In advance of NRP shift, city scours neighborhoods

City staffers are on a whirlwind citizen input tour to prepare for next year’s launch of a new neighborhoods program

Call it the Great Minneapolis Neighborhood Tour of 2010.

From May until no later than July 7, staffers of the city’s new Neighborhood and Community Relations Department (NCR) are traveling north and south and east and west to attend meetings of almost all of Minneapolis’ 72 neighborhood groups. Their goal: to gather input on the groups’ needs so that a proper post-Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) can be established.

NRP has long been praised for breathing new life into the city’s neighborhoods. But it’s on its way out now, after the city — in response to a destabilized NRP — adopted a plan that brings neighborhood programming under its wing financially and managerially. The new system will be run by the NCR and the Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC), an appointed citizen board.

The NCR and NCEC are supposed to take over neighborhood services Jan. 1. But while general plans are in place, specific guidelines are not. That’s created a strict deadline, especially for the development of what’s becoming the Community Participation Program, the planned future funding source of neighborhood groups’ infrastructure.

“It’s what will support admin, support staffing, support outreach activities,” NCR Director David Rubedor said. “It’s really the core fundamental piece. We want to have that up and running Jan. 1.”

‘Don’t throw the baby’

Five general community meetings were held in May and June, and NCR staff and NCEC members have attended or scheduled meetings with more than 50 neighborhood groups. Several themes emerged, Rubedor said, most of which he called “good surprises.”

“There are some fairly common things people want to change or enhance,” Rubedor said. “But for the most part it’s, ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s tweak what we’ve got and make it work a little bit better.’”

John Finlayson is representing Southwest on the NCEC. He said that the input he’s heard is all over the map. Then again, that’s to be expected this early in the process, he said.

“Where we’re at is in the middle of questions,” Finlayson said. “There are no conclusions at this point. Those will come later.”

At a May meeting of the Armatage Neighborhood Association, Rubedor and Finlayson guided residents through questions about the neighborhood’s goals and how city resources should be used to meet those goals. A suggestion was made that all neighborhoods get equal shares of future funds, but others said distribution should be based on need.

In nearby Linden Hills, Bruce Manning said he personally expected many Southwest neighborhoods would support that latter viewpoint. Manning is co-chairman of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council.

“We are not in as desperate a need of help as other places,” he said. “I suspect as funding gets narrower, those neighborhoods that have stronger organizations and fewer problems, I expect that they’ll see less money. I don’t have any objections.”


Next steps

Once the neighborhood meetings wrap up, NCR staff will use the input to develop program guidelines. Those will then head to the NCEC, probably in time for the board’s July meeting, Rubedor said.

Specific plans should be ready by the start of August, he said, after which a 45-day review period would begin. That’s when neighborhoods would be able to get more formal with their input.

The goal is to have all of that wrapped up by the end of September, so that the City Council can vote on the system in October. If all of that falls into place, the NCR and NCEC should reach their deadline.

“Jan. 1 is when the NCR will enter the business of serving neighborhoods,” Finlayson said. “That will happen.”


What are the NCEC and NCR?

The Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) and the Neighborhood Community Relations Department (NCR) anchor a new neighborhoods system that will replace the popular Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) starting in 2011. The city was prompted to create the new system by 2001 tax legislation that destabilized NRP.

The NCEC, an appointed citizen board, will oversee the future of neighborhood funding and will advise city staff and elected officials on community engagement issues. It eventually will replace the NRP Policy Board.

The NCR is the new system’s managing department.


Want to provide input?

The Neighborhood and Community Relations Department (NCR) is continuing to take comments on the city’s new neighborhoods program. For those who were unable to attend the public meetings, send an e-mail to [email protected] These are the questions neighborhood organizations have been asked to consider:

1. What are the future goals and plans of the neighborhood organization?

2. How could city resources such as a new community participation funding program, city staff resources, partnerships with other organizations, etc. be used to meet these goals and plans?

3. How detailed should the allocation of funds be? (Consider a continuum from all neighborhoods getting the same amount annually to each neighborhood having its own formula that could change regularly based on different variables.)

4. Are there ways that a new program could help neighborhood organizations be more effective at what they do?

5. Are there other things that should be considered when developing the new program?

For information, go to ci.minneapolis.mn.us/ncr.