Greenway Council Meeting Notes – 3/8/16

Several homeowners got together to attend a Greenway Council meeting this week.  

At first, they seemed happy to have new people there – board member (now secretary) Nate Pentz was all smiles… until he overheard us talking, and realized that we were homeowners along the route.  From that point forward, his face twisted into the deepest frown I have ever seen in my life.  So very welcoming!

Shortly after the 6:30 scheduled start time, we were asked to introduce ourselves.  There was a very clear divide between the special interest groups there, and the homeowners along the route.  Most of those on the board were not from the area, all of those opposed lived on the route. Those on the route specified “Homeowner, I live on the proposed route” or some variation thereof. Pro Greenway special interest reps / cycling activists that happened to also live in north (though not on the route) would state “I am also a homeowner”, but without the designation of specifically being along the route affected.

As the meeting started,  we couldn’t help but be shocked at the lack of organization.  The woman running the meeting (Sarah, whose last name doesn’t seem to appear on any of the paperwork. I believe she said she was from the City of Minneapolis? Maybe Stewart?) was almost completely incapable of finishing a thought.  Almost every time she was asked a question, she started a thought, stopped herself, started again, and went off in a completely different direction.  She couldn’t answer even the most basic of questions about the project.

Let me transcribe my notes from the meeting.   I’ll try to group them into relevant categories

1. Regarding The Greenway Demo

– They say that the Greenway Demo is now a done deal, thought they’re not sure when.  It won’t be April/May as earlier stated, “likely June”. It will be for “up to one year”, and will apparently not extend beyond that 1 year, as they only have funding for 1 year.

– They’re only doing a partial road closure for the demo, which we find dishonest. They’re allowing some parking on a section north of Lowry, and will allow driving on the two blocks actually discussed in the meeting.   North of Lowry was initially supposed to be a full greenway demo, but will now be 50/50.  South of Lowry will be a one-way road going northbound, so cars will not be able to turn south from Lowry.

Though the demo is set to be for the 30-36th blocks of Irving, only the blocks immediately off Lowry were discussed for some reason.

– In August, they plan to do testing for street traffic, for “a few days”.  It sounds like they have some vague ideas of possible ways to collect data, but no actual plan.

–  If the greenway demo faces strong opposition, it can be taken out ahead of schedule. THIS IS KEY.  It sounded, again, like they had some vague ideas about what would constitute “strong opposition” and how they would collect that opposition. The potential ways that they will collect feedback are: emails, phone calls, kiosks on the route, paper surveys, feedback at events and activities, etc.

They also stated that “tracking costs, site visits to ‘see how it feels’, and bike counts” would be used as metrics to determine the success of the demo.

We have some major concerns about the honest collection of this data, based on their data collection to date – more on that in a bit.

 

Lowry Crossing Issues
To say that the crossing at Lowry is going to be problematic for residents – even those who do not live on the Greenway – is being generous.

They plan on directing a “large amount” of bike and foot traffic across a busy thoroughfare.  They have no plans – and stated outright that they do not have the money for – any type of actual lit-up crosswalk, etc.

Yet, somehow, they are envisioning an uninterrupted bike/foot traffic route. This brings up many safety issues, both for drivers and Greenway users.  Anyone who has ever driven on Lowry knows exactly how this will go – especially with regards to cars NOT stopping, even for a crosswalk. (Or actual red lights, for that matter)

Note: Only Lowry was discussed, but it’s far from the only major thoroughfare that crosses the 2.8 miles of proposed Greenway.

 

Dirty Data Collection

As they talked about the “majority support” for the project, using the term “consensus”, we asked what percentage they were talking about.  “We cannot give a percentage of consensus” was the answer.

Upon further questioning, it was disclosed that they arrived at whatever numbers they have by an incredibly disorganized mix of data, which – by their description – means absolutely nothing.  Some issues:

1. The overall view of “support” comes from an amalgamation of data collection from several collection points/methods.  They did not catalogue the data with regards to collection point, and therefore cannot pinpoint how much of it comes from duplicate respondents, etc.

2. At least one of the data collection points collected data in a biased fashion. It was pointed out to them that multiple homeowners experienced biased data collection at the Open Streets Festival in late 2014.  The Greenway representatives would record the feedback from those in support of the Greenway, and NOT record the feedback from those opposed.  This was backed up by another lady in attendance (I did not catch her name).  As a result, data collected from that event is biased and highly inaccurate.

3. At least one of the data collection points employed the use of push polling. This results in a skewed result. When this was pointed out to the person running the meeting, she went blank and stuttered “I don’t know what that means”Push polling. It’s not a difficult concept, and is definitely something that should be understood by those conducting polling.

4.  The online polling was open to everyone, and did not require any proof of actually living on the route.  Cycling activists were actively encouraging their following to reply to the survey, and – based on statements made on Facebook at the time – it was apparent that at least some of them were dishonest about their residency.

5. As was pointed out by multiple home owners on the proposed route last night, many have STILL not received word of any of this. While they claim to be conducting “outreach”, it seems that most of these efforts have been focused on cycling communities, and not the actual homeowners and occupants along the route. From the sounds of it, when the demo goes up later this year, there will people living on the demo blocks who have no idea what’s going on – and the council people admitted as much.  Further, they have not specifically contacted those on the Demo blocks to collect any feedback for support / dissent.

On a side note, they claimed that the council isn’t ‘for or against’ the Greenway (a claim that any homeowner along the route who’s dealt with any of this will heartily dispute), yet ALL of their subcommittee meetings are held at a bike shop.  This bike shop is represented on the voting board.  Conflict of interest?

Misrepresentation of Addressing the Issues

It was stated that the council is exploring adding extra lighting to the alleyways of the Greenway demo, and would pick up the cost of that (though they currently do not have it factored into any budget.). This would be installed and paid for, for the duration of the demo, then taken down.  Residents would have the option of paying for it to be kept on after the demo concludes.

… but they are not factoring the installation or cost thereof – not to mention the ongoing cost of electricity, etc – into the *final* plan.

To put a finer point on that, they are going to “address” the alley crime issues by adding extra lighting in the DEMO, with no plans to provide that in the *actual* rollout.

This is bait and switch, and a very dishonest way to demonstrate how the actual Greenway plan will impact those along the route.

Complete Lack of Organization

At this meeting, we learned the following:

– The Greenway Council is a self proclaimed “ad hoc body” and “not an actual entity”. They are looking at organizing, and are unsure whether they should be non profit, for profit, or co-op.  This might have been good to figure out before several years of planning had happened. Just a thought!

– They do not have a business plan, and are floundering around trying to figure out what kind of plan they need.  We – as those affected by this plan – are blown away that plans are in place already for this demo, and they do not have a business plan.

– They have stated repeatedly that they “do not have a budget”.  At one point, it was stated “Budget allocated is still up in the air”.

– They do not have a plan at all for upkeep costs on the greenway. “Long term funding” was on the agenda and got tabled.

– There is no money in the Minneapolis budget for an actual greenway, or any of the additional side costs (such as additional snowplowing) at all. There is only budget for 1 year of greenway demo.  What is the point of inconveniencing us all with this demo, with no budget, no business plan, etc?

– There were several students on hand. At one point, one went into a rambling question about how he’d submitted designs as part of a school project.  Was this all planned by students?

– Any talk of actual issues for homeowners was met with confusion, and/or outright admission that they hadn’t considered it.  As an example, it was asked whether homeowners would have to cover the additional costs a greenway would present, in circumstances like sewer repair.

As it is, we are responsible for costs up to a certain point on the street.  With a Greenway in place, those costs would be MUCH higher – moving installations, pulling up and replacing landscaping, etc. The Greenway council does not have a plan for additional costs in such a circumstance.  More concerning is that they had not even *considered* it.

On a side note, at least one board member was over 30 minutes late to the meeting.  Several people walked in around that time, we’re not clear how many were board members beyond one.

Additionally, one board member stated that they had never heard of Lind-Bohanon.  This homeowner is not amused that a voting member on this board had never heard of one the neighbourhoods that they were looking to encroach on.
            
NO IDEA About the Safety Situation in North

At several points during the meeting, it was pretty clear that resident safety was far down the list of the council’s priorities, and was being addressed mainly as an afterthought / to placate.  A few points:

– The lighting situation as mentioned in an earlier point.  To repeat, there is NO plan for permanent extra lighting in the alleys, just for the demo. “We don’t have a budget for lighting” and “we don’t have funding secured for that” are direct quotes, when specifically asked about lighting.

– They talked about stationing police officers at the corner of Lowry and the proposed Greenway to prevent people from turning onto it – for the safety of the cyclists.

– They talked about increasing the number of police officers in the area, including WALKING officers.

For one, we already have a shortage of police in the area.  People report 45+ minute response times to serious crimes. During the summer, we all have to play “gunshots or fireworks”.  The city basically ignores all of it.

… yet somehow, this ad hoc, non-entity without a business plan is going to get more police in the area? And ON FOOT, at that?  Right.

– One “plan” was to state “Housing inspectors might take extra care to ticket things like overgrown weeds in the alleys along the Greenway”. Of course, there was no discussion about arranging or paying for this, or why they figure the city would or should provide such a service, when they are so very lax in it now.

There are currently entire blocks in north that are described as “Looking like a landfill”, and residents all over north have a problem with how inspections are handled/followed up on now.  Why should anyone think that this will change for a Greenway?  And why should it change BECAUSE of a Greenway?

We’ve all been fighting this for years, why should a very specific area get extra attention, because some hipsters from south Minneapolis claim to want to bike on our residential streets?

– One “plan” mentioned to ensure safety was to encourage residents to “get to know your neighbours”.    Um. Thanks?  I’m sure that will prevent rapes and shootings.  Sure.

“Revenue Generation Based Model”

This was only touched on briefly at the meeting, and my question about it was dodged (and I was interrupted several times in asking.)

The Greenway Council mentioned the idea of a “revenue generation based model” to possibly handle costs moving forward.

I asked them if this meant that they would start a side company to earn money to fund the Greenway, or if they were looking to monetize the actual greenway. They were vague and sketchy when it came to answering, but finally stated that it would be a side business, not monetizing the actual Greenway.

After I arrived at home, I received a message from someone else in attendance that said they had discussed opening up the Greenway to franchises in order to raise the money.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As a final note, I would like to share what I think is one of the most important quotes to come out of that meeting:

“I bike on Irving all of the time, it feels safe and secure” – Kendrick Hall of Venture North (A bike shop), voting board member of the Greenway Council.

… if Irving is safe and secure as is, why should 2.8 miles of residents lose frontage access to their homes, lose 2.8 miles of parking (well, ~5.6 miles of parking spaces, as most/all of this has parking on both sides of the street. That’s a LOT of displaced cars), lose home value and sellability,  for this poorly planned project?

At least 4 people biked in from this meeting, held in North Minneapolis after dark. They seem to feel safe enough in the current setup for cyclists.

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