Changes are Coming to Minneapolis Neighborhood Organizations

The Victory Neighborhood Association worked with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for 17 years to establish Ryan Lake Park, North Minneapolis’s second lakefront park. The park was made possible because of a corps of dedicated ViNA volunteers and funding provided through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program

The City of Minneapolis’s Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) Department recently published a draft framework outlining the future program, funding, and governance structure for the City’s neighborhood and community engagement work. Commonly referred to as Neighborhoods 2020, the adopted framework will have a substantial impact on the future programming and operations of organizations like the Victory Neighborhood Association (ViNA) and it is crucial that the final framework reflects meaningful accountability and funding metrics for this work. ViNA’s board and staff have reviewed the Neighborhoods 2020 document and identified three areas it feels need to be addressed before the City Council approves the framework. Those areas are:

Inclusivity metrics: The Neighborhoods 2020 framework proposes to measure the inclusivity of neighborhood organizations based on the demographic composition of their boards of directors. ViNA lauds the framework’s accountability for inclusiveness and recognizes that for Minneapolis to be thriving and healthy, all City stakeholders need to work intentionally to break down systems of white supremacy. In addition to reporting the diversity of neighborhood board composition, ViNA requests reporting requirements also include demographics on factors like neighborhood organizations’ general membership, committee membership, and program participants. ViNA believes expanding demographic reporting metrics will lead to more authentic engagement; resulting in a diverse pipeline of candidates to sit on neighborhood boards and giving the City of Minneapolis a more informed picture of who participates in and benefits from neighborhood organizations.

Input by the people: It is ViNA’s position that the framework published by the City’s Neighborhood and Community Relations department does not adequately reflect the feedback collected during the Neighborhoods 2020 development process. Specifically, members of Neighborhoods 2020 work groups convened by the City reported that their work was co-opted by City staff and consultants and the outcome of their discussions were a foregone conclusion not to be determined by the participating community members. Additionally, hundreds of Minneapolis residents participated in listening sessions about the future of neighborhoods. Much of the feedback collected in those sessions is not reflected in NCR’s published framework and over simplifies the outcomes Minneapolis residents expect from their neighborhood organizations. ViNA requests that the City’s Public Health, Civil Rights, and Engagement (PECE) committee delay its vote on Neighborhoods 2020 until a framework is established that truly reflects the input of the people.

Meaningful Funding: Much of the work performed by ViNA in its 25 year history was accomplished through Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funding. ViNA used NRP funds to build a playground at Loring School, develop a park at Ryan Lake, encourage small businesses to open in Victory through robust rebate packages, and much more. NRP funds empowered ViNA to respond to residents’ needs with meaningful solutions.

NRP funds were made available to Minneapolis neighborhood organizations through a piece of state legislation that permitted Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund neighborhood work. ViNA requests that the City of Minneapolis advocate for the extension of the legislation so TIF money can continue to be used at the neighborhood level. The framework published by NCR relegates neighborhood organizations to community engagement contractors, but community engagement without the ability to provide community solutions lacks meaning. The continuance of NRP funding will ensure that Minneapolis residents have permanent agency in their communities.

The Victory Neighborhood Association encourages residents to review the Neighborhoods 2020 draft framework and contact City Council members to share their concerns about the document.

In summation, ViNA requests that the City:

  • develops more comprehensive metrics to account for neighborhood organization diversity
  • delays voting on Neighborhoods 2020 until a framework is established that adequately reflects a community-driven process
  • advocates for the extension of TIF to continue funding the Neighborhood Revitalization Program

Please share your feedback with Councilmember Cunningham and staff from the Neighborhood and Community Relations department by March 31.

Follow this link to read ViNA’s official commentary on the Neighborhoods 2020 framework.

1 Comment

  1. Brandon Burbach on March 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    These are well-reasoned positions; I agree with them. An expanded basis for inclusivity metrics is especially important and is exceptionally well stated in the Victory response. Bravo!

    I would add that the “purpose” of neighborhood organizations needs to be more overtly stated in all NCR discussions, documents, and presentations. Neighborhood Organizations and their staff do great and critical work for our community including many engagement tasks that would otherwise fall to the City. Neighborhood Organizations should be acknowledged and appreciated for this. Explicit purpose/function/role should be formalized, in both narrative and in bullet-point fashion.

    Formalizing the purpose of neighborhood organizations would be a tangible step in helping the City understand why investment in neighborhood organizations is valuable. It would also simultaneously help focus the efforts of Neighborhood Organizations towards those areas where they are uniquely and best able to contribute — and avoid duplicate efforts of other government, civic, and private agencies.

    Brandon Burbach, Webber-Camden.

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