The City of Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations Department is proposing a new neighborhood program, “Neighborhoods 2020,” that looks nice as a and shiny four-color brochure.— But in reality, the proposed new neighborhood organization program was designed pre-COVID, pre-George Floyd’s death, pre-defund the police tragedy, pre-warzone destruction from riots and lootings, pre-escalating crime city-wide, pre-business and resident urban flight, pre-major school and pre-park encampments and changes, and pre-substantial lawsuits against the city. All of which have added tremendous additional challenges and costs to taxpayers. The work of neighborhood organizations has clearly changed since March 2020.
As of August 20 the city still isn’t clear on its 2021 budget shortfall totals or priorities. It isn’t clear about what defunding police means or the costs involved in establishing anything new around this topic. How can residents be asked to consider taking on the costs of a new multi-tiered neighborhood program that had no secured or planned funding built in for the future? There are many new issues that fundamentally change the priorities and the work of a future placed-based neighborhood organization program with all that’s happened and in the context of a future Minneapolis 2040 plan.
A placed-based neighborhood organization is like a local storefront business. A local nonprofit business that is defined within local geographical boundaries, is registered as a 501c3 or c4 with the IRS. They are registered with the State of MN Attorney General and Secretary of State to do business as a formal nonprofit and to be able to legally seek funding from the public. It signs a legally binding contract and works on common city goals from the adopted city plan (Minneapolis 2040). Defines their projects in their neighborhood organization action plan contracts that were defined by residents, reviewed and approved by the Neighborhood Revitalization Program Policy Board (legally required), NCR Director, City Council and Mayor. All before they even put out a flyer or put up an event tent. What some may call bureaucratic others might call accountable and transparent. The current program is designed so all public partners and funds are spent on specifically defined legally, and accountably and transparently reported to the public. And they have elected volunteer boards that are held accountable for the board and organizations actions for further accountability.
The proposed neighborhood program has some supporters like those that recently signed on to a letter sent August 17. Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc., Citizens for a Loring Park Community, Armatage Neighborhood Association employers elected and other neighborhood organizations to move forward with the currently proposed neighborhood plan claiming “…As a strong collection of neighborhood organizations leading the way into the future of organizing around equity, we are urging the City Council to allocate $3 million additional dollars into the proposed racial equity formula for Neighborhoods for a total of a $7.1 million investment to address racial disparities at the neighborhood level.” The letter outlines the values and findings of the CURA report and believes the proposed plan will expedite the cause of racial equity.
However, an entirely different letter sent by the Longfellow Community Council, as one of the most racially diverse areas of the city and the hardest hit by riots and Standish Erickson Neighborhood to all neighborhood organizations and City Council April 29, 2020 states:
“…We have many specific concerns (about the proposed Neighborhoods 2020 plan) including but not limited to,
● The capacity of the proposed program to achieve its intended outcomes with such a paltry investment by the City.
● The budget and guidelines are an unrealistic and unfunded mandate.
● We question the logic and efficacy of dividing 4.1 million dollars into 3 different programs to fund an undefined set of organizations and projects, the majority of which will be distributed through competitive grants.
● We are wary of the movable target that is the data used to define the program priorities when with each new iteration came a new set of data points.
● If this new program were enacted, neighborhood boards and the input from residents would be silenced. We are being told that as independent nonprofits we deserve little if any funding, and the small amount of funding we would receive would only be used to advance the goals of the current City leadership, not the priorities of the community.”
A simple synopsis of previous neighborhood organizations work: The neighborhood organization program work from 1999 to 2009 focused around making decisions about “investing” in the neighborhoods and community that aligned with local “city goals.” The seven neighborhoods of Camden during these years had over $20M to invest in neighborhoods and in Camden Community. That led to tremendous community assets being added to the neighborhoods like several Common Bond communities, Humboldt Industrial Park, Camden Physician’s building improvements, library improvements, home improvement loans, business loans/grants, and many others that leveraged millions of dollars, volunteer hours and many other partnerships and dollars to our community.
From 2010-2020 the work has been focused around “community engagement.” Outcomes and investments for the community? Community building projects, events and city conventions.
For 2021,the proposed neighborhood organization program’s purpose or work is defined as: “The purpose of a neighborhood organization is to engage and mobilize residents to address issues within their geographic areas.” This vague language brings up the question: Could neighborhood organizations be funded using city general funds or other public funds to “engage and mobilize residents to address perhaps non-local national issues within their geographic areas?” In reviewing the document, “addressing issues” appears to need to be more clearly defined, along with clearly defining which community-based organizations will be considered to be funded and why they do not have the same requirements as neighborhood organizations. Also unknown are who the handful of people at the city would be in charge of determining which neighborhoods get funding and what gets funded and what exact general funds or other monies will be used to fund an entirely new complex multi-tiered proposed program.
Generally the costs of going faster without a plan, or starting and implementing a new program are greatly increased adding potential additional burden to taxpayers. The current program is funded through Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds and Community Participation Program (CPP) funds. It also is a system whereby all neighborhoods across the city are allocated a portion of funding to do the important work that the neighborhood organizations determine.
Many neighborhood organizations requested earlier this year that the city delay their vote on the plan for an entire year until the effects of the global pandemic subsided. There was pushback from some on the city council but the July 15 deadline was set to September 15 and then now to September 30. Neighborhood organizations have received only two emails from the NCR Department director since March 2020 and none with additional information about this proposed program or any new priorities due to the extreme issues facing Minneapolis.
The current neighborhood organization program is currently budgeted and funded through Dec 2020 with a portion of that funding in the current 2020 budget to carry through Dec 2021. Neighborhoods appear to be already beginning to dialogue more and working on more indepth on transformative work around racial equity. They are demonstrating again they can evolve and make changes within the legal framework of the locally focused program. Renewing and rebuilding the city will take much dialogue, planning, and funding. A plan that fully assesses budget needs and investments in order to help identify an even more place-based, focused and adequate future neighborhood organization investment program. One with a permanent non-taxbased future funding city-wide to ensure to address racial equity, local infrastructure, investments and local priority needs. It will take many partners of all kinds to rebuild and renew this city. The neighborhood organization program and community based partners play a role but the City needs more time to fully assess it’s budgets. And more clarifications seem to be needed with the proposed program about the true costs to taxpayers before launching this new proposed program.
Any resident or neighborhood organization can submit a comment or an updated public comment to replace an existing submission. The NCR Department is taking comments at email@example.com with the subject line “Revised Public Comment.”
For any questions regarding the Neighborhoods 2020 plan, contact your specific neighborhood specialist or email NCR Steven Gallagher, Neighborhoods 2020 project lead, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So have your say on how your neighborhood gets funded. The Camden Community has seven neighborhoods – see the map on page 8. Comments must be received by 11:59 p.m., September 30. There are different ways to submit comments. Email Neighborhoods2020@minneapolismn.gov; call 612-673-3737; text messaging and voicemail 612-518-8743; or mail to Neighborhood and Community Relations, 105 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55401
The final guidelines and public comments will be presented to a city council committee and then the city council for a vote. The dates are to be determined.