City council actions: ‘Walkable’ Minneapolis

Nov. 2 Council Acts

Council adopts plan for ‘walkable’ Minneapolis

The City Council on Oct. 16 adopted a pedestrian master plan. The 92-page document touches on issues such as promoting walking, clearing sidewalks after snowstorms, maintaining boulevard trees and pedestrian infrastructure.

It’s split into seven specific goals — from goal one, a well-connected walkway system, to goal seven, how to find funding for improvements. The document lays out ways to overcome barriers for people with disabilities — the pedestrian system isn’t 100 percent accessible currently, according to the document — and for dealing with traffic lights and pedestrians. For example, could some intersections use more time for pedestrians to comfortably cross the street?

Just before the plan was approved, several council members chimed in with some additions. Several ideas from Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward), including continuing the coordination of the annual sidewalk repair program and supporting arts partnerships to enhance walkways, were adopted. So was a proposal from Council Member Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward) that puts an emphasis on high pedestrian-traffic areas for sidewalk snow clearing.

Council Member Robert Lilligren (6th Ward), who himself doesn’t own a car, said the document likely will undergo further changes as time goes on. But it’s a good place to start, he said, and a sign that “we do want this to be a walkable city.”

The plan was approved 12–0. Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) was out sick.

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Council sets new sustainability goals

The City Council approved new goals that would increase the number of rain gardens in the city, plant more trees every year and expand a popular recycling program piloted in Linden Hills.

The goals were adopted as a set of amended indicators for the city’s sustainability report. That report was originally adopted in 2006, with a review of its goals first done in 2007. That led to several changes. Two years later, a few more were made.

Included in the new sustainability indicators are:

— Reduce air pollution to health-based recommended levels from the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. The city was relying on the popular Air Quality Index, but staff found that while it’s a user-friendly tool, it doesn’t necessarily represent what levels of pollution can be considered healthy.

— Reduce municipal operations’ carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 percent every year.

— Plant at least 4,000 trees on public land in 2010 and then gradually increase that to 6,000 trees annually by 2015. Previously, the city’s goal was to plant at least 2,500 trees annually through 2015.

— Expand the organics recycling program piloted in Linden Hills. There, residents have been able since September to have their food scraps and compostable materials picked up curbside separately from other trash and recyclables. The program already expanded to the ECCO neighborhood.

Several sustainability goals and indictors were kept as is. That includes health indicators such as reducing the rate of new HIV cases in the city to 21 cases per 100,000 people and the pregnancy rate among 15- to 17-year-olds to 46 pregnancies per 1,000 people, both by next year. It also includes a goal for 2013 to increase to 67 percent the percentage of people entering Downtown by alternative transportation methods. In 2003, 55 percent used alternatives, according to a staff report.

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Ordinance sets up self-policing of newsracks

The City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance change that will allow Minneapolis’ print media to continue policing their own newsracks rather than pay the city to do it for them.

The ordinance adoption followed an August report that the media had done an adequate job cleaning up their newsracks throughout the city, a clean-up that was spurred by the council’s declared intent to implement a fee to deal with rack issues. Media representatives expressed concern at several public hearings that a fee would put a further dent into what already has been a difficult economy for them.

Council Member Ralph Remington (10th Ward), who started the newsrack debate late last year by proposing the fee, said the new ordinance hopefully will solve an old problem.

“This is a culmination of a years-long effort,” Remington said.

City staff is expected to track the media’s clean-up work for about a year.