Government News

Group hosts discussion on city-suburb partnerships

As the city's legislative clout has waned over the years, it has become more important to build partnerships with other communities.

Southwest residents are invited to a seminar on city and suburban collaboration, sponsored by the group Getting to the Bottom of the Ballot. It is being held Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7-9 p.m. at Southwest High, West 47th Street and Chowen Avenue South.

Speakers are Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, representing Southwest Minneapolis and neighboring suburbs; State Rep. Paul Thissen, District 63A, who represents urban and suburban neighborhoods; and Eric Willette, policy research manager for the League of Minnesota Cities. -- Scott Russell

Center helps neighbors use census, GIS The Urban Coalition has opened a new walk-in center to help people find and understand information from the 2000 U.S. census and Geographic Information System (GIS) maps.

The center, 2610 University Ave., Suite 201, St. Paul, opened Oct. 1. Its initial hours are Tuesdays 3-8 p.m. and Thursdays 12-3 p.m. Go to www.urbancoalition.org for future hours.

The center can help with grant proposals, school research projects, community organizing and other projects. The service is free, unless patrons request substantive maps and graphs. -- Scott Russell

False burglar alarms will bring bigger fines, quicker cut-offs The city of Minneapolis is increasing the false alarm fees for burglar and holdup alarms in an effort to reduce the staff drain that errant alarms cause.

James Moncur, director of licensing and consumer services, said the city had responded to approximately 8,500 false alarms by Oct. 1. He estimated that false alarm responses tie up the equivalent of eight full-time employees.

"You have to look at this as the continuing effort the city has been on for years now to reduce the number of false alarms that take up a lot of police and administrative time," Moncur said.

The city charges alarm owners a penalty if they have too many false alarms. The City Council approved the plan 12-0 on Oct. 10.

Under the old ordinance, the city fined alarm holders if they had four or more false alarms in a calendar year. It charged $100 for the fourth false alarm and added $50 to each subsequent alarm, so the fifth false alarm cost $150, the sixth $200, and so on.

Under the new ordinance pushed by City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward), the city will charge alarm owners $200 on their third false alarm in a calendar year, and add on $100 for each subsequent false alarm that year, such that the fifth offense would cost $400.

The new ordinance also gives alarm owners fewer false alarms before the Police Department can discontinue automatic alarm response.

Under the current ordinance, the police can discontinue automatic response -- for the remainder of the year -- after an address has had seven false alarms in one calendar year or if the alarm holder is more than four months behind paying false alarm fines.

Under the new ordinance, the police can discontinue automatic alarm response after the fifth false alarm in a calendar year or if the alarm holder is more than three months late in paying fines.

The police continue to respond to in-person calls for aid to the address or other information that verifies the need for immediate police response. Currently, the city has discontinued automatic alarm response to 88 addresses, Moncur said. The list of addresses is confidential.

"The cutting off of the service -- the automatic police response --tends to get people's attention," Moncur said.

The Minnesota Burglar and Fire Alarm Association supports the changes, saying the industry is taking steps to improve the technology and alarm protocols to reduce false alarms, said Russ Ernst of Honeywell Home and Building Control, the association's past president. -- Scott Russell

Cabin owners host Southwest property tax meeting Oct. 20 A cabin-owners group invites Southwest residents to a town meeting to discuss a state tax change it says would hit city homeowners and cabin owners hardest.

More than 5,000 Minneapolis residents own cabins. The Minnesota Seasonal Recreational Property Owners Coalition will host the meeting Monday, Oct. 20, 7-9 p.m. at Barton School, 4237 Colfax Ave. S., said Jeff Forester, executive director.

The meeting would focus on the state phase-out of limited market value, he said. Limited market value capped a property's yearly property tax increases, regardless of assessed value hikes. The state will phase out limited market value by 2007, meaning property taxes will increase more sharply to catch up with the assessed value.

Minneapolis homeowners and lakeshore property owners have had the largest property value increases in the past five years, so they will have the largest tax increases, Forester said.

The coalition formed in 1993 to lobby on property tax issues. -- Scott Russell