Sunday, January 6, 2013

311 Won't Accept Reports on County Properties

 Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Paint is peeling from the 800 West Broadway building, the former future home of the YWCA.  While chipped paint isn't generally cause for a blog post, the condition of this property brings up an ongoing issue with our 311 system.  Some friends of mine tried calling this in to 311 and were told the report wouldn't be filed because...

...the property is owned by Hennepin County.  It's unclear what would happen if such reports were filed using email, the 311 website, or their smartphone app.  Would they just disappear into the bureaucratic ether, never to be heard from or responded to again?  Or would a city staffer contact the person who submitted the report to inform them of its status?  If it's the latter, why couldn't the staff person contact the county instead?

Furthermore, the confusing inter-governmental hodgepodge is precisely what 311 is supposed to alleviate.  Many county-owned properties do have notices posted on them with some kind of contact information.  But seeing those depends on a person walking up to the structure to look for a phone number on one of the various bits of regulatory plumage that frequently dot tax-forfeited properties.  For vacant lots however, no such option is available.

The problem posed here goes far beyond minor issues like peeling paint.  The county owns an increasing number of tax-forfeited properties, especially in north Minneapolis.  When a structure is open to trespass, residents need to be able to call that in quickly.  If a county-owned vacant lot isn't shoveled, that becomes another safety issue.  These are very basic livability issues for Minneapolis, and the most frustrating aspect is that a solution isn't even that difficult.

When someone calls in an issue on a county-owned property, the Minneapolis 311 department could simply take the report and send it along to the county for them to deal with.  Once a response is completed, 311 is notified and can update their report accordingly.  This seems to be the way it's handled internally with various departments within the city, so why is the county treated differently?


  1. OH MY WORD. I have had this problem before and I've contacted the aide to city councilman Don Samuels. And the aide was nice enough to make the report to county but it's like, OOOOOH!!!! So frustrating that 311 just doesn't GET IT!!!!!!

    I told the aide, "I don't care if Keith Reitman owns the property, I don't care if the county owns it, I don't care if the sovereign nation of FRANCE owns it. What do I care who owns it? There is a problem with the property. Notify the OWNER and tell the OWNER to take care of the problem."

    BUT 311 JUST DOESN'T GET IT!!!!!!!!!

  2. You expect the county to respond to potential public safety issues with county owned or controlled property? What will be next?

  3. The County also does not obtain a rental license when they take over a tenant occupied rental property in tax forfeiture, even though the City says they are supposed to. They just collect thr rent until they sell it at auction. I guess they can have their cake and eat it to!

  4. There are reasons for why there is code about peeling paint. Those reasons have nothing to do with ownership status. A building standing with peeling paint is a visual blight on the corridor. Do you think perceptually visitors to West Broadway think "That building WOULD be an eyesore, but that is Hennepin County owned peeling paint, so therefore it is not." Of course they don't - they have no clue who owns it. They just see it and it creates a negative perception of West Broadway. The other reason for this Code is environmental hazard if it is lead paint. Do you think a Dr. would say "Well your child WOULD have had high lead levels, but thankfully the lead source was from a Hennepin County owned property, so therefore it is safe." Of course not. A Hennepin County owned property should be just as accountable and reportable as any other property. There are reasons for Code and those reasons exist irregardless of ownership status.

  5. That property will be vacant for a long time- The assessed value and thus property taxes on it are too high to make rehab viable.

  6. Hmmm....So Buffaloridgeblog, just for shits and giggles - What in your opinion would the value of this 48,000 sf. building be and what do you think would be a better valuation?

  7. From the looks of it over on The Deets blog, Metro Transit and Park Board properties within city limits are having the same issues.

  8. Classic...Government has more rights than the people who form it! I would think that the best way to lead is by example.


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