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Posts about Politics and government

City to recount school board ballots

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 19, 2014 - 4:31 PM

A recount is in order for the city’s at-large school board seat.

Doug Mann

Doug Mann

Doug Mann, who finished fifth, asked for the recount because he had 50 votes less than Ira Jourdain, who advanced to the general election.

There were six candidates in the citywide race, only four moved on to the Nov. 4 election where two candidates will take the board seats.

Jourdain said Mann reached out to him to talk about the request, and Jourdain encouraged him to explore all his options.

“That’s within his right, and if it turns out he comes out on top, then life goes on,” Jourdain said.

Mann said because the margin was so close, he felt he had to ask for the recount.

“I could end up advancing, rather than Ira,” Mann said.

The city will count all 29,129 ballots on Aug. 26 at the elections warehouse, located at 732A Harding Street NE. The city anticipates the process will take up to eight hours.

In addition to Jourdain, Rebecca Gagnon, Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano are on the November ballot.

Star Tribune file photo.

Minneapolis lags on black history listings

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 15, 2014 - 1:41 PM

The recent addition of the Arthur and Edith Lee house to the National Register of Historic Places highlights the paucity of black-oriented Minneapolis sites on the prestigious federal list.

St. Paul boasts five of the state's nine national register sites associated with black history.  The Lee home at 4600 Columbus Av. S. represents only the second such black-oriented listing for Minneapolis on the national list. It was the site of mob gatherings of thousands in 1931 when a black family bought the home in an all-white neighborhood.

To be sure, there may be additional sites that have been designated as worthy of historic preservation as important parts of the city's heritage under a local preservation ordinance. But one can use the city's searchable map of such landmarks to scan areas of long significance historically for black residents, such as the South Side area around Hosmer library, or the entire North Side, without finding a single locally designated site with an obvious association with black history or residents. That's aside from the city's lone other national regisrter site associated with black history, the Lena O. Smith home.

But one group has no trouble finding a collection of sites associated with or commemorating black history. That's the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, a group of black cyclists.

The club is sponsoring its annual Dark2Dawn ride on Aug. 23. The all-nght ride begins at 9 p.m. at Martin Luther King Park, 4055 Nicollet Av. S., winds to about a dozen sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and ends with a 6 a.m. breakfast. Registration is required for the $25 event that's a fundraiser for the club, named after the legendary black cyclist who competed professionally at the turn of the 19th century, setting world records for speed.

The moderately paced ride of about 50 miles is billed as a tour through African-American historical geography, and will feature speakers at each site.  In Minneapolis, the tour includes the Lee house, the historically black E. 38th Street and 4th Avenue S. business district, the Minnesota African American Museum, Bassett Creek and the Van White Bridge, the J.D. Rivers garden, the Homewood subdivision in the Willard-Hay neighborhood, and Morrill Hall at the University of Minnesota. St. Paul sites include St. Peter Claver and Pilgrim Baptist churches, the Hallie Q. Brown complex with Penumba Theatre, Minnesota History Center, and Union Depot. More information is at: http://tinyurl.com/m9kzhso

Until the Lee house designation, the only national register listing associated with black history in Minneapolis was the home of Lena O. Smith, an early black lawyer, and a longtime leader in the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP. She also representated the Lees in their negotiations with the the white-dominated homeowners association.

One black-oriented business long at the corner of 38th and 4th, the 80-year-old Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, is being considered for local designation.  More may emerge next year. That's when the city's heritage preservation staff hopes to focus more on properties associated with people of color, according to city planner John Smoley.

(Photo above: The Lena O. Smith house at 3905 5th Av. S., was the only Minneapolis site associated with black history on the National Register of Historic Places until July.)

        

Hodges proposes 2.4% levy hike, more spending on public safety

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: August 14, 2014 - 2:09 PM

By Eric Roper and Maya Rao

Highlighting investments in public safety and initiatives to reduce racial disparities, Mayor Betsy Hodges offered many specific proposals Thursday for growing city services in her first budget speech.

The mayor proposed raising the amount the city collects in property taxes, the property tax levy, by 2.4 percent. That's the largest increase in several years, on the heels of a boost in state aid after years of cuts.

Hodges said more than half of the levy increase is due to inflation and rises in the cost of current services. The precise impact on homeowners remains to be seen, since the levy is spread out among the city's growing tax base. The mayor claimed more than half of homeowners would see no increase or a decrease in their taxes.

"More than half of the proposed levy increase...maintains the status quo," Hodges said in prepared remarks. "When we voted last fall, however, we didn't vote for just the status quo. We didn't vote for business as usual."

(Explore the 2014 budget using this interactive tool)

Afterward the speech, Council President Barb Johnson said that she wants to look at whether the city really needs to increase the levy 2.4 percent, given the increase in state aid to Minneapolis and increasing revenues from sales taxes and other sources.

“Now we need to do the deep dive,” said Johnson.

Some of the largest investments Hodges proposed target police, fire and emergency response. She also highlighted a $3.5 million contribution to the Nicollet Mall reconstruction and $750,000 to expand the city's modest number of protected bike lanes.

The complete budget, which must be approved by the City Council later this year, has yet to be released.

Regarding public safety, Hodges proposed:

- Adding ten more police officers for an authorized force of 860 sworn officers. The cost of this was not specified, however.

- Committing $1 million to add 20 community service officers to the police department. "Community service officers are our most effective ladder into the Police Department," Hodges said.

- Spending $960,000 for an 18-person police cadet class next year.

- Funding the implementation of a police body camera program with $1.1 million in one-time capital funding and ongoing operating dollars.

- Allocating $800,000 for two fire department recruit classes in 2015. The precise size of these classes was not specified.

- Hiring four more 911 operators for a cost of $346,000 (following controversy in that department).

Council Member Blong Yang, chair of the city's public safety committee, noted the police department was already aiming for a staffing level of 860 officers – they’ve said this would occur by the end of the year. “So it’s not a change,” Yang said. “It’s keeping steady, I think.”

Regarding 911 staffing, Yang said it was a “slight increase, but it’s not a huge increase.”

To reduce the city's racial disparities, a key focus of her administration, Hodges proposed:

- Adding an additional $1 million to the city's affordable housing spending.

- Spending $70,000 on parental support, including "providing culturally specific parent education to increase parenting skills through education, individualized coaching and parent-peer support."

- Adding additional money for elections staff and communications to improve the city's outreach with minority communities.

- Increasing staff in the civil rights department's contract compliance unit and boosting funding for the city's STEP-UP program by $75,000,

- Creating two positions in the city coordinator's office to ensure city services support goals around equity.

Another proposal would fund durable markings at bicycle conflict areas, high-use vehicle lanes and crosswalks. Hodges also suggested adding more money to clear corners and bikeways of snow during the winter.

Hodges' first budget comes during a time of growth for the city. She said the city has already surpassed $1 billion in the value of construction permits, which did not happen until October in 2013.

"Growth in cities is quickly becoming the status quo rather than a new trend," Hodges said. "People across the country continue to move into our urban cores."

Council Member Cam Gordon described the proposed levy increase as modest.

“I think it’s a levy increase that will probably be mostly accommodated by the growth in the tax base, so we’re not going to see … lots of property tax increases that are very dramatic,” Gordon said.

Fire Chief John Fruetel praised the mayor’s addition of resources for fire inspectors.

 “She mentioned a lot of growth going on in the city and I think it’s important to keep ourselves positioned to effectively respond to that growth,” Fruetel said.

Photo: Hodges gives her first State of the City speech earlier this year (David Joles)

Voters cast ballots in Kahn-Noor race

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: August 12, 2014 - 10:39 AM

Voters streamed in and out of the Brian Coyle Center this morning to cast ballots in a competitive House race that's likely to end either with Rep. Phyllis Kahn being elected to a 23rd term or Mohamud Noor becoming Minnesota’s first Somali-American state legislator.

A campaign worker for Kahn complained about a Noor election sign in neighboring Currie Park, which an election judge swiftly removed. A sergeant-at-arms stood posted outside to ensure that voters could move inside unimpeded by political volunteers.

A man walking out of the center in Cedar-Riverside said he voted for Noor because “as a Somali person who lives in this area, I feel neglected by her and I really want someone who can represent the true interests of this community.”

He gave his name only as Abdi, explaining, “This community is divided, and if you vote for Mohamud Noor or Phyllis Kahn you’re going to have enemies.”

The race has been highly contentious, featuring legal challenges, accusations of harassment and racism, and rifts among the DFL party and East African community. City Clerk Casey Carl said Monday that Minneapolis deployed four sergeants-at-arms in the 60B House district to ensure voters were not disturbed within a 100 feet of their polling station.

An airport taxi pulled up to drop off a handful of Kahn supporters.

Abdirizak Matan, the driver, said he was volunteering for Kahn because she had the experience to help the community. While the Noor campaign has already won hundreds of ballots through early voting, he noted that many Kahn’s supporters would be voting today.

“Her issues are very important to us,” said Matan.

Campaign staff for Kahn lingered in the parking lot of Brian Coyle, though they were not holding signs or approaching voters. Around the corner on 6th Street South near Cedar Avenue, a woman waved a Noor sign as she walked up and down the sidewalk and called out to passerby.

City to deploy sergeants-at-arms to the polls for Kahn-Noor race

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: August 11, 2014 - 6:04 PM

Minneapolis is taking the unprecedented step of assigning sergeants-at-arms at the polls during tomorrow's primary election in the Minnesota House district where a contentious race between Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Mohamud Noor has divided the DFL and East African community.

The city is posting four such officers in polling places for voters from Cedar-Riverside, Seward, Prospect Park and the University area to ensure that they are not intimidated or interrupted within 100 feet of their polling station.

City Clerk Casey Carl said he believes Minneapolis is the first Minnesota city to take advantage of a statute allowing for sergeants-at arms on Election Day. He said the city has previously had election judges enforce the 100-feet rule while conducting their other duties.

This time, the polls will have people whose “only duty is to monitor that buffer zone … to give unfocused attention to that work,” said Carl.

Minneapolis hired the officers from a temp firm and trained them at City Hall today. They do not carry guns or share the duties of police officers.

“All voters deserve the right to be unimpeded, unhampered, free of intimidation or undue influence or harassment to enter and to exit the polling place,” said Carl.

The widely-watched campaign has featured allegations of violence, voter fraud and racism, and one caucus in Cedar-Riverside was rescheduled after erupting into chaos in February.

The city has employed a sergeant-at-arms since last Tuesday due to the increasing numbers of voters flooding City Hall to cast absentee ballots, with many campaign workers lingering on the sidewalk just outside the building.

Tomorrow, the officers' job will be to ask people if they are voting and point them to the right place. If not, the officers can say, “You have no business here, and I need you to leave.”

Carl said the city is talking about “strategically” using sergeants-at-arms in the general election in November for some locations.

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