City Council to examine neighborhood funding

The organization’s evaluation will finish in August.

Nick Wicker

Operations by a city department that funds Minneapolis neighborhood organizations will be analyzed for the next six months.

The Neighborhood and Community Relations Department is undergoing its first evaluation since its inception in 2010. Officials from the City Council’s audit committee began examining the department’s purpose in December, and city auditors will finish their investigation in August.

The city department provides funding for 70 neighborhood organizations, including some in the University of Minnesota’s area, said David Rubedor, the department’s director. It also oversees a range of programs, including outreach to minority groups and citizens with disabilities.

The audit will only address the department’s neighborhood-support work.

Ward 13 City Councilwoman Linea Palmisano, who chairs the audit committee, said the evaluation originally intended to analyze only the department’s budget and financial practices, but it is now looking into its effectiveness and mission, as well.

“It tends to be a fairly nebulous department with a lot of goals that seem a lot different than the rest of our departments, like the fire department,” Palmisano said.

Rubedor said his department proposed to have an evaluation last spring, and he hopes the current analysis will bring constructive feedback.

Palmisano said the money used for the investigation will come from leftover funds in the city’s budget from last year.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents parts of the University and surrounding areas, said the department’s mission is based on community engagement, which makes its purpose harder to define compared to other departments.

The city finds it difficult to accurately assess the department’s success, he said.

Rubedor said the audit will provide the department with an opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t within the program.

“We’re working with the council members to make sure it has value for the work going forward,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing that we’re doing it.”