City Council creates department to oversee NRP

After a long debate between council members and residents, the Minneapolis City Council approved a proposal Friday authorizing the creation of a new city department to oversee the future of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. The City Council reorganized the NRPâÄôs framework under a new department of Neighborhood and Community Relations in the City CoordinatorâÄôs Office, and the resident-based Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission, to help guide the new department. The NRP began 20 years ago and includes all 84 Minneapolis neighborhoods. But the programâÄôs 20-year funding stops next year, and is slated to begin again in 2011. The program allows neighborhoods to use taxes from city-assisted development on priorities that community members set, such as developing housing, taking care of public spaces and offering programs for youth and the arts. The commission will consist of 16 members âÄî eight selected by neighborhood groups and eight appointed by the City Council, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the Minnesota Park and Recreation Board . âÄúThis was done to assure the NRP didnâÄôt go away,âÄù Ward 10 representative Ralph Remington said to the Council on Friday. The proposal was approved almost unanimously by the council, but Ward 12 council member Sandy Colvin Roy said she didnâÄôt want the NRP to have to report to the city coordinator. âÄúYou cannot centralize creativity,âÄù Colvin Roy said Friday. âÄúAnd for this reason I cannot vote to approve this.âÄù Although city officials have spent much of this term reworking and devising a successor to the NRP, their solution is unpopular with many neighborhood activists. Doug Walter, associate director of Nakomis East Neighborhood Association , said he walked out of FridayâÄôs meeting before it was finished. âÄúItâÄôs an amazing thing to us that the council wanted to give up the control and accountability that the neighborhood organizations and the NRP had to the council and the city coordinator,âÄù Walter said. Walter fears city control could affect funding and how many volunteers the organization will get, he said. Rybak has proposed $8 million a year for 10 years for neighborhood programs funded by redevelopment tax increment finance (TIF) districts authorized by the state Legislature this year. A smaller community innovation fund (CIF) will allow neighborhood associations to apply for grants to pay for other initiatives. But Walter said he fears the chance to get these grants will diminish if the city becomes the neighborhoodsâÄô main source of funding. He added that volunteers may not want to answer to the city coordinator. âÄúIt is almost a way to placate residents by giving them this quasi board, but it is really just another one of the cityâÄôs community advisory councils,âÄù he said. Bob Miller, the director of the NRP, said he thinks the City CouncilâÄôs actions will weaken the program. Miller said his biggest concern is replacing the NRP with a new department. âÄúItâÄôs putting the cart before the horse,âÄù Miller said. âÄúWe should see how this program works before we move ahead.âÄù Driving the councilâÄôs decision is the end of NRPâÄôs funding, Miller said. âÄúThey want control over it,âÄù he said. âÄúIf this was about improving relationships, why didnâÄôt the City Council do this five years ago?âÄù Walter said this is the end of NRP. The new city department will begin in 2009 and completely take over the NRP by 2011. But Miller said he isnâÄôt sure. âÄúWe will know after 2011 what will really happen to the NRP,âÄù he said.