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NRP advocates brave snowdrifts to meet legislators
65 people including neighborhood leaders, 9 state lawmakers, and 2 City Council members from Minneapolis turned out to a meeting at Corcoran Park on Sunday, Dec. 12, despite a weekend snowstorm that buried cars, crippled transit, and collapsed the Metrodome.
The meeting was called to discuss a recent proposal by Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council to re-purpose Neighborhood Revitalization funds as "tax relief," a move that would require approval by the Legislature. The City Council plans to vote on the proposal on Monday, Dec. 13 at a 6:05 p.m. public hearing at City Hall, less than one week after the proposal was first made known to the public by an article in the Star Tribune.
Senator Ken Kelash, Chair of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) Policy Board, explained that while past mayors and city councils have tried to take control of Neighborhood funding, "this is the first time we've been ambushed, and that's what this is--it's an ambush."
Representative Joe Mullery called the City's proposal "improper and illegal," adding, "it's amazing they took an action like this without working with us at all."
Representative Karen Clark said she was "appalled" by the City's proposal, and by its "disproportionate impact on low-income communities and people of color."
Sen. Scott Dibble, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, Sen. Linda Higgens, Rep. Jeff Hayden, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, and incoming Representative-Elect Marion Greene were also on hand, as were Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Cam Gordon. (Find video of the lawmakers' comments further below.)
When asked if they would consider carrying the proposal in the 2011 Legislative session, none of state lawmakers said they would be willing to carry the City's current proposal. Council Member Gordon published an opinion piece in the Twin Cities Daily Planet explaining his opposition.
"There are clear winners and losers" in the City's proposal to re-purpose Neighborhood funds as "tax relief," explained Maren McDonnell, president of the Harrison Neighborhood Association. "Neighborhoods with the most poor, people of color, and foreclosures lose, and the affluent neighborhoods win. North Minneapolis is going to lose over $3 million, but the average Northside household will save $14. That's not enough for cab fair." The cuts in Harrison, explained McDonnell, include "first homebuying programs, rehab programs, and money for foreclosures." Residents from struggling Southside neighborhoods shared how their neighborhood would lose, too.
In its recent deliberations on the future of neighborhood funding, City leaders asserted that "the capacity to organize at the neighborhood level is a basic city service for which the City will provide funding of approximately $3,000,000 per year to neighborhood organizations." But critics view the latest City proposal as evidence of the intention to transfer dollars and capacity to the City's new Neighborhood and Community Relations Department. "The Mayor and the City Council clearly and finally publicly have expressed their desire to eliminate NRP and transfer its resources to the City," wrote NRP Director Bob Miller in a Dec. 9 letter to neighborhood leaders. Sen. Kelash noted that the new City department has 12 staff, an overlap of administration representing "a huge amount of inefficiency."
At the Dec. 12 meeting, Miller explained that the Neighborhood cuts "would have no impact on (lowering) 2011 property taxes." Rep. Clark clarified, saying, "it would have a delayed impact on property taxes but an immediate impact on neighborhoods."
JoAnne Kelty from the Hawthorne neighborhood explained how Neighborhood funds have leveraged additional resources. "We worked for ten years, fighting crime, calling 9-1-1, and working with housing developers. Neighbors were ready leave but because of NRP we were able to commit time and resources. We have made a difference. Jimmy Carter (representing Habitat for Humanity) even came out to build houses with us. And all the elected officials came out to claim credit and get their picture taken with the President. Now they are cutting the funding we need to keep the work going."
"I think one thing our legislators made really clear today, is how important they think the work neighborhoods do across Minneapolis and that the City should be looking at all of the options for property tax relief, not just neighborhoods," said Lyndale Neighborhood Association Executive Director Mark Hinds. At the meeting, Hinds presented a recent history of neighborhood funding that showed how neighborhood organizations have already shared in the City's budget cuts.
"Under the Mayor's 2009 City Budget plan," Hinds explained, "the Mayor had recommended $8 million in funding for neighborhood programs, and this amount was reduced to $5.1 million for the 2011 budget. Under the proposal released last week," Hinds continued, "new funding for neighborhoods would be cut to $0 for 2012 and 2013."
The Dec. 12 meeting was organized by the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization on behalf of leaders from the Beltrami, Cedar-Isles-Dean, Central, Como, Cooper, Corcoran, Diamond Lake, Downtown East, Downtown West, Elliot Park, Ericsson, Field, Folwell, Hale, Harrison, Hiawatha, Holland, Howe, Jordan, Keewaydin, Kenny, King Field, Lind-Bohanon, Linden Hills, Longfellow, Loring Park, Lowry Hill East, Lyndale, Lynnhurst, McKinley, Minnehaha, Marcy-Holmes, Marshall Terrace, Morris Park, Near North, Northeast Park, Northrop, Page, Phillips East, Phillips Midtown, Phillips West, Powderhorn Park, Prospect Park, Regina, St. Anthony West, Seward, Shingle Creek, Standish, Stevens Square-Loring Heights, Tangletown, Waite Park, Webber-Camden, Wenonah, Whittier, Willard Hay, and Windom Park neighborhoods.
NOTE: If you have trouble viewing the videos on this page, you can go to the NRP page, and check in the right-hand column.
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