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Posts about Politics and government

Minneapolis residents to vote on $500 mayoral filing fee

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: July 2, 2014 - 6:06 PM

Minneapolis residents will face a ballot question in November about increasing the filing fee to run for mayor to $500, after the city’s charter commission approved the measure today.

City leaders have debated stepping up the requirements to run for office since 35 people ran for mayor last fall – with only $20 needed to land on the ballot. Critics complained that the system, also the first major test of ranked choice voting in Minneapolis, encouraged frivolous candidates and confused voters.

Last month, the City Council voted down a charter commission proposal to raise the filing fees for mayor and council to $250 and $100, after two council members opposed it. Changing the charter without a voter referendum would have required unanimous approval from the council.

Now, the charter commission’s action, approved 10-5, goes to the council, which will determine the exact language of the ballot question.

Voters will also decide whether to raise the filing fee – currently $20 for not just the mayor’s office, but all candidates – to $250 for candidates running for council, and $100 each for people running for the Board of Estimates and Taxation and the park board.

Mike Griffin, director of campaigns for Fair Vote Minnesota, expressed support for the move during the meeting, saying the organization wants candidates on the ballot who take the job seriously. But several mayoral candidates from last year testified against the move.

Bob Carney, a repeat city candidate, told charter commissioners today that he didn’t see the rush to raise the fee when the next municipal election is in 2017

“I’m very concerned about unnecessarily early action,” he said.  

Captain Jack Sparrow, who also ran for mayor, said raising the fee would create a government for those with money. After the vote, he said he couldn’t have afforded to run if it cost $500.

Candidates still have an option under state law to gather 500 signatures or 5 percent of the total votes cast in the last election – whichever is less – in lieu of paying the fee.

A motion to keep the fee for mayor and council at $100 failed today, as did a proposal to raise it to $250 for mayor and $125 for council.

Charter Commission Chair Barry Clegg said the city should keep its filing fee at the same level as St. Paul – which is also $500 and $250 to run for mayor and council, respectively – and noted that the fee has been the same for 60 years and probably won’t change for another 60.

“By that time, $500 will get you a small latte,” he joked.

Commissioner Jana Metge also voiced support for the plan, saying $500 amounted to 10 donations of $50 and that even if a candidate chose to gather signatures instead, that would amount to a half day’s work. She added that she couldn’t even organize a candidate forum last year because giving time to 35 candidates would have left time only for opening and closing statements.

“It was really hard to get good information at a community level, because there were so many people and folks wanted serious candidates,” she said. “Without a primary, it made it really difficult.”

City releases toolkit to help neighbors deal with construction

Posted by: Maya Rao Updated: July 2, 2014 - 1:45 PM

Frustrated by noise, idling, and debris from the new house going up next door?

The city has released a 12-page document designed to help neighbors address issues that could arise during residential construction: detailing steps to prepare, how to handle common construction management problems, and what to do if they experience property damage.

Southwest Council Member Linea Palmisano helped lead the effort, after initiating a moratorium on teardowns in five neighborhoods that was later lifted with the launching of a construction management plan to improve relations between builders and residents.

"While the toolkit was put together by my office, it is intended to be useful to all Minneapolis residents," Palmisano wrote in an email to residents today.

The so-called toolkit spells out responsibilities of various divisions at City Hall that oversee construction issues, such as the zoning administration, construction code services, development review, public works, traffic control, and environmental services. Residents should still call the 311 hotline, rather than individual departments, according to the report.

The document urges residents to ask for a site plan and land survey. It also encourages people to attend pre-construction meetings that developers are required to hold with neighbors within 300 feet of the site, armed with questions about how work can be coordinated so trucks don’t block the street and when materials will be delivered so noise doesn’t disrupt residents.

The city advises anyone hearing excessive construction noise to reach out to 311, and 911 in extreme cases. When possible, the city says, take photos, audio or video with the incident with a time and date stamp, so that Environmental Services can follow up with the builder and issue a citation when warranted.

 

Bike, ped changes may be coming to crosstown pair

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: July 1, 2014 - 2:40 PM

Two prominent cross-city commuting routes are likely headed for bike and pedestrian improvements as part of a planned 2015 paving of the twin one-way streets.

That’s why the city is asking for feedback at a series of open houses about what pedestrians, drivers, bus riders and bikers want changed on 26th and 28th Streets.  The initial repaving will happen between Hiawatha Avenue and Interstate 35W, but the planning connected with the open houses will extend west to Hennepin, for possible future work.

The first open house will be from 6-8 p.m. on July 14 at American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av. S. That meeting is designed for sharing ideas and concerns about the streets.  Follow-up meetings are planned at the same time and place for Aug. 6 and 27 to gather feedback on design concepts for bike and pedestrian changes.

According to John Wertjes, the city’s director of traffic and parking services, an asphalt overlay is scheduled for 26th, while 28th is due merely for sealcoating.

Some bikers have advocated for installing buffered or protected bike lanes on the two streets. The latter is how the paving project is listed on the city’s capital projects list, but that’s a placeholder until there’s public input, officials said.

What done with bike lanes could be determined by money.  The city has $400,000 in hand for pedestrian and biking improvements in the paving project, Wertjes said. That’s enough to pay for striping buffered bike lanes, like the painted extra-wide bike lanes installed when Portland and Park avenues were reduced from three to two one-way motorized traffic lanes for most of their length south of downtown.

But the city would need to compete for added outside grant money to be able to afford more protected bike lanes, in which bollards, curbs, elevated pavement or parked cars are between the bike and motorized traffic lanes.

Wertjes said that he also expects the open houses to produce calls for managing and slowing traffic speeds.    

(Photo: This vehicle plowed into a house on E. 26th Street in this 2000 accident. Staff photo by David Brewster.)

Different fireworks may light up Powderhorn Fourth

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 30, 2014 - 4:43 PM

Just because the sky won’t be lit up doesn’t mean there won’t be fireworks this year at Powderhorn Park’s July 4 celebration.

Publisher and political activist Ed Felien is trying to make sure of that. Working with Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association, he’s inviting all comers to speak out from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  These stump speakers will have roughly five minutes to make their case on any topic, but they’ll have to run the risk of heckling.

“We have enough gasbags in Powderhorn just circling the park that we can more than fill it up,” said Felien, 75. He lives across from the park’s northwest corner and runs his community newspaper, Southside Pride, from an office two blocks away.

Felien thrives on politics, and is nostalgic for the days before radio, TV and digital media when orators expounded on such public issues as slavery and suffrage, war and peace. He’s hoping the event will help to recreate the magical aura of July 4 at Powderhorn Park that he remembers from his boyhood.

”We’d come to Powderhorn in the late 40s and early 50s and there was still a sense of patriotic fervor and community that was lovely,” he said. That attitude faded somewhat in the tensions of the Vietnam era; Felien remembers quizzing then-Congressman Donald Fraser about the war with other activists one summer.

In those old days, the Felien family would arrive around supper time, picnic food in tow.  After eating, they’d pass the interminable interval until the arrival of dusk and fireworks by watching what Felien recalls as a “macho promenade” of tough guys strolling the park paths with cigarette packs rolled up their sleeves.

The speakout on the Fourth will be held at the “teahouse” gateway on the southwest shore of Powderhorn Lake. Felien said recently he’s expecting the return of mayoral candidates Captain Jack Sparrow and Bob Carney, and current school board candidate Soren Sorensen. So is political firebrand Michael Cavlan. Others can sign up by calling Southside Price at 612-822-4662 or e-mailing edfelien@southsidepride.com

Meanwhile, the association is planning a more family bent to this year's Powderhorn Fourth, with music starting at 11:30 a.m. and rolling through Aztec dancing, a medley of recordings by young people, an acoustic duo, and Latin folk. Also on tap are badminton, croquet, bocce, canoeing, face painting and other diversions.

The lack of actual pyrotechnics will give the association a chance to collect more public input on what future Fourths should look like in the 14-square-block park. Eliminating the fireworks that attracted an estimated 20,000, but also rowdy behavior, cut the fundraising need for the day's events almost by half, according to Becky Timm, the association's staff director.     

(Photos -- Above: Fireworks at Powderhorn Park in 2010. Staff photo by David Joles. Right: Ed Felien)

Convention Center to get $14.5 million in work

Posted by: Steve Brandt Updated: June 25, 2014 - 4:42 PM

The Minneapolis Convention Center is headed for $14.5 million in renovations and improvements over the next two years, some of which are aimed at helping networking among people attending events, convention officials said Wednesday.

One change is the addition of a mezzanine in the center's main lobby. It could be used for events, and will have seating and a lounge where people attending events can meet with other people, according to Kristin Montag, spokeswoman for Meet Minneapolis, a convention and visitor promotion nonprofit. There are also plans to add a bar there.

The center's visitor center also will move within the main lobby to be closer to the main entrance on 2nd Avenue S. That will increase its visibility and make it more helpful to visitors seeking information about exploring the city, Montag said.

The main lobby stairs are being replaced with added elevators that are intended to add accessibility to that area. The visitor center area will also have two sets of stairs, one to the mezzanine and one to all levels, Montag said. The escalators serving three of the center’s exhibition halls will be replaced as they near the end of their life expectancy with versions that are more energy-efficient, continuing earlier upgrades elsewhere in the building.

The building will also get art from local artists through Corporate Art Force, to be displayed on a six-month rotation. Center Executive Director Jeff Johnson said the displays will add visual interest to the building and highlight local artists.

The center normally gets about $10 million annually in building improvements or renovations, Montag said. The center is financed by operating revenues and an assortment of local sales taxes, some of which also will help to pay for the new Vikings stadium.  

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