City seeks feds' help to improve North Siders' lives

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2014 - 10:39 PM

“Promise zone” status would boost efforts to ease racial disparities.

Minneapolis city officials are planning to ask for federal help to make life better for North Side residents.

The city is beginning discussions internally and with community leaders about a proposal for federal “promise zone” designation.

Last year the city was one of 33 U.S. communities deemed eligible to apply for promise zone designation, but was not among the five chosen.

The Obama administration said it plans to designate 15 more such communities over the next three years.

Mayoral spokeswoman Kate Brickman said the new designation would offer a significant boost to the city’s efforts to ease racial disparities.

The federal program could be a boon to the area, bringing federal staff help for participating organizations, preference for some competitive federal grants, and the potential for tax incentives for ­hiring or investing in the 10-year zones.

Leaders in Mayor Betsy Hodges’ office said it is premature to discuss the city’s application until the federal government specifies what it is seeking.

The city’s 2013 application heavily emphasized economic development for the North Side, including creating jobs, developing businesses and attracting outside money. But it also focused on expanding the educational and family development portion of the federally designated Northside Achievement Zone, while seeking to reduce serious crime and boost the health of area residents.

Brickman said the mayor is beginning to contact council members and potential partnering agencies about the next application.

“I want to have some input into what we are trying to accomplish here,” said Council President Barbara Johnson, a key player as a North Side representative.

Last year’s application was for the entire North Side. The city touted its experience with the Northside Achievement Zone, a more narrowly drawn zone both in geographic scope and purpose. It is about one square mile and is more than halfway to its five-year goal of enrolling 1,000 families and 2,500 children to boost education achievement and family development.

That program still has limited outside data to show its impact, but participating children who enter kindergarten are already showing promising results.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

Twitter: @brandtstrib

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