Neighborhood leaders and volunteers across Minneapolis this weekend said they were uneasy and had a lot of questions about a new initiative that could change the structure and funding of their associations.
It was the first chance they had to give feedback about the proposal that will tie the groups’ funding to diversity on their leadership boards.
Neighborhood leaders wanted to know why these changes were proposed and wanted to make sure the city was listening to their feedback.
The event took place at the city’s eighth annual Community Connections Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Saturday.
The conference brought together hundreds of residents for workshops, panels and discussions about the future of the city.
It was the public unveiling of a report from Neighborhoods 2020, a city initiative proposing changes to the neighborhood association system.
There are 70 nonprofit organizations that represent more than 80 local neighborhoods, and city officials believe they could streamline their operations.
At one table, people felt the city wasn’t holding itself up to the diversity requirements they want neighborhood associations to follow.
“I still think the point of diversity is something that they’re dancing around,” said Alicia Smith, executive director for the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization in south Minneapolis.
“The expectation is that these neighborhood boards in organizations reflect something that our city can’t even get right as a whole.”
At another table, Nailah Taman, the office and outreach manager for the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization in northeast Minneapolis, said she support efforts to make neighborhood associations more uniform across the board.
“There is a need for standards so we can work separately, but also together,” she said.
The Northside Neighborhood Council, made up of several associations in north Minneapolis, released a statement asking the City Council to reject the current recommendations.
It also asked that the Neighborhoods and Community Relations department set the same goals they want leadership boards to follow.
According to the Neighborhoods 2020 report, the city is considering tying municipal funding to the diversity of the associations’ leadership boards, which have been disproportionately made up of white homeowners.
If they don’t hit representation benchmarks for renters, people of color and other demographics, associations could lose out on critical funding.
The city is also asking associations to set bylaw requirements and term limits for board members, increase outreach and collaborate with other associations to save money.
The recommendations from the report, which was released last week, are expected to go before the City Council this spring.
Steven Gallagher, head of Neighborhoods 2020, encouraged those in the room to reach out to him with feedback.
“Bring in your comments,” he said. “If we don’t have them, then we fail.”