That is what will be said about NRP (Neighborhood Revitalization Program) if the “Framework for the Future” is enacted by the City. Twenty-five people sat through the meeting last night up at East Side Services not really expecting much, and that’s what was delivered.
The eight-page draft plan has seven pages devoted to how the City is going to 86 the award-winning NRP model and create a whole new structure with new layers of bureaucracy at the City level. A couple of paragraphs are devoted to acknowledging that it would be nice to provide some discretionary funding too, but right now there’s no guarantee of that. The number for discretionary funds (proposed Neighborhood Investment Fund), they said, is not zero, but it’s also not any whole number between one and infinity at this point. What that means, I don’t know. The City will provide about $20,000 per neighborhood for administration, and that’s great, but as most people who work for non-profit neighborhoods know that that much in funding will provide annually only enough for communications (a newsletter) and maybe someone to put it together for part of a year–if you’re lucky.
Opinion: The program formerly known as NRP
NRP was a good model because it was all discretionary, other than the requirement to spend a certain percentage on housing (originally 50%, then 70% in phase 2). It was up to the individual neighborhoods to decide what their priorities were. So whether it the schools, parks, businesses, police, community centers, seniors, playgrounds, helping new immigrants to become part of the neighborhood, environmental, or a myriad of other issues, each neighborhood had the opportunity to tailor a plan to address their specific needs. All the while making the City a better place to live and be as a result. Sure it wasn’t always the way that the City would have spent the money, and that’s a good thing, since now you have a much more diverse and interesting community built from the grassroots up. Also, there’s the award from the United Nations demonstrating that NRP is a world model to follow.
Several of the ways to address possible discretionary funding sources involve working with the legislature, but there is no sense of urgency on the part of the City Council to work with our legislators during the ’08 session even though the funding for NRP runs out mid-2009 (next year). I guess somehow it’s all just supposed to work out. The point was brought up that the neighborhoods have not done anything wrong, in fact they’ve done everything and more they could to support the City and have taken their lumps (funding cuts) as the Common Project fund has waned away to its current state. The neighborhoods have brokered historic emission reductions from polluting facilities, created nodes of economic activity, fixed up thousands of residences and businesses, created/repaired neighborhood infrastructure, and created beautiful community centers, trails, and gardens. They’ve supported the City throughout, and when we’re hitting tough times, the City’s turning their back on the people who helped them get to where they are.
As I look at this “framework,” I have to chuckle, since under the “Themes” section (p.6) first point A states that they want to support the needs and help “Build the Capacity of Neighborhood Organizations.” The irony of that statement is that, with the City cutting funding by 90% or more, the result will be a dramatic loss of capacity, just as if you cut police/fire or the City council by 90%. I use the 90% figure because $20,000 is about 10% of the Southeast Como neighborhood budget (where I work). Additionally, as capacity is lost, the ability to leverage funding from outside grantors is lost. For SE Como that could mean hundreds of thousands lost from private foundations and public grants. That is money that would be spent locally in the community and working on environmental initiatives that provide city-wide and metro-wide benefits. Just something to think about as this process moves forward. The City clearly is looking at the control and power they seek, but at what cost to the Community as a whole? If people are concerned about house prices, or crime, or loss of public resources now, just imagine how much more amplified all of these concerns will be without an NRP. Unless some discretionary funds are discovered, neighborhoods won’t have money to plant a tree.
There’s some time to let the City know what you think about the proposed “Framework” — three more meetings on January 28th, January 29th and February 4th. You can email Jennifer Lastoka at Jennifer.Lastoka@ci.minneapolis.mn.us or call her at 612-673-3163 (she is collecting the input on the framework). You should be able to get this information from the Community Engagement Website at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/communications/communityengagement.asp
Oh hey, they’re making good progress on the discretionary stadiums here in Minneapolis. Maybe some progress can be made on supporting funding for communities?