Minneapolis isn't much of a port town these days, but its port authority is about to get a revival.
City officials are trying to use the state-authorized authority to issue approximately $65 million in general obligation debt for a parking lot and park adjacent to the new Vikings stadium. Council President Barb Johnson said one major reason to do it is to bypass the semi-independent Board of Estimate and Taxation, which usually approves borrowing tied to the full faith and credit of the city.
Mayor R.T. Rybak is no fan of the board, which he sits on. He supported a 2009 effort to do away with the six-member body, which also includes two council representatives, a park board representative and two elected citizens.
"It’s really, 'Let’s find another way so we don’t have to use the Board of Estimate," said Bob Fine, the park board representative. "This is the reason for the Board of Estimate. That’s what it is, it’s a check on the city.”
The city's port authority, intended to spur development in industrial districts, has been used just twice in recent history. The city used it to issue $25 million in bonds to rebuild the city's downtown bus terminal in 1997. It used it again to issue $33 million in debt for a parking lot adjacent to the Guthrie Theater.
The city's chief financial officer Kevin Carpenter said in addition to retaining control from the Board of Estimate, the port authority gives them flexibility to add parcels to the deal later on. It also reduces the number of council votes needed to issue general obligation bonds from nine to seven.
Carol Becker, an elected citizen member of the board, noted that the Vikings stadium deal also bypassed the board since the bonds were issued by the state. She expects it's not the last time the board will be bypassed.
“There are supposed to be checks and balances," Becker said. "Is going around those checks and balances a little sleazy? Yea, it’s kind of sleazy. But are they able to do it? Yea. That’s politics I guess.”
Johnson said in an e-mail late last week that they may also use the port authority to redevelop the Upper Harbor, the name given to the city's aging port.
In St. Paul, a thriving port town, the Port Authority is a separate body with mayor-appointed commissioners. The City of St. Paul has to go to the Legislature for the authority to borrow money, in lieu of a Board of Estimate, however.
In order to use the port authority, Minneapolis officials are attempting to create an "industrial development district" around the future development. They argue that the land meets two qualifications of a "marginal property" under the law:
"1) faulty planning causing deterioration, disuse or economic dislocation; and 2) lack of use or improper use of areas, resulting in stagnant or unproductive land that could contribute to public health, safety and welfare."
Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges announced her transition advisory committee on Thursday morning.
It includes several supporters of her campaign, in addition to other prominent Twin Cities voices. Among the names are Target executive vice president John Griffith (a major player behind the Vikings stadium), Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation President Bill McCarthy (who fought hard for Hodges' opponent Mark Andrew), sustainable agriculture advocate Megan O'Hara (Mayor R.T. Rybak's wife) and executive director of the Northside Achievement Zone Sondra Samuels (Council Member Don Samuels' wife).
The committee will advise Hodges on her first ten days in office, which includes ceremonial events and a "tour through the neighborhoods of Minneapolis," according to a news release.
Here is the full list:
(Chair) Laura Waterman Wittstock – President and CEO, Wittstock & Associates, Author
Alfred Babington-Johnson – President and CEO, Stairstep Initiative Companies
Anthony Newby – Executive Director, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
Bill McCarthy – President, Minneapolis Regional Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Daniel Yang – Director of Organizing and Community Building, Native American Community Development Institute
David A. Wilson – Managing Director, Accenture Minneapolis
Frank Brown – Co-Chair, DFL African American Caucus
Greg Hestness – Assistant Vice President of Public Safety and Chief of Police, University of Minnesota
John Griffith – Executive Vice President of Property Development, Target Corporation
Julie Ristau – Co-Director, On the Commons & Co-Chair, Homegrown Minneapolis
Ken Rogers – Chair, Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People Living with Disabilities
Kyle Makarios – Director of Government Affairs, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters
Larry Redmond – Principal, Redmond Associates, Inc.
Majdi Wadi – CEO, Holy Land
Margot Imdieke Cross – Accessibility Specialist, Minnesota State Council on Disability
Megan O’Hara – Youth Outdoor Employment Director, Wilderness Inquiry; Senior Fellow Endowed Chair, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
Michelle Dibblee – Organizing Director, OutFront Minnesota
Olga Viso – Director, Walker Art Center
Peter Bell – Former Chair, Metropolitan Council, Retired
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz – Senior Rabbi, Shir Tikvah
Sarah Harris – Managing Director, University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors
Shay Berkowitz – Owner, ReGo Electric
Sheik Abdirahman Sharif – Imam, Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah
Shirley Nelson – Executive Director, Women Candidate Development Coalition
Sondra Samuels – President and CEO, Northside Achievement Zone
The Reverend Michele Morgan – Priest Associate, St. John’s Episcopal Church
Veronica Mendez – Organizer, CTUL
A Minneapolis school board member apologized Wednesday for how she worded comments regarding Southwest students while she argued at a board meeting last week against expanding the school.
"Building how many more classrooms for high school, when 50 percent, when the most important kids we want to invest in aren't there," Carla Bates said in part, prompting some pushback from Southwest parents.
"I went back to my statement and went, 'wow.!" Bates said after issuing a statement clarifying her intent. She said she apologized because she didn't want the reaction to how she made her point to undermine the legitimacy of her arguments against the expansion proposal.
"I don't want to become a lightning rod for, "see, the district really doesn't like Southwest'" Bates said in an interview.
"I first of all want to assure everyone that I am a strong advocate for all our children in all parts of the city," she said.
Southwest, which has the smallest share of low-income students among the district's seven big high schools, leads those schools in graduation rate, ACT scores, and going on to college. The school enrolled a count of 1,662 students, and district administrators proposed a 450-student addition to the school at an very preliminary estimated cost of $47 million. Some parents also have questioned that approach to handling an expected enrollment bulge in southwest Minneapolis
Bates argued that investment in added school space doesn't make sense when so much learning is shifting online. She also argued that Washburn is a more appropriate site for an addition because of its more central location and the size of the campus it shares with Ramsey Middle School. And she suggested that improvements at Roosevelt High School, which have yet to show up in the district's statistical measures of performance, will draw more students there. "I think Roosevelt is poised to become one of the best schools in the city," she said. That might require redrawing the Washburn-Southwest boundary, she added in an interview, but they could be phased in.
Bates cited several factors in an interview that make her optimistic about Roosevelt;good leadership, engaged staff, a strong IB with diverse composition.
"I think that putting $40 million at Southwest is looking backward instead of looking forward," Bates said at the board meeting. "I'm very concerned, very very very concerned, about the Southwest proposal because of the money, because of the location of the school, because of how secondary [school] is changing." .
Authorities have broken up an alleged dog fighting ring in Minneapolis and New Hope, saving 15 pit bulls and making one arrest, a city spokesman announced Wednesday.
Search warrants served at 10 locations found the dogs, two guns, narcotics, dog fighting paraphernalia and a dog fighting training manual, according to spokesman Matt Lindstrom.
The arrest so far of one man, who was renting various houses through the county in which to keep the dogs, provided a peek into what officers call an underground illicit sport that can pay out $15,000 for one game.
"Dog fighting is a terrible crime that is harmful to not only the dogs involved, but the overall community as well," wrote Lindstrom. He urged people to call 311 if they suspected any form of animal cruelty in their neighborhood.
Sgt. Lindsay Wagner said the loser dogs in such illicit fighst typically are killed. In this case, she and other officers seized 10 adult dogs and five puppies.
North Minneapolis' famed Capri Theater is planning a major expansion.
A city council committee signed off Tuesday on the sale of three city-owned parcels to the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, which operates the theater. The 86-year-old building underwent a major renovation in 2009, when it received an improved facade, marquee and tech systems.
The Capri is a hub of the North Side arts scene, featuring both theater and music performances.
The planned upgrade (right) will add a two-story expansion to the existing theater, which will include rehearsal and performance space, dressing rooms, back stage space and a floor for youth arts and other programming.
The city is selling the parcels to PCYC for $161,650. The center's total budget for the renovation is approximately $5.8 million, which it will fund through a capital campaign.
The city acquired the parcels in 2010, after approving a modified plan for improving West Broadway.
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