Steve Fletcher is as confused as I am about Neighborhoods 2020

Here’s how the debate about neighborhood association reform and funding in Minneapolis has unfolded so far:

  • City’s NCR department recommends some good ideas
  • Engagement is done almost exclusively to neighborhood association board members/staff
  • Neighborhood associations hate it with a passion
  • In response, the framework was watered down to eliminate good ideas
  • Council passes framework on a split vote

And it’s left me confused trying to figure out what the debate is even about anymore. Neighborhood associations still hate it, even though it’s so tepid I can’t imagine what it is they don’t like about it. In watching the council conversations, I have a hard time figuring out what we’re trying to achieve.

I do want to give thanks to Ward 3 Council Member Steve Fletcher for being as confused as I am. I found this three minute video very reassuring:

Fletcher’s remarks from last Friday:

“I’m going to be opposing this today and I wanted to share a little about why. I think it’s important that we understand — I just don’t have a constituency for a yes vote anywhere in my ward. I’ve heard from neighborhood leaders who are very invested in the neighborhood associations who have said, ‘This is not a good document. This doesn’t represent us. We’re not happy with this process. We want to see something different.’

“I have heard from my constituents who feel alienated from neighborhood associations who don’t feel represented by them, and who want to see them held accountable in different ways — so that they could participate in them more — say, ‘This doesn’t do that. Please vote no on this.’

“I don’t have a constituency for yes, so for me to represent my constituents, that’s where I need to be. I really appreciate Council Member Cunningham’s instruction to reach out to people who don’t participate in neighborhood associations to really find out why.

“I think we have a lot of neighborhood associations who say it’s really hard to get people involved. We owe it to them to find an answer about what’s going wrong so that they can connect. Because I don’t think that it’s childcare and translators. I think if the conversation is not about something that’s relevant, it doesn’t matter how much support you provide for people to come to a meeting to talk about something they don’t care about.

“We really need to connect better with how this works. So I’m feeling very disappointed with this process and with this outcome. I think maybe we tried to make so many compromises that it ends up not accomplishing anything for anybody in the end. I’m pretty frustrated with it.

“I have a feeling that it might pass today, and so in that spirit, I want to at least try to amend this in one way that feels important. I want to offer an amendment to strike the language that I know was added in PECE Committee [by Gordon] that the minimum neighborhood base funding allocation will be $25,000. I think it’s important because that’s redistributive the wrong way.

“We have an equity framework for deciding how funding gets allocated and it’s based on how many people of color are there in neighborhoods, how many renters are there in neighborhoods. There’s all kinds of factors that go into this formula. If we look at the neighborhoods that don’t meet any of the criteria, either in population or diversity to get to $25,000 — we’re taking money out of the neighborhood associations that do meet those criteria that we want to invest in.

“If we’re talking about equity we need to be talking about distributing and investing money in communities according to a formula that does seem to make some sense. And this feels redistributive in the wrong way, so I’m going to make an amendment to strike that language.”

Fletcher’s amendment failed on a 6-6 vote.

Voting yes: Steve Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, Abdi Warsame, Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender

Voting no: Kevin Reich, Cam Gordon, Lisa Goodman, Andrea Jenkins, Jeremy Schroeder, Linea Palmisano

Absent: Andrew Johnson