Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is a public policy forum that was established in 2006 by Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his policy aide Robin Garwood to share what they were working on and what life in City Hall was like. After serving 4 terms Cam lost his relection in 2021 but has continued to be involved in local politics and to use this forum to report and share his perspective on public policy. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules.

Monday, July 25, 2022

City Government Restructuring On the Fast Track

 The mayor and city council are moving quickly to restructure city government.  Perhaps too quickly.

Substantial ordinance amendments, which have yet to be shared with the public, could be approved by the end of August. The timeline presented by Mayor Jacob Frey in June called for the public hearing on August 4 and approval on August 20.

Some of it is already underway.

On June 30, the Council approved two new executive positions: a Community Safety Commissioner and a Chief Operation Officer to replace the City Coordinator

Ordinances amendments were approved to create the position of City Operations Officer, with a salary of $269,943 to $320,000 and the position of Community Safety Commissioner, with a salary of $295,250 to $350,000. Both salaries exceed the cap of $192,144 imposed by state law and will require a waiver. Both positions will report to the mayor. 

The City Operations Officer will oversee the proposed new Office of Public Service which would include the 311/Service Center, City Assessor, Civil Rights Department, Communications, Community Planning & Economic Development, Finance & Property Services, the Health Department, Human Resources, Information Technology, Intergovernmental Relations, Minneapolis Convention Center, Neighborhood & Community Relations, Public Works and Regulatory Services.

Then, on July 7, Mayor Frey announced his nomination of Cedric Alexander for the new position of Community Safety Commissioner.  As proposed, the commissioner would oversee the new Office of Community Safety, which would include the fire and police departments, 911, the office of emergency management, and a new office of neighborhood safety that will replace, or possibly include, the office of violence prevention now housed in the health department. Alexander will be considered for the position by the City Council at their August 4 meeting following a hearing on the 2nd. 

The Council also approved adding a City Auditor position to the Audit Department and increased the department’s budget by $75,000 to do so.

When Frey announced his selection of Cedric Alexander for the safety commissioner, he said that government restructuring is “the most important thing I will probably ever do as mayor.”

Council Member Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) has given notice that she is authoring the restructuring amendments to repeal Chapters 17, 21, and 25 that relate to the offices of City Attorney, Internal Auditor, and City Coordinator and adding new chapters to “provide for the government structure and its Executive and Administrative Departments, including the offices of Public Service, City Attorney, and Community Safety” consistent with the mayor’s plan.

Presently, and historically, 10 departments have reported jointly to the Mayor and Council. The proposed reorganization reduces the number reporting directly to the mayor to 4 and limits the departments reporting directly to the Council to two. The City Attorney is one of the 4 who will report to the mayor but their relationship to the council is unclear.  

Some council members are concerned. 

Council Members Elliot Payne (Ward 1) and Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5) said that they are concerned about a lack of resources to support the work of the city council as the legislative body.  Council Member Jason Chavez (Ward 9) said he “still believes the pathway forward is through a charter change.” Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw (Ward 4) said that she “is afraid some departments, like health, will be lost.” “We have to be mindful that council still plays a role in approving department heads and that we don’t have a dilution of financial oversight.” Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12) said. He wants to ensure that there is no change in the level of financial authority currently held by the council.  

“Question one has been implemented for nearly 7 months, there is no reason to rush this process,” said Council Member Robin Wonsley (ward 2), who was the lone “no” vote on approving the new positions. “I know the public wants to be involved in charting a path forward for our city.”

At the June 18 council meeting, she asked the mayor about community engagement on the proposal, and he highlighted the 2021 campaign and his work group. That work group was established in late 2021 without a single current, or newly elected, Council Member serving on it. None of its meetings were open to the public.  In 2021 Question #1 won with 52.4% of the vote and was defeated in 6 out of the 7 wards.

“The Mayor could take the time to work with Council and the public to shape an equitable transparent restructure package, instead he is rushing through an ordinance process to avoid public scrutiny,” Wonsley wrote following that meeting. “The current proposal lacks robust programs and resources on the legislative side that Council needs to best serve constituents.”

About lack of public participation, she said, “For comparison, the city did a multi-phased engagement process for the city’s Transportation Action Plan that received thousands of comments and created a process that allowed the public to see how their feedback shaped adjustments in the proposals,” she said. “The guiding principles of this government structure were offered by the Mayor’s Government Structure Work Group and the public safety plan was based on recommendations from the Mayor’s Public Safety Work Group. Both Work Groups were handpicked by the Mayor and met behind closed doors with little to no opportunity for public comment. This is not how elected leaders should be making decisions when credibility and public trust is at an all-time low, the public deserves better.”

Wonsley also raised concerns about the lack of any independent legal counsel to advise Council Members.

Given the many concerns raised by council members, the potential significance of this restructuring to further divide and eliminate checks and balances in our government the council could decide to take a slower and more inclusive process going forward.   If not, it could be written, approved, and enacted into law by the end of the month.  

 

Aggressive Solicitation: selective enforcement

This was a formerly unpublished blog from my first term in office.  Since both Don and Paul are running this year for other offices, I decided to publish it now. 

While I was working hard in 2006 and 7 to decriminalize poverty, othere were doubling down and not willing to be concerned about unfair and biased enforcement. 

There was another aspect of the speeches made by my colleagues who are supportive of the Remington/Ostrow amendment to further criminalize panhandling which I found distrubing. CMs Paul Ostrow and Don Samuels both, in different ways, stated that the proposed ordinance was going to be selectively enforced but concluded that that's ok.
Here's CM Ostrow:
“There’s a longstanding doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, and in every single law that’s ever been written, there are circumstances where the prosecutor and the police can say: ‘this is not an appropriate situation to apply the ordinance.’ So while I think that Council Member Gordon has pointed out some questions about where, perhaps, one might apply this ordinance, I don’t think, in the real world, that those are going to create real challenges in terms of the application of this ordinance. I think to some extent we do – the best of ordinances unreasonably applied are unreasonable. And I think we at some point have to have some faith that the ordinances we pass will in fact be reasonably applied, and I think that should go for this particular ordinance as well.”
We must understand that Council Member Ostrow’s “prosecutorial discretion” is code for selective enforcement. The message is very clear: don’t worry. If you’re white, if you look like you have money, if you have a home, if you’re middle-aged, this ordinance will not be used against you. No one will advocate arresting you for violating this ordinance if you need spare change for a meter. If you’re a candidate for office and you violate this ordinance, you won’t be arrested. We all know who this ordinance is designed to target: people without homes, people without money, people addicted to drugs or alcohol, people with mental illness, people of color. People who look scruffy. This is the “reasonableness” that Ostrow is talking about. “Reasonable” police officers and prosecutors know that my mother-in-law, though she is breaking the letter of the law, is not the kind of person the law was intended to target, and therefore it would be “unreasonable” to enforce it against her. This is selective enforcement, this is profiling based on race and class, and this is both morally wrong and bad public policy.
CM Samuels spoke of our "squeamishness" to pass laws that we know will be enforced against the have-nots, the poor, the homeless, the black. But he exhorted us to get over this squeamishness and pass laws that we know are intended to be selectively enforced, because we must "incentivize" those who are panhandling now to participate in our outreach programs.
I believe that when we pass laws making certain acts illegal, we must be very clear that the act itself is wrong, no matter who is engaging in it.
I believe that the Council did a good job meeting that standard with the existing Aggressive Solicitation ordinance. Badgering and intimidating someone for money is a destructive act. Swearing and berating people who refuse to give money is wrong. People who are in a line, a sidewalk cafe, a crosswalk or an ATM can't get away, and shouldn't be targeted for solicitation. The City can defensibly state that the existing code criminalizes clearly bad acts, and we should expect equal enforcement across the board.
The proposed ordinance does not meet this standard, and Ostrow and Samuels' speeches asking us to trust that the police and prosecutors will be "reasonable" in exercising their "prosecutorial discretion," and exhorting us to get over the squeamishness we may feel about enacting laws that are intended to be selectively enforced make this perfectly clear.
So don't worry, middle class homeowners. This law is not intended to be used on you. It's for those other kinds of people, you know who. The poor, the homeless, the scruffy, the nonwhite, the "creeps."
Race and class-based profiling isn't a few bad apples. It comes right down from the top.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

On the Mpls 2040 Lawsuit

 On June 15, Judge Joseph R. Klein ordered the City to immediately stop “any ongoing implementation of the 2040 Plan” until the City satisfies the requirements of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA)” which could include completing an environmental assessment.

On June 20, the city filed an appeal.

The case has been brought forward by Smart Growth Minneapolis, formed, it seems, to oppose the plan as a “non-profit organization 100% funded by individual donations.” Their president is John C. Goetz, and their legal team includes Jack Perry, Maren Grier and Thomas Basting all from Briggs & Morgan, we well as former mayoral candidate Nekima Levy Armstrong, and Timothy J. Keane. Smart Growth has been joined in the lawsuit by the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds. No other environmental groups are part of the lawsuit, although one headed by former Council Member Diane Hofstede, the Great River Coalition, is listed on their website a third “partner and friend.”

The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan was adopted as required by state law under the Metropolitan Land Planning Act, approved by the City Council and submitted it to the Metropolitan Council in December of 2018. It went into effect on January 1, 2020,

This followed extensive community input and controversy over one strategy in particular: the fifth strategy under the first policy (Access to Housing) that said, “In neighborhood interiors farthest from downtown that today contain primarily single-family homes, achieve greater housing supply and diversity by allowing small scale residential structures with up to three dwelling units on an individual lot.”

There were concerns at the time that neighborhoods would be destroyed, “bulldozed” or gentrified and that single-family homes would be abolished.

“Our lawsuit,” says Smart Growth’s website, “provides the only chance to compel the City to properly environmentally scrutinize its Plan and respond accordingly.”

That lawsuit is focused on the potential harms resulting from more density of housing. The judge’s decision is based almost exclusively on a Sunde Engineering report commissioned by Smart Growth and written by Kristen Pauly. That report assumes a large scale build out of new houses and apartments, which could possibly result in up to 150,000 new housing units. “The Pauly Report,” Klein wrote, “concludes that potential environmental impacts are likely to occur and that the 2040 plan largely ignores those impacts, lacks an analysis of the impact on the environment, and does not provide for specific design criteria or measures which would mitigate adverse environmental impacts.” According to the report, these impacts could include increased traffic and noise, decreased air quality, water quality and tree coverage as well as negative impacts on bird and other wildlife habitat.

Klein noted in his written decision that the City Attorney failed to provide a substantial rebuttal to the claims made in the report, and that “this unfortunate strategy has left the City bereft of any fact-based rebuttal or affirmative defense, the type of which is called for under MERA.”

The plan, however, has environmental impacts and concerns woven in throughout its 14 goals, 11 topic areas, 100 policies, and roughly 700 strategies. Of the 14 goals at least two (clean environment and climate resilience) are almost exclusively focused on the natural environment. Of the 11 topic areas, at

least 2 (environmental systems and parks and open spaces) are environmentally focused. Of the 100 policies at least 19 stand out because of their focus on addressing environmental issues. Regarding birds, among its over 600 strategies, 6 specifically mention protecting them or improving their habitat.

The plan’s priority on the natural environment may be one of the reasons why a some prominent local environmental organizations support it and why they are worried now that lawsuit is less about protecting birds and preserving their habitat, and more about protecting segregated areas and preserving them for the wealthy.

“Mpls 2040 also addresses equity and the city’s history of housing segregation in important ways. Minneapolis has a long history of redlining and racial segregation that has kept low-income communities and people of color on the fringes.” The Sierra Club’s Catherine Pokorny and Joshua Houdek wrote after it was passed, “restrictive deed covenants, racially isolated public housing projects, and discriminatory rental and real estate practices were used by landlords and real estate developers to segregate sections of Minneapolis based on race. Although these practices are now illegal, they facilitated the development of institutionalized racial inequalities that persist in the city today. Mpls 2040 takes crucial steps to dismantle these historical inequities by upzoning has the potential to allow new people of all races and income levels to move into all neighborhoods across the city.”

“The Minneapolis 2040 Plan is recognized nationally as a leading policy for promoting affordable housing, climate resilience, and racial justice” said MN350’s Ulla Nilsen after the judge released his decision. “Opponents claim the plan will harm the environment, but the environmental benefits of planning for and making progress on denser housing and lessening reliance on cars are clear. Cleaner air will especially benefit Black, brown and Indigenous communities that have dealt with larger negative health impacts from our city’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

The judge’s order provided 60 days for the City to respond and invited them to make their case to “rebut” the Smart Growth arguments and address flaws in the report or offer an affirmative defense. Instead, they chose to appeal the decision. The city could win on their appeal but to do so they may need to be better prepared than they have been so far.

“We expect the city of Minneapolis to mount a more vigorous defense of Minneapolis 2040,” said Nilsen, “including more documentation of its significant environmental and health benefits.”

Saturday, April 23, 2022

East Phllips Urban Farm vs Public Works Hiawatha Campus Expansion

On March 10, supporters of the East Phillips Urban Farm project were celebrating.

An 8-5 majority of the Minneapolis City Council had just approved a motion by 9th Ward Council Member Jason Chavez which rescinded the 2021 compromise that allowed the city to demolish the Roof Depot building at 1860 E. 28th St.

The motion halted any demolition and construction on the site until the East Phillips neighborhood, and potentially others, could make formal proposals for the reuse of the building.

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) called it “historic action to review formal proposals for the Roof Depot Building,” adding that “this victory signals that Minneapolis is prepared to begin to undo decades of harm it has caused to neighborhoods like East Phillips.”

But the celebration didn’t last long.

On March 11, Mayor Frey vetoed the Chavez resolution. On March 24, the council failed to get the nine votes required to override it, on a 7-6 vote.

“I’m disappointed in this veto and feel for my community that it continues to have to prove its worth,” wrote Chavez. “We had an opportunity to build the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm.”

In his veto letter, Frey listed many issues that, if addressed, he said could lead him to sign something in the future. These included using the term “suspend” rather than “rescind,” as well as needing more details on how to recover the $14 million already spent on community engagement, design, regulatory approvals, costs, organizational models, sources of funding, environmental remediation, alternative locations for the proposed public facility and more.

And this is only the latest setback in the long struggle between community advocates and the city, and within city government, to resolve how this site should be used in the future.

It is little wonder that the decision is difficult – both sides have admirable goals and strong cases to make.
Supporters of the Hiawatha facility expansion, including city staff, are quick to point out the need to replace a 100-year-old inadequate water distribution facility, the benefits of consolidating staff, and improved and more efficient service for water distribution maintenance, street maintenance and sewer maintenance. It could also remediate pollution, improve stormwater management, be solar-ready and add electric vehicle infrastructure.

One outspoken Southside resident advocating for the expansion is Bob Friddle, former City of Minneapolis director of facilities design and construction in the property services division. Before leaving his job with the city, he was responsible for hiring the design team and construction manager and leading the master planning and design effort between them and public works, overseeing cost estimating, demolition and environmental cleanup planning.

“The mayor and Council members are responsible for the whole city and its care and employees,” he wrote following the March council action. “This plan, which actually originated over twenty years ago in a study in 1990, would allow better care of equipment, employees and better service maintenance.”

Supporters of the EPNI plan envision a model for sustainable and resilient development that includes job training, living-wage jobs, aquaponic year-round food production, affordable family housing, a coffee shop run by neighborhood youth, community kitchen, cultural markets, bicycle shops and more.

“The East Phillips Urban Farm can be a healing center reconnecting Indigenous people to the land, and to help reverse the trauma of ongoing genocide through racist urban planning,” EPNI said in its press release.
The recent actions by the council and mayor still leave issues unresolved. Litigation brought by EPNI is expected to go to mediation in April. The city plans to continue with design work this spring and with demolition of the Roof Depot building late this summer and the council will need to approve bids for demolition and for the construction planned for 2023.

Chavez is not giving up. “My office is in close conversations with community members in East Phillips, Council Member Johnson, Council Member Koski, Mayor Frey, city staff, and my colleagues on next steps, with a hope of bringing something back at the next full council meeting that will give my community a shot,” he said.

Perhaps now, with a new council and eight council members calling for a fresh look at the project, with the mediation coming in April and with a new director of public works, there is an opening for both sides to compromise and accomplish some, if not all, of their worthy goals.
Two things to start with might be the council’s March 10 resolution and EPNI’s proposal they made in November of 2017 (https://www.eastphillipsneighborhoodinstitute.org/our-current-proposal). That proposal saves and reuses part of the building, buffers the residential neighborhood on the west with new mixed-use development and provides meaningful jobs, a source for fresh organic food, and includes room for a new public works facility.

Project History 

 

1991 – Public Works Comprehensive Facility Master Plan includes expansion at Hiawatha Facility

2001 – City Council authorizes discussions with Roof Depot for acquisition 

2010 – Phase 1 of the Hiawatha Master Plan is complete with remodel of north end of the site 

2015, June -  city council votes 10-3 to move forward with negotiations for a purchase agreement on the Roof Depot site.  

2016, February – City Council voted 9 – 4 (with Frey voting no) to purchase of Roof Depot building, Cano Calls Deal ‘Institutional Racism’ 

2017 – Star Tribune: Neighborhood Group wants aquaponics farms, bike shop and cafe at East Phillips site 

2018, December – City Council approves master plan to demolish the building and build a new facility with lengthy staff direction by Cano

2020 February – Senator Jeff Hayden’s Letter to the Minneapolis City Council

2020 March – Clyde Bellecourt, “Keith Ellison, Crisis in Phillips! Join us in mutual pursuit of justice!" 

2020, June  – EPNI vs. City of Minneapolis Complaint

August 18th, 2021 –A committee of the full city council votes 7–5 to reverse plans to expand its Hiawatha public works campus on the Roof Depot site in south Minneapolis. A  second provision, however, fails on a 6-6 vote that would have awarded rights to the property to the nonprofit East Phillips Neighborhood Institute.  

2021 – October - City Council, on a 7 – 6 vote, approves revised compromise master plan, setting aside approximately 3 acres for community development, neighborhood groups oppose compromise Minneapolis City Council approves compromise with water yard plan for Roof Depot site, that approve demolition of the building and sets aside 3 acres for other uses.

2022 – March 10 – Council, on an 8 – 5 vote, rescinds 2021 approval and approves accepting proposals for reuse of building 

2022 – March 11 – Mayor vetoes March 10 Council action. 

2022 – March 24 – The City Council fails to get the nine votes required to override the veto, on a 7-6 vote.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Looking back at 2021 and the 16 years in office

A national Green party publication (Green Pages) asked me to write something about my 16 years in office and Mike Feinstein wrote a 2021 election recap and dedicated a good chunk of space to Minneapolis in general, Samantha’s victory, and, at the end, to me, my last campaign and some of my time in office.  

Here are the links -  

https://greenpagesnews.org/green-governance/ 

https://greenpagesnews.org/greens-think-globally-run-locally-green-party-2021-election-year-in-review/ 

Here is the text from my article looking back at my time in office:

By Cam Gordon, Green Party of Minnesota and 4 term Minneapolis City Council Member

This January I concluded a 16-year run as the sole Green Party City Council Member in Minneapolis. As I did so, I also ended my experiment in Green governance. 

When I took to the campaign trail in the early 2000s, I was convinced that Green values provided a solid foundation for governing. As a founding member of the Green Party of Minnesota, I was already familiar with the Green Party. In 2005 in my campaign for City Council I told the voters, “Our values of social and economic justice, grassroots democracy, nonviolence and ecological wisdom offer a clear compass to help strengthen what works in our city and lead us to creative solutions for the future.” That November, once elected, I had the opportunity to test my theory.

For the next four terms I relied on the 10 key values to guide my work. While it was often an uphill journey with mixed results, using them, and working with others, met with some success. 

Our work on Grassroots Democracy led to Minneapolis being the first city in Minnesota to successfully pass and implement Ranked Choice Voting. It helped expand early voting and improve and diversify neighborhood groups. It led to expanded representation on city advisory boards, and the creation of new ones including the Housing Advisory Committee, the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Energy Vision Advisory Committee, the Food Council, and the Green Zones Task Forces.

Our focus on Social and Economic Justice helped pass the state’s first local minimum wage law, the wage theft ordinance, and requirements for safe and sick time off. It helped repeal New Jim Crow laws like “lurking,” and pass a resolution calling out institutional racism and committing to end it. It resulted in a Racial Equity Action plan, a new Office of Race and Equity and a required Racial Equity Assessment for all Council Actions. 

To prioritize Ecological Wisdom, we declared a climate emergency, adopted a Social Cost of Carbon, and designated environmental justice Green Zones. We invested in clean energy, green roofs, trees, and pollinator-friendly landscaping practices. We expanded recycling and composting and approved a Zero Waste Plan. We passed a Complete Streets policy and transportation plan resulting in a network of protected bikeways, dedicated bus lanes and an array of pedestrian safety improvements. 

The value of Nonviolence helped the City take a public health approach to violence prevention, the development of a Youth Violence Prevention Plan, the creation of an Office of Violence Prevention, and the use of mobile behavioral crisis teams as an alternative response to 911 calls. 

Green values influenced the well-publicized passage of the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan in 2019, prior to the pandemic and police murder of George Floyd. This was a high point for a “progressive” surge in Minneapolis politics that peaked with the election of a clear progressive majority to the Council in 2017. During that time, the Council approved a new mission statement and goals that, like the 2040 Plan, had racial equity, social and economic justice and environmental sustainability front and center. The City’s mission statement we passed that term begins with, “Our City government takes strategic action to address climate change, dismantle institutional injustice and close disparities in health, housing, public safety and economic opportunities…”              

One of the biggest lessons I learned along the way, however, is that the values are not only useful in determining what I worked on and why, but also in guiding the way I worked. 

First was the need to be Future Focused. Especially in the early years, even as I was on the end of losing votes, I needed to keep long term goals in mind. I was constantly planting seeds, articulating my hopes, making my intentions and goals known, and thinking about how some small action today could be laying the track for moving us in a better direction. This might take the form of a brief comment, or a small question during a staff report. Later it might mean building that into a staff direction to get a report, that might initiate a study session, then a pilot program and ultimately (sometimes years later as in the case of Rent Stabilization) a new city law or the creation of a new program.

As an elected official it was also my obligation to represent all the people in my ward. To do that I had to place my faith in grassroots democracy. I worked to be accessible, and share my views and reasons for supporting and opposing things. I listened, talked, and sometimes argued my points. I brought people together and was open to delaying action to get more input and address concerns. Increasing public participation and working to be accountable was key to winning acceptance and support. 

A challenging value to put into practice was Respect for Diversity. As an elected official I often faced political diversity. The diversity of views and approaches in community, among staff and among elected colleagues can be significant. There is both diversity of style and substance, and as you learn to appreciate each person’s priorities and perspectives it becomes easier to adjust one’s own approach to working with them. By respecting the diversity of concerns, a policy proposal may be improved as well as more likely be implemented in the end. Sometimes respect for diversity meant just accepting the difference, respecting the individual and the relationship. 

The value of nonviolence helped me stay calm and rational even when being passionate. It reminded me to separate the issue or the policy from the person, and be willing to cooperate and be compassionate even with adversaries. The value of Feminism helped me to resist the tendency towards using power and domination and remember the benefits of sharing power with others and letting others lead. Finding myself in a government body with protocols clearly inherited from a social system based on domination and control of others, it was a challenge to forge more humane and cooperative ways to work. The value of decentralization helped me to conserve my influence and energy, to be willing to yield to, trust, step aside or join community members, staff, neighborhood associations and other colleagues – especially when their efforts didn’t conflict with, or supported, my values. 

If there is a Green way of governing, for me, it was based on fully and publicly owning, using and relying on our key values proudly and openly both on the campaign and at work when I was in office. It was based on using them to guide not only what I did and why I did it, but also, mindfully, to guide how I did it. 

Monday, April 04, 2022

Police Federation Contract Approved on 8 - 5 Vote

 After years of negotiations, led by 3 different city labor relations directors, with strong community opposition, and a lengthy debate on March 24, the City Council voted 8 to 5 to approve a new contract with the Minneapolis Police Federation, which represents all Minneapolis police officers up to and including the rank of lieutenant.

 

The previous agreement expired in 2019. The new one ends this December and covers 2019-22. It includes $7,000 bonuses for new officers and current officers who stay on the job until the end of the year, as well as retroactive salary increases of 1% for 2020, 1.5% for 2021, and 2.5% for this year. There is also an additional 2.5% “market adjustment” wage increase beginning Jan. 1, 2022, and another 1% starting Dec. 31, 2022.

 

This increases department expenses by $9 million in 2022 to cover the retroactive pay increases and half of the bonuses.

 

The agreement also includes a new mental health screening requirement following a critical incident, greatwe authority for the Chief in making officer assignments, and a statement supporting race and gender equity, that were asked for by the city. The city agreed to the Federation’s proposal for proactive email notification of data requests that would include the identity of the person making the request, unless it is done anonymously.

 

This contract has been the focus of attention, and high expectations for more than 3 years under 3 different lead negotiators for the city. Laura Davis worked on the negotiation as labor relations director until the end of September 2020 when she left city employment. Then, Valerie Darling took over as the labor relations director until she left in May of 2021. At that time, Holland Atkinson, who is still with the city, took over.

 

This contract has likely had more public involvement than any City of Minneapolis labor contract in recent history. Many are disappointed and even some of those Council members who voted for it, hope to see more accomplished in the next contract.

 

Raised Expectations

 

Prior to the contract’s expiration in Dec. 2019, a community coalition called, Mpls For a Better Police Contract (MFBPC) that included the Racial Justice Network, Our Revolution Twin Cities, and Communities United Against Police Brutality, crafted a set of recommendations for changes to the agreement and met with the Mayor and each City Council member to discuss them. The recommendations included changes aimed at eliminating officer fatigue, mandatory mental health screenings, ensuring that training decisions remain a management right and explicitly referencing the discipline matrix of the department’s policy manual in order to strengthen management’s ability to discipline officers and have such action supported by a state arbitrator.

 

Shortly afterwards, that same December, before any meaningful negotiations could be held, the federation requested, and the City agreed to enter into closed meetings. A letter from the Police Federation’s attorney to the City’s Director of Labor Relations noted, “We have learned that there has been a request from members of the public to attend our negotiations,” This led to the coalition (MFBPC) filing a lawsuit in June of 2021.

 

Micala Tessman, attorney of record for MFBPC said about the lawsuit, “There are clear violations of Minnesota law that exists for the benefit of the public’s right to know. The City failed in its obligation both under the Data Practices Act and laws governing public employee collective bargaining to provide timely notice of negotiation sessions when they were occurring. MFBPC and the public had every right to attend these sessions.”

 

Ryan Rantanen, a member of MFBPC, “The enthusiasm by a vast majority of the City Council for our recommendations was gratifying after all the hard work to present common-sense advice. But it has been incredibly frustrating that the Mayor and City have completely obstructed our right to view what they are doing.”

 

That meant since Dec 2019, -- before the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the civil unrest, so-called racial reckoning, and the last election with intense attention on police policy, ---any and all negotiations were held in private with few people knowing the terms of the negotiations.

 

But after the events of May 2020, some City officials were not silent about the contract in general.  This included then police chief Medaria Arradondo who, in June 2020, held a press conference to announce that he was ending his involvement in contract negotiations with the federation. He said that he wanted a contract that makes it easier to fire problematic officers, after multiple instances in recent years where officers terminated for misconduct had been reinstated after union appeals and arbitration decisions.

 

That same month Mayor Frey appeared on national television in an interview on Good Morning America and said, “I am for massive, structural and transformation reform to an entire system,” and that “We need a full cultural shift in how the Minneapolis Police Department, and department across the county, functions.”  Adding "Let me be very clear, we're going after the police union, the police union contract."

 

Reality Check

 

It wasn’t until March of 2022, that details of the negotiation were made known when a tentative agreement emerged. When it did, many were disappointed.   

 

Communities United Against Police Brutality, put out an action alert, declaring, “Not a single recommendation by the community was incorporated but a new provision (Section 12.03, paragraph 3) requires the city to report the name of anyone who requests data on an officer to that officer--an invitation to harass data requesters.

 

The Chair of the city’s own Police Conduct Oversight Commission, Abigail Cerra, along with coauthor and former Council Member Paul Ostrow, wrote in a letter to the mayor and all Council Members, “We have reviewed the language….and have grave concerns that it does not address serious flaws in the City’s disciplinary process. Perpetuating this flawed system would be unconscionable in the wake of universal calls for reform.”

 

A group of 23 nonprofit organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, Black Visions, CAIR Minnesota, Center for Victims of Torture, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, ISAIAH, Jewish Community Action, Legal Rights Center, Minneapolis NAACP, Minnesota Youth Collective, Racial Justice Network, Reclaim the Block, Safety Not Surveillance, SWOP Mpls, TakeAction MN, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar and Voices for Racial Justice and more, sent a letter urging the Council to delay its vote and saying that, “We are troubled by the lack of any changes around discipline in this contract,” they wrote and “the city shouldn’t sign off on a contract until it contains a mechanism to escape the cycle of being tied to past disciplinary practices.”  Adding that “if no changes are made to the police contract, then we urge Minneapolis City Council members to Vote No. This contract proposal is simply unacceptable, and Minneapolis residents deserve better.”

 

They also expressed concerns, shared by others about why “the city is focused on paying officers more (a $7,000 bonus plus raises), rather than putting money into public safety for all.”

 

In defense of the pay increases, city staff offered in a supplemental report that “In order to attract and retain police officers, the City must maintain a competitive compensation package.” They noted that several nearby police departments offer hiring bonuses, including the U of M at $5,000, Brooklyn Park at $5,000, Brooklyn Center at $6,000, Hopkins at $2,500, and Roseville at $10,000.

 

Divided Council Says Yes

 

When the agreement came before the Council for discussion many members shared the community concerns.  “We were told by many, including some of you who ran on police reform and by the Mayor, that this contract would be an area to create new standards of accountability.” Said Ward 2 Council Member Robin Wonlsey Worlobah whose motion in committee to table the vote to allow time for taking public comment was defeated on a 3-3 tie vote at committee.

 

According to the staff report, following “years of bargaining sessions beginning in 2019,” and months of mediation, in Dec of 2021 negotiations stalled. At that time the decision was made to go to “interest arbitration.” To do so, a list of the unresolved issues needed to be drafted and certified. They were and apparently included few if any of the issues raised by community members. Staff wrote that “those remaining issues were primarily economic.”

 

They also noted that even if the Council voted against approval of the agreement, adding new issues at this point is prohibited by state law.  City staff recommended approval of the contract and warned that relations with the federation “would be damaged severely by a city council unwilling to accept a new labor agreement that has been expired since 2019.”

 

Council President Andrea Jenkins preferred to accept this now and prepare for more changes next time.   “We've been at this table negotiating with this union for over 2 1/2 years. Many of the items that led to the impasse, that put us into mediations, were the recommendations, desires, and hopes and dreams that we heard from community,” said Jenkins before casting her vote of approval. “If this goes to arbitration, we absolutely know we won't gain anything from it."   

 

Wonsley disagreed, “I’m seeing shifting goal posts. In 2020, Mayor Frey went on Good Morning America and said ‘we have a hard time terminating and disciplining officers…the elephant in the room is the collective bargaining agreement.’ Now we’re saying, no, it’s the opposite. This also does not set us up to attract qualified candidates. We’re telling potential officers, we’ll pay you more and you will not have to face any discipline,” she said before caster her no vote.

 

Andrew Johnson representing Ward 12, was also unsuccessful in passing a motion he made for a two-week delay. Before voting in favor, he said, “The contract, while it is important, and it does matter, is also way too often used as a scapegoat for failures of management and failures of leadership to hold officers responsible for their bad behavior in a consistent way." 

 

On March 24, the Council voted 8 to 5 to approve the contract.  Those voting against approval were Council Members Payne, Wonsley Worlobah, Ellison, Chavez, and Chughtai.

 

Chavez, (Ward 9) summed his rationale in this way in his latest newsletter to his constituents, “The lack of community input and transparency, a requirement to email officers who made a public data request about them, and the shortfall of accountability and discipline was enough for me to vote no.” 

 

“With this now settled,” Council Member Linea Palmisano, who voted yes, wrote to her constituents, “we can begin negotiations for a forward-facing contract that will cover a broader range of negotiations and cover years 2023-25.” Adding later, “Negotiating a contract that allows for more discretion by the Chief - to impart discipline and build out additional, mandated, training and expectations around de-escalation, cultural competency and anti-racism - would be one positive outcome.”

 

The fact that there was some debate and a divided vote on the Council will likely send a message to those who will be involved in future negotiations. The fact that it passed in a way that appears to be so favorable to the federation, however, may send a different message.  We will have to wait to see what impact, if any, this has on negotiations in the future. 

The Second Ward Blog Continues

Since leaving the Council, I have taken up the past time of writing about city issues and policy for a few local papers.

I have decided to keep this blog alive to allow me to post some of my work here, especially things that relate to local government issues and the Minneapolis City government in particular. 

This will allow me to keep this historical record intact and growing into the future. 


Saturday, January 08, 2022

Second Ward December 2021 E-newsletter


News from Cam Gordon 

Council Member, Second Ward 

www2.minneapolismn.gov/ward2/   

facebook.com/MinneapolisWard2  

Farewell. As this is the final monthly report I will be sending out as your City Council Member, I want to offer my thanks, and best wishes to you all. It has been among the highest honors and greatest privileges of my life to represent you and serve the people of Minneapolis these past 16 years as a City Council Member. I am grateful for all of you who helped me be as successful as I have been, learn so much, and be able to help you and others in any way that I have. I continue to be impressed by the many caring and committed community members and organizations and the work that so many of you are doing to take care of your families and neighbors and to help make this a better community. As you are able, I hope that you will stay involved and engaged in the future. I wish you and yours the very best in the years to come and please feel free to reach out to me as you like. 

Public Health Emergency Extended.  With the delta and omicron variants spreading, the City Council passed a resolution in December extending the Mayor’s declaration of a local public health emergency adopted on March 16, 2020. The emergency declaration will remain in effect through February 13, 2022, unless determined otherwise by an official action of the City Council. The Minneapolis Health Department reports that COVID-19 rates remain high due to the delta variant and omicron variants. Under the emergency order, employees and members of the public are required to wear face coverings in all City buildings, with the exception of the Convention Center. Public meetings of the City Council, its committees, and the City’s various appointed boards and commissions will stay online through February 13.  

City Return to Work Date. I was glad to learn that the Mayor has decided to postpone the return to work date from January 10 to February 14, to be consistent with the expiration of the Emergency Order as approved by the Council this month. This delay should allow for full implementation of testing protocols and give us more than 30 days from holiday gatherings to assess the status of the spread.

2022 Budget Approved. In December, following 3 hearings with extensive input, most of it focused on public safety, the City Council amended and approved a $1.6 billion budget that includes a 5.45% property tax levy increase. The budget funds all City services and includes notable new investments in affordable housing, economic inclusion initiatives, climate action, a phased $2.6 million increase in youth programming through the Park and Recreation Board, ongoing funding for the Office of Violence Prevention, and money for five new recruit and cadet classes to increase the number of police officers. It also features $120 million in federal relief funding over three years to help with recovery that should safeguard against major property tax increases in 2022 and beyond. To find more details please visit https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/File/2021-00919 and https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/budget/. While I explored several amendments, including some that would have helped earned my support for the final operating budget, I ended up only formally moving 4, all of which passed.

Green Zone Budget Amendment. The first amendment I made to the budget this year was coauthored by Council Member Cano and turned out to be the only amendment that reduced the Police Department budget. It allocated $100,000 to the City Coordinator’s Department, Sustainability Division to assess our Green Zones by reducing the reserve for law enforcement assistance in the Police Department. This evaluation work will identify a series of City resources and internal strategies to implement the Green Zone Councils’ work plans and policy recommendations.

Funds for Charter Amendment Implementation. The second amendment I made was to another amendment made by Council Member Palmisano. She was proposing increasing expenses in the City Coordinator office by $88,630 for contract dollars to help the City prepare the ordinance changes required to implement the Government structure charter amendment. I successfully moved to amend that so that the funds would go to the City Council, instead of the Coordinator. Given the potential for all Departments, including the Coordinator’s Office, to defer to the Mayor’s needs, goals and instructions under the charter change, this seemed prudent. The Council will now have some resources under their control to help protect their interests, and those of their constituents.

Legal Assistance to Renters Facing Eviction. I also authored, along with Council Members Bender and Ellison, an amendment the Mayor’s recommended budget to reduce our Affordable Housing Trust Fund by $250,000 and use the funding to provide legal services for renters consistent with our recently passed “Right to Counsel” ordinance. The trust fund is in excellent shape and this will help provide legal assistance to people facing eviction.

Neighborhood Funding Amendment. The third amendment I authored will add $420,000 to the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department and increase the base funding for all neighborhoods to from $15,000 to $20,000 in 2022. This uses $334,000 in unallocated interest revenue that could have rolled over into the general fund next year or been held in reserves and $86,000 in unused but previously allocated funds that could have been used had a University Neighborhood been formed. If such an organization is to form in the future there are still funds available to support it. This amendment only provided funds for 2022. My hope is this level of funding, or even more, can be included s ongoing funding in the Mayor’s recommended budget for 2023 and come from the general levy.

Violence Prevention Amendment.  A significant amendment that I supported, but did not author, was brought forward by Council Members Bender and Cunningham and increased the Health Department’s budget by $3.5 million on a one-time basis for the expansion of the Office of Violence Prevention as follows: $250,000 to purchase and license a programs information system; $250,000 to provide trauma, stress, and mental health and wellbeing for frontline violence prevention and intervention providers; $1,000,000 to expand coverage of the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative; $350,000 to fund Adolescent-specific Group Violence Intervention; $600,000 to supplement the Violence Prevention Fund; $300,000 to support the Stabilization for High Risk Individuals; $300,000 to support community members who have experienced trauma resulting from an exposure to violence through Community Trauma Response; and $450,000 to develop the Violence Prevention Through Built Environment Changes pilot.

My Vote Against the Operations Budget. In the end, despite some amendments I authored and supported that passed, I voted against the most significant budget resolution that approved the funding for the operations of all the City departments. This resolution passed 9 to 4. My primary concern was the large, nearly $27,000,000, increase to the police department budget. I am concerned that this increase will not be spent. I’m also concerned that it was proposed in the middle of an election year when the lack of police was clearly a major problem, as an effort to offer reassurance, but without a realistic plan for how it will be spent. This year (in 2021) we funded the department at a lower level and even after concerted efforts to hire and train more officers, the department is still $5,000,000 under budget at the end of the year. Based on the efforts of the past 2 years I believe it is unlikely and unrealistic to think that the City will train and hire 5 new cadet classes in 2022. I would have supported increasing the budget to the 2019 level of roughly $180,000,000 with clear provisions for better hiring practices, training protocols that included community experience prior to being on armed patrol, and a clearly defined early intervention or warning system focused on accountability and run by none law enforcement personnel. I could not, however, in the end support a department budget of approximately $190,000,000 with none of those provisions. I am concerned that this budget will likely result in a rush to hire and prioritize “cops on the street” and an as-fast-as-possible return to the status quo, when what I believe we need is a more deliberate and systematic overhaul in the department.

Crisis Response Teams. In December, I was glad to see that the City’s behavioral crisis response teams finally begin working. These services, contracted through Canopy Roots, will provide crisis intervention, counseling, and connection to support services as an alternative to police responders. Two mobile units will operate throughout Minneapolis 7:30am to midnight, Monday through Friday, and eventually ramp up to service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each unit will have vehicle and a team of two behavioral health responders. Minneapolis 911 will dispatch the responders. The Police Department will only be on scene if dispatch determines the need to clear the scene first or the response teams request assistance to complete their work. People should continue to call 911 for help with behavioral crises. 911 dispatchers will gather information and determine if the incident is eligible for a mobile behavioral health team response. The teams will not respond to incidents involving firearms or violent behavior. This program is the result of a 2021 Budget amendment I worked on last year and was informed by the feedback I got at the Safety Block Meetings I hosted in 2020. My hope is that this pilot will grow into a more permanent forth alternative response to emergencies.  You can learn more at https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/programs-initiatives/community-safety/focus-areas/alternatives-police-response/

Mayoral Government Structure Workgroup. Without a single current, or newly elected, Council Member serving on it, the Mayor has convened a government structure work group to provide recommendations for implementation of the new government structure charter amendments. The work group members have been identified and have already begun to meet, although it is unclear if the meetings are or will be open to the media or the public. They are expected to deliver recommendations to the mayor early in 2022. You can find the members and more information at https://www.minneapolismn.gov/news/2021/november/frey-convening-experts-community-partners-for-government-structure-work-group-/

Police Chief Change. Following the election, Police Chief Arradondo announced that he will not be accepting a new term as leader of the Police Department. As concerned as I have been recently with his performance and his failure to provide effective oversight of many officers, I thank him for his years of service and greatly appreciated working with him on a number of initiatives, especially prior to his taking on the role of Chief. He was an early supporter of our effort to develop the Youth Violence Prevention Plan and was critical in peacefully managing the protests after the police killing of Jamar Clark. The Mayor has nominated, and the Council has approved the appointment of Amelia Huffman, formerly Deputy Chief, as interim Chief. As a longtime member of the department, with experience in a number of leadership roles, she understands the current policies and cultures of the department well and I suspect she will be effective at maintaining and strengthening current practices into the future. I hope that she will prioritize accountability and rebuilding community trust.  

Sidewalk and Waste Cart Shoveling. Minneapolis ordinance requires property owners of single-family homes and duplexes to clear sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall, and all other property owners must clear their sidewalks within four daytime hours. Clearing snow and ice from sidewalks helps people of all ages and abilities safely walk or roll to where they need to go. Failure to shovel your sidewalk could result in a warning letter and, if left uncleared, a bill for the City to remove snow from your sidewalk. People should call 311 to learn more about resources available to people who may need help clearing their sidewalks. Also, please remember to shovel around your carts. If the collection crew cannot easily wheel your carts to the truck, they cannot empty them and won’t be back until your next collection day. 

Hennepin Avenue South Reconstruction Open House. The City is hosting a virtual open house January 13 to share the recommended design for the Hennepin Avenue South Reconstruction Project. The City plans to reconstruct Hennepin Avenue between West Lake Street and Douglas Avenue. Public Works has recommended a design that best meets the City’s Transportation Action Plan and aligns with the Vision Zero Action Plan, the Complete Streets Policy and the Climate Action Plan. The recommended design features: pedestrian facilities that improve safety and comfort for people walking; a two-way protected bikeway between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue to improve safety and access for people biking; dedicated transit lanes for more efficient and reliable transit service; two vehicle lanes, with left turn lanes at key intersections, to maintain mobility for people in cars. City staff plan to advance the recommended design to City Council for approval in spring of 2022. Construction is expected to begin in 2024. The online open house will be at 4:30pm on Thursday, January 13. Visit the project web page at https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/projects/hennepin-ave-s/hennepin-ave-s-resources/ to learn more about the reconstruction project, view the recommended design and provide comments.

Carjackings. There has been a disturbing rise in carjacking crimes across the region. As of December 17, there had been 614 attempted and completed carjackings this year in Minneapolis, up from 104 in 2019. As a result, law enforcement agencies in the areas are focusing intensely on these types of crime. The Minneapolis Police are working to investigate cases, make arrests and are collaborating with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office and the courts to hold offenders accountable. The County has dedicated two prosecutors to specialize in the prosecution of these cases: one for juvenile cases and one for adult cases. The County has also designated an advocate to assist victims of carjackings. Here are some recommendations for how to prevent and respond to carjackings:

  • Stay aware of your surroundings. Avoid focusing on your phone or being distracted when approaching or leaving your vehicle and when sitting in a parked vehicle.
  • When sitting in your vehicle, keep your doors locked and your windows up.
  • If you feel unsafe, move.
  • Understand and use any alert system installed on your vehicle. Activate the distress alert or panic button for your vehicle if you feel unsafe or threatened. This is typically a red button on your key fob.
  • Always have your mobile phone handy and charged.
  • Practice safe parking. Stick to well-lit areas. If you have any safety concerns where you parked after the fact, find a security guard to accompany you to your vehicle.
  • If you are involved in a minor crash without other vehicles or pedestrians around and you do not feel safe enough to stop, immediately call 911, report the crash incident, and drive to a nearby, public area to exchange information or wait for police.
  • If you are confronted by an assailant and are not able to drive away, remain calm, do not argue.
  • Try to remember how the assailant looks and acts, including any of their unique characteristics (such as scars, limps, acne, teeth, manner of speech).
  • Never chase them.
  • If video is available, please save a copy of the incident for investigating detectives.
  • If a witness approaches you, ask for their contact information.
  • Contact 911 immediately and remain on the scene if possible. If your vehicle or phone has tracking, tell the dispatcher.
  • Call 911 immediately if you witness a crime in progress.
  • Pay attention to specific details. License plates, features of the vehicles involved (including any damage), descriptions of suspects and the direction of travel can all be helpful. Give this information to responding officers.
  • If you have video of the crime, give a copy to the police or give them your contact information. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at http://crimestoppersmn.org/sitemenu.aspx?ID=674& or 1-800-222-8477.

Pedestrian Safety Survey. Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the University of Minnesota are collaborating on a pedestrian safety study to prioritize future pedestrian safety efforts in the area. As part of that project they are conducting a survey and are collecting responses until January 14. Everyone aged 18 and older is invited to take this survey, including those who previously took one last winter. This survey is expected to take approximately 5 minutes to complete and can be found at https://umn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bIrin9QOLwS1ymy

COVID-19 Vaccinations. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please get a free vaccine as soon as you can. To find the site closest to you, visit www.vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX), or call 1-800-232-0233. Call the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-431-2053 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for all children ages 5 and up. Different clinic options are available for children 5-11 than for children 12 and older. To find and register a child for a vaccine appointment call 612-348-8900. Help is available in English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong. Also see https://www.hennepin.us/residents/emergencies/covid-19.

COVID-19 Testing. If you think you may have COVID please get tested. Testing is free at all the State’s community testing sites. Participants who have health insurance will be asked for their insurance information so the state can bill their insurance company on their behalf. If a person is uninsured or if insurance does not cover some or all of the cost, the State will cover the difference, ensuring testing remains open to all at no cost. https://mn.gov/covid19/get-tested/testing-locations/community-testing.jsp

2021 Minneapolis Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG). The Council has approve spending up to $300,000 in funding for Avivo or an affiliated entity for homeless outreach services in 2022, renewable for up to an additional four years. Using these federal dollars for outreach is a critical strategy to helping people find housing.

Third Party Delivery Services Ordinance. The Council has approved amending Title 13 of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances adding a new Chapter 353 entitled "Third Party Delivery Services" to add regulations and restrictions on the fees charged to affiliated businesses. 

"Back from the Brink." In December, at the last Council Meeting of the term, the Council approved a resolution I authored to support the Back from the Brink movement to prevent nuclear war. I am grateful to the constituents, and organizations – including Vets for Peace, Woman Against Military Madness, the Antiwar Committee, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Physicians for Social Responsibility  who brought this to my attention. You can learn more about the effort at https://preventnuclearwar.org/. The resolution calls on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals; renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first; ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack; taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; cancelling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons and embracing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Climate Emergency Resolution. Also, at the last meeting, the Council approved a resolution I authored that puts us on record wanting to work with other Minnesota cities to slow climate change and calls for greater support from state and federal governments.  As the Minnesota legislature heads into its 2022 session, I hope that local governments of all sizes, and in all regions of the state will join in declaring a climate emergency and call for swift action at the state level to address the crisis.

Departing Council Members. The Council and Mayor honored departing City Council members with honorary resolutions recognizing their service to the City in December.  A majority of Council Members are leaving at the end of the year including me and Council Members Lisa Bender (Ward 10), Kevin Reich (Ward 1), Steve Fletcher (Ward 3), Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4), Alondra Cano (Ward 9), and Jeremy Schroeder (Ward 11). You can find the resolutions at the end of Council agenda at https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/MarkedAgenda/Council/2927.

Gretchen Musicant. During the final meeting we also presented a resolution honoring Gretchen Musicant, who is retiring from her position as Health Commissioner.  Gretchen has been an effective leader, an example for me to follow and a close partner in many of the initiatives I worked on over the years as Council Member. You can find the resolution honoring her at https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/Download/FileV2/25839/Gretchen-Musicant-Honorary-Resolution.pdf.

David Rubedor. During the final full City Council meeting of 2021, the Mayor and Council also presented David Rubedor, director of the City’s Neighborhood & Community Relations Department (NCR) with a resolution thanking him for his work and contribution to the City. David is leaving, due to significant health concerns. He was critical to preserving a system of neighborhood organizations in the City as the first director of the new department created during my time in office. You can find the resolution honoring him at https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/Download/FileV2/25819/David-Rubedor-Honorary-Resolution.pdf.  I wish David and his family well and will keep him in my thoughts in the weeks and months ahead.

Community Connections Conference Postponed. The City sponsored, annual Community Connections Conference that was planned for February 12, has been postponed. A new date will be announced soon. To stay up to date on this year's conference, you can visit https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/government/departments/ncr/inclusive-community-engagement/connections-conference/. The Community Connections Conference is an annual free event that connects residents of Minneapolis, community groups, neighborhoods and local government.

Food Resources. Please check out the updated Minneapolis food security resources at https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/government/programs-initiatives/homegrown-minneapolis/food-shelves/.  To find winter farmers markets that nearly all accept SNAP-EBT benefits see https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/government/programs-initiatives/homegrown-minneapolis/farmers-markets/.

Opioid Lawsuit. The City Council approved Minneapolis joining a nationwide settlement of lawsuits filed against manufacturers and distributors of opioids. The City will now receive a portion of the State of Minnesota’s share of the $26 billion settlement provided it does not take new legal action against the defendants. The national settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three opioid painkiller distributors is an agreement reached with coalition of state attorneys general. Under the settlement, states get larger shares of the $26 billion when more of their local jurisdictions join so our participation means Minnesota will receive more settlement dollars. The funds must be used for abatement services. In Minneapolis, that work will be done by the Minneapolis Health Department and by first responders encountering people in crisis to prevent deaths and improve the lives of those impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic. Minneapolis had a total of 712 opioid-related overdose deaths from 2011 through 2020.

Reopening Nicollet at Lake Street. The City Council has approved a plan for the Former Kmart and New Nicollet Project focused on preventing displacement, as well as supporting affordable housing, safe and equitable transportation and climate justice. It includes a three-phase public engagement plan that will start in early 2022 with a first phase focused on open dialogues with community members who live, work and shop in and visit the area. The second phase will focus on a public space plan and Nicollet Avenue layout plan, which will require City Council approval. The third phase of engagement will discuss the future development of buildings. You can learn more at https://www.minneapolismn.gov/news/2021/december/city-council-approves-next-steps-for-new-nicollet-project-/

Prohibition on Large Truck Parking. The new City ordinance that puts restrictions on truck parking on Minneapolis streets goes into effect January 1. Trucks weighing 13 tons or more can no longer park on Minneapolis streets unless they are loading, unloading or providing a service. The new restriction is in response to an increase in the number of big trucks parking on Minneapolis streets and extensive community feedback about safety concerns associated with large commercial trucks parking on streets for an extended time when they’re not in service. Truck owners and operators should use facilities designed for truck storage for their long-term parking needs.

Malcom Yards Project. The Council has approved accepting a grant of $129,999 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Redevelopment Grant Program to for the Malcolm Yards Affordable Housing project at 495 Malcolm Ave SE. as part of the Malcolm Yards Planned Unit Development. The awarded funds will be used for demolition, utility improvements, and new roads, sidewalks, and lighting. 

Union Stadium Village.   The Council has approved the adequacy of the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for the proposed Union Stadium Village development located at 2630 University Ave SE. For more visit https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/business-services/planning-zoning/environmental-review/union-stadium-village/

44 North. The student-housing project in Prospect Park called 44 North, which includes 194 units in three buildings near 2701 Fourth St. SE. was recently sold for $77 million to the Chicago based “Scion Group.” According to a company press release, the deal makes Scion, the largest owner and operator of off-campus student housing in the country.

Rezoning 2021 24th Ave S.  The Council has approved the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s application to rezone the property located at 2021 24th Ave S from the R2B Multiple-Family District to the R3 Multiple-Family District, retaining the BFI3 Interior 3 Built Form Overlay District to construct a new two-story multiple-family dwelling containing four dwelling units.

New Owner at 2209 Franklin Ave E.  The Council has approved a Commercial Property Development Fund (CPDF) loan of $250,000 to Maezen Ras, LLC to assist in the acquisition of the property at 2209 Franklin Ave E. Maezen Ras is owned by Ms. Asse and Mr. Tesh who also own Rebecca’s Bakery that they have been operating since 2010 out of a rented space one block away at 2111 Franklin Ave E. They plan to move the bakery to the new location already equipped with a commercial kitchen and café lounge. The building has two additional spaces for office use that will be available to rent out to tenants.  They do not need to make significant improvements to the property at this time.

Como Congregational Church Project. A proposed reuse of the Como Congregational Church building was approved by the Planning Commission on December 6. This project, being proposed by The Urban Canopies and Como Community Center will preserve and adapt the 1886 Congregational building and will include 6 residential units containing 24 bedrooms in the rear and the adaptation of the auditorium as a new multi-purpose community space. Rehabilitation and construction at the Congregational building are projected to begin in the first quarter of 2022, to begin opening in fall 2022. An information website about the community center project -- www.ComoCommunityCenter.org.

Jobs with the City. The City has several job openings among different job types. To learn more and view current openings see http://www.minneapolismn.gov/jobs.

City Update Sign-Up. You can subscribe to get City updates on a variety of topics by email or text at https://service.govdelivery.com/accounts/MPLS/subscriber/new   

Yours in peace and cooperation,

Cam Gordon

Contact for Cam after January 1, 2022:

612 296-0579

Camgordon333@msn.com      

https://www.facebook.com/camgordonmpls/

https://twitter.com/CameronAGordon