How the opposition argues against the 2040 plan

With the final public hearing scheduled for this Wednesday, November 14 (4:30 pm, City Hall), it’s a good time to review the arguments you will hear from opponents of the Minneapolis 2040 plan. As we get closer to adoption of the plan, arguments increasingly consist of process complaints and delay tactics.

Related: this  series of posts from Chris Moseng addressing arguments against Minneapolis 2040 is worth reading (1 / 2).

1. “We need more study.” Opponents of the plan say there’s “no environmental study” showing the 2040 plan “is likely to be a net-positive for climate.” A group says they’ve raised $20,000 as part of a potential “legal action” to force an environmental study. The legal argument is weak; the real objective is to wound the plan politically through endless delay. (The group threatening the lawsuit is led by millionaire John Goetz of the personal injury law firm Schwebel, Goetz, and Sieben — who you might remember purchased a house in Ward 13, then bulldozed it, so he could build a bigger single-family home.)

Here’s Planning Commissioner Sam Rockwell making the case that climate scientists have studied this issue extensively and their recommendations are  to implement exactly the kinds of things that are in the 2040 plan:

We have a United Nations IPCC report which was referenced a few times tonight. It states, “the route to achieving emissions reduction is to create dense, pedestrianized cities where public transport is viable; and to implement changes in urban design that encourage walkable cities, non-motorized transit, and shorter commute distances.” And that’s what this plan does.

2. “We need an extension.” Another example of a delay tactic. I’ve written a skit so you can recognize this particular argument when it happens.

CHILD: “St. Paul got an extension. We should get one too.”
ADULT: “We’ve been preparing this for years. We don’t need one. And the deadline to request an extension has passed.”
CHILD: “St. Paul got an extension, why can’t we have one?”
ADULT: “No. St. Paul got an extension because they asked for one at the appropriate time, which was six months ago. Now it is too late.”
CHILD: “St. Paul got an extension. Where’s our extension.”

3. “Nobody knows this plan is happening.” This one is often made in conjunction with arguments for delay.  The truth is, a surprisingly massive number of people know this plan is happening. The obnoxious red yard signs, the breathless Nextdoor posts, countless newspaper articles, letters to the editor. Month, after month, after month. And yes, hundreds of public meetings over the past two years.

4. “Everything will be built out to the curb!”

This is an example of just making stuff up. The city’s zoning code still exists and will continue to exist. Setbacks and other requirements related to building scale will all still exist. Meanwhile, giant single-family homes continue to be built in Ward 13.

Now, please enjoy this picture of a “DON’T BULLDOZE MY NEIGHBORHOOD” yard sign in front of a just bulldozed house that’s about to become a 6,000 square foot single-family mega-mansion. In Ward 13.

5. “This plan/planners are calling us racists.” You hear this line from people who should know better, like City Council Member Linea Palmisano. You hear it from people who definitely don’t know better, like Palmisano’s mentor, former City Council Member Lisa McDonald. And it was a theme of testimony against the plan on October 29 at the Planning Commission.

Why does the plan have residents of Southwest Minneapolis feeling victimized on the issue of race? The 2040 plan addresses the issue by doing what I guess is considered a very radical thing: accurately describing a decades-long history of government-sanctioned racism in housing policy. A certain kind of white person is uncomfortable hearing that maybe their existence is built on a foundation of structural racism: from housing, to education, to generational wealth, to you-name-it. We should appreciate that the authors of the 2040 plan named a small piece of that racism directly.

Has single-family zoning had the racist effect of perpetuating a historical legacy of redlining and racially restrictive covenants — shutting out people of color from the  city’s most desirable neighborhoods? Yes. But let’s also be clear: the plan doesn’t call anyone a racist for not supporting the plan.

ICYMI: While we’re talking about policies that harm the historically disenfranchised, here’s video of Rich-Stanek-enthusiast Lisa McDonald posing as a spokesperson for a “marginalized group”:

6. “Show us the missing comments!” You will commonly hear complaints about an allegedly incomplete public record. At the Planning Commission two weeks ago, we heard about a batch of pre-printed postcards that were distributed and then mailed to the city, by people opposed to the 2040 plan. Opponents can’t find these postcards in the public record, and believe this to be evidence of a process gone wrong.  Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of public comments available on the city’s website. There’s no shortage of negative comments in the public record. There is no conspiracy to bury the opposition.

7. “My death will be hastened.” You may already be familiar with the red yard signs with warnings about neighborhood destruction. This guy takes it further by anticipating his own death — and blaming city planners for it.

8. “Balls.” Everyone’s favorite argument against the Minneapolis 2040 plan asks city leaders to man up and grow a pair.