City’s NRP-to-cops plan beaten back

Minneapolis city leaders ran into a wall of neighborhood opposition in their efforts to use $1 million in Neighborhood Revitalization Program money for community policing.

City Council President Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) and Mayor R.T. Rybak defended the proposal at the June 30 NRP Policy Board meeting. The board, made up of government, business, labor and neighborhood representatives, delayed a decision for 60 days until the proponents get more information, but comments indicate city officials have a lot of persuading to do.

Debbie Evans of Linden Hills, an alternate board member, called the proposal "patronizing" because it suggested the NRP Policy Board knew better than the individual neighborhoods how to spend the money. NRP typically relies on individual neighborhoods to plan expenditures, though the Policy Board must approve them.

Board member Carol Pass of Phillips said NRP had already dedicated $4 million for the affordable-housing fund and $2 million for commercial corridor development. "Only little scraps will be left" for neighborhoods, she said. If the city plan passed, "we have basically killed the program by a death of one thousand cuts."

The city's proposal took hits on several fronts. Ken Kelash, a representative of the Central Labor Union and a board alternate, said uncertainty on NRP Phase II funding (the 20-year program's second decade) made an informed decision on the city's plan difficult. "It would be irresponsible to spend money when we don't know how much is available to spend," he said.

The city didn't get much support from other government representatives on the board. Park Board member John Erwin, a Policy Board alternate, said he didn't think the city's plan was consistent with NRP's original intent.

Others questioned the plan's legality, saying the money needed to go through neighborhood boards. Still others said the city's plan lacked specifics.

Ostrow had proposed running the $1 million through police Precinct Advisory Councils, but it appeared to provide little salve for those looking for neighborhood control.

"Until a few months ago, I didn't know a Precinct Advisory Committee existed," Evans said.

Greg Bastien, an alternate board member, expressed skepticism about Minneapolis' community-based policing efforts, calling them "hit-and-miss."

"I don't think the fig leaf of Precinct Committees will give the patina of a community-based initiative," he said. "It will still be top-down."

Bobbi Rupert of Powderhorn Park, an audience member, defended the city plan, but Dale Means of the Metro Urban Indian Directors, said NRP did not have extra money to give away.

Means got the only laugh of the meeting.

"This is another example of breaking a treaty," he said. "We don't want no tweaking of the law. The last time you tweaked, we lost the Iron Range. Leave our dollars alone."