Election process gearing up for new NRP board

Interested in representing your community in the next phase of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP)?  You’ve got until May 26 to have a chance.

That’s the application deadline for residents who’d like to run for eight spots on the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC), a group the City Council voted to form in the fall of 2008 to transition from the existing NRP structure, due to end this year.  

NRP is the city’s system of community engagement and funding, developed through legislative action in 1990. It was funded through large tax-increment-financing (TIF) districts and split into two 10-year phases. During that time, the program allowed neighborhoods to revitalize their housing stock, invest in crime-prevention initiatives, create and enhance public spaces and do much more for the benefit of their communities.

But tax legislation in 2001 destabilized NRP funding, which started dwindling before the program’s scheduled end. Prospects for continuing NRP as it existed were grim, so the NCEC was developed and positioned under a newly formed Neighborhood and Community Relations Department.  The NCEC will be responsible for the management and allocation of NRP funds and advising city staff and elected officials on community engagement issues.   

So far, the group is made up of eight appointees from the mayor, City Council and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. A remaining eight members will be elected from eight neighborhood districts created April 19 at an all-neighborhood citywide meeting.

“It’s not a perfect science, I will say,” said David Rubedor, the city coordinator who oversees the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department. “Trying to break up the city into eight different districts to have a representative on the commission — it’s not perfect, but we gave it our best guess and put it out to the group for their consideration and they approved it.”

The districts were divided into equal populations of neighborhoods that historically relate to each other and work together well. No neighborhoods were split and community organizations that include more than one neighborhood were clumped together.

Except for Bryn Mawr, which is in District 5, Southwest was split in half. District 6 to the north includes Kenwood, Lowry Hill, East Isles, Lowry Hill East, Stevens Square, Whittier, East Calhoun, CARAG and Lyndale. District 2 to the south is made up of Cedar Isles-Dean, West Calhoun, Linden Hills, East Harriet, Fulton, Lynnhurst, Tangletown, Armatage, Kenny and Windom.

“We broke it into districts rather than having eight at-large (board members), so we have geographic representation across the city,” Rubedor said.

The populations used to draw the boundaries were based on 2000 census data, so the line might get redrawn when new numbers are released next year.

An ad-hoc election task force was still finalizing the voting process in early May, but Rubedor said the idea is to have one representative from each district. The only requirement for candidacy is living in the district for which you’re running.

Electors — one from each neighborhood — will elect the candidates in early June. Neighborhood groups are in the process of choosing electors, Rubedor said. Each elector will have one vote.

Voting opens June 1 and closes June 16. Electors can vote at a June 3 citywide forum, where they can meet the candidates, or they can set up their own district caucus.

“We’re giving that kind of opportunity for more of a local process if people choose to do that,” Rubedor said.

After an initial citywide meeting about the NCEC in February turned out to be long, drawn-out and unproductive, commission members and community members involved in the process are glad to see some progress. If all goes as planned, the first full NCEC meeting will be June 23.

“I’m pleased that we’re moving forward,” said Matt Perry, a mayoral appointee to the commission. “To have a process in place is great.”

John Finlayson, an active Fulton resident and board member who served on the NCEC election task force, said moving forward quickly is important, so neighborhoods running low on NRP dollars have a new system to work with.

“It’s not like anyone is going broke tomorrow,” he said. “But everyone is looking forward and saying we’ve got to get something in place so we don’t.”

Rubedor said there’s still opposition to the new direction of NRP, which has been controversial from the start, but he thinks they’ll come around eventually.  

“Change is always difficult and a little bit threatening and scary for some people,” Rubedor said. “But there is a tremendous opportunity here to really look at what works well and look at things that don’t work so well and figure out how we can make those work better.”

For more NCEC information including how to become a candidate for neighborhood representative, visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/ncr.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]