The future of NRP looks brighter today than it has for a long time. Going forward, we will continue to build on the tremendous successes and the capacity built during nearly two decades of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). We now have a funding stream in place to support NRP for the next decade. Also, we have a governance structure that elevates, integrates and amplifies the role of neighborhoods within city government and departmental operations.
NRP came into existence about 18 years ago based on the work of many community activists and elected officials. From the start, the program was created around a 20-year timeframe. Its funding stream, its Joint Powers Agreement and Governance Board and other components were set to a 20-year alarm clock. That alarm is set to go off in 2010. Rather than hit the snooze button many residents urged the City Council to take leadership and do something to save NRP.
With two near unanimous votes at the City Council meeting on Sept. 26th we took our first incremental steps to secure the future of NRP. Our underlying principles are to keep what works, building on the many successes of the NRP. Neighborhood organizations will still determine their visions through Neighborhood Action Plans and dollars will continue to flow to neighborhoods to implement their plans. With the 2008 state Legislature’s statutory creation of the Transformation Districts (TD’s), the city of Minneapolis now has a way of providing discretionary funding to neighborhoods, one of the things that makes the NRP unique.
Through the creation of the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission, neighborhood organizations will collectively have a greater role in the governance and operations of the city. The NCEC will have the preeminent place in hiring the assistant city coordinator position responsible for the program; help create the department’s business plan and budget; and lead in creating improvements in the way the city of Minneapolis delivers services.
With the creation of the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department, we as a city take another step toward achieving one of the primary goals set when establishing the NRP. We have the opportunity of improving the way the City of Minneapolis delivers services. The new department, as part of the city coordinator’s office, will foster a greater community voice and provide direction for improvement in our operations. I think this will bring greater satisfaction in the city’s response to our residents.
There are still many questions to be answered and many actions to be taken. Of great interest will be the level of funding dedicated to the NRP. Important budget decisions will be made in the coming weeks and months in our Council’s Ways and Means Budget Committee; potential legislative changes need to be discussed; members of the Commission need to be recruited; and the new department needs to be put together.
We are poised on the threshold of a new era of neighborhood revitalization in our city. We have the chance to move forward and define a new and stronger partnership between City Hall and our neighborhoods. I believe it is now more important than ever for Minneapolis City Hall to be supportive the fine work done by our neighborhood organizations. I know that, working together ,we are all up for the challenges ahead.
Robert Lilligren represents the city’s 6th Ward and is vice president of the City Council. He is chair of the NRP Work Group.