Sunday, May 26, 2013

What is "Habitable"?

The City of Minneapolis has recently examined the prospect of purchasing 3019 Logan Avenue North, likely for the purpose of demolition and banking the land for future development.  I had argued that, based on the city's own report of a $15,000 - $50,000 price tag for bringing the house back up to code, rehab was an option worth exploring.  The Jordan Area Community Council supported the city's acquisition, but asked that approved development partners be given a chance to rehab this house if they wanted.  That was a fair compromise for this preservationist.

During the dialogue between the city and the community, an interesting new word came up:  "Habitability."  In my six years of working on Minneapolis housing issues, this was the first time I had seen this word used by city staff people in the context of demolition vs. rehab.  In this case, the $15 - 50,000 price tag would bring this house up to code, but according to city staff, would not make it "habitable."

"What is habitable?" I asked, almost a month ago.  And the city's response was...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How I Almost Got Elected Chair (And What I Would Do to Keep That From Happening Again)

A funny thing happened to me at the Ward 5 DFL convention:  I was almost elected chair.  Ok, so "almost" is too strong a word, as the vote wasn't all that close.  But I was nominated, and in spite of  not having run a campaign for the position, or even having thought about doing so until Saturday, I did get a surprising number of people who voted for me.

(I was also nominated for the constitution committee; a role that may have suited me better anyway.  But the affirmative action statement isn't just something we read to the crowd prior to elections.  It is a guiding principle of the party.  So I stepped aside, knowing a friend of mine who was also nominated would do a fine job.)

So here's how my ward was almost either lucky or foolish enough to wind up with me as their chair.  I was rather unhappy with how certain elements of the convention were being handled, and made no secret of that.  I was flitting from one group of people to the next like a butterfly, venting about it.  A giant, yelling butterfly.

And then someone said, "Well if you feel that strongly about it, why don't you run for chair?  I'd vote for you."

Without really thinking, I shot back, "If you want me to run, why don't you nominate me?"  And the hell of it is, he did.  I'm not the kind of person who lobs criticisms from the sidelines.  If I care about something enough to get this worked up over it, I won't shy away from being asked to be a part of the solution.  But for better or worse, the delegates stayed with the status quo.

So instead of becoming a party insider, I get to remain a party activist - a role that suits me better, for now.  Which means I'm free to vent about all the things I'd do differently if I could wave a magic wand over this convention.  Things like...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Downside of Ranked Choice Voting

I am not a fan of ranked choice voting, and Saturday's Ward Five convention did nothing to endear me to this new process.

At another convention where I was volunteering for a mayoral candidate, I wound up talking with Kim Ellison for almost an hour about RCV, and much of that dialogue centered around aspects of this system that I *do* like--for instance, candidates are adopting a much more civil tone in their campaigns.  I just happen to think we're using ranked choice in all the wrong elections. (For instance, the lack of a primary makes it hard to weed out "vanity" candidates who have no chance of winning.  But look at last year's state representative primary election.  Ranked choice voting then would have saved us from a contentious recount.)  This voting process has its upsides, but Saturday revealed a few drawbacks as well.

At the fifth ward DFL convention, the chair brought up RCV as a possible way to facilitate the endorsement process.  Here's how it (I use the next word loosely) worked...

Friday, May 17, 2013

The City of Minneapolis vs. The Wirth House

Contributed photo.

3431 Colfax Avenue North, or "The Wirth House" is yet another property that Minneapolis is needlessly moving forward with plans to demolish.  This cute little spot almost looks like a north woods cabin that's been plopped down into a residential neighborhood.  The garage bears metal lettering of "R. Wirth," although the previous family ownership is not related to the locally famous Theo Wirth.  There are times when I almost--not quite, but almost--feel guilty for jumping in at the last moment to keep a home from a date with the landfill.  If the city goes through due diligence in public notifications, only to have neighborhood activists swoop in at the last moment, I can see how that would be frustrating for those tasked with implementing a process.

Thankfully for my conscience, this is not one of those times.  The McKinley neighborhood gave the city of Minneapolis a list of properties that the organization wanted to see some kind of action or development on.  The list was decidedly NOT a list of proposed demolitions, but that is apparently how our local government decided to interpret it.  Because back in February...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How Does the Local DFL Select Committees?

Although I've been an active caucus-goer for about as long as I can remember, it was only last year that I decided to take the plunge and get involved in a sub-committee.  I picked the resolutions committee, because I was working on a resolution against Northern Metals at the time.  I gained a deeper respect for the grinding work it takes to slog through such political minutiae, and decided that I'd put in my time for the next decade or so.

I did kick around the idea of getting on the arrangements committee, if for no other reason than the last senate district convention's layout straddled the line between "inconceivably awful" and "potential fire hazard death trap" more successfully than anyone could have expected.  And I didn't want a repeat of that fiasco.

But then a funny thing happened on caucus night.  There was no chance to sign up for participation on a committee.  At least in my precinct, that just wasn't an option for anyone.  I've asked representatives from different campaigns about this, and it appears there is a completely different method for selecting committee membership - either for this year or for city elections vs. state elections.

At last year's caucus...