Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hub Project Already a Done Deal? Residents Nearby Disagree

Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, images from the Hub proposal documents.

One of the refrains heard from Don Samuels during the last city council election was that we would not believe the kind of progress and development we would see along West Broadway over the next several years.  And you know what?  He was right.  I can't believe that we are expanding social services along a corridor that should be the central commercial hub of an entire quadrant of the city of Minneapolis.  But it is happening that way, and if not for pressure from concerned residents, we would have been farther down that road than before.

Earlier on Monday, an email was circulated stating that some property acquisitions and service contracts were going to be part of tomorrow's Hennepin County Board meeting.  The email from a Jordan resident stated that these were to be "consent agenda" items, although the agenda itself isn't clear on that.

screen capture used instead of link in case the agenda online changes.
Still, when I pondered in a previous post about the "insider baseball" feeling of these plans, it appears those concerns were more than a little justified.  In spite of the fact that the city's public comment period extends through January 16, 2012, the county, the Ackerberg Group, and Catalyst were prepared to go full steam ahead with the project.

Catalyst has offered to meet with those of us who have concerns.  And I was told that at least some things on my initial post weren't entirely accurate.  I'll be happy to have a dialogue with them, post different viewpoints, and correct any factual errors that might have appeared.  But until that happens, I'm firmly against the proposal as it stands and I plan to keep my foot on the gas pedal.  Picture a social service client racing down Hillside Avenue at 4:28, hoping to sneak in the door before government employees dutifully close up shop at 4:30 sharp.  That's the kind of fervor I have towards making sure this area gets treated right.

So when we heard that the county was about to enter into contracts without hearing so much as a peep from the neighborhoods affected, plenty of neighbors got on the phone and...

...called Commissioner Stenglein's office to have the item removed from consideration at least until after the public comment period at the city ends.  It's not clear yet whether we got that specific demand, but I'm told the item is taken off of tomorrow's agenda.  That link, however, provided some revealing documentation.

For instance, the summary document lays out a basic timeline, tracing initial discussions about relocating social services back in 2009:

History: In August of 2009, the Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD) presented to the County Board a report entitled “Regional Services Planning and Client Service Delivery Model”. This report detailed a plan for the launching of a geographic, community based approach for the delivery of a continuum of services centered on six regional services centers (Hubs) and a number of smaller satellite offices. Strategically placed Hubs, advanced with community partners, would bring HSPHD services and the services of community partners to areas containing HSPHD clients. This distribution of services would permit the eventual vacating of Century Plaza.
When was the community brought into a dialogue about how we would be impacted by this move, and what sites would be appropriate?

For the past several months, the County (the Real Estate Division of the Housing Community Works and Transit Department, the Property Services Department and HSPHD) has been working on Hub proposals in four of the HSPHD service regions (south suburban, north Minneapolis, south Minneapolis and northwest suburban).
To the best of my knowledge, we simply haven't been consulted.  If there was a community forum around this that I've either missed or forgotten, someone please correct me.  But for now, it sure looks like the county made sure to talk to their supporters about this without ever considering that just maybe the community itself wasn't on board.  The report for this Hennepin County meeting does state that: 

A public hearing was held on November 1, 2011 and testimony was received.
But when I look through the minutes for meetings held on November 1, I don't see anything to that effect.  I'm not claiming the report is wrong; only that I am specifically looking for items that most people wouldn't even know about.  If I can't find them easily then it's reasonable to say they aren't being made accessible enough.

Here is a map of what was to be acquired.

But the plan to relocate service hubs out of downtown started even earlier.  A report from the county dated April of 2011 spells out such a vision.  April was when the report was issued, but when was the decision first set up?

By 2009, we were firmly committed to redesigning how we deliver services and where we deliver them. The result? A new model for service delivery interconnected with an innovative plan to move out into community-based regional sites during the next several years. We were designing a more effective service delivery system for the 21st Century. We were figuring out how to move closer to our vision.
In the chart immediately following that paragraph, the report claims that families will have access to services in local communities.  But for how long?  Right now we have services provided in one central location.  Spreading services out to multiple locations will only work for so long before someone realizes that the way things were before was a heck of a lot more financially palatable.  Then resume building will be at the Northside Hub, but job placement will be at the Sabathani Center.  And I'm sorry sir, we only serve people with incomes ranging from 30-50% of the seven-county area median income because we've determined that's the demographic that lines up most with this service area.  You'll need to come back tomorrow with your paystubs and W-2's for the last three years and then we can determine if we can help you here or if you need to go to our middle-income service bracket location.

But fear not!  For the word "community" is prominently displayed on several nifty flowcharts that the county has generously provided in a report that most of us never even knew existed, saying "Our Community Will..."
Participate in shaping county priorities and strategies to achieve them.
(Okay, well THAT clearly hasn't happened yet, and we're at least two years into the process by now.)
View the county as a partner in addressing community needs and achieving desired population results.
(Kind of hard to view the county as a partner right about now.)
Get the information they need, when they need it.
(Well, that would have been two years ago, or in April of 2011, or in August of 2011, or before Catalyst and the County started to amass land behind closed doors.)
See HSPHD helping individuals, families and communities to become strong, stable, healthy and safe.
(We already do that, just that HSPHD does it from downtown and that seems to be working just fine.)
Recognize HSPHD as an effective steward of public funds.
(If these various Hub proposals aren't being done to increase financial efficiency, then I don't even see how this last one currently applies.)

Look at all those arrows to and from the community!  They must really like us.
Later on, the document states that the county did a test phase of this kind of delivery in November of 2009, reaffirming that the Hub development was something in the works for a considerable amount of time.  And on page 13 we see the big whopper:

 Really?  REALLY?!  That second bullet point says, "Within each region, we have been talking with community members about:  What services are needed, where services can best be located, and opportunities for expanded partnerships."  When and where did these supposed discussions happen?

The way the proposal was sprung upon the residents directly affected, in combination with specific claims on county documents to have already involved the community, show a disparity between the county's words and their actions.  There is really no excuse whatsoever for not bringing in the community at least by the time the April 2011 report was ready to go.  We could have started from a much more constructive place instead of where we are now.  Both the purpose and the design of this site do not fit in the immediate area, nor do they match well with West Broadway.  It's well past time for the community to be engaged about where those other sites might be.


  1. Was there a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the development of competitive bids?

    This would produce more acceptable and affordable alternatives and is generally required for public projects.

  2. Or is it a scratching of Ackerberg's back for all of his kind contributions to various political campaigns?


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