CIDNA spells out more N2020 concerns

Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association

March 18, 2019

Minneapolis City Council Members:

Council Member Kevin Reich, Ward 1

Council Member Cam Gordon, Ward 2

Council Member Steve Fletcher, Ward 3

Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, Ward 4

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, Ward 5

Council Member Abdi Warsame, Ward 6

Council Member Lisa Goodman, Ward 7

Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, Ward 8

Council Member Alondra Cano, Ward 9

Council President Lisa Bender, Ward 10

Council Member Jeremy Schroeder, Ward 11

Council Member Andrew Johnson, Ward 12

Council Member Linea Palmisano, Ward 13

Dear Minneapolis City Council Members:

Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association writes to ask you not to approve the current draft of Neighborhood 2020 Recommendations.

We ask you instead to instruct the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department to partner in good faith with neighborhood organizations to revise the document for your consideration at a later date.

We have two major categories of concern, and some additional comments.

Content/The Recommendations run contrary to — and threaten — the fundamental character and purpose of neighborhood organizations (NOs) as independent, separately constituted, grassroots groups of citizen volunteers.

Your NCR staff is proposing to micromanage our organizational structure, operations, budget, and even programming to the extent that NOs would effectively start mutating into extensions of Minneapolis City government. Such a consolidation of volunteer efforts under city management would diminish the voice and power of citizens, while the City would lose the valuable information provided by the NOs.

Neighborhoods are the fundamental building blocks of community. They are where real life happens. The value of NOs is that they empower ordinary citizens to voluntarily take responsibility for improving their communities at this fundamental “building block” level. NOs energize the community with voices, visions, enthusiasm and power that differ from what has grown up — or even can grow up — in the bureaucracy. CIDNA and many other NOs existed long before the city provided funding to them, and engage in an array of valuable activities that are neither funded by the City nor part of its purview. For these reasons, it is critical that NOs remain autonomous.

The Recommendations document proposes a model in the direction of a City takeover of NOs; in this model, citizens would lose power, and the City would lose citizen engagement.

Is this what the City really wants? It is definitely not what citizens want.

Process/ The terms of the relationship between NOs and the City must not be dictated unilaterally by the City. Like any other relationship, it must be bilaterally defined. Otherwise, it simply cannot work — at least in the manner of a free-will partnership.

NCR states on its website that “The Neighborhoods 2020 Framework Recommendations are built off of the recommendations from three community work groups.” As you are well aware, members of those work groups say that their recommendations have been largely ignored in the document. They are dismayed, even angry.

We believe that at this point it may not be productive to debate whether or not the work group recommendations were, in fact, incorporated. We urge the City Council instead to be responsive to the reality that work group members believe their work was not honored, and that that dozens of NOs across the city agree with them.

We also note that Recommendations, written by City staff, sets the terms for the NO side of the relationship, but is virtually silent about its own. This is not acceptable. It is unreasonable to expect any party to agree to a relationship without knowing what role will be played by the other side.

It is up to the City Council to decide whether it will force a unilaterally dictated relationship on NOs, or whether it will require a pause in the process that will give the parties time to design together a more legitimate, voluntary, trust-based relationship, with mutually agreed-upon terms.

If the City Council truly wants to empower citizens and foster good, productive relationships with its neighborhoods, that is what it should do.

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