Fearing that millions of new dollars may be redirected away from the city’s neighborhood organizations, two council members urged residents Tuesday night to start lobbying City Hall in what may prove to be a contentious funding battle.
Speaking to the annual meeting of the Longfellow Community Council, the city’s most populous neighborhood organization, Council Members Cam Gordon and Andrew Johnson said residents should start attending public meetings, as well as contacting Mayor Betsy Hodges and other elected officials.
At issue is a growing pot of money earmarked for neighborhoods that Hodges has proposed spending in new ways – rather than merely allocating it to the city’s 70 non-profit neighborhood groups.
“We’re hoping that you’ll get involved and interested in helping us through the next few months with the budget decisions,” Gordon said.
City finance officials are projecting that a group of special taxing districts, whose revenues are directed to neighborhoods and Target Center debt, will exceed earlier estimates by about $15 million over the next six years. The districts expire by 2020 under state law.
That new revenue is setting up the first major test of support for neighborhood organizations since the city took more control over their funding in 2011. The groups currently receive about $3.8 million a year, a shadow of their funding in the 1990s.
In her 2015 budget, Hodges has proposed spending next year's share of the new funds to grow the city’s neighborhood department, plan for closure of the city’s port and hire two new communications specialists -- neighborhood groups would see only an inflationary increase.
Gordon said those are worthy causes, but the decision conflicts with some earlier policies and is being made without a complete discussion. “The policy we have, I think, says it should go back to neighborhoods and neighborhood uses,” Gordon told about 100 people gathered in the basement of Minnehaha Academy.
A former president of the Longfellow Community Council board, Johnson said some of his colleagues are skeptical about the value of neighborhood groups. “We’ve seen the political climate really changing in terms of sentiment, feeling around neighborhood associations,” Johnson said.
The pair then reviewed some of the arguments they have heard at City Hall. Some would like to better evaluate neighborhood groups and the city's neighborhood department, for example. Johnson and Gordon agreed.
"But the important piece is that does not need to happen at the expense of neighborhood associations," Johnson said.
They said some at City Hall have also criticized neighborhoods for not representing their communities well enough, or for being dysfunctional.
Gordon said the response should be to improve – rather than de-fund – the organizations. He said the city is reaching out to healthier neighborhoods to help define what expectations should be set across the board.
“When you have an organization in your midst that’s having trouble and it's something you care about like your city, you reach out and you want to support, you want to help, you want to fix that," Gordon said.
A member of the audience asked which council members were opposing the neighborhood associations. Gordon and Johnson declined to name specific people, noting that the entire council is weighing the issue.
“We’re not trying to perpetuate an adversarial relationship with council members and neighborhood associations," Johnson said. "Because that has happened in the past and that is counterproductive. We want people going to the council members saying 'Look at all the value your neighborhood associations are adding' and then being able to actually address some of [their] concerns.”
Gordon’s health, environment and community engagement committee will discuss the issue on Nov. 3 and Nov. 17.
Two patrol officers, who saved the life of a man who had been stabbed in downtown Minneapolis after refusing to give a cigarette to a 14-year-old girl, were praised for their actions today.
Department spokesman John Elder praised the quick thinking of officers Adam Moen and Corey Schmidt in responding to a stabbing call near the corner of 5th Street and Nicolet Mall. The incident occurred about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to police.
"It was all the right place, right time," said Moen, who has been with the department for two years, "and there weren't many people out here so we could pick them up real quick."
Police later arrested three people in connection with the stabbing — two girls, ages 14 and 16, and an 18-year-old Anoka woman — and charged each with first-degree assault with great bodily harm, a felony, Elder said.
The three were arrested shortly after the incident. Elder said that prosecutors were considering whether to charge the 16-year-old girl as an adult.
According to police, the victim was approached by the three suspects, one of whom pulled out a knife and stabbed him after he refused a request for a cigarette.
Schmidt, a 15-year veteran of the force, said that he and his partner pulled up to the scene to find the 19-year-old victim "stumbling, holding his chest." The man had a two-inch stab wound in his chest, Schmidt said. The officers used an adhesive patch, known as a “chest seal,” to close the stab wound, trying to staunch the bleeding before paramedics arrived.
The officers' actions most likely saved the man's life, Elder told a group of reporters near where the stabbing occurred.
Five people were wounded in separate shootings last night in Minneapolis, the latest in a wave of gun violence plaguing the city, police said.
In the first incident, three people — two men, 28 and 53, and a 14-year-old girl — were shot when they were caught in a dispute between two men outside of the Penn Gas gas station, 2606 Penn Av. N., according to an incident report. All three were taken to North Memorial Medical Center, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
The shooting, which happened about 7:50 p.m. Wednesday, involved “one guy intentionally shooting at another” and was “not a random act,” said police spokesman John Elder.
The second shooting occurred about 9:11 p.m. at 19 Bar, a popular hangout near the Minneapolis Convention Center, when two men — ages 32 and 26 — were shot by a disgruntled patron, who only minutes before had been kicked out of the club for bringing a dog inside.
Police said the man, who was apparently drunk, became “verbally abusive and refused to leave” after being refused service and was eventually escorted out. Police said that he fired several shots from a handgun into the bar, at 19 15th St. W., striking the two victims.
Both men were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, Elder said.
Both shootings are under investigation.
City officials are seeking proposals to remake a downtown block that has served as little more than a parking lot for decades.
The city-owned block north of the Central Library along Nicollet Mall was once home to the Nicollet Hotel, which towered over the city's now-razed Gateway District. The hotel was demolished in 1991.
In its place, the city will accept nothing less than a 20 story building, according to a request for proposals released Wednesday. The layout of the building would also need to accommodate the city's proposed streetcar line, which would make a turn there from Nicollet Mall to Hennepin Avenue.
"Proposals with a building or buildings at least 20 active floors in height with a mix of commercial, retail, residential, office , and hospitality uses, active street front retail, and preference for substantial integrated public/green space will be deemed responsive to this request for proposals," the city's request said.
One potentially controversial component of the plan involves possibly affixing a skyway to the city's Cesar Pelli-designed Central Library (below), one of the most celebrated pieces of modern architecture downtown.
The request says that all proposals should include concepts that "are designed and constructed to accept a skyway" crossing 3rd Street. Council Member Jacob Frey said this does not necessarily mean a skyway will factor into the final plans, however.
This is not the only proposal to attach skyways to the library. Opus Development Co. is planning to build two towers just east of the library, with the intention that one to connect to the building via skyway.
Past efforts at redevelopment of the Nicollet Hotel site have been stimied by an obligation to incroporate an integrated transit terminal on the site, since the city purchased the land with federal transit funds. The city managed to have these requirements removed.
“The Nicollet Hotel block is arguably the sexiest parcel in the city, and consequently we will not settle for anything short of iconic," Frey said in a statement. "In one fell swoop we can add people to downtown, create green space, and trigger connection to the river. Designers and developers better bring their A games.”
Mayor R.T. Rybak has previously said the site should become the site of a public park. Frey said they still envision a park on the space, but this creates a way for it to be privately funded.
"It would be open public space," Frey said. "We’d increase the number of eyes on the street in that area, which at times is lacking right now.”
Two options for accommodating the streetcar line -- which is still not a certainty -- involve either building along a diagonal or leaving some extra space on 3rd Street. See the plans on pages 7 and 8 of the request.
For a point of comparison, below is a picture of the Nicollet Hotel in 1931. Gateway Park is in the foreground.
Authorities have identified the man who was shot to death by police officers at an RV park in St. Anthony last week as William Thomas Holt, 51, of Ellaville, Ga.
Holt was shot multiple times Oct. 9 after charging officers responding to what turned out to be a hostage hoax at the Lowry Grove RV Park, 2501 Lowry Av. NE., police and witnesses said. Several witnesses said Holt, who had a rifle, fired several shots at the officers before he was killed.
It is still unclear what prompted Holt to confront the officers, after calling 911 to report that he was being held at gunpoint by “another individual,” authorities said. A search of the trailer revealed that there was no one else was inside, they said.
The three East Metro SWAT team members involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, standard procedure in shootings involving police.
The investigation into the incident is continuing, said a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension spokesperson.
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