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Get to know Minneapolis' new City Council members

Minneapolis elected seven new members to the City Council in 2014. To help readers get to know the new council members, MinnPost asked each of them about their views on a range of urban policy issues.

Comments (2)

LRT and streetcars

I'm alarmed that these new Minneapolis Council Members may be ignorant about the difference between streetcars and trains. Such ignorance on the part of St. Paul City Council members led to the installation of a train (Central Corridor/Green Line) on busy University Avenue. The train will travel at only a slightly faster overall speed than the existing No.16 bus line but will have 47 fewer places to get on or off. A thousand parking spaces were lost because of LRT infrastructure requirements. No. 16 bus service will be drastically reduced, No. 50 eliminated and even the rapid freeway bus service reduced. Because of the limited number of stations and reduced bus service, there will be less transit access for the mobility handicapped. A major environmental impact study showed that the University Avenue route was the least desirable of the three considered for Central Corridor LRT, and that the clearly preferable I-94/Soo Line route would attract 33% more riders (presumably because of faster transit speed that would draw commuters off the freeway).

At the same time, if the St. Paul City Council wanted rails on University Avenue, a modern street car line on University Avenue would have been far less disruptive and would have been cheaper to build, even without federal subsidy!

The concentration of poverty in Minneapolis

I was pleased to read the thoughtful comments of these new council members on the causes and potential solutions for our city's opportunity gaps. As they roll up their sleeves and begin to work on this complex constellation of issues, I urge them to take a look at our city with an eye to the concentration of poverty in specific geographic areas.

We know that neighborhoods lacking in the ingredients necessary for prosperity — including jobs, transportation, recreational opportunities for youth, access to education and healthcare — will inevitably spiral into depression and hopelessness, becoming exacerbating factors in the poverty of their own residents. This happens because concentration is not a static state but a dynamic one: as success breeds success, so does poverty breed poverty.

Concentrated poverty — which is physically, geographically, delimited — is to a great extent a function of housing. Fifteen years ago our Minneapolis community was engaged in a discussion about “life-cycle housing” — the notion that housing for all family types, ages, and incomes should be broadly available throughout the city. Life-cycle housing promised two important advantages. People could remain in their own neighborhoods as their housing needs changed over the years, and people of varying economic resources could live together in healthy, supportive neighborhoods, as opposed to ghettos of haves and have-nots.

But in the intervening years Minneapolis did not made it a priority to pursue this key issue either within its own borders or in collaboration with neighboring communities, leaving us to struggle with housing patterns that effectively hardwire our growing and disgraceful social and economic gaps.

Of course, it is natural, even desirable, for people to gravitate to distinct, culturally vibrant neighborhoods. But at the same time, Minneapolis needs an overall public policy environment that will 1) ensure that residents have broad, desirable housing choices and 2) help us as a community guard against segregation and attendant inequities.