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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News: Minneapolis willing to sell Roof Depot site to East Phillips, LaDuke’s Line 3 case dismissed, and more

In this post:

  • City of Minneapolis says its willing to sell the Roof Depot to East Phillips for $16.7 million
  • MPD misses red flag in hiring new police officer
  • LaDuke’s Line 3 trespass case dismissed
  • TigerSwan used its Standing Rock spying marketed its counterinsurgency tactics to Other Oil Companies
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City of Minneapolis offers pretend citizen engagement on site choice for new 3rd Police Precinct building

Minneapolis City Hall is offering the illusion of community engagement in its efforts to choose a site to rebuild the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD’s) 3rd Precinct building (the one damaged by fire during the 2020 George Floyd uprising.)

It’s a significant decision, yet the city’s “community engagement” is minimal. It’s giving residents two sites to choose from, and one month to comment.

Option 1 is to rebuild at Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue at the site of the former 3rd Precinct building. In an email to constituents, Council Member Robin Wonsley (Ward 2) said this option would be a daily reminder to residents “of MPD’s decades of brutality and racism, and of the global uprising that took place after Officer Chauvin murdered George Floyd.”

Option 2 is to build the precinct station at East 26th Street, just east of Hiawatha Avenue,

Wonsley is critical of the plan, saying the city misused money meant for community engagement around redeveloping the old 3rd Precinct site for the community’s benefit.

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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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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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MPD Consent Decree is late, Minneapolis revamp of police oversight is weak, a national look at non-fatal police shootings

Minneapolis leaders and Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR) apparently have hit a snag negotiating a Consent Decree in response to the DHR’s scathing report, released last April, identifying a pattern and practice of racial discrimination by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).

Meanwhile, city officials have put forward a weak proposal to reform police oversight of MPD. Settlements are still coming in from people injured during the 2020 George Floyd uprising, and injured parties are forcing MPD reforms though lawsuits.

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While East Phillips looks for answers on pollution worries, art restored at Roof Depot site

Sunday gathering to restore Urban Farm art.

East Phillips residents and friends gathered Sunday to restore the community artwork Minneapolis city workers unceremoniously removed from the fencing around the controversial Roof Depot site.

The city wants to use the Roof Depot site near 28th and Hiawatha to expand its Public Works yard, a move neighbors say would bring more pollution to an already polluted neighborhood. The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) has proposed a much more community-friendly development for that site.

The city wants to demolish the unused warehouse building on the Roof Depot site, the same building EPNI wants to repurpose into an indoor urban farm, small business incubator space, and more.

Complicating matters, this area was home to a pesticide plant that left massive arsenic pollution. Workers removed some 80,000 tons of arsenic-contaminated soil from the former Superfund site. However, that work didn’t touch the contaminated soil underneath the warehouse, which would get stirred up during demolition, neighbors say.

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Minneapolis seeks public comments on police contract negotiations, appointment of city’s first Community Safety Commissioner

In this post:

  • City of Minneapolis holds community listening sessions on police union contract negotiations
  • Minneapolis City Council to hold public hearing Tuesday on Cedric Alexander’s nomination as the city’s first Community Safety Commissioner
  • Unity Church hosts concert to support Indigenous rights and stop the Huber Lumber Mill Project
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Minneapolis Police Reforms: Another one bites the dust?

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC) is in disarray. Its chair resigned earlier this year, frustrated over the commission’s ineffectiveness. Four of the commission’s nine seats are vacant. The commission has cancelled three of its last nine monthly meetings.

One key part of the PCOC’s work is to research and evaluate Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) polices. It then publishes reports with recommendations to the city. The commission hasn’t published a report since before George Floyd’s 2020 murder, according to the city’s website.

At it’s most recent meeting, April 12, the four members in attendance were expressing frustration that they couldn’t meet their mission due to a lack of resources and limits on the commission’s authority.

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