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Tuesday August 20th 2019

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Commentary: Why aren’t city officials listening to residents?

By Janet skidmore

I try to be a good citizen.  I volunteer as a block club leader and as a neighborhood safety patrol member.  I am a long time reserve teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools.  I have been rehabbing a beautiful 100 year old home in south Minneapolis not to flip it, but to live in it myself and restore its beauty for the sake of preservation.  I provide really affordable housing for 3 women in my own home. 

I have a block club with an email list of over 40 people, plus I am active on Nextdoor, where I hear the opinions of many of my neighbors in the Central neighborhood of Minneapolis.

I attend community meetings when I can, even the ones that are in the middle of the day, which precludes me taking a substitute teaching job that day, resulting in a day’s loss of income.

I would think that the city of Minneapolis would appreciate a resident like me and want to keep me living here.

I can show you numerous emails representing years of attempts to address on behalf of myself and my neighbors situations that have occurred in our community with no input or recourse on our part.  These situations include:

*Increasingly expensive housing options being built in south Minneapolis, even though there is lots of talk about the importance of affordable housing from my government.  I can’t afford these apartments and condos.  My solution for housing has been to buy a house on foreclosure, make it habitable, and then offer inexpensive rooms for rent to women, which helps them and also helps me have an affordable place to live myself.  I believe it is called NOAH housing.

*Rising property taxes, coupled with incredible inequity in the Minneapolis Public Schools, which are funded by those property taxes.  I am a regular substitute teacher in the MPS, so I get to see great education happening in wealthy neighborhoods, and horrendous lack of opportunity for students in poor neighborhoods.

*Important decisions blithely being made, driven by ideology rather than practicality, such as the Minneapolis 2040 plan, which none of my neighbors that I know of in Central or Powderhorn support.  These decisions will radically affect the day to day life of the residents, yet have had no meaningful input from those same residents.  Minneapolis 2040 spells for me turning my neighborhood into a place where I, as a soon to be senior citizen, will no longer be able to live.

*Lack of access to the 5 disability parking spaces at the Hiawatha light rail and sudden closing of the park and ride there, with the giant parking lot standing empty for the last two years. As parking downtown has become too expensive for me, I have relied on this lot for years for my trips downtown, which I do at least twice per week.  Having recently had knee surgery, I also now have a disability tag for my car, but nowhere to use it at the Hiawatha rail stop.  In addition, access to that statin from the south side for the many residents who walk there has become increasingly inhospitable, especially in winter with all the snow and ice.  Even during the April winter parking restrictions, that lot stood empty, with a neighborhood resident plowing a single path through the lot so that the many people who use that stop could walk in from the south.

*The plague of panhandling in my neighborhood, which I have tried for years to get my city council representative, Alondra Cano, and our mayor to address, to no avail.  The panhandling results in drug crime and trespassing in our very back yards, and has been the cause of 4 neighbors in my block club getting fed up and moving out of the city.  This included a young couple who might have raised their children in Minneapolis, but have now opted for the suburbs.  And, I have been noticing:  NO panhandlers on the median strip all the way up and down Lyndale Avenue.  Why, then, do we have so many along 2nd Avenue….what is the secret?  Why such a difference?  I can’t believe they just prefer our poor neighborhood……what, or who, keeps them from panhandling on Lyndale???  It is a mystery to me.  Perhaps you have some ideas?

*The installation of bike lanes on what were once primary through streets for autos to get through south Minneapolis.  These could easily be located a block over, so that the auto traffic would not be so hugely disrupted.  But Ms. Cano and others do not respond to reasonable requests from the public.

*The East Phillips Urban Farm proposal, an incredibly well planned proposal with input from many different and important neighborhood organizations and residents, simply ignored by the Minneapolis City Council and the Mayor, in favor of increased pollution and industrialization in that parcel of land.

Whichever situation I have tried to address over the last 5 years with my own council person or the mayor, the response I have received has been one of the following:

– No response.

– A response from a staffer who says he or she will look into it.  2 months later when I make another request for help in the situation, the staffer will ask to be reminded of what my original question was.

– A response from the representative giving information that I and my community already know, but no information about how that decision was made or by who, and who we should contact or how we might address and try to alter the situation.

– Asking me if I have tried contacting X other government official, or directing me to contact that person (This is not my job to do.  What am I paying government employees for, anyway, with my taxes?)

This all amounts to taxation without representation. I have absolutely no one to represent or advocate for me or my neighbors in all of the city or county government.

This letter is one more attempt to have input into matters which affect my daily life and the lives of my neighbors. I will be interested in what response I receive from you, and I will be sharing that response with as many of my neighbors as possible.

Janet Skidmore is a Block Leader for Lake St. and 3rd Ave. S. She sent out to Mayor Frey, all of the city council representatives, including her own, Alondra Cano, and all of the new Metropolitan council representatives, including her own, Robert Lilligren, on May 14, and to new county commissioner Angela Conley. As of press time, she had only heard back from one city council person, Lisa Goodman, who is not her own representative. She feels that her own two representatives, at least, should have responded by now.

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Reader Feedback

One Response to “Commentary: Why aren’t city officials listening to residents?”

  1. Carin Peterson says:

    Dear Janet Skidmore,

    I start with a rousing standing ovation and a HUGE thank you!!

    As one who served on a city task force to develop parmeters guiding engagement between city depts and the citizens WHO PAY THEIR SALARIES ~and as there is already SOMETHING in place ~ the near across the board way you have been IGNORED is beyond disappointing…it is shameful!
    And sadly, this is becoming standard behavior.
    I am not an expert on the history of actual engagement with city electeds, but it feels like historical precedent is being set for the complete lack of two-way communication with Mpls in favor of a top down ” we know what is best” style of “leadership”.

    Yeah, the City Council is busy. Heck, who isnt?!

    You (your feelings & friends on the block) are FAR FROM ALONE!

    I am on the board of the Sheridan Neighborhood Org, a member of the Broadway St Task Force, and, I too try to make as many meetings as possible. Including those of other nghbd boards. Like you. I have seen first hand the shock and anger as people became AWARE of the 2040 plan and the dangers to our community buried in its 400 pages! (Starting in the Spring of 2018- the city speaks of YEARS of community engagement but I have yet to meet anyone involved in this earlier “outreach”

    It appears that the City (cped) carefully chose with whom to engage, up to and including concessions made to accomodate concerns ~ for just THOSE nghnds (PPNA anyone?)
    Thus ensuring they could claim early and ardent support. And SHOCK, I tell you, SHOCK that without doubt the VAST MINORITY of citizens jad absolutely NOT A CLUE about 2040!

    Learning this, did they slow down? Request a delay (as was granted to St Paul. Who is using a scalpel while Mpls chose the unproven HAMMER route)?
    Did they listen (technically yes)?
    Did they HEAR?
    A resounding NO!

    ~400 amendments (unavailable to the inconsequentional wee little resident) (with absolutely NO time for the council to have read)
    ~ 4 hours of 85-95% (depends on whom is doing the math) negative reaction/commemts re the Plan.
    ~And an impressive, impassioned plea from ONE council member

    Our electeds?
    Spent less than 10 minutes discussing the plan. Voting 13-1 to approve this monstrosity of a public planning tome!

    We have been consistently (unless one is POCI) been invited to the table yet denied the right to EAT!

    Disingenuous at best.
    Dishonest on its face.
    Demoralizing to/for the citizenry.
    And damaging to democracy!

    A “go it alone” city council must bw made to…go away.

    I thank you for ALL that you are doing ~ so that we might retain some semblance of the City we ALL love!

    Good luck to you in Central!
    Please contact me sometime. Perhaps we can find ways to keep OUR MEMBERS engaged,
    Therefore… ready for the battle!

    Nice Job!!

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