New group calls for neighborhood focus on equity

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During a snowy Saturday last month, a large group of residents from across the city of Minneapolis, including several CNO Board Members, gathered at Powderhorn Park Community Center to organize a new group called Unified Neighborhood Associations (UNA).

The following is a reprint from a meeting notes email that describes more about UNA.

Q: What is the vision of UNA?

A: We envision a citywide coalition of neighborhood associations working together for racial and economic justice in Minneapolis. We will build participatory democracy and create community across historic divisions. We believe neighborhood associations must have more power in decision-making and be a place where all residents can drive policy solutions, by and for their communities.

Q: What are the potential goals of UNA?

A: (1) Equitable engagement of low-income and communities of color on all boards and all 71 neighborhood associations affiliate with UNA by 2017; (2) Develop leaders and build intentional relationships among board members through bi-monthly citywide gatherings to provide popular education, training, and decision making around shared goals and values; and, (3) Transform democracy by decentralizing decision making power of the city government to a neighborhood level, while working as a catalyst for organizational cultural shifts to facilitate increased participation. (i.e. governing and engagement processes).

Q: Why are Neighborhood Associations important?

A: Neighborhood Associations exercise important controls over development and influence city policy decisions. We believe that Minneapolis’ neighborhood associations are a largely underutilized resource with the potential to engage a broad base of underrepresented low income and people of color constituencies to build political power. 71 neighborhood associations will receive $11,399,997 in funding from 2014-2016 ($3 million annually), employ dozens of staff, and have play an important role in their neighborhoods–however participation is generally low and dominated by white homeowners.

Minneapolis has more than 80 residential neighborhoods, represented by 71 established neighborhood organizations. Populations represented by Minneapolis neighborhood organizations range from as few as 800 to more than 20,000 residents. Revenues for Minneapolis neighborhood organizations run from less than $2,000 annually to more than $500,000. While most organizations represent a single neighborhood, some represent 2, 3 or even 4 neighborhoods.

Q: Who has been leading UNA and how were the leaders chosen?

A: The planning committee has 11 active members that have been meeting for four months to create a preliminary vision, goals, and structure for an alliance of neighborhood associations in Minneapolis. The committee was intentionally designed to include neighborhood association board members as well as staff from North, Northeast, and South Minneapolis, people of color, and renters. It was important to all members that the committee was authentic to the constituent bases that have traditionally be under-represented at the neighborhood association level. We intend to be an elected body voted on by UNA members in the future.

Q: What has been the decision-making process thus far?

A: The planning committee has met as a whole twice a month for four months. Several subcommittees were formed to focus on a mission and vision, neighborhood association research, and a meeting agenda. Decisions about goals, vision, and our name have been made through discussion and voting.

Q: How can I become involved/get invited to join the group?

A: The next city-wide UNA gathering will be held in two months on March 29th from 12-2pm at UROC in North Minneapolis. For more information contact <UNA.Mpls@gmail.com>.

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