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Palmisano downplays neighborhood council votes on housing teardown-rebuild moratorium

Posted by: under Politics and government Updated: March 26, 2014 - 2:30 PM

With the Linden HIlls Community Council voting Monday not to take a position on the housing teardown-rebuild moratorium in southwest Minneapolis, the score became three neighborood groups opposed and two taking no position. That's all five in the moratorium zone.

But it isn't causing Council Member Linea Palmisano to budge on the ordinance, which she declared March 7 and which remains in place while moving through City Council approval processes.

Nor has she been moved by the opposition that was voiced in a council hearing Thursday, nor by the 1,182 signatures (through Tuesday) on an online petition, NoMoratorium.com.

Palmisano said yea-or-nay on the moratorium obscures the many issues that prompted it:  the scale of new houses, construction disruption and an apparent lack of monitoring and enforcement by the city.

 "Nobody wants a moratorium. It's a ridiculous question," she said of the neighborhood votes. "What everyone agrees on is that we have big problems here. The moratorium drama takes away from what we're trying to solve."

The just-elected council member asserts that a small group of opponents, some of whom don't live in the neighborhoods, have been rotating through recent neighborhood meetings and encouraging votes against the moratorium.

Residents in favor of the moratorium, meanwhile, were many and vocal at the council hearing, and Palmisano said an assessment of e-mails and phone calls on the issue from 13th ward residents to her and other council members' offices showed 216 in favor to 148 opposed as of Tuesday.

One of those who has attended all the neighborhood meetings has been Matt Perry, who lost last fall's election to Palmisano by a narrow margin.

Perry, who said he's been attending all the neighborhood association meetings in the 13th ward since last year, said he speaks at the meetings but doesn't vote in those in neighborhoods where he doesn't live. Both he and Palmisano say teardowns were the dominant issues they encountered while door-knocking in the campaign. But Perry said no one ever suggested a moratorium.

Perry said that because community organizations so rarely work in concert, the three recent votes opposing the moratorium are significant.

"If I were a council member, I would stop and say maybe I got this wrong," he said. Is this fodder for a 2017 13th ward rematch? Perry wouldn't acknowledge that, saying only that he's attending the neighborhood meetings to explore "what's best for the community."

In 2010, Palmisano was critical of the Linden Hills Community Council, of which she'd once been president, during the controversy over a proposed retail-condominium development in Linden Hills, saying it was not representative of the community.

Brian Simmons, president of the Kenny Neighborhood Association, acknowledged that neighborhood groups may not be an accurate representation of their communities, since they're often run by people who elect each other at sparsely-attended meetings. His group has not taken a position on the moratorium because it will focus on the teardown-rebuild issue at its annual meeting April 22, as planned long before the moratorium was imposed. Palmisano spent an hour and a half at the group's meeting March 18 answering questions about housing, SImmons said.

"We decided rather than go into that town hall forum with a standing board position, we'd get better participation from the neighborhood" without it, SImmons said. "I don't know what's going to be resolved April 22, but I think the discussion just needs to continue."

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