East Phillips Roof Depot redevelopment gets green light and funding, a win for community organizing

Vision for the East Phillips Roof Depot redevelopment.

In the waning hours of the state legislature, an agreement was cut between the state, the City of Minneapolis, and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) that enables EPNI to buy the old Roof Depot warehouse and redevelop it into a community amenity.

The redevelopment will include affordable housing, an indoor urban farm, space for local businesses, job training facilities, services for unhoused people, a large solar array, and more. It will be a community-owned asset.

The neighborhood wanted to acquire the Roof Depot site years ago, but the City of Minneapolis bought it with plans to relocate its Water Works facility there.

The legislative deal provides the city with money to recoup its expenses and move the Water Works yard elsewhere.

The deal hinges on EPNI raising $3.7 million in private funds by Sept. 7.

Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Minneapolis), who represents the East Phillips neighborhood, said in a media release she was pleased the state and city partnered to find a solution.

“With a third of East Phillips residents living below the poverty line, the community is in great need of affordable housing, investment in jobs and infrastructure, and sustainable development. While this project will be a long road, I’m thankful we were able to make progress on this investment in our community. I am confident the vision for the Roof Depot will one day become a reality.”

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LaDuke steps down from Honor the Earth, Line 5 tunnel delayed, and other news

In this post:

  • Indian Country Today: Winona LaDuke steps down from Honor the Earth leadership after $750k judgment in sexual harassment lawsuit
  • Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate seeks return of child from Carlisle Indian Boarding School cemetery
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delays Enbridge Line 5’s Great Lakes tunneling permitting to spring 2025.
  • Lower Phalen Creek project changes name to reflect Native leadership
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City leaders need to be transparent about their failed racial equity initiatives

Everybody wants transparency until they are the ones asked to be transparent.

So it is with city leaders in the controversy swirling around Tyeastia Green, the City of Minneapolis’ first director of the Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Department, and now its ex-director. Green recently left the job amid accusations she gave false statements to the City Council.

For a better understanding of what happened, I highly recommend Kyle Stokes’ MinnPost article: Did a troubled Black History Month expo need a City Council rescue? Minneapolis ex-equity director says leaked audio proves it didn’t. Stokes got Green’s side of the story in more detail, including access to a secretly recorded conversation she had with city leaders.

I will focus on one piece of the story: The need for transparency.

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Outside investigation: City of Minneapolis has a toxic work environment, including racism

I have published then unpublished this post twice, not feeling quite right about the conclusions I’ve drawn.

Here is where I feel stuck.

The city of Minneapolis asked the lawfirm Greene Espel to conduct an outside review of staff complaints against Heather Johnson, the former City Coordinator and current City Operations Officer.

The review came in response to a complaints from 17 current and former staff in the City Coordinator’s Office, which housed the Division of Race and Equity. The staff wrote Johnston April 28, 2022, beginning: “This letter is the result of building frustrations about ongoing harm caused to current and past City Coordinator Office (CCO) staff, particularly Black and Brown staff. This harm stems from a toxic, anti-Black work culture …”

From summer, 2020 to Fall, 2021, all but one of the staff in the city’s Division of Race and Equity resigned, the letter said. There were eight resignations in all, including four African American women.

The report concluded that Johnston had not created a “toxic, racist workplace.” (That is not to say that there aren’t (or weren’t) workplace problems.)

The report said such problems are systemwide, and “are larger than a single person.”

While the report focused specifically on Johnston, it’s difficult to read it and not draw larger conclusions about the city’s workplace culture.

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Green out as Minneapolis’ equity leader, city again fails to deliver on equity promises

Tyeastia Green, the first person to head Minneapolis’ Department of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, is out after only a year on the job. She said she was asked to resign.

Green is accused of lying to the City Council about funding for the “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams Expo,” held in February to celebrate the Black community, MPR and Star Tribune reported. The city auditor is reviewing the event’s financials.

I don’t know the truth about what happened with the expo event. Whatever the problems were, they are dwarfed by the city’s ongoing inability to address systemic racism.

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Roof Depot news roundup: More support for the East Phillips neighborhood, a scathing Op/Ed, and more

In this post, an update on the City of Minneapolis’ controversial plans to expand its Public Works yard in East Phillips, including.

  • City Council member Robin Wonsley writes ‘mic drop’ Op/Ed on Roof Depot, and what constitutes ‘safety’
  • Neighborhood groups, health care professionals, artists, press city to drop its Roof Depot plans
  • Roof Depot demolition updates
  • City of Minneapolis embarrasses itself trying to justify the Public Works expansion
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Anger, vulnerability mix as Minneapolis Council debates stiffer penalties for disrupting meetings, threats against public officials

During a tense meeting today, a Minneapolis City Council committee approved several amendments to the city’s 2023 Legislative Agenda. Members agreed to support legislation that would:

  • Create clear guidance for lawful conduct at public meetings of government bodies “while safeguarding the protected First Amendment rights of citizens to peaceful assembly and to express dissent or to protest government policies and actions.”
  • Create “enhanced criminal penalties for assaults and threats of violence against public officials, public employees, or their families, when the assault or threat of violence is committed for the purpose of causing bodily harm or terror because the victim is a public official, public employee, or a member of their family.”
  • Designate as public data any ‘complaint data’ against public officials when a complaint is sustained, regardless of the nature of the disciplinary action taken. (This seemed targeted to access to complaints upheld against police.)

The committee voted down a proposal to support legislation that would allow municipalities to require police to carry personal liability insurance as one way to address costly police misconduct settlements.

The measures still have to go to the full council.

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Minneapolis Councilmember seeking increased criminal penalties for threats, assaults against public officials

Minneapolis City Councilmember Linea Palmisano (13th Ward) wants to amend the city’s “Legislative Agenda and Policy Position” to add “clear guidance for lawful conduct” at public government meetings, and to support legislation “that would create enhanced criminal penalties for assaults and threats of violence against public officials, public employees, or their families …”

City Councilmember Robyn Wonsley (Ward 2) is proposing changes to the state’s legislative agenda, including adding a requirement for police to carry liability insurance.

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Strib editorial board offers paternalistic commentary on Roof Depot’s future

Also check out Nicole Perez’s Op/Ed in the Star Tribune: Native people won’t be silenced.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board embarrassed itself with its Friday editorial backing the city of Minneapolis’ plan to demolish the Roof Depot warehouse in East Phillips and expand its public works yard onto the site.

Let’s start with the headline: “Move ahead on Roof Depot site: Minneapolis has taken the necessary steps to ensure it will be safe and beneficial for the community.”

Just to be clear, the editorial board is saying that the city — not the neighborhood residents — gets to decide what is “safe and beneficial” for the community.

And how did the editorial board arrive at such a conclusion? It met with Mayor Jacob Frey and Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher, then wrote its column. Funny thing, they don’t seem to have talked to the residents.

They sat at their desks and wrote a one-sided story.

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Roof Depot update: Police injure one in response to the Occupation, a court win, and more

Correction: An earlier version of this blog include a photo which was misidentified as Rachel Thunder. The photo has been removed.

Rachel Thunder was a key leader of the Roof Depot Occupation that began early Tuesday morning. By early evening people started texting her, saying: “They’re coming!”

“They” was a large contingent of officers from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). It was an overwhelming response compared to the actual threat.

“There were no guns, alcohol, drugs, or dogs,” Thunder said. “Everyone was an Indigenous community member or ally. We didn’t have any unsheltered relatives there.”

The city “militarized against a peaceful, prayerful, ceremonial space,” she said.

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