The City of Minneapolis’ new Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) started meeting this past June. The commission consists of eight representatives elected from districts by neighborhood organizations seven representatives appointed by the Mayor and City Council and one representative appointed by the Park Board.
The City Council created the NCEC to create a formal body to advise the City Council and Neighborhood and Community Relations Department on community engagement activities within the City and as a home for the next phase of neighborhood funding scheduled to begin in 2011.
The Commission’s first two meetings largely consisted of commissioners getting to know each other and creating an organizational structure. The Commission has chosen to operate under a modified consensus model for decision making. Under this model the group attempts to reach consensus on business items through discussion. The advantage of this type of model is that people have the ability to fully discuss each item and that the group will be more fluid and not end up factionalized. The potential disadvantage is that it may take more time for the group to reach consensus. The Commission has put in place a step where if consensus can not be reached the group can take a vote on an issue in order to be able to put it to rest and move on to other business.
The Commission is also going with a nontraditional leadership structure. In order to try and keep the work spread out among commissioners and to try and keep from having a small group of commissioners control the group’s work plan and agenda items, the Commission is going with a rotating facilitator model. Under this model a schedule is set up with commissioners sharing the facilitator role among themselves – hopefully creating a body of equals.
At the August meeting the Commission started to get into our real work, with a presentation on the financing for neighborhood organizations as proposed under the Mayor’s 2010 budget and the status of the NRP Phase II funding. The Commission has formed a small group to work on recommendations from the NCEC on the budget. A number of commissioners are concerned that the Mayor’s proposed budget would slash neighborhood funding by $2 million annually from 2011 to 2021 by certifying only 50 percent of the TIF districts under the special legislation passed in 2008.
The legislation passed in 2008 provided funding for neighborhood organizations and relief for Target Center debt. The neighborhood funding was designed to make up for the loss of $100 million in NRP funding that came with the Ventura tax changes that compressed the commercial and industrial tax rates that severely impacted Minneapolis’ tax capacity.
The Target Center debt reduction, which is currently at almost $60 million and does not include future improvements that the City is obligated to make based on its contract promising the Timberwolves that they will maintain a “first class facility,” or the operating subsidy the City pays to the management firm that runs Target Center.
The work group will be bringing back recommendations to the NCEC at our September meeting. NCEC meetings are normally held on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., locations vary. The meetings are televised on the City’s cable channel 79 throughout the month. To learn more about the NCEC go to www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/ncr/index.asp.
As the elected representative from District 6, I will be writing these periodic updates on what the Commission is working on and looking for input from community members and neighborhood organizations. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612.824.9402 ext 16.
Mark Hinds is Executive Director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association.