Letters to the editor

Infill ordinance isn’t in city’s best interest
Your recent front- page article on the City Council’s unanimous adoption of restrictions on infill housing offered a single perspective. What is the compelling public interest that justifies passing an ordinance (that may not pass Constitutional muster) that will limit the investment in our aging city neighborhoods?

Is it really in our city’s best interest to limit a house to 2,500 square feet under any circumstance? At a time when Minneapolis faces fiscal crisis and is raging about the cut in funding for police one would think that the City Council would look for ways to increase our tax base — not limit it.

Is the issue really the bulk of the new and improved housing, or the design? If it is the design the current change in the law does nothing to address the issue of replacing older homes with houses that do not fit the neighborhood.

I was most concerned by the statement by Council Member Remington who told the paper that “whatever ordinance we create, there will be rich and wealthy people who will get around it.”

What? Did he really say that? Wouldn’t an elected representative want rich people to invest in Minneapolis? Such a comment reveals a fundamental bias and is irresponsible. I hope Mr. Remington finds a way to apologize for his wanton comment. The ordinance was special interest legislation to address a few ugly new homes built in an old neighborhood.

The City Council will some day in the future wonder why it passed an ordinance that restricted renovation of old housing stock. Such laws discourage investment in our neighborhoods and will erode our tax base as people seeking certain amenities are forced to move to the suburbs.

Peter Carter

Will the infill ordinance have teeth?
My spirits were heartened as I started to read the article, “Infill housing ordinance passes.” Finally, government standing up to the blatant disregard for the common good by powerful interests.

If we can do this at the local level, perhaps there is hope for doing the same at the national level. But then my hopes were dashed when I came across this quote in the same article by Council Member Ralph Remington: “whatever ordinance we create, there will be rich and wealthy people who will get around it.” So, basically, the ordinance means nothing.

Thank you very much for pointing this out. I apologize for being so naive as to think that no one is above the law. I appreciate Mr. Remington’s honesty, but what’s the use of having laws, then? What’s the use of having council members?

Jose Palmieri

No to Mayflower’s housing proposal
I would like to respond to a recent Southwest Journal article about the Mayflower Church’s apartment building development. Our neighborhood is against this project based on the following:

• The project size is too large. We have wonderful, successful businesses, a couple smaller apartment buildings and single-family houses. It would dwarf everything and be out of character with the neighborhood. The whole dynamic would be an overcrowded mess.

• We are already experiencing too much congestion and traffic. They have allotted less than one parking space per unit. We cannot handle more on-street parking and congestion. Cars already line the narrow residential streets. Adding more traffic and parking chaos would be detrimental to everyone.

• The Mayflower Church has refused to scale down the project. They told us they could not because of financial reasons. They refuse to listen to any alternate suggestions. In essence, they are forcing this on the neighborhood without our input or approval. We are hurt by their indifference to the existing neighbors, both residential and business.

• Rental property is not ideal for lower-income housing. Housing vouchers or building ownership-based property would be more beneficial for both the neighborhood and the lower-income residents.

The Mayflower Church is seeking to rezone the land so this large project can be built. We would like a voice. We care about our neighborhood. We don’t want uncontrolled growth!

Kendall Linder

Washburn deserves an IB program
Annie Witta Christman raises the question why Southwest High School parents resisted the expansion of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program to Washburn in a recent letter to the editor.

At the meeting held by Craig Vana at Southwest High this spring, it was obvious to me that resistance to expanding IB to Washburn has nothing to do with merits of the Southwest IB Program itself.

Rather, comments made at that meeting clearly indicated these parents are beyond comfortable with what the SW IB Program has become: an exclusive program with an 80-percent-white student body and a 2007 entering class that is 93 percent white.

Rather than recognizing that this type of segregated program is a problem for the Minneapolis Public School District, and rather than embracing the opportunity to work as a community to build another viable program in Southwest Minneapolis, a vocal and influential group of Southwest parents stooped to fear-based methods to influence other parents and ultimately the School Board.

This group twisted the situation to suggest that if Southwest IB families are asked to share their successful program, their kids will somehow lose.

The real loss is that these parents refuse to see that with the support of the surrounding community, a school like Washburn could quickly return to being another popular and successful high school option — an option that would benefit all families within the Minneapolis Schools District. But now, if the Minneapolis School Board wants to prompt real change, it will be forced to make policies that limit options and require families to participate in reforms that needlessly have been framed as negative. Many of us in

Southwest Minneapolis like to think we are progressive and open minded, but this situation reeks of a “not in my backyard” attitude of entitlement that I had hoped did not exist among my neighbors.

Judith Forbes

Notes from a parks observer
I am responding to the letter from Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine that appeared in a recent Southwest Journal.
After attending almost all Park Board meetings for the past three-and-a-half years and reviewing a variety of Park Board documents,

I would like to point out that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is not as idyllic as Commissioner Fine would like us to believe. There are serious problems with the MPRB administration’s lack of openness, transparency and citizen participation.

For instance, in April, the Park Board began construction on the $1.8 million Parade athletic field/stadium project, which the commissioners approved on Jan. 3, 2007. Superintendent Gurban has been unwilling to convene a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for this project. By failing to convene a CAC, the MPRB — under Gurban’s and Olson’s leadership — has deprived citizens of their legal rights to participate in the decision-making regarding this project.

Second, by failing to apply for a conditional-use permit prior to the construction at Parade, the MPRB’s administration has violated the city’s zoning code. The city issued a stop-work order on April 25, but the MPRB’s unpermitted construction continued. Again, citizens’ rights to a hearing were being denied.

Third, the MPRB’s administration under Superintendent Gurban has failed to comply with the state’s Data Practices Act by not responding to all citizens’ requests for specific public data.

Fourth, at the May 2 Park Board meeting, Park Board President Jon Olson did not respect my First Amendment rights when he interrogated me, challenged me and then told me I could not finish my “open time” presentation. I was able to return to speak at the next meeting only because of the ACLU of Minnesota’s intervention.

In its letter to the Park Board, the ACLU of Minnesota stated: “We believe that the speech at issue here was clearly protected and should not have been censored simply because Ms. Fried was criticizing the work of government officials.”

In conclusion, I would like to suggest that Superintendent Gurban work diligently to comply with the laws governing citizen participation, as well as the laws governing citizen access to public information.

I am also hoping that Board President Jon Olson will review the letter from the ACLU so that he has a clearer understanding of First Amendment Rights.

Arlene Fried
Bryn Mawr
Co-founder of Park Watch