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

School board incumbent hires daughter as campaign manager

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 6, 2014 - 5:16 PM

Incumbent Minneapolis School Board Member Rebecca Gagnon has hired her out-of-state college age daughter to be her paid campaign manager.

New campaign finance records shows Gagnon’s campaign has already paid her daughter, Samantha, $1,120 and owes her another $3,000. Gagnon’s daughter is a sophomore at Loyola University.

Gagnon has raised $10,902 dollars so far.

Gagnon is the only candidate who reported paying a campaign manager, and said she did not hire a professional manager because her daughter has "quite a bit of experience working with campaigns."

"She worked 30 to 40 hours a week last year on a mayoral campaign," Gagnon said. "She is incredibly smart and incredibly credible. She organized [the campaign] for the DLF convention, and I got 81 percent of the vote."

Gagnon said her daughter is also very in-tune with the issues facing the district.

"Some of the candidates do not know what is happening in our schools," she said. "She was actively involved in the district and she's a great asset."

Gagnon said she had to hire a campaign manager because she can't put her school board duties aside while running a campaign. 

"The work never stops," she said.

Don Samuels ahead in raising money for school board race

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 6, 2014 - 4:33 PM

Tax deal for West Broadway development to get further review

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: August 5, 2014 - 4:43 PM

A project to transform a decrepit building on West Broadway Avenue into a center for workforce training and retail is likely to receive $500,000 in tax breaks after a vote by council members today.

While the vote by the economic development panel was to direct development staff to continue studying whether such aid was appropriate, Committee Chair Lisa Goodman noted that projects nearly always receive tax increment financing by the time they reach this stage of analysis.

The building at 800 West Broadway has been empty since 2006, languishing in tax forfeiture after a separate $70 million proposal for a YWCA, shops and offices fell through.

Developer George Sherman, who owns the Hawthorne Crossing shopping center next door, has plans to lease the structure to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Other health and educational facilities will also share the space.

A report prepared by Minneapolis project coordinator Erik Hansen said that redevelopment costs would exceed the finished value of the building, creating a financial gap necessitating  pay-as-you-go tax increment financing that would comprise 7 percent of the project’s total cost.

The tool, once widely used in city projects including the Target Center, allows developers to divert property taxes to help pay for construction.

“People want to see more activity on West Broadway,” Hansen told council members, noting that the project would bring training opportunities to an area where educational attainment was low.

The development will also make use of the underused parking lot at Hawthorne Crossings to minimize concerns about adding a lot of extra surface parking.

Goodman initially voiced some skepticism, citing an article that ran in today’s paper about Minneapolis already putting $14.3 million into West Broadway.

“It falls under the ‘West Broadway, we have to throw money at it’ category,” she told Hansen. “I guess I buy your argument if someone doesn’t do something right now, the building will sit vacant for a long time, and this is a part of West Broadway that perhaps we need to pay more attention to more than others given that it’s a Gateway area.”

Sherman’s goal is to finish the sale of the building – which is still owned by Hennepin County – and begin redevelopment by the end of the year.

Also along Broadway, a mixed-use development at Penn and Broadway and an expansion by the DC Group of its company headquarters at River Road are on track to receive tax increment financing.

Lights coming this fall to LRT bike trail

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: August 5, 2014 - 3:23 PM

The lights should be on along the Hiawatha LRT Trail by the end of the year, some six years after a series of robberies on the bike trail and the connecting Midtown Greenway.

That's what city specs call for in a bid up for City Council approval this month. The $600,000 project funded by the city and Hennepin County will install lights every 95 feet in the remaining unlit areas of the trail, which parallels the Blue Line. The area to be filled in lies between 11th Av. S. on the eastern edge of downtown and E. 26th Street in the Seward neighborhood.

According to a city memo, the lights will cost some 33 percent less than the engineer's estimate.  That partly reflects the presence of several lights already installed near the Metro Transit operations center, and the earlier installation of lights south of 26th when the Sabo bridge for the greenway was built.

The new lights will be higher-efficiency LED lights, which use 50 percent less energy than high-pressure sodium lights. Existing lights on the trail will be retrofitted to LED as part of the project. They'll be designed to spill light in an oval-shaped pattern along the LRT trail, according to Allan Klugman, a city engineer.

The two trails were the site of at least 10 attacks in late 2008, including one armed robbery of a Star Tribune videographer. That prompted the formation of a Trail Watch patrol of the trails organized by the Midtown Greenway Coalition that continues six years later.

There have been muggings maybe once or twice a year since then on both trails, according to Soren Jensen, the coalition's executive director. But he said that the coalition has tested light levels on the greenway with meters, finding dim spots in about a dozen areas.  Three lights were added last year and three more are coming this year, he said. Jensen said priority is being given to lighting trail areas near stairways that can provide quick getaways for groups of youth that in a typical attack surround a lone biker. He said security cameras on the greenway are being improved, and he's hoping for signs that warn potential muggers that they're being filmed. 

Jensen offers these safety tips 1) Bike with a companion after dark. 2) Call in suspicious activity to 911 even if you are able to speed past a group of youths since they may prey on the next biker. 3) Keep using the greenway because there's safety in numbers.  

(Photo: Paul Caspersen and Mark Ambroe on night patrol on the Midtown Greenway in 2009.)  

Candidate drops out of school board race

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: August 5, 2014 - 12:24 PM

Andrew Minck, one of seven candidates for two citywide school board seats, announced Monday he his suspending his campaign.

Minck did not explain why he suspended his campaign. Minck, who lives in the Fulton neighborhood, taught in Arizona through Teach for America and was an administrator at the Twin Cities Academy and Twin Cities Academy High School in St. Paul. 

In a letter sent out to reporters, Mink said he encourages voters to "seek candidates who have dedicated themselves to improving outcomes for all students, especially those who have traditionally been under-served by our city’s school system." 

The primary election is Aug. 12. Four of the now six candidates will be eligible for the general election in November. 


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