Tag Archives: city council

Open Letter re: Hennepin Avenue Redesign

I attended the second public meeting regarding the reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue last night (April 25th) and was quite happy with the way the planning is coming along. I’m excited that Hennepin Avenue has a chance at a makeover, as it’s one of the most important streets in our downtown core.

Personally, I’d like to see some traffic-calming features on Hennepin, such as narrower lanes and bump-outs at the intersections (to make a shorter crossing distance when walking on Hennepin). I also think we should look closely at lowering the speed limit on Hennepin so make this street more appealing to pedestrians, cyclists, and businesses like cafes and bars that want a more pleasant street for outdoor seating.

I’d also like to see physical protection for cyclists in the protected bike lanes, perhaps in the form of rectangular planters on either side, which would help prevent pedestrians from wandering into the bike lane and provide better protection for cyclists from motor vehicles. I like the idea of gradual curbs, but am worried cars or delivery vehicles will climb up on them for short-term parking and block the bike lane. I’d rather not have the ugly “plastic sticks” that seem to be synonymous with protected bike lanes in our city, especially on an important street like Hennepin.

Come to think of it, the protected bike lane design for the 3-lane proposal on 3rd Avenue South (which did not pass city council) would be something that I would support. That design called for planters to protect the bike lanes.

I’d also like some assurance that what happened with the 3rd Avenue design process will not happen to Hennepin Avenue. Plans were developed for a 3-lane design on 3rd Avenue, presented to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, then it seems that city staff was directed to push forward a 4-lane design plan at the last moment by CM Lisa Goodman. Is that going to happen here as well?

I’m cc’ing CM Goodman on this email to remind her that this has been the second public meeting regarding Hennepin Avenue that has taken place, and that local business owners are welcome to provide feedback. The feedback I have heard at both meetings indicates that the community is supportive of cycling, pedestrian, and transit improvements in this corridor. I want to make sure businesses are part of this process too, as past experience tells me that they haven’t always been “engaged” early enough in the process.

If the plan is to create a “feel-good” design experience for the community only to have the plans altered at the last second by the unknown demands of local businesses, please let me know so I don’t waste my time with this process. Thank you,

Anton Schieffer

May 10 2013 Minneapolis City Council Meeting

So I was being a complete loser and trawling through some of the archives for the city council minutes.  Specifically, I was trying to find when/if changes to the ordinance were made to allow flea markets in Minneapolis.  If anyone is wondering, the answer is that this “officially” happened at the April 12, 2013 council meeting.  It seems like everyone wrote an article on April 4, 2013 when the changes were recommended by committee, but there weren’t any follow-up articles after the city council actually voted on it.

This is a little confusing for people who maybe don’t know how our city government works.  Basically, when one of the committees suggests some change, it generally happens.  I don’t know if this is because Minneapolis is a one-party council (I should say, one party + Cam), or what, but that’s how it works and that’s why there are only articles about the flea markets prior to the actual vote.

So as I was looking through the meeting minutes, it turned out that a bunch of nominally interesting items were approved at this meeting.  Honeybees can be kept on rooftops higher than one story!  We spent $130K on tasers!  The Metrodome lease was extended!  Councilmembers gave “Notice of Intent” to file future resolutions!  So yeah, if interesting stuff happens at council meetings, I’ll try to write about it here in the future.  I’ll probably keep it to my neighborhood and places that I frequent, but who knows?

Only a few interesting things happened at the most recent council meeting on May 10, 2013, but I think you should know about them!

First, there’s a new ordinance that says if there’s an air pollution warning for particulate matter, you are not allowed to start a recreational fire.  You should also try to avoid committing arson on these days, as it’s really bad for everyone’s lungs!  So please restrict your fire-related insurance fraud to days when there isn’t already so much crap in the air.

The Nightingale Restaurant at 26th and Lyndale can now have outdoor seating, if you enjoy the roar of Lyndale traffic while eating your bruschetta. I’ve never eaten here actually, so maybe that’s a really good combo.

Car2Go is being allowed to start their car-sharing program.  For some reason, the existing programs were not allowed to use public spaces to park their cars.  HourCar, for example, has to lease their spots from private lots.  Car2Go is intended to be for short, one-off trips, whereas HourCar is for roundtrips.  Fortunately, thanks to activism from the car-sharing community, other car-sharing companies will also be able to use public spaces for their cars.  Not sure how this sharing of spaces among companies will work yet, but glad to see one company won’t get an unfair advantage.

Apparently, recyclable theft is becoming a problem – in June 2013, Minneapolis residents will receive a notice on how to keep their recyclables from being stolen.  Possible remedies include a light “misting” of all recyclables with a few drops of Schlitz Malt Liquor or deer urine.

Well, nothing else crazy going on, unless you consider the denial of variances crazy.

DFL Ward 10 convention results

Well, that was pretty dramatic.  Despite being in second place to Kendal Killian after the first few rounds of balloting, Lisa Bender managed to pull ahead during the last couple of rounds (after Ken Bradley dropped out), forcing Kendal to throw his support behind Lisa in order to prevent a “no endorsement” outcome, which would likely have led to Meg Tuthill serving another term on the Minneapolis City Council.

Lisa Bender is definitely an upgrade over Meg Tuthill, though I’ll admit that she was my third-favorite choice overall (of four candidates).  I really thought Ken Bradley would make an excellent member of the Minneapolis City Council.  He was very focused on environmental issues, acknowledging in every speech that global warming was a debt that future generations would have to pay.  I think he would have taken initiatives to make Minneapolis a greener city – I also think Lisa feels strongly about the environment, but I feel like she’s more along the lines of a supporter rather than a leader.

Kendal Killian had an amazing showing – much stronger than I had thought it would be.  He seemed to be the most polarizing candidate, and butted heads with Meg several times during some of the forums which occurred beforehand.  His strong turnout made me optimistic that the convention would be over quickly – after Meg was in third place after three rounds of balloting, I guessed that her supporters would switch their votes to Lisa, just to keep Kendal away from the nomination.

But that wasn’t the case – even after Meg was eliminated by rules (for not reaching 30 percent of the vote), her supporters instead voted “No Endorsement” on the fifth and final ballot.  Since neither Kendal or Lisa had reached the 60 percent threshold required to get the endorsement, we were at a bit of a stalemate.  Apparently it also takes a majority vote in order to adjourn, and only about 25 percent of the vote was voting for No Endorsement, so that didn’t look too likely, either.  Something had to give.

And so finally, Kendal and Lisa met after the 5th ballot.  I believe Lisa had 144 votes and Kendal had 133 (but don’t quote me on that).  Kendal got on stage and gave a dramatic speech about getting into the race because he wanted a new council member, and in order to see that this goal was accomplished, he announced his withdrawal, and that he was supporting Lisa – the place went bonkers!  It was a passionate, heartfelt speech by Kendal, and I’m sure it was not a fun decision to make after putting so much effort into his campaign.

If you want a better idea on what it was like (and you know something about Minneapolis geography and economics), what was bizarre to me was watching how the different precincts were committed to candidates.  On the left side of the room were precincts 7, 8, and 9 – basically, that’s Whittier.  This side was pretty evenly split between Killian and Bender once Ken Bradley dropped out (I’ll note that Ken did manage 15 percent of the vote in the first round).

The right side of the room were precincts 1-6 – I’m note sure about how many delegates each precinct had, but most of those folks appeared to be supporting Meg (with a few Lisa supporters in there too).  Before votes were cast, candidates had a short Q&A session and also had time to make a 10-minute speech/presentation.  It was surreal to hear almost the entire right side of the room applaud Meg consistently, while the entire left side of the room was silent.  Of course, that was flipped for the other candidates – when Kendal, Ken, and Lisa spoke, the left side went wild while the right side was silent.

In all, I’m glad that Lisa will likely be our Ward 10 City Council member (unless the greens endorse someone).  She supports biking and creating a more transportation-friendly city.  I questioned Lisa’s campaign messaging previously and while I still don’t know exactly what her priorities are, I also don’t really care.  All I know she has the potential to be a better council member than Meg, and I guess that’s good enough.

In other DFL news, I was sad to hear that Robert Lilligren did not earn the DFL endorsement in Ward 6.  I think he was a great leader on the city council – I don’t know anything about Abdi Warsame, who earned the endorsement instead.  From this Star Tribune article, it sounds like a large East African contingent showed up and supported Abdi.

An Open Letter to Lisa Bender

Well, I hate to stir up the pot, but I’ve heard from multiple Ward 10 candidates since Friday, and have generally been happy with all of them (aside from the incumbent).  But a recent email I received from Lisa Bender inspired me to write back to her, and I thought I would share:

Lisa, I remember that you called me after I tweeted that I would be supporting Ken.  When you asked why that was the case, I stated that I thought Ken had strong experience with environmental issues and groups, and I got the impression he would be an effective and progressive leader.  While I don’t recall our exact conversation, I do recall asking you about issues like progressivism and social justice, and not receiving a response I thought was enough to warrant my support.

So I was surprised to see you use words like “progressive” and “social justice” in this email – words that do not appear anywhere on your website and that I have not seen to date in your campaign literature.  Maybe this was just an oversight – some kind of miscalculation with your initial campaign messaging, but I certainly hope it’s not just empty rhetoric used to garner the support of the leftist base that is currently leaning towards Ken and Kendal.

The sudden change in attitude/messaging is a real red flag for me – I don’t want a councilperson who is willing to compromise on their own vision in a vain attempt to make everybody happy.  I want someone who will stand up for their own values, and this recent email from Lisa is not very encouraging.  As someone who paid attention to the early campaigns of the three challengers, choosing between them was a very difficult task, and I opted not to support Lisa because she didn’t seem passionate about the environment or clean energy, two issues I want my councilperson to take a leadership role on.

I sent this on Friday afternoon and haven’t heard anything from her since (I asked for a response and said I would publish it here).  I don’t have anything else against Lisa – I think she’s a great person whom I agree with on many things, and she would make a better city councilperson than Meg, but this email makes me think twice about supporting Lisa when it comes time to caucus this Saturday.

New Minneapolis Transparency Initiative

So the Minneapolis City Council is up for election.  There has been some redistricting, and I feel confident that my ward will elect a progressive leader.  But while I was doing some research into voting records, I was shocked to discover that the official city minutes of city council meetings only revealed whether something had passed or not – without revealing the individual votes by council members.  Now, most of these initiatives are taken care of during committees, but those committees are equally non-transparent.  If you want to know what your representative has been up to, you have to watch the entire video of proceedings, which is boring as hell.

But fear not, average citizen!  I’m trying to come up with a good way to keep an eye on the votes of the Minneapolis City Council and hope to have a solution by the time the next council meets.  I wish the city would do this instead, but I feel it’s necessary to audit manually to get a quality system in place.  Again, it will take several months but I’m hoping to figure out a way to combine the voting that takes place during committees with the actual council votes – unfortunately this requires trawling through hours of video footage…