Neighborhood programs receive needed attention

After many months of tiptoeing around the topic, the Minneapolis City Council created a work plan to discuss the future of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

The program, which is set to expire in 2009, gives neighborhood organizations money and control over area improvement programs. NRP provided money and resources to help Como neighborhood residents build a playground at Tuttle Community School in 1998.

The new plan includes an NRP road map to approach the issue, requiring more research regarding its effectiveness. The plan also creates a community engagement task force to provide ideas.

Ward 2 councilman Cam Gordon said he was originally concerned about the lack of discussion, but he now feels much more hopeful about the direction of the city because it is committing resources to take a serious look at the issue.

“There’s great opportunity, but great risk,” Gordon said. NRP could remain the same or face some drastic changes.

Jeremy Hanson, communications director for the mayor’s office, said it is clear NRP needs to change because the city is a different place than it was 10 years ago. The city is more diverse and has new technology. In addition, the city has less money to spend on the program.

The task force is one way to drum up new ideas regarding the program. Although the focus of the group centers on larger community involvement issues, the city allocated six of the 22 positions for neighborhood organizations.

City Council President Barbara Johnson said that the city received more than 75 applications for the task force.

The members of the task force will be announced by the end of the week, Johnson said.

The effectiveness of the group will largely depend on its members, said Bob Miller, NRP director.

Miller said that the lack of dedicated funding could be resolved without raising property taxes, if the commitment exists. The city can talk about community engagement efforts, but is not fully committed until the funding shows up, he said.

“It’s the appearance of engagement and involvement, and reality of empowerment,” Miller said.

The city should dedicate resources to its most successful community engagement program, Miller said.

“We not only get people engaged, we keep them engaged,” he said, adding that people come from around the world to see this program.

Miller has worked with a variety of community programs throughout the nation, but he said this program has done more than any other he has ever seen.

James De Sota, Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator, said a lot of people feel community engagement should increase, but the NRP program is already doing that.

De Sota submitted an application to become a part of the task force, but the city turned him away because he recently moved out of Minneapolis.

Although the plan aims to increase community involvement, the final decision will fall into the hands of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council, De Sota said.