Ward 11 Neighbors,
Below you’ll find the latest updates on key issues like public safety, COVID-19, and more. As always, you are always welcome to get in touch with me directly about issues that matter to you. If you have immediate questions about City services like garbage pick-up, potholes, parking violations, and more, please call 311 or use these online reporting tools for the most efficient service.
- City Council Continues Revising the 2020 Budget
- Weigh In on Proposed Charter Amendment This Week
- How to Stay Updated on City Business
- City Declares Racism a Public Health Emergency
- Tracking COVID-19 in Minneapolis
- Request Your Mail-in Ballot Today
- Park Board Adopts Guidelines for Encampments
- Grand Avenue Reconstruction Open House This Week
- Open Streets Canceled Due to COVID-19
- COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits Set to End
- Resources for Families During COVID-19
- “20 is Plenty” Yard Signs Available Through Friday
- Ward 11 Community Conversation – Thursday, July 23
The City Council is set to vote this Friday, July 24 on a revised 2020 budget to account for a $156 million revenue shortfall brought on by COVID-19. For context, that’s about 10% of our total budget. Last week, Mayor Frey week outlined proposed cuts including reduced investments in several programs and some facilities in addition to the use of cash reserves to balance the budget. Then, my City Council colleagues and I on Friday had a lengthy discussion on those proposed changes and approved a series of our own budget changes.
In addition, the City Council has already pursued a hiring freeze and wage freeze, paused major planned purchases, and reduced contractual and professional services by 15%. Many City employees are considering taking voluntary unpaid leave to help prevent permanent layoffs.
Community members will have another chance to weigh in on revisions to this year’s budget at our second and final public hearing this Wednesday, July 22 at 10 a.m. See how to participate here. You can also submit written comments to the public record by emailing email@example.com and/or can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beginning in mid-August, City policymakers will begin our work to build a budget for 2021. That work will continue through the rest of this year and will include additional opportunities for public input.
Late last month, the City Council unanimously initiated a process to allow voters to decide whether to adopt a proposed charter amendment whether to create a new Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention. You can find the language for this proposed ballot measure here. The Charter is essentially the City’s constitution, and this change (if approved by a majority of voters) would allow much more flexibility in how we ensure public safety for everyone in our City. The charter amendment would not eliminate law enforcement. Instead, this measure is needed so that we can incorporate strategies in addition to traditional policing. Check out my recent newsletter for more details on what the charter amendment would mean for our community.
More than 200 community members registered to speak at last week’s initial public hearing before the Charter Commission. The Commission will hold a second and final public hearing on the proposed charter amendment this Tuesday, July 21 at 6 p.m. If you’d like to participate in this week’s public hearing, sign up here. If you prefer, you can submit written comments to the Charter Commission. Please note that any comments you submit to any public body or official become part of the public record.
The question before the Charter Commission is whether the proposed measure would fit within the scope of the charter. The Commission must issue a nonbinding recommendation before any ballot measure is put to voters. You can learn more about the Charter Commission and its process here. It is my strong belief that Minneapolis voters – not an unelected commission – should decide how our city approaches public safety going forward, whether we pursue a new department or stick with something closer to the status quo. Minneapolis residents deserve this democratic process.
Find information about the City’s actions to transform public safety, as well as the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, the ongoing work of our Office of Violence Prevention, and more here.
At a time when many community members are eager to stay informed about City business, I’d like to again remind you that our Legislative Information Management System – or LIMS for short – includes a searchable database and calendar with up-to-date City Council agendas, official actions, and more. It’s also a great resource to find out about upcoming public hearings and public meetings related to the City Council and the City’s many appointed boards and commissions. If you’re interested in tracking City business, I encourage you to keep an eye on LIMS and subscribe to email updates on committees and topics that interest you.
You can tune into City Council meetings (and select others) live via City Council TV, or they are also broadcast on Comcast channels 14 and 799 and CenturyLink channels 8001 or 8501. Access archived broadcast recordings for on-demand replays via the City’s YouTube page. Upcoming Charter Commission meetings and Budget Committee meetings will be broadcast live on City Council TV.
The City Council on Friday approved a resolution declaring racism a public health emergency in the City of Minneapolis and committed to a series of action steps to dedicate more resources to racial equity work.
The resolution notes that “racism in all its forms causes persistent discrimination and disparate outcomes in many areas of life, including housing, education, health, employment, public safety and criminal justice; exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis” and “a multitude of studies connect racism to inequitable health outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), including cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high infant and maternal mortality rates demonstrating that racism is the root cause of social determinants of health.”
The resolution also highlights studies indicating that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police as white people in this country and the killings of unarmed Black men are associated with an increase in depression and emotional issues for Black people. It also notes that Minneapolis has some of the “starkest racial inequities in the country” and ranks as one of the worst regions for racial gaps in home ownership, poverty, median income and obtaining a high school diploma.
The resolution commits the City Council and mayor to recognize the “severe impact of racism on the wellbeing of residents and the city overall” and to allocate funding, staff and resources to “actively engage in racial equity in order to name, reverse, and repair the harm done to BIPOC.” Find more information on the resolution and our specific action steps here.
The City continues to track COVID-19 cases in Minneapolis based on data gathered by the Minnesota Department of Health, and with concerns nationwide about continued spread of the virus it’s important we all continue to do what we can to limit its impact in our community. Contact between people is increasing as more places open back up, and we need to remain careful about how and when we interact with others. Importantly, young adults now account for more than 50% of cases. I offered some health and safety tips last week but want to share them again:
- Wear masks when in public. Up to 50% of virus carriers are asymptomatic, so they don’t even know they’re sick. Wearing masks helps control the virus and has been shown to lower COVID-19 spread.
- Avoid enclosed spaces with groups of people, where the virus can linger in the air for long periods of time.
- Get tested if you have cold or flu-like symptoms. Find testing locations.
- Stay 6 feet away from others.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or sleeve, or a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands afterwards.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth – with unwashed hands.
- Do not go to “COVID parties.” Young adults face a real risk of significant illness and complications. They can also pass the virus along to family members and other people in the community.
To help ensure everyone can stay as safe as possible, the City is still coordinating homemade mask donations. Minneapolis residents can deliver homemade masks to their local fire station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday. The City’s Health Department continues to get requests from the community for help securing masks and these donations make a big difference in meeting those needs.
Another way you can help limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 is to request your mail-in ballot for this year’s Aug. 11 primary and Nov. 3 general election. All Minnesota voters can sign up here to get ballots by mail — you don’t need to give a reason. Many Ward 11 voters have already done so, which will help limit crowds at polling places. Ballots will arrive up to several weeks before each election, along with postage-paid envelopes to return them — and an I Voted sticker. Request your ballot at least 10 days before an election so you have enough time to receive and return it. Get more information about voting by mail here. If you have already requested your mail-in ballot, you can check on its status here.
Please note that, if you do choose to vote in person, several Ward 11 polling places have been relocated due to COVID-19. The following changes are in effect for next month’s primary and were made to avoid residential buildings and to support physical distancing:
At its meeting last week, the Park Board adopted a resolution limiting the total number of parks available for temporary encampments to 20 citywide. The Park Board also passed provisions that regulate these encampments to support the health and safety of those living there, including by limiting the number of tents allowed in each park to 25. In addition, the Park Board established a new temporary permit that can be issued to an individual or body that agrees to be responsible for day-to-day oversight of an encampment. Within 48 hours of issuing such a permit, the Park Board would provide restrooms or portable toilets, hand-washing stations, and trash/recycling containers.
In addition, the Park Board’s resolution directs staff to formally request assistance from agencies and organizations that have clear and defined responsibility for addressing homelessness. Park Board staff will share updates with the Park Board’s elected commissioners on Sept. 15 that detail progress on moving encampment residents into shelter and housing suitable for winter conditions.
Meanwhile, the City continues to work with Hennepin County to help connect people experiencing homelessness to housing, shelter, and services. Our Health Department is coordinating public health services at large encampments, and the City continues to work with community partners to secure federal COVID-19 funding to expand outreach and rapid rehousing services. City staff is working to bring several new shelters into operation. Find more information on our ongoing efforts here.
The City plans to reconstruct more than two miles of Grand Avenue South between Lake Street and 48th Street. The 60-year-old pavement has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced. With the total reconstruction of Grand Avenue, we have the opportunity to replace aging infrastructure, improve safety, incorporate pedestrian infrastructure that is accessible to all, calm traffic speeds, and enhance greening and stormwater facilities.
Based on public feedback to date and in alignment with city policies, Public Works has refined the design, which will be presented to the City Council in August. Learn more at a virtual open house this Wednesday, July 22, from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Public Works staff will be on hand to give a presentation and take questions. Visit the project website to learn more and see how to participate. If you can’t attend the open house, you can find a recorded presentation on the project website.
After making some initial cancellations and postponements earlier this year, Open Streets Minneapolis organizers have canceled all Open Streets events planned for this summer due to the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus poses an ongoing threat to our community, and gathering in large groups exacerbates the risk of transmission and infection. Our community will miss this celebration of public space, biking and walking, and local businesses. I look forward to continuing this tradition in future years. Learn more here.
The federal government has not so far approved an extension of the additional unemployment benefit folks have been able to receive since this spring due to mass job losses caused by the pandemic. Without federal action to extend it, the additional $600 weekly benefit distributed for the past several months will end after July 25. Those receiving unemployment benefits will continue to get their base amount, but the scheduled elimination of the additional federal benefit is a frustrating change that will put even more strain on families in our community. If you have questions or want to check out additional resources during this challenging time, the state has put together a helpful list here.
Hennepin County continues to offer assistance to residents in need that can be used to cover this month’s rent or past-due rent from previous months. To qualify you must:
- Rent anywhere in Hennepin County.
- Have had household income below 50% of the area median income (about $46,550 for a three-person household) before COVID-19.
- Lost income due to COVID-19 that has not been replaced by unemployment insurance or other emergency assistance.
- Can’t afford housing costs this month.
- Not currently receive Section 8 or other rental assistance.
Priority will be given to households with the lowest incomes and those not eligible for unemployment insurance. Learn more and apply for assistance here. If you do not have internet access or cannot complete the form in English call 612-302-3160.
Additionally, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will continue serving free meals to all children 18 and under through Friday, August 21. Families can pick-up food boxes at 50 schools and parks across Minneapolis, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To keep families and staff safe, sites offer contact-free pick-up. All youth are invited to participate in this program and do not need to be enrolled in MPS to receive food boxes. Youth, parents, or siblings can pick up one box for each child in their family, per week. Find more information, including pick-up locations and schedules, here.
You only have through this Friday, July 24 to pick up your blue “20 is Plenty” yard signs to help raise awareness of the City’s efforts to implement lower speed limits in support of safer streets. Starting this fall, the new speed limit will be 20 mph in both Minneapolis and St. Paul unless otherwise posted. Slower speeds on local streets make travel safer for everyone no matter how you get around. Learn more about lower speed limits here.
You can get a “20 is Plenty” sign of your own from any Minneapolis fire station — they’ll be placed outside for no-contact pickup. Signs and metal stands will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Friday, July 24 or while supplies last. Find your nearest fire station here.
I will host my next virtual Community Conversation on Thursday, July 23 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. In keeping with guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, I will host this meeting via Skype. All Ward 11 community members are welcome to join online or by phone. In the interest of keeping this conversation as constructive and productive as possible (and to avoid frustrations with background noise) I will be taking questions via email and answering them on the call. If there are specific questions or topics you would like to discuss, please share them with me via email at email@example.com. You can send them in advance of Wednesday’s event or during it. We’ll get through as many as we can during our time together.
To participate, click this link during the meeting time on Thursday. Alternatively, you can join by calling 612-276-6670 and entering 697555709# as your conference ID.