To: Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson, Ward 9 Council Member Alondra Cano and Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon
CC: David Rubedor, Steven Gallagher
From: Jeff Fisher, Longfellow Community Council President
RE: Neighborhoods 2020 Draft Recommendations
Dear Council Members,
The Longfellow Community Council (LCC) Board of Directors has reviewed the draft Neighborhoods 2020 Recommendations and we are requesting that you do not approve them in their current form. Instead, we ask that you continue funding Neighborhood Organizations (NOs) at the current level and follow existing CPP program guidelines until a revised plan can be created through intentional coordination with existing Minneapolis NOs. In doing so, you would be honoring the commitment made by the Minneapolis City Council when adopting the International Association for Public Participation’s (IAP2 )Spectrum of Community Participation, which emphasizes “partnering with the public in each aspect of the decision, including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution.” We make this request for the following reasons:
Community Engagement (45-day comment period)
The Neighborhood and Community Relations Department (NCR) is recommending immense policy/guideline changes that will heavily impact NOs, community members and businesses if approved. A 45-day comment period is not sufficient time to inform, educate and seek input from residents on the Neighborhoods 2020 recommendations. NOs can notify residents of the recommendations and provide them with a link to the City’s website, but that does not allow for residents to have face-to-face contact or have their questions answered directly. To do that requires NOs to set up community meetings which involves setting a date, finding a location, securing speakers and facilitators, marketing the event and developing an agenda. It is not possible to meaningfully engage residents in such a short window of time.
Additionally, the Neighborhoods 2020 timeline does not provide City staff adequate time to compile and thoroughly analyze public input on the recommendations, in order to make changes before presenting a final draft to council for approval in April.
Major issues with the recommendations include but are not limited to the following:
Process and Implementation
- NCR did not have any direct interface with NO staff or board members collectively, in order to gain knowledge of the needs of NOs to be successful.
- An explanation was not given for the decision to eliminate the work group recommendations for funding, governance structure and a city-wide engagement plan. By failing to provide this explanation, staff have not fulfilled the IAP2 commitment to provide feedback on how public input influenced their decisions.
- NCR would be a funder, manager and evaluator of NOs, however the department does not have the capacity or expertise to fulfill these roles. This oversight also conflicts with the reality that NOs are independent nonprofit organizations and are managed by their Board of Directors.
- Without including funding recommendations for respondents to consider, such as the source and allocation formula, it is not possible to assess the feasibility or impact of the program. A draft budget should have been prepared before the recommendations were sent out for review.
- The recommendations do not include plans for increased staff and funding capacity, which would be necessary to fulfill the increased outreach requirements outlined in the recommendations. Ultimately, the changes to priorities could lead to some organizations being required to lay off staff whose roles are unrelated to accomplishing new goals, even if these positions were created in response to a request made by the community.
- The recommendations would weaken NOs that rely on part-time staff or, solely on volunteers. These organization lack the capacity to do the initial work required to pool services and partner with larger organizations. Neighborhood organizations are part of a system that should be preserved and enhanced regardless of size.
- The recommendations provide no objective criteria to measure program success to obtain additional funding.
- NOs provide an essential service that has likely saved the City of Minneapolis more money than the original investment made over 25 years ago. Funding was used for parks, schools, demolition of blighted buildings, police programs, home improvement loan, libraries etc. It would be beneficial to conduct a benefit analysis that would inform any future funding formula.
Diversity/Representation and Outreach
- Using board diversity to measure success is a short-sighted approach. By holding organizations accountable for achieving reflective board representation you ignore the systemic and cultural barriers to serving on such bodies.
- A voluntary survey is not a reliable method of tracking board diversity. Requiring board members to complete a demographic survey would deter some community members from joining, especially when asking about personal information such as income and disability status.
- The focus should be on accountability around the robust engagement outreach plan included in the recommendations, to ensure that neighborhoods prioritize identifying and addressing the unique needs of underrepresented groups, regardless of who serves on their board.
- Full consideration of the recommendations is not possible because they lack vital details related to implementation, funding, governance and NCR structure.
- The recommendations do not include a timeline for base funding, funding proposal submission deadlines, notification of funding awards, implementation of a new program or time allowed for NOs to change organizational structures i.e., bylaws and board membership.
- No information has been provided regarding the timeline or process for developing the technical details of the program if the framework is approved by the Minneapolis City Council.
For over 25 years, independent nonprofit neighborhood organizations have continually worked to identify and address the priorities of residents in their respective communities. The Neighborhood system serves as a connective tissue between residents, City staff and elected officials, while also managing the needs, priorities and challenges faced by Minneapolis neighborhoods.
The proposed Neighborhoods 2020 recommendations fail to recognize neighborhood organizations historic commitment to community engagement, their unique ability to develop close relationships with residents and businesses, and to bring people together to strengthen our communities. In their current state, the overarching recommendations will disable our ability to continue to do this effectively.
We appreciate the intent of the recommendations and ultimately share some of the outcome goals however, there is too much to be resolved in such a short amount of time. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our request.
LCC Board President