Cedar-Riverside leaders advocate for youth funding in the face of budget cuts

Local leaders hope to expand after-school youth programming and space in the neighborhood.

Emma Dill

As City budgets are finalized for next year, leaders in Cedar-Riverside say they will advocate for funding to solve a persistent lack youth programming in the neighborhood.

Local leaders and youth attended a meeting Saturday to discuss solutions to a shortage of after-school and youth-focused spaces and programs. Young people in Cedar-Riverside often end up standing outside when local spaces are not available, attendees said, and the onset of cold weather has added urgency to the discussion.

The community’s Brian Coyle Center is a primary provider of such programming. The center, which only serves youth under the age of 18, scaled back programming after a large portion of its funding from United Way was cut in 2016. Since then, few alternative programs have developed in the neighborhood.

“In the past week, we’ve been talking to the youth in the neighborhood about what’s the biggest problem affecting them and the most common answer that we got from them is that they don’t have a safe place to relax and have a normal conversation with people that they trust,” said Adan Ali, a member of the newly-formed neighborhood youth board.

A lack of available community spaces makes new programming difficult, local leaders said. Ward 6 City Council member Abdi Warsame suggested using local mosques for youth programming. 

“The main problem [in] this neighborhood is always lack of space,” said Warsame. “We’ve always had to be creative in managing the space we have.”

Even with available neighborhood spaces, local leaders said long-term funding is critical to making programming successful.

“Unless we develop a base funding — from the state, from institutions, from the City, from the county — we’re going to be sitting here all over again,” said Mohamud Noor, the newly-elected state representative of House District 60B. 

Noor told attendees that he would advocate for funding from the state when he joins the state legislature next session. Noor also suggested closing the defunct West Bank Community Coalition and developing a new neighborhood organization to secure City funding.

With Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed budget headed to a City Council vote by December, Warsame said he would advocate for funding at a City level. 

“We are in the budget process right now, and I will try to get some support for them this year,” he said.

AK Hassan, District 3 Park Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioner, said he hopes to bring youth programming to nearby Currie Park by next year. 

The park board is in the early stages of developing a second recreation center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and a potential addition to the Brian Coyle Center. Noor said the youth and others in the community need to participate in discussions surrounding that development. 

“We want to be sitting at that table and making sure that it meets the needs of the people that are going to be served. So, we want to make sure that conversation is taking place today rather than tomorrow,” Noor said.

Although local leaders did not lay out concrete plans for funding, Ali said the discussions were a step in the right direction.

“At the end of the day, I’m tired of all this talk. All this talking is not helping the kids … somebody has to step up,” he said.