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Minneapolis council pledges support for transgender community, advisory group

The city of Minneapolis will create a permanent transgender issues advisory group as part of a broader pledge to support the transgender community.

In a committee meeting Wednesday, the City Council unanimously voted in support of a list of recommendations forwarded by the city's two-year-old Transgender Issues Work Group. That committee suggested that the city formalize its efforts to research and help develop policies related to transgender people, and continue hosting community events on the topic. 

For the past two years, the city has hosted an annual Trans Equity Summit, and council members said a third event is planned for this fall. Several council members and Mayor Betsy Hodges have been vocal of their support for transgender people; Hodges has raised the issue in her State of the City addresses for the last two years. 

Members of the Transgender Issues Work Group told the council that the city's support is particularly meaningful at a time when local and state governments elsewhere are enacting policies regarding transgender people and restroom use, among other issues.

Andrea Jenkins, a former council policy aide and current curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota, said she was thankful so many city departments were working to support the transgender community.

"At a time when transgender people are under attack legislatively ... this is the right time to make this statement," Jenkins said.

Phillipe Cunningham, a senior policy aide for education and youth success in the Mayor's Office and self-described "out, proud, black, gay transgender man," said that when he moved to Minneapolis, he was surprised -- and glad -- to find that city officials were actively advocating for transgender people. He was hired on with the Mayor's Office after meeting city officials at the city's Trans Equity Summit.

"In a country that seems to be turning to hate and violence toward the trans community, I am grateful to live in a city that sees us, hears us, and respects us," he said. 

Minneapolis has officially banned discrimination based on gender identity for more than two decades, and Council Member John Quincy said he expects other Minnesota cities will follow Minneapolis' work on other issues related to the transgender community.

"We're a city that leads on this topic," he said. "When it happens in Minneapolis, it will happen in other cities and throughout the state."

Above: Phillipe Cunningham, a senior policy aide in the Mayor's Office, speaks to the City Council in support of a resolution on transgender issues. 

Minneapolis City Hall bells will go silent for renovation

Above: Tony Hill, Chair of the Tower Bell Foundation, gives a tour of the bells at Minneapolis City Hall in 2004. (Joey McLeister)

Time will fly by silently this summer in downtown Minneapolis, when City Hall's clock tower bells cease chiming during a long-anticipated restoration project.

The Friday bell concerts that broadcast a variety of tunes into popular plazas nearby City Hall during the summer lunch hours won't happen after Memorial Day, said the Tower Bell Foundation, which arranges the performances. Nor will the bells chime on the quarter-hour and the hour as they do now.

Lunch goers hoping to get their bell fix can hear concerts this Friday and upcoming Monday at noon. Musicians control the 15 bells from a keyboard in the City Hall rotunda.

The 24-foot City Hall clock faces are among the largest in the world. The restoration of the 110-year-old timepiece primarily involves replacing deteriorating metal frames and clock face panels.

The project will also eliminate the neon that has illuminated the clock hands since 1949. That will be replaced with backlighting, the original method of illumination.

Tony Hill, chair of the Tower Bell Foundation, said the bells will also be inspected during the project. The clock gets its time signal from the bells, which is why they must be disconnected.

Since the work could take four months, the foundation said there may not be able to perform any summer concerts this year.