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Posts about Politics and government

Council committee approves new CPED director

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: July 22, 2014 - 3:26 PM

A key City Council committee today approved Mayor Betsy Hodges’ nomination of Craig Taylor to head Minneapolis’ department of community development and regulatory services.

Taylor has headed the University of Minnesota’s Office for Business and Community Economic Development and Business and Technology Center for the last dozen years, previously serving as a manager of corporate small business development at Xcel Energy. He also directed the city’s Office of  Women and Minority Business Enterprise for four years.

Ten people showed up to testify before the Committee of Community Development and Regulatory Services in favor of Taylor’s appointment, including university colleagues.

Kris Lockhart, who is associate vice president for equity and diversity at the U, described him as a visionary who empowers others and mentors staff.

“He can see the big picture, but he’s also got what it takes to see the details to get to the end result,” she said.

Taylor vowed to examine every business decision, program and partnership by considering Hodges’ three priorities for Minneapolis: making the city run well, helping the city grow, and improving racial equity.

He now awaits a vote by the full City Council.

Council members will also hold a hearing soon on Hodges’ nomination of Spencer Cronk to serve as city coordinator. The mayor will submit the nomination at Wednesday’s meeting of the Executive Committee.

Olson's role debated as Teamster strike recalled

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 18, 2014 - 9:53 PM

One of the more intriguing aspects of the 80th commemoration of the 1934 Teamster strikes is a rekindling of the debate over the response by Gov. Floyd B. Olson, a Minneapolis native.

Olson played a delicate role in the strike by Minneapolis truckers. He was elected as a left-leaning governor of the Farmer-Labor party. Yet he also had some support from business elements in Minneapolis for his vigorous prosecution of corruption on the Minneapolis City Council in the late 1920s, when he was Hennepin County attorney. Indeed, as one speaker this week recalled, a striker colloquially warned Olson that he was straddling a picket fence between the sides of labor and business, making any slip likely to be painful.

After open street warfare involving strikers and newly deputized lawmen, Olson mobilized National Guard troops during the May strike by drivers, but kept them on standby status.  That strike was resolved by an imperfect agreement that led to the climactic July strike, when more violence erupted.

Strikers were determined to stop truck movement, and business was determined to keep them running. After police opened fire on unarmed strikers trying to block a truck in the city’s market district, leaving two dead and dozens injured, many shot in the back, Olson mobilized the guard and declared martial law.

Farmer-Laborite Eddie Felien, editor-publisher of Southside Pride, argues that Olson’s actions maintained picket lines and preserved the strike when any other governor would have crushed the strike.

Others aren’t that charitable.  Bryan Palmer, the Canadian academic whose “Revolutionary Teamsters” advances study of the strike, spoke Thursday night at the downtown library. He addressed Olson’s role: “There was no question his actions were going to harm the strike when he brought in the National Guard.”  The guard issued permits for truck movements, seized strike headquarters and threw strike leaders into a military stockade. Palmer quoted one strike leader during this period as saying: “Trucks are moving.  They’re breaking the strike.” And another strike leader, Farrell Dobbs, simply titles one chapter of his 1972 memoir on this period “military strikebreaking."

Yet guardsmen never fired on strikers, unlike some other notable American labor confrontations.

Another historian, Mary Wingerd, who spoke on the same panel as Palmer, said she thinks Olson’s presence as governor played a significant role in strike psychology.  Despite being led by Trotskyist militants, the strikers likely mostly voted Farmer-Labor.  Having a governor of their persuasion in office — rather than a conservative hardliner -- likely made it easier for individual strikers to make the difficult commitment to put their jobs on the line in a strike, she said.

Palmer confessed that despite his research, he’s still somewhat mystified over how a strike that was starting to fray somewhat as it wound into August suddenly produced a settlement favorable to strikers. He gives more credit to President Franklin Roosevelt than Olson. Roosevelt clearly wanted the strike settled before the 1934 election; Palmer suggests that local bankers with substantial federal loans from the New Deal’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation put pressure on a key representative of recalcitrant employers.

The debate will keep historians busy for decades to come.

Park Board sets 4.9 percent levy hike goal

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 16, 2014 - 7:37 PM

Minneapolis park commissioners set a goal Wednesday night of achieving a 4.9 percent increase in the parks levy for 2015.

Four percent of that levy increase would be for normal operating and capital purposes, while .9 percent would continue the tree replacement program the board began this year.

The direction to Supt, Jayne Miller followed a debate over whether a 2 or 4 percent levy increase was more realistic, given that the city's levy is slated to rise by 2 percent in its five-year financial plan.  Mayor Betsy Hodges has not yet made a levy recommendation for 2015.

Some commissioners questioned whether a 4.9 percent increase is politically realistic. But Miller already has projected that with a 2 percent increase the Park Board faces a $1.3 million budget gap just to maintain current programs. The board raised its 2014 levy by 2 percent, but devoted all of the increase to beginning a multi-year program to remove and replace trees damaged by storms or the emerald ash borer.

The board also seeks added money to repair neighborhood parks, where Miller said a dearth of maintenance funds has increased the cost of replacing mechanical systems once they fail. The board directed her to devise a strategy to fund those needs.

The overall city levy, which includes separate city and park levies proposed by different governing bodies, will be set by the Board of Estimate and Taxation, on which the Park Board holds one seat.

Bumps and grinding ahead on Grand Rounds

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 16, 2014 - 6:43 PM

The Grand Rounds system of Minneapolis parkways will become the ground rounds this summer with the advent of five planned projects to grind off existing pavement and lay fresh layers of asphalt.

Two projects began this week. The more ambitious will last five to seven weeks on two sections of E. Minnehaha Parkway, where seven inches of deteriorating pavement will be removed and replaced. The work will happen on both directions where the parkway is median-separated.

The longer segment is between Woodlawn and 38th avenues, but the project also includes a one-block segment between Cedar and Longfellow avenues.

Also starting this week is a shallower milling and repaving on Theodore Wirth Parkway. That includes two short segments, one just north of Plymouth Avenue, and the other several blocks south of Plymouth.

Cedar Lake Parkway will also get a grinding and repaving starting next week.  That work is scheduled to stretch from the Kenilworth Trail crossing to the bridge over the Cedar Lake Trail.

Although parkways are owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, repaving projects are supervised by the Minneapolis Department of Public Works. 

Court sides with Kahn in election judge dispute

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: July 15, 2014 - 6:39 PM

The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with Rep. Phyllis Kahn’s campaign today in a dispute that led to the reassignment of a Minneapolis election judge last week to keep her away from voters until a city investigation is completed.

The case is the latest in a bitter battle between the longtime legislator and her opponent Mohamud Noor, whose mobilization of Somali-American delegates led to Kahn’s failure to receive the DFL endorsement this spring. The primary will take place next month.

The campaign filed a petition with the court on July 7 claiming that election judge Fadumo Yusuf asked voters in Somali at City Hall – where hundreds of Somali people have been casting absentee ballots - whether they were supporting “our Somali brother” or “the old Jewish lady,” and seeking her removal. State law requires election judges to be neutral.

Last week, before the court could take any action, the city quietly shifted Yusuf’s duties at City Hall to processing absentee ballots, away from any direct contact with voters.

Attorneys for Minneapolis also filed court papers last week seeking to remove Yusuf’s name from the Kahn campaign’s complaint – which was also filed against City Clerk Casey Carl – and argued that the Supreme Court didn’t have jurisdiction to grant their request to remove an employee from election judge duties.

Today, Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea issued an order denying the city’s motion and asserting that it had jurisdiction over the matter. No further action will be taken, she wrote, until the city notifies the court that it has assigned Yusuf back to election judge responsibilities requiring direct contact with voters – or unless further allegations are made.

“The allegations of wrongful conduct by an election judge raise serious, and sobering, concerns,” wrote Gildea, who did not make any judgment on whether Yusuf had violated her election duties.

While Gildea did not make any decision on whether Yusuf had violated her election duties, she wrote, “The allegations of wrongful conduct by an election judge raise serious, and sobering, concerns.”

In an email, Carl expressed agreement with the judge’s statement, and noted that the court also acknowledged there are disputes about the precise details of the allegations.

“It’s for that very reason the City retained an outside, neutral investigator to examine the facts of these claims,” he said.

Brian Rice, the attorney for Kahn, described the Supreme Court’s oversight of the matter as “huge.”

But Omar Jamal, a Somali activist representing Yusuf, said they are consulting with lawyers about filing a complaint against Rice “for creating all this nonsense.”

He said that Yusuf “hasn’t said anything close to what she’s being reported to have said. … What I see going on here is a desperate measure by Kahn’s campaign to disrupt and intimidate the community.”

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