolution I authored in support of amending the Minnesota Seed Law to allow for non-commercial seed sharing.

Minneapolis Advisory Committee on Aging.  In May the Council approved restructuring the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee and renaming it the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on Aging.  The new group will consist of seventeen members. Thirteen members will be qualified older adults (any Minneapolis resident over age 49), one from each City Ward, and four shall be qualified older adults as Members-at-Large.  Unlike preciously when each Council Member selected an appointee, now the Mayor and the City Council President shall recommend applicants to the City Council for approval. The committee helps educate elected officials and city staff on policy issues relating to older adults and recommends practices, programs and policies that promote a healthy and vibrant aging community. As we make this change I want to thank Thomas Leavey for his years of service on the former committee. He was a highly respected, dependable and dedicated committee member for over 10 years. Charlie Lakin has been approved as the new Ward 2 member of the committee. His 40 plus years working to support people with disabilities and 30 plus years at the U of M, including as director of the Research and Training Center on Community Living, should be a big asset to the committee and to the City.   

Tars Sands & Pipeline Expansion. I will be joining thousands of other people from across the Midwest on June 6 in St. Paul for what may be the largest action against tars sands and the Enbridge pipelineexpansion in the region to date. We will start at 12:00 noon at Lambert Landing near Sheppard Road and the Depot Station and march to the capitol to hear Bill McKibben and others speak about the dangers of this unprecedented amount of Canadian tar sands oil coming to and through Minnesota if the expansion plans for the oil pipelines are implemented. Come help protect our land, water and climate, and work to keep tar sands oil in the ground where it belongs. For more about stopping the proposed pipeline network visit here

Report on Minneapolis Racial Disparities. The American Civil Liberties Union has released
an outstanding report using Minneapolis as a Case Study on “Picking Up the Pieces.” I highly recommend it to better understand why I feel it is so important to address issues of racial equity in general and racial injustice in our criminal justice system in particular.

Innovation Districts.  I am bringing forward two resolutions in June that will create a City process for designating “Innovation Districts,” and declare the University Avenue Innovation District as the first in Minneapolis.  An Innovation District is an economic development tool that utilizes partnerships with higher education institutions, businesses, and government to fuel job growth and redevelopment in targeted locations, based on the premise that collaboration and productivity result from proximity, and therefore job creation and innovation can be fostered through the intentional clustering of businesses, institutions, ideas and people. This designation can be used for the purposes of planning, fundraising, and marketing, and potentially for innovative pilot projects and district systems.  This is a key step in bringing the community’s vision for the Prospect North area to fruition.

29th Ave S Test Closure.  In the last week of May, Public Works staff installed a temporary closure of 29th Ave S at the Midtown Greenway.  This is part of a broader initiative being led by parents at Seward Montessori through a Safe Routes to School grant, to make it easier for kids to walk and bike to school.  The ultimate goal is to turn 29th Ave S into a more walkable and bikeable street called a Bike Boulevard.  If you have any comments about the closure, positive or negative, please call them into 311 or send them in electronically via http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/311/. The idea of a Bike Boulevard is to reduce the total number of car trips on a given street, slow traffic, and upgrade the street for people walking and biking.  One of the other ways to make a street more friendly to people on bikes is to reduce stop signs, which helped drive the decision (supported by the Seward Neighborhood Group) to flip the stop sign at 29th Ave S and 26th St E.  Both 29th Ave S and 24th St E in Seward are on the City’s adopted Bicycle Master Plan as Bicycle Boulevards.

Good Neighbor Fund. The Good Neighbor Fund was established when the new University of MN football stadium was funded. It is a resource for neighborhood and business associations that are adjacent to the Twin Cities Campus. Its purpose is to enhance and protect the beauty, serenity, and security of the communities impacted by the operation of the University of Minnesota's on campus football stadium. In 2013, as part of the agreement between the U of M and Vikings for the Vikings to play football at TCF Bank Stadium starting in 2014, an additional $90,000 was added to the fund for years 2014 and 2015. This year the following ten projects have been selected for funding: A Garden to Dye For–Textile Center, sponsored by the Prospect Park East River Rd. Improvement Association; Bluff Street Park Bedrock Bluff Prairie Restoration, sponsored by the West Bank Community Coalition; Connecting U Neighborhoods: Wayfinding for and Enhancing Our New Dinkytown Greenway, sponsored by the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association; Dinkytown Bike Parking Enhancement Project, sponsored by the Dinkytown Business Alliance; Horn Tea House: A Community Gathering Project, sponsored by the West Bank Business Association; Parking Lot Guest Seating, sponsored by the Minnesota State Fair; Prospect Park Artistic Utility Box Wrap Project, sponsored by Prospect Park East River Rd. Improvement Association; Prospect Park Community Concerts: Summer Season Finale Festival, sponsored by the Prospect Park East River Rd. Improvement Association; Raymond Avenue Median Landscape, sponsored by the St. Anthony Park Community Council, and; The West Bank: Welcoming Wayfinding, sponsored by the West Bank Business Association.

Great Streets Business Support Contracts Approved.  The City Council has approved business support contracts with several Ward 2 serving organizations. The Dinkytown Business Association will receive a contract for $32,700 for marketing and membership. The Lake Street Council will receive $29,000 for marketing, events and energy efficiency upgrades to help businesses.  The Latino Economic Development Center will use $30,000 to conduct an intensive business intelligence gathering exercise and member drive. The Longfellow Business Association will continue marketing the Minnehaha Mile during the reconstruction of Minnehaha Ave with a contract of $10,000. The Native American Community Development Institute will use $23,000 to create a Four Sisters Farmers Market, modeled after the successful pop-up market at last year’s Open Streets Event and create the Anpetu Waste Cultural Arts Marketplace in the median of Franklin Avenue, below the Hiawatha LRT line. Patrick’s Cabaret will be contracted to hold a Roots, Rock, and Deep Blues Music, Art and Food Festival to market businesses near the Lake Street Hiawatha LRT Station for $18,450. LoLa, the League of Longfellow Artists, will showcase their work at this festival as well. Seward Redesign will use $39,700 to promote property investment and for business retention, expansion, and attraction. The West Bank Business Association will receive $42,500 for marketing, way-finding, educational business seminars, and a member drive.  I was sorry to learn that we were unable to fund the African Development Center, the Seward Civic and Commerce Association and the Stadium Village Commercial Association in this round and hope that they will consider applying again in the future.

Glendale Development Plan. The City is seeking input on the proposed Glendale Housing Development Project Plan (http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@cped/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-142000.pdf) . This is the first formal step and, if approved, will set the boundaries of the development areas, begin the drafting of a formal agreement between the City and the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and launch formal work on a Master Plan for the area. Comments on the Project Plan should be submitted by Monday, July 13, 2015 to Carrie Flack Senior Project Coordinator, Department of Community Planning and Economic Development at Carrie.Flack@minneapolismn.gov . If you or your group would like to meet to discuss the Plan, or if you have any questions, please contact Carrie Flack at her email address or you can call 612-673-5240. There will also be a Public Hearing on the Plan at the Community Development Committee on July 14.  The Plan has been prepared to “facilitate the redevelopment of Glendale Townhomes, a traditional public housing townhome development, into a nationally recognized, culturally and economically diverse, sustainable, and amenity-rich mixed-income and mixed-use neighborhood.” The Project Plan identifies the boundary, objectives, land use provisions and anticipated redevelopment activities that would be be carried out under a Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. I expect the proposed Plan to be considered at the following City Council meetings: Community Development & Regulatory Services Committee (A public hearing will be conducted at this meeting.) Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.; Ways and Means Committee pn Monday, July 20, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.; and at the full City Council on Friday, July 24, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. All meetings will be held in Minneapolis City Hall, 350 S. Fifth Street, Room 317.

Southside Safety Collaboration. On Tuesday, June 9, from 5-8 pm at the Midtown YWCA, 2121 E Lake Street, residents, community leaders, police leaders, and other stakeholders will gather to share concerns and ideas about safety on the southside. Please feel welcome to come to listen, as well as to share concerns, ideas and resources.

Seward Landlord Workshop. The Seward Neighborhood Group and the Minneapolis Police Department are hosting a Seward Landlord Workshop for owners of rental property in the Seward Neighborhood on June 16 , 6pm-8pm at Matthews Park, 2318 29th Ave S. The meeting will include information about resources in Seward and the work of the Seward Neighborhood Group (sng.org) and the Seward Civic & Commerce Association (sewardbusiness.org) as well as an update from Crime Prevention Specialist, Shun Tillman and information on how to better manage your rental property by the Minneapolis Police Department’s Rental Property Owners Workshop.

East River Flats Trail Closure. The Franklin Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation project requires temporary closure of the lower trails on the East bank of the Mississippi under the Franklin Avenue Bridge for the repair of the bridge piers. This closure is anticipated to happen between Monday, June 1 through Sunday, June 7 (dates are subject to change due to weather, etc.).  The lower trail that runs next to the river’s edge, below the bluff, will be blocked at the midpoint between East River Flats Park and the trail access point near Shriners Hospital. The upper trail next to East River Parkway will remain open. Pedestrians and cyclists are encouraged to use the upper trail and observe the trail closure warning signs for the lower trail.

New Facebook Page.  In order to better communicate with you and others I have added a “Cam Gordon - Minneapolis City Council Second Ward” professional Facebook page to my menu of communication tools. Find and “like” it at https://www.facebook.com/camgordonward2 to stay better informed about my work as Council Member. This compliments my use of email, e-newsletters like this one, my web log and my twitter account (@CameronAGordon), as well the website, phone calls and face to face conversations to keep communication lines open and flowing.   

Openings on Boards and Commissions. Applications are now being accepted for some of the City’s boards and commissions. Please visit http://www.minneapolismn.gov/boards/openings/index.htm for more information about openings and how to apply.

Open Office Hours in the Ward. I usually hold open “Office Hours” in the ward every Thursday morning from 9:30 to 11:00 am.  Please feel free to call the office at 673-2202 to reserve some time or just stop by for a visit.
First Thursdays at the Nabo Café, 2211 Riverside Avenue;
Second Thursdays at Black: Coffee and Waffles, 1500 Como Ave SE;
Third Thursdays at Overflow Café, 2929 University Ave SE;
Fourth Thursdays at Blue Moon Coffee Café, 3822 E Lake St.





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