City politics key for U’s pursuits

Cati Vanden Breul

AEDITOR’S NOTE:This is the last article in a five-part series about Minneapolis and St. Paul city elections. The articles lead toward the general election Tuesday.

Although the University receives most of its funding from the state, it must work with local governments to function.

The University is a major destination for people in Minneapolis and St. Paul, with at least 80,000 people coming to and from campus every day, said Jan Morlock, director of community relations at the University.

The University significantly influences life in the Twin Cities because it uses city services and lies within the greater metro area, she said.

When University officials want to improve areas on or near campus, they usually do so in collaboration with city officials, Morlock said.

For example, the Minneapolis City Council approved and allocated part of the funding for a Dinkytown lighting project, which will have streetlights installed on 15th Avenue Southeast toward Como Avenue Southeast.

The University is meeting with city planners to plan an expansion of the Carlson School of Management on the West Bank, Morlock said.

The University also relies on Minneapolis and St. Paul for some of their services, including the sewer system and fire departments.

Although the University has its own police force, it must collaborate with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, which are city-governed.

After the hockey riots on campus in 2002 and 2003, the Minneapolis and University police departments worked together with student leaders to help prevent future incidents after sporting events, said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

“By having a collaboration between students and the police, we helped keep the peace and send the message that the vast majority of the ‘U’s’ students are not out of control,” Rybak said.

But the city and the University don’t just work together on safety.

The University can also help improve life within the community, Rybak said.

He said he works with University officials, including University President Bob Bruininks, to come up with ways the institution can improve education in Minneapolis public schools.

This includes bringing students and professors to public schools to work with children, and creating summer jobs for city youths, he said.

“The ‘U’ leadership has responded to every call I made about improving educational opportunities for those most in need,” Rybak said.

But the city also has to deal with some of the problems created by a large student population living within the boundaries of a greater community, said Lee Munnich, senior fellow at the University’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

“There are issues in neighborhoods where you have lots of students. What students like to do may not always be consistent with other neighbors’ priorities,” Munnich said.

Minneapolis City Council member Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding areas, said he has dealt with issues between permanent residents and students.

“There’s continuing tensions with party houses and underage drinking, and we still have to work on it,” Zerby said.

He said the city is working on measures that would address houses with recurring problems and possibly hold landlords responsible.

Zerby said the city also plays a role in housing safety on campus.

After a house fire two years ago killed three University students, the city did major inspection sweeps on campus and found thousands of housing violations, Zerby said.

“I think we’ve improved the caliber of housing, but it takes a sustained effort,” he said.

Although many of the city’s actions affect students, Zerby said, most students don’t realize the importance of voting in local elections.

He said the smoking ban and the decision to classify greek housing on campus as historic are two things a lot of students care about.

“There are many things that the city does that have an effect on students, and I hope they would pay some attention and go out and vote,” Zerby said.

Students can vote in the Minneapolis and St. Paul mayoral and city council elections Tuesday.