An economic development program aimed at some of Minneapolis’ poorest and most polluted neighborhoods has received renewed City Council support.
The “Green Zone” initiative would designate specific neighborhoods or sections of the city to get funding priority for environmentally friendly development. It could help funnel money to those areas for businesses focused on sustainability, pollution reduction efforts or the development of parks and community gardens.
The idea has been used in other cities, including Los Angeles, Kansas City, Mo., and Buffalo, N.Y. It’s been on Minneapolis’ radar since 2013, when it was added to the city’s Climate Action Plan, but has been slow to launch. Mayor Betsy Hodges allocated $50,000 in her 2016 budget for assistance from consultants on the green zones effort, but council members voted to instead spend that money on a Fire Department program.
Despite the funding setback, however, council members supportive of the Green Zone concept say they’re ready to forge ahead. Tuesday, the council’s community development committee voted unanimously to set up a Green Zone Policy Task Force and to direct several city departments to work together on a program.
Those departments will gather data on neighborhood economics and pollution levels to figure out what areas most need assistance.
Council Member Alondra Cano said she sees Green Zones as a way to target racial and economic disparities. She said the neighborhoods most burdened by high pollution levels and low incomes are also some of the city’s most diverse — and home to lots of children.
Cano said more targeted programs could help boost community health and aid in the city’s long-term goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “I really believe this is going to be a winning strategy to help us transition into a fossil-free future down the road,” she said.