NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday March 21st 2019

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Controversy reaches crisis

Editor’s note: The following was submitted as an open letter by Carol Pass, Cassandra Holmes, Chad Hebert, Clarence Bischoff, Dean Dovolis, Abah Mohamed, Steve Sandberg, and Jose Luis Villasenor. 

TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The city threatened eminent domain to purchase the Roof Depot site in order to expand its public works facility at 26th and Hiawatha Ave, as viewed from the Sabo bridge. Neighborhood citizens want part of the property for use as an urban farm to create jobs for local residents.

On Dec. 7, 2018 the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution which we naively thought held out hope for serious community-driven green, sustainable activities in a portion of the Roof Depot site. We waited for over two months for a meeting with Council Member Alondra Cano to explain the “back doors” that appeared to have been opened in her “Staff Direction.” 

We then had a long-awaited meeting with City Chief Financial Officer Mark Ruff who acknowledged that he helped C.M. Cano write the “Staff Direction” though he stated much was C. M. Cano’s work. Although, by statute, members of the City Council hold decision-making power on this property, it is clear that CFO Ruff assumed he was speaking for the City Council when he stated at our Feb. 4, 2019 meeting that “…there will be no non-municipal use…” of anything in the Roof Depot site with the possible exception of off-hour use of the training facility. 

To further his point, he stated that he has control over the nearly $4 million architectural budget, and he will bring his architects his interpretation of the staff direction and that is what they will design.

Childhood
Elevated Blood Lead, Arsenic, and Per Capita Income

The staff direction has many possible interpretations. CFO Ruff’s is one. However, in our discussions with every council member, except Council Member Goodman who refused to meet with us, there is no possibility the Council vote would have come out unanimously in favor of NOTHING FOR THE COMMUNITY at the Roof Depot site if they had known that was to be the interpretation of the outcome. If that were the case, the staff direction would have included only 3 words “Approve Option A.” The remaining two pages would have been irrelevant. 

So, either CFO Ruff and staff are usurping city council decision making, or the council members we talked with were not being truthful. 

In other words, if CFO Ruff’s interpretation prevails, and the city council members were being truthful, then decision-making in Minneapolis is upside down and staff driven with meaningful community engagement totally absent and the power of council decision-making totally neutered!

The facts: 

1) After being cheated out of the 7.5-acre Roof Depot site in 2015 by the unethical city threat of eminent domain, and

2) After our repeated attempts to negotiate in good faith for a shared use agreement with the city at this site by reducing our request to 3, then 2, and eventually only 1-acre of the site’s 16 + acres to be set aside for the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm Project, and

3) After the hope of no more pollution at this site and any hope of environmental and economic justice for this multi-cultural economically and health challenged neighborhood has been ripped away by a controlling city staff, and/or an ineffective city council and 

4) Since this community has no intention of losing this opportunity to create community driven green and second chance job opportunities, desperately needed affordable family housing, organic food production a coffee shop amnd small café and a bicycle repair facility on the Greenway,

Therefore:

1) We strongly suggest that the City Council and Staff seek an alternate site for the Water Yard, or

2) Immediately start meaningful negotiations with EPNI and the Community to go back to our 3-acre option at the Roof Depot site, and

3) Immediately start working to move the other neighborhood polluters out of East Phillips – our people have suffered under the devastating effects of their negligence long enough.

A note to our supporters:

Please contact the mayor, the city council members, the state and federal senators and representatives and the governor and help us make the case for what is right. In your calls insist on real community engagement and development instead of city sponsored increases in pollution and congestion which is in violation of the state’s Clark/Berglund Cumulative Pollution legislation: Thank you!

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