A plan to infuse $800 million into Minneapolis’ crumbling roads and parks cleared its most important test Wednesday at City Hall.
A committee comprising the entire City Council voted unanimously to approve the 20-year deal, setting it up for near-certain passage at the council’s meeting Friday. It would be the most substantial investment in the city’s roads and parks since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The arrangement would pump $22 million more per year into street repairs and $11 million more per year into renovations and maintenance at the city’s 157 neighborhood parks.
The money would largely come from issuing debt and raising property taxes, as well as tapping some cash reserves and fund balances. City projections show the property tax levy may have to increase 4 percent a year, on average, to cover the new investments and existing city services.
The measure is not completely binding — future councils must approve the levy increases — but backing out would require changing city ordinances.
A number of people who testified at Wednesday’s public hearing on the plan said the city should withhold the money until the Park Board fixes what they described as persistent racial discrimination at the agency. Concerns about discrimination date back to at least 2011, when the NAACP said it had received more than 160 complaints from Park Board employees.
“People of color who work for the Park Board … should be treated equally based on the work that they perform, not based on the color of their skin,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP. “However, they face disparate treatment in terms of being disciplined. They’re not being promoted or retained in an equitable manner in comparison to their white counterparts.”
The Park Board’s president and superintendent responded to the allegations in a letter to the council Wednesday. It said they have been working for several years to tackle the issues and need to do a better job publicly communicating what’s already been done.