This could have been a story about how the Minneapolis School District was prevented from demolishing one of its shuttered schools and wound up better than a million dollars richer.
Instead, the school board this week got a $1.175 million offer for Shingle Creek school, and said no thanks.
That leaves the district with a school at 5034 Oliver Av. N. that it doesn’t want, and would have to pay an estimated $280,000 to demolish.
What was the board thinking when it turned down the offer on a lopsided vote?
Board member Kim Ellison said she was concerned that the staff-recommended sale to Charter School Property Solutions could open the door to a poor-quality charter school moving in. The Nevada-based developer acts as the middleman for charter or private schools seeking a facility to buy or build, according to its web site.
“I need to have a high-performing school,” Ellison said afterward. She said she’s also working with the neighborhood group to set up a meeting, as it requested. That part of the normal process got skipped because the developer put a deadline of last Tuesday’s meeting on its offer. Normally, the board receives a recommendation at one meeting and votes at the next.
The neighborhood group of the same name has opposed demolition of the school. Last year, the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission voted to deny a demolition permit for the school. That was overturned in a district appeal to the City Council, but that was stayed for six months during which the district was to market the school. That’s what produced the offer.
The one-story school is 55 years old, and is without ductwork that was removed along with asbestos after the school closed in 2007. It’s the sole example in the Mill City of a 1950s design concept in which clusters of classrooms were linked by enclosed walkways. It’s also the city’s first example of a school location chosen collaboratively with park officials to take advantage of a nearby park. The school also played a role in desegregating schools in the late 1960s, when it received the largest shifts of black students.
The city marketed the building without success several years ago. “I was surprised to see an offer emerged at that price,” Mark Bollinger, the district’s chief administrative officer, said. But the spurned buyer put a deadline on its offer because of the lead time needed to move a school there by the time school starts. Larry Rieder, its president, predicted in an e-mail that the school will remain empty for another year.
“No school is going to buy the property in mid-year. We like the property and may take another run at it next year,” he wrote. That assumes that it’s still standing, of course.
By Brian Arola
Minneapolis has selected a German-based company to spearhead a car sharing experiment that hopes to attract more riders using the city's on-street parking spots.
Car2Go, a subsidiary of German auto-manufacturer Daimler AG, won the contract over competitors Hertz on Demand, Hourcar and Zipcar. Car2Go does not currently have a Minneapolis presence, but maintains operations in San Diego, Washington D.C. and Miami.
Hourcar, which is based in Minneapolis, sent an e-mail blast after the hearing urging its customers to contact the City Council about Car2Go exclusively using on-street parking. The company said that it has had "two years of discussion" with the city about using the curbside spots.
"We know that on-street reserved parking for shared vehicles from multiple operators (including car2go) is perfectly successful in cities like Denver, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Toronto," the e-mail said. "Minneapolis should utilize its right-of-way to maximize benefits to everyone and that means ensuring people have access to as many green and affordable car-sharing options as possible."
The City Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee approved the Car2Go staff recommendation at their meeting Tuesday. It still needs approval from the full council later this month.
Atif Saeed, the city’s parking systems manager, said a six-person panel reviewed written and oral presentations before deciding on Car2Go. The company’s large fleet of Smart Cars, which Daimler manufactures, and inexpensive rates scored highly in the process, Saeed said.
“There’s no monthly fee so you’re actually paying the incremental cost of when you use the vehicles,” he said.
So far, none of the fleet of 250 Smart Cars Car2Go will provide for the project will be electric, which some council members said they’d like to see.
“I think if this program can help move us in a direction where we are putting a critical level of infrastructure in place so we’re attracting the electric vehicle market to this city and this region, that’s a good thing,” said City Council Member Robert Lilligren.
Photo from Car2Go Facebook page
Mayor R.T. Rybak has tapped corrections consultant Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde to oversee the city's revamped, less-powerful regulatory services department.
Regulatory services is responsible for housing and fire inspections, traffic control and problem properties. It lost oversight of business licensing, emergency preparedness, environmental management and small construction permits when Rybak reformed the agency in 2012.
Rivera-Vandermyde replaces former director Gregory Stubbs, whose sudden resignation last year remains unexplained. Deputy City Coordinator Jay Stroebel served as the department's interim director.
Rivera-Vandermyde is the president of Fridley-based Indigo Enterprises, which does everything from corrections consulting to document translation. She is also a consultant at Curnyn Consulting, which bills itself as having "vast experience on the front line of jail and prison work as well as the management and administration of correctional facilities as a whole."
From 2001 to 2006, Rivera-Vandermyde was CEO of Correctional Health Services Corp., which provides medical services to all prisoners in Puerto Rico.
Before that, she was the number two official in the Puerto Rico correctional system for two agencies.
“We are privileged to have found such a seasoned leader with a proven ability to lead organizations successfully through very complex challenges. I believe she will be effective both in City Hall and with our communities,” Rybak said in a statement.
In addition to her corrections work, Rivera-Vandermyde worked as an attorney in Boston and in Puerto Rico's Department of Justice.
Rybak's nomination will get a public hearing on May 13 and a City Council vote on May 24.
UPDATE: Rivera-Vandermyde was also operations manager for Council Member Kevin Reich's campaign in 2009.
Mayor R. T. Rybak announced his support today for City Council Member Diane Hofstede, who is embroiled in one of the city’s most competitive campaigns as she fends off a challenge from attorney Jacob Frey.
“I've worked closely with Diane on many tough issues: tornado relief, the 35W bridge collapse, fighting crime, and the nuts and bolts of city government that aren't very visible but matter so much in our daily lives,” said Rybak in statement. “I can tell you she has the best interest of the city in her bones and works hard to make it a reality every day.”
Rybak praised Hofstede’s “bold vision,” saying she had been an early supporter of rejuvenating Nicollet Mall and connecting the East Bank to downtown with a streetcar, and is helping craft the city’s vision for surrounding the Vikings stadium with a new neighborhood that includes open space. He stopped short of using the term "endorse."
The mayor’s stance contrasts with the criticism by some of Hofstede’s colleagues that she is an ineffective leader. Council Members Lisa Goodman, Gary Schiff, Elizabeth Glidden, and Robert Lilligren endorsed Frey in January.
Hofstede has racked up many endorsements from others – among them U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, City Council President Barb Johnson and Council Members Don Samuels and Meg Tuthill, and numerous labor organizations, including the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council.
DFL delegates from Hofstede’s ward – spanning East Downtown, Dinkytown and Northeast Minneapolis – will meet in a May 4 convention to decide who should get the party’s endorsement.
Minneapolis South has long had a reputation as a place of academic ferment, both in the classroom and sometimes inter-culturally.
It’s teachers like Corinth Matera who are the yeast in that ferment. Her work has now won her one of five anti-racism citations given this year through the St. Paul Foundation’s Facing Race awards.
Matera has taught English for 14 years at South, a school that combines students from open school, liberal arts and Indian backgrounds.
That’s particularly apt, given that she was cited for a unit she has led for three years as part of the team-taught Advanced Placement English curriculum. The course focuses on language and composition, but her unit of eight to nine weeks focuses on how to construct a researched argument. She approaches that in a culturally relevant way.
Students jointly are exposed to common sources, but then are asked to built an argument responding to this question: What land reparations, if any, should the Dakota receive from the state of Minnesota?
Students visit Fort Snelling, which played a role in the 1862 Dakota conflict. They are exposed to the book “What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland,” authored by Dakota activist Waziyatawin, and she visited the class. So did Minnesota History Center director Dan Spock, parent of a South student. “They had the opportunity to hear from these two people with vastly different views and great knowledge,” Matera said.
Some students are inspired to expand their research. Others bridle at the notion of reparations, which for Matera is not as important as whether they can support that position with a well-researched point of view. “The way the course is structured gives students to opportunity to structure their own argument,” she said.
It’s not like she lacks strong feelings on education and racism. “We have an educational system that historically and currently does not serve all populations equally,” she said. She’s driven to be part of the solution, a passion she said that stems from an upbringing “observing the racial segregation and inequities in the small Kentucky town I grew up in and learning from my family how important it is to be part of positive change in one's community.”
The student research also got wider exposure within the school. It was shared with an AP U.S. history course, and the authors of those papers led a panel discussion for their history course peers. When Waziyatawin spoke to her students, studens in the native All Nations program not already in the class were invited to hear her. “It has put their history at the center in a course where it may not have been at the center. For non-native students, it has helped them to become more aware.”
Waziyatawin was impressed enough with the students work that she was the one who nominated Matera in the foundation’s annual recognition of educators making extra efforts to address racism.
Matera is also in her seventh year of advising the student newspaper at South. She’s been active in an outside nonprofit called the Women's Prison Book Project since about 1998. The all-volunteer collective sends free books to women in prison all over the country.
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