First, there is the lingering stump problem left from last spring’s tornado that hit North Minneapolis. Then we have the broken fence at the Soldiers’ and Pioneers’ Cemetery … and the fact that the Nicollet Mall is falling apart.
What those projects have in common is that all three are among items being considered as part of the city’s 2012 legislative agenda
The final list of legislative priorities will be selected Dec. 8 before Minneapolis lobbyists march into battle at the Capitol next year.
Here’s a quick look at three of the possible projects:
Stumps and trees
Let’s start simple — with stumps and trees along the tornado route. City Council members were told Thursday that 300 to 325 stumps need to be removed, along with a large number of small trees. The problem is the property owners can’t afford to clean up this mess, and the city can’t take over the work without a change in state law.
The “nuisance vegetative growth” is not currently part of the state code classifications that would allow the city to handle the job and then charge property owners by the assessment process that lets them pay over time.
“The neighbors hate it — it looks terrible,” said City Council President Barb Johnson who has seen homes covered by shrubs and tiny trees. That would be a yes vote.
Solving this problem calls for a simple amendment to the state assessments code. It should be simple to solve. But ask yourself if we are living in simple times.
Soldiers’ and Pioneers’ Cemetery
This cemetery at Cedar Avenue South and Lake Street is older than the state of Minnesota and is one of the few cemeteries in the National Registry of Historic Places. When it was founded in 1853, it was outside of the city. It was a private burial place until 1927 when the city took over maintenance duties. Not much has been done since 1927, until recently.
In 2005, the Minnesota Historical Society granted the cemetery $2,500 and gave it another small grant in 2009. A summer concert there raised some money for restoration, and a neighborhood group is working to raise funds to fix the fence.
One-third of those buried at the Soldiers and Pioneers Cemetery are children who died during the 1914 flu outbreak.
“Responsibility should be all of ours to protect this final resting place,” said City Council Member Gary Schiff, sounding very much like someone in support of spreading the responsibility beyond the city’s borders.
The granite pavers have been coming up from the concrete for years, the bronze that once served to anchor decorative accents has long since been stolen and the tree grates have generated liability claims. The mall needs work. The only question is how much help the city should seek.
“We’re getting one year out of repairs,” Beth Shogren of the Downtown Improvement District told city council members. “It is more and more expensive to maintain.”
If the city wants a lot of money from the state, it will need to make the case that the mall is a state resource that just happens to be in Minneapolis.
Jeremy Hanson Willis, chief of staff for Mayor R.T. Rybak, took a swing at establishing the mall as a state treasure, noting that 150,000 people work downtown close to the Mall and 30,000 people live nearby. Add arts, convention and hotel visitors and it’s a wonder anyone can find a place to park near the Mecca we call the mall.
“The biggest complaint I get is there’s not enough retail downtown,” said Council Member Meg Tuthill, noting that if you don’t want to shop Macy’s or Target, there’s no reason to go downtown.
If people come downtown to shop, there will be more retail, countered Council Member Lisa Goodman. “We need to encourage people to shop downtown.”