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Posts about Politics and government

Minneapolis shoveling scofflaws in for faster fines

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: January 9, 2015 - 11:58 AM
KYNDELL HARKNESS / kharkness@startribune.com

Avoid shoveling your sidewalk after the next big snowfall and you'll risk getting stuck with the bill from city crews making faster sweeps through Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Residents are responsible for clearing their sidewalks after a storm, and the city sends warning letters to people who fail to shovel. Sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours in front of houses and duplexes and within four daytime hours for other properties.

But this year, officials say they're going to respond more quickly to people who ignore those letters. City crews will be sent out to clear the snow, and they'll be there twice as fast as they were in the past.

Property owners will be billed for the city's cleanup work. And there's no escape; unpaid fines will be tacked on to property tax bills.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis is also changing the way it clears corners to ensure pedestrians can get around after a snowfall. Crews will start with "pedestrian priority corners," most of them along major streets, before continuing on to areas with less car and foot traffic. The city says it will have snow removed within three working days after a snow emergency ends, or after we get at least four inches of snow.

Officials suggest calling 311 or using the city's 311 app to report areas that haven't been cleared.

For more information on how to shovel snow and avoid fines, check out the city's video guide, also available in Spanish, Hmong and Somali.

No go in Mill City for no-sled movement

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 8, 2015 - 5:43 PM

In case you’re worried, we thought we’d reassure you that the slippery slope likely will remain legal in the Mill City.

That’s despite a recent spate of publicity over a growing number of cities banning sledding over liability concerns, most recently Dubuque, Iowa..

But that’s not likely to spread to Minnesota because of a clause in state law known as recreational immunity. It basically shields governments in Minnesota that operate park and recreational facilities from liability under most circumstances.

With parks accounting for many of the best sledding hills in Minneapolis, Park Superintendent Jayne Miller said there are no plans to put its slippery slopes off limits. Nor has the city attorney's office gotten wind of anyone in City Hall proposing that.

The Park Board has two official designated sledding hills – at Columbia Golf Course and Sunset Hill in Valley View Park. Where there are man-made structures at those hills, it places hay bales around them.  But the doctrine of recreational immunity protects it from liability caused by natural objects such as trees, Miller said.

“We don’t have any paricular concerns about sledding hills," agreed Dan Greensweig, assistant administrator for the insurance trust at the League of Minnesota Cities.

Sledders are free to use other parkland for slip-sliding away but ought not to expect damages if they’re hurt, due to the law. Indeed, the hill in Lyndale Farmstead behind the house Miller rents from the Park Board is one of the city's most popular sledding hills.

Not that you can’t get hurt sledding.  One national database reports an average of almost 21,000 sledding injuries annually. Broken bones slightly exceeded bruises and scrapes in those stats, with about one-third of injuries involving heads.

At least one powerful parks pol, Park Board President Liz Wielinski, dismisses cities that have passed bans. “As a native-born and bred Minnesotan, I think that’s crazy talk,” Wielinski said.

Minneapolis wants help tracking goals

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: January 7, 2015 - 10:35 AM

City officials want you to tell them how Minneapolis should track progress on its goals.

The city is asking for residents' input online, in writing and at community meetings, asking people to share what markers indicate positive changes. In a new online portal, residents can offer their thoughts and vote and comment on other suggestions.

The five goals adopted by the city last year are:

-Living Well (Minneapolis is safe and livable and has an active and connected way of life.)

-One Minneapolis (Disparities are eliminated so all Minneapolis residents can participate and prosper.)

Hub of Economic Activity and Innovation (Businesses--big and small--start, move, stay and grow here.)

-Great Places (Natural and built spaces work together and our environment is protected.)

City government runs well and connects to the community it serves.)

The city will accept comments through Feb. 6. 

Minneapolis Park superintendent Miller in line for raise

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: January 6, 2015 - 3:37 PM

Park Superintendent Jayne Miller is in line for a $14,003 raise in 2015 under a proposal on the  Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s agenda for Wednesday.

That’s an initial 9.2 percent increase over her current contract. But she’ll likely get much smaller raises in out years of her contract.

The proposal would pay Miller, who was hired in 2010, a salary of $165,003 annually starting July 1.  That’s the maximum allowed under the state’s local government salary cap law without a waiver.  The proposal would raise Miller’s pay by the amount allowed under the state cap through 2018.

The 2015 salary includes a car allowance of $6,000 annually and a cell phone allowance of $1,020 annually. But the car allowance will go away in mid-2016, to be replaced by claiming mileage. Board President Liz Wielinski said increases in the state cap follow the inflation rate, and have averaged around 1.7 percent.

The proposed contract replaces one that paid Miller at an annual rate of $151,000 for 2015.  She was paid $148,000 in 2014.

The proposal has a new clause that requires Miller to give 60 days notice if she wants to end the contract before it expires. It continues to require that she live in Minneapolis. Wielinski said Miller pays market rate rent to occupy a portion of the superintendent’s house in Lyndale Farmstead Park. Without that rent, the value of the housing would count against the salary cap.  

Minneapolis to examine police stop, arrest data

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: January 6, 2015 - 1:28 PM

Minneapolis officials are launching a new effort to find trends in where police make stops, whom they stop — and who is arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses.

During its approval of the 2015 budget, the City Council separately voted to direct the Police Department and the city attorney’s office to gather five years’ worth of police stop-and-arrest data. The reports will include information about the race, gender and age of the people involved in incidents from 2010 to 2014, along with where the arrests took place. 

The data will be presented to the council’s public safety committee by summer. 

Council Member Cam Gordon, who introduced the plan, said he’s heard concerns about racial profiling and other issues since before he was first elected to the council nearly a decade ago. He brought up the issue in 2008, when he led a similar push to gather data on the city’s “lurking” regulation. That law allows police to arrest people who are hanging around public and private spaces, trying not to attract attention, with the intention of committing a crime. 

A review of lurking arrests over two years found that black people were eight times more likely to be arrested than white people. Native Americans were arrested at nine times the rate of whites, while homeless people were 20 times more likely to be arrested.

While Gordon was not successful in getting the law overturned, he said he may bring it up again. After months of protests over people killed in altercations with police, he said interest remains high in how police interact with some community members.

Gordon expects that getting a broader range of data could be a better way to reach the city’s equity goals than trying to target some specific laws, one by one.

It will be nice to get a big-picture view and get more of an analysis about where [stops and arrests] are occurring and why,” he said.

Gordon said the data might lead to questions about the use of the “broken windows” model of policing to prevent crime. That strategy involves putting a major focus on lower-level crimes, like graffiti, vandalism or loitering, as a way to improve neighborhoods and reduce the number of more serious crimes.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she welcomes the news that the city will take a more thorough look at how policing is working in Minneapolis.

She hopes this will be the first step in pinpointing the root of practices that could be causing problems with police-community relations.

"We need to have a better understanding of what’s going on and that needs to start at the level of what’s the overall picture,” Gross said. “But eventually that needs to drill down to see if there are issues, are they with particular officers or a wider problem?"

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