What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Posts about Politics and government

Grant will help city take stock of core services

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: December 15, 2014 - 1:00 PM

Minneapolis will receive up to $2.7 million to fund a team that will analyze how the city delivers its primary services -- and help ensure it does so equitably.

The city announced today that it is one of 12 communities selected to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies' Innovation Teams program. Minneapolis will get a grant of $900,000 per year for up to three years, and will use it to assess how the city distributes services, like towing cars or cleaning up graffiti. 

The money will fund an "i-team" of consultants that will sort through data and work with the city to fix gaps in how it provides services. 

In a statement, Mayor Betsy Hodges said the grant fits will with the work the city is already doing. The mayor and several council members have made made racial equity one of the most-talked-about goals at City Hall this year. The budget approved last week calls for the creation of a new Office of Equitable Outcomes, which will include two new staff positions.

"This grant recognizes the commitment we have made to increasing equity in our city," Hodges said. "The analytical capacity that we build in partnership with Bloomberg will also be available to apply to issues beyond equity."

Other cities set to get the grants are Albuquerque, N.M., Boston, Centennial, Colo., Jersey City, N.J., Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Peoria, Ill., Rochester, N.Y., Seattle, and Syracuse, N.Y. 

This is the second round of cities to receive the additional funding. In a news release, Minneapolis officials said other cities have already seen measurable results, including fewer retail vacancies in Memphis, Tenn., minimizing unnecessary ambulance trips in Louisville, Ky., and reducing the murder rate in New Orleans.

Bloomberg Philanthropies oversees the charitable work funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The organization will spend $45 million expanding its Innovation Teams program over the next few years.

Minneapolis to get help on juvenile-justice reform

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: December 12, 2014 - 2:20 PM

Minneapolis has been selected to get extra help on its juvenile justice efforts from the National League of Cities.

The organization announced Friday that Minneapolis is one of six cities it has picked to offer technical assistance on juvenile-justice reform. The others are Philadelphia, Little Rock, Ark., New Orleans, Las Vegas and Gresham, Ore. The National League of Cities will set up a "Mayor’s Institute on Children and Families" so leaders of the cities can share ideas. It will also send staff members to visit Minneapolis and develop an "action plan" for its juvenile justice work.

In a news release, the National League of Cities pointed to Minneapolis' efforts to "improve and align community-based alternatives to arrest and prosecution; reduce racial disparities at arrest; and improve the chances that young people will succeed after they leave the juvenile-justice system."

Mayor Betsy Hodges said the outside help will allow the city to be "better positioned to serve as a local leader for juvenile-justice reform.”

City launches open data site

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: December 8, 2014 - 3:32 PM

The City of Minneapolis' new open data portal made its debut Monday afternoon, providing information on subjects ranging from fires and police incidents to air quality study results.

Most of the data was previously only available to people who submitted formal requests to the city. The city says it is now one of 38 states and 46 cities and counties that make open data portals available to the public.

Other information available includes: 311 incidents, crime statistics, open rental licenses, open liquor licenses, digital inclusion survey results, city boundaries and neighborhood revitalization program budgets.

Data can be downloaded in charts and maps, and will be updated with more current information.

Plan would make Park Board owner of downtown park

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: December 4, 2014 - 12:38 PM

By Eric Roper and Steve Brandt

The Park Board gave preliminary approval  Wednesday night to a plan to take ownership -- in name only -- of the Downtown East park beside the new Vikings stadium.

The committee approval occurred after lengthy late-night discussion by park commissioners. The full board vote is scheduled for Dec. 17, after an expected City Council vote on the proposal on Dec. 12.

The plan is intended to maintain compliance with the city's charter, which grants the Park Board exclusive authority to operate and maintain public parks. That authority was made clear a year ago, when a district court judge said the Park Board must eventually take control of the space.

The proposed lease says the city will transfer the park to the Park Board for $1 after Ryan Companies completes construction. The Park Board will then lease it back to the city for the length of its agreement with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority over use of the space, but no more than 50 years.

The Park Board previously declined to take control of the park because of the money it would require and the number of days that the city has committed to private uses under its agreement with the Authority.

The Park Board will not be responsible for funding the construction of the park's enhancements, which are expected to cost several million dollars. The lease agreement also says that those enhancements must include the following items:

(i) the design will be comparable to the standards for Gold Medal Park, including mature trees, seating, lighting, and pavement treatments, but without the mound as developed in Gold Medal Park; (ii) the design will provide for flexible programming of the space with an open core, locating any permanent structures on the perimeter; and (iii) the design may, but is not required to, include a playing field with high quality durable turf.

The city intends to have the park's operations and maintanence overseen by a third-party conservancy, which will likely be handled by the new organization Greening Downtown Minneapolis.

Former City Council President Paul Ostrow, who filed a lawsuit in 2013 challenging -- among other things -- the city's authority to control the park, urged park commissioners to reject the agreement.

"Once you approve this agreement you will own this debacle that further subsidizes the Vikings and makes a mockery of the public park system," Ostrow wrote in an e-mail to the board.

He called the plan a "gimmick" aimed at reaching compliance under the charter. "Whether or not such a dubious agreement would pass legal muster there can be no doubt as to your complicity in overriding the clear intent of the charter," Ostrow wrote.

Four of five park commissioners on the board’s administration and finance committee voted for the proposal.  They are Anita Tabb, Meg Forney, Jon Olson and Scott Vreeland.   Brad Bourn abstained. The proposal will need six votes from the nine commissioners to proceed.

Minneapolis gets White House attention for climate change work

Posted by: Erin Golden Updated: December 3, 2014 - 11:43 AM

Minneapolis' efforts to combat climate change have helped put it on a White House list of national leaders on the issue.

The White House said Wednesday that Minneapolis is one of 16 "Climate Action Champions" selected in a competitive process. Each of the communities will receive help from a coordinator, who will help provide information and guidance on funding, among other support. The designation does not come with direct funding.

The announcement from the White House noted the city's work on its Climate Action Plan, which includes specific targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It also pointed to the city's new partnerships with Xcel Energy and Center Point Energy to plan and market strategies to help the city meet its goals.

The other communities on the White House's list are: the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe in California, Boston, Broward County, Fla., Dubuque, Iowa, Knoxville, Tenn., the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., Oberlin, Ohio, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City, Utah, San Francisco, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, Seattle, and the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority in California. 

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