Over-Processed Minneapolis 2040 to Begin Next Step In Process

Lisa McDonald, a spokesperson for a group opposing the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan said at a press conference earlier this week, “the City has failed to engage the community in any meaningful way.” McDonald, who is also a former Minneapolis City Council Member, claimed Minneapolis officials “wrap their work in secrecy” and that there hasn’t been an “honest accounting and summary of what citizens really said in online comments, emails, and meetings.”

At a meeting of the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association yesterday, McDonald called City Council President Lisa Bender a “weenie” after Bender answered McDonald’s question about an $80,000 PR contract. McDonald wasn’t happy with Bender’s explanation that city departments have the authority to enter into contracts under $100,000 without council involvement.

Here’s a true thing: the city has published every written comment received about Minneapolis 2040 on their website. Every single comment. It’s also true that Minneapolis 2040 has been a well-publicized and exhaustive multi-year process. My summary:

  • 2016-2017: many community meetings and other forms of engagement
  • March 22, 2018: first draft of the plan is released to great fanfare (4plex!) and much journalism
  • March – July: residents attend countless meetings, submit comments, eat free food, distribute yard signs
  • July 22, 2018: an often vigorous and combative comment period ends
  • Today: following two months of work by planners to synthesize community and council member feedback, a second draft of the plan is likely to be published this week
  • Next: more public feedback; possible revisions by members of the Planning Commission, followed by possible revisions from the City Council.
The “secrecy” criticism is an attempt to whip up pretend controversy. At this moment, the city’s planning department isn’t eager to talk publicly about the second draft of an expansive long-range plan that isn’t finished. The city is doing a normal and reasonable thing. There was a lengthy comment period on the first draft; that comment period is over. It’s reasonable to take two months to assess the public feedback and revise. There will be a process in the next few months for discussion and feedback on a second draft, but that process won’t start until a second draft actually exists (likely in a few days).

Then there’s the suggestion from critics that they have been left out of the process. Here’s who is leading the Red Sign Brigade in the fight against Minneapolis 2040:

  • Current elected official (Carol Becker)
  • Former City Council Member
  • Current Member of  the Charter Commission
  • Former member of the City Planning Commission
  • People who sue the city to stop apartments on transit
  • Person who filed for the trademark to “Wedge Live” in bizarre, unlawful attempt to shut down the website you’re reading right now (Carol Becker again)

There’s nothing wrong with being any of the things in this list (except Carol Becker). But these people can’t claim to be excluded from, or unable to navigate, a public process. They are the masters of public process who are endlessly outraged because suddenly they have to share the process with people who disagree with them.

Public engagement for Minneapolis 2040 has been impressive in a lot of ways. I don’t know how the city could have thrown more resources into it. There have been well over 100 (perhaps I heard 150?) extremely publicized meetings as part of a years-long process. I’ve eaten free meals in every part of the city. Minneapolis2040.com, which presented a massive document pretty nicely, was open for comments for months. Countless articles, editorials and letters to the editor were published over those many months. Many hundreds (thousands?) of yard signs were distributed by both sides. Comments were also accepted by email, by postal mail, by post-it note, or by shouting at your council member in person. I saw multi-lingual bus bench promotions; Instagram ads; posts across all social media channels, including the always objectionable Nextdoor.com.

Minneapolis 2040 was over-processed. And that’s fine. Better too much than too little. But for anyone to say there was insufficient or unfair process, that’s really just a matter of not liking the outcome. That’s understandable, because the Red Yard Sign Brigade is a collection of people who are used to having process go their way.

A note on Minneapolis 2040 politics (it’s news to me!)

A few weeks ago, Ward 13 Council Member Linea Palmisano claimed to City Pages that city staff has called constituents racists for opposing the plan. Last Tuesday on Nextdoor.com, Palmisano bragged about having helped bring to light the city’s $80,000 contract with a PR consultant. Lisa McDonald, the above-mentioned spokesperson for the anti-Minneapolis 2040 organization, used both those talking points at her press conference on Tuesday. This seems to be a thing everyone already knows, but I am now realizing that Lisa McDonald is a close adviser to Linea Palmisano. I had blocked that possibility from mind because I assumed Palmisano was more resourceful than that.

(Full disclosure: Lisa McDonald said “F you” to me at a neighborhood association meeting yesterday morning. She then called me a “simple little boy.” In response to inquiries about my well-being, I’m releasing a statement that says “I remain unharmed.”)

UPDATE 9/24: “Minneapolis for Everyone” spokesperson Lisa McDonald is a longtime supporter of Trump-backing, ICE-cooperating, Republican Sheriff Rich Stanek. McDonald’s most recent donation to Stanek’s campaign came in February of this year.