Ford in Our Future

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The Ford Plant task force has met a second time, and I wish there were some dramatic progress to report on our mission to come up with redevelopment options for the site, but the most dramatic thing I have to say is that, to date, the task force has gotten no traction whatsoever. In fact, we have not even really gotten off the ground, even though – while meeting only twice a month – our charge is to come up with several alternative options within a scant six months.

Monday’s meeting was long on more historical background and a less-than-productive airing of concerns by members of the task force, with a short breakout session that yielded little of note toward the end of the evening. There was also a presentation on zoning issues affecting the site, but it raised more questions than the PED staff had time to answer.

The lack of traction reflects, in large part, the unwieldy nature of the task force. At 25 members representing three neighborhoods, as well as Ford and other stakeholders, the Ford Plant group is larger than the Ayd Mill task force which had representatives on it from nine St. Paul neighborhoods. That large number of Ford task force members, combined with the fact that all but about 20 minutes of the two meetings have involved the whole task force assembled as a single unit, has precluded much by way of substantive discussion. It’s a prescription for a task force ripe with the potential of being led by the nose to reach certain foregone conclusions.

While – who knows? – that might be the whole idea behind putting together such a big committee, more likely it is the result of the political necessity of accomodating as many stakeholders as possible. At the same time, the process of assembling the task force occurred very quickly; calls for nominees went out at the end of November and members were chosen in mid-January.

Meanwhile, there are some external circumstances that could materially affect the work of the task force. One I alluded to in my last blog: Ford has already put its hydroelectric plant (which has been providing 13 megawatts of green energy to the site) out for bids. The outcome of that sale might limit some options currently under discussion. Then, too, it’s possible that if the task force doesn’t soon give evidence of its effectiveness, Ford might — like several people in attendance the other night — grow restive, then decide the whole process is not really worth its time and energies.

— Rich Broderick is vice president of the Macalester-Groveland Community Council, a co-founder of the Daily Planet, and Ford Plant task force member. His opinions do not reflect the official views of the task force or the MGCC