BOARD MEETING MINUTES – Monday, March 16th, 2020 – 7:00 p.m., Virtual via Zoom
Board members present: Carl Arrell, Pat Collins, Alyssa Thull, Dan Williams, Kellie Hanson, Dirk Nicholson, Dick Fiala, Brenda Anderson
Board members absent: Bernadette Tomko, Brian McDonald
Also present: Councilmember Jeremy Schroeder, Sally Bauer (TNA Executive Director)
Called to order: 7:04
The City is revisiting the long-standing traffic and pedestrian safety issues on 49th Street due to school drop-off and pick-up behind Justice Page and Washburn. One option is making 49th one-way which the City has studied extensively in the past but determined will not increase safety because drivers speed more often on one-way streets. A possible compromise is to make 49th Street one-way during school pickup/drop-off hours where the school has the responsibility to place and remove signs each day. Neighbors experience difficulty with the periodic traffic situation but do not want the traffic patterns completely changed for something that occurs during very short windows of time. Justice Page and Washburn administrations are both doing everything the City wants them to so far, but more needs to be done.
As a result of COVID-19 Mayor Frey declared a state of emergency today but not much will change from the present situation. An emergency declaration allows the mayor to move more quickly to delegate money and address issues. For example, he closed bars/restaurants and limited service to takeout and delivery. It also serves to reinforce the seriousness of the situation. Governor Walz also announced today increased unemployment benefits for those affected by COVID-19 and business unemployment tax relief.
The City will ensure critical services (inspections, trash, first responders, etc) continue to function. It is also developing guidelines for workers that must be in contact with the public (like inspectors and first responders) and how to manage legal deadlines while City employees work from home. City council will likely hold meetings every week while limiting full committee meetings to ensure focus on COVID-19.
Sally asked how far out we should not be planning events, since TNA has some events in May and our spring newsletter is coming up. Jeremy had no specific answer but has seen that it takes about 3 months for things to return to normal in other countries where things went badly. Return to normal business is going to depend greatly on distancing and testing capacity. He would not plan on anything until August.
Sally also asked if the Neighborhoods 2020 plan timeline will be affected. Jeremy said he could not see how the current timeline could be maintained as it depends on surveys which are normally in-person and cannot be conducted at this time. He’ll have more news in the next couple days.
Alyssa asked if limiting people in stores was an option. Jeremy said things are moving too quickly but doesn’t know of any specific City action here. Some stores are limiting customer numbers themselves but it’s only a request to their patrons.
Secretary – Pat made a motion to approve the January and November minutes, Dirk seconded. Voice vote, all in favor, motion approved.
Treasurer – Sally said our financials and bank activity was normal.
Rachel couldn’t attend, but told Sally that park staff is still monitoring email and phones while park buildings are closed. If there are any issues or questions feel free to contact her.
Sally noted quite low attendance at the N2020 open-house meeting last week, where there was a short presentation and time for questions. She said neighborhoods are stuck between the City council’s focus on equity and keeping a base of neighborhood associations; there doesn’t appear to be enough money for both. The option for allocating 25% for community organizations within the current $4.1 million budget would require funding cuts for neighborhoods like Tangletown. TNA would have to take a stance as an organization and push for additional funding. An attendee to the open-house asked whether the City would expect less of neighborhoods because of the lower funding and the City’s answer was “yes”, but this lowered expectation is not reflected in the actual N2020 plan. The City changed the plan’s language around racial equity to be more ambiguous and therefore apply more broadly to other groups like renters or seniors that are not as well represented or involved.
Sally asked whether NRP funding would be affected. The City’s answer was that the new N2020 program was separate from NRP. One of the other coordinators shared information on a previous meeting where a study was presented about outstanding NRP funds, where it was stated by the City that after N2020 they would look at changing the NRP program to be more in alignment with N2020.
The Southwest coordinators meeting held after the open-house didn’t reach consensus. The expectation is that low funding levels will cause neighborhoods to merge but this will cause many times as much work for neighborhood organizations while receiving less funding than before. Southwest coordinators determined merging neighborhoods would not provide significant savings.
Sally said the end result of the current N2020 plan is that after 2023 funding would be reduced to about $13,000/year from the city. Pat asked whether, if the council adopts the plan and then council makeup changes, if the plan could change. Sally said that since the neighborhood organization funding now comes from the general fund and must be re-approved yearly council membership could change funding levels and the plan as a whole. She said the current council and administration is very focused on equity and aren’t asking the neighborhoods to do anything different than other organizations that get city funding, but this focus could change as a result of future elections and city government makeup.
Dick asked if TNA could narrow its focus given projected funding reductions. Dirk asked when it would make sense to consider limiting TNA’s scope or merging with another neighborhood. Sally replied that when the City makes decisions on N2020 TNA should evaluate funding and perhaps create another strategic plan. Even the money that will come back from TNA’s CLCLT loan will no longer be tied to housing but it’s in the City’s bank account and future spending of that money requires TNA to be a registered neighborhood organization with the City.
Sally asked the board to agree on an official public comment, and asked that the board provide guidance on what Tangletown residents could send to the City during the N2020 comment period. For example, the last official approval of N2020 specified a minimum of $25,000/year for all neighborhoods but the CURA report determined that was not possible while meeting the council’s equity goals. TNA could push for a larger minimum funding structure in coordination with other neighborhoods like last time.
Pat wasn’t sure if residents would have the enthusiasm to write letters/comments this time since everyone has so much else to deal with right now due to COVID-19 Carl said TNAneeds to focus on what our lobbying strategy is and what steps we are going to take.
Alyssa asked what Tangletown demographics look like. Sally said the base of $10,000 is “guaranteed” and additional City funds would be contingent on equity. TNA would have to show it is making efforts to reach those who are traditionally under-engaged and under-represented. This could be done through larger partnership grants for specific projects, but these may be harder for Tangletown to win.
Sally suggested continued lobbying of Councilmember Schroeder via a follow-up meeting. Carl said TNA needs to focus its message on what benefits it can bring in relation to the N2020 plan. Dan said the board talked with Jeremy last year about TNA accomplishments and re-iterating those may not be effective, but a different angle might be. Sally said it would be worthwhile to send TNA comment/letter/talking points to all council members. Carl wondered if there was a way to have TNA funding serve a broader base and bring that message to the table.
Alyssa suggested creating a list of actions residents could take such as letters to editor of the Star Tribune, Southwest Journal, and other publications to spread the word more broadly. Dirk noted that the Minnehaha Parkway plan opposition was effective in getting the word out through other means. Kellie suggested something like Channel 4’s “Question of the Night” rather than just sending information out in press-release-style.
Sally will schedule a strategy meeting for board members soon after the Southwest coordinator’s meeting this week. Sally will also send an email to NCR to inquire about the timeline for N2020 given the COVID-19 issue and whether the process will be delayed.
Sally asked how much she should plan future events like the annual meeting and whether TNA could hold the annual meeting virtually. Dirk thought a Zoom meeting might be difficult to hold with large attendance and asked if it could be postponed. Dan asked Sally to investigate our options in the bylaws and what the implications would be on term limits if the meeting was postponed, since we would need to vote on any changes in the April meeting.
Committee Initiatives Updates
Spaces: the committee may not be holding a spring spruce-up event due to COVID-19, or it will be significantly different in form.
Engagement: Dick asked if there was follow-up from the recruitment event at Wise Acre earlier this month. Dirk suggested it would be worth contacting attendees again. Sally asked board members to send personal follow-up emails to attendees and Dirk volunteered to cover the rest since he talked to everyone.
Environmental: the textile collection event was canceled due to COVID-19. The committee needs to figure out how to move forward with the Metro Blooms grant. CEE finally got an email out to neighborhood residents who had an energy efficiency audit in the past three years and Sally is waiting for residents to contact TNA to inquire about our rebate program.
Executive Director Report
Newsletter deadline: Sally said she couldn’t necessarily wait until the April meeting to make a decision on the annual meeting due to print newsletter deadlines. Dan suggested having a lighter newsletter which wouldn’t have as much info about the annual meeting, and doing a postcard mailing closer to the meeting if we are indeed going to have it in person. Dirk suggested focusing some content on COVID-19 to show how TNA is in the same boat as everyone else.
Approach to coronavirus: Dan asked what the board could do to help residents during this extraordinary time, Sally wondered the same. Dirk also thought we could add value. Alyssa asked if there were ways to help food shelves or other organizations like Mayflower and Sally said she will reach out. Dirk said that other neighborhoods have used Little Free Libraries as mini food banks. Dick also suggested promoting neighborhood restaurants that are still open for delivery/takeout via TNA social media and the newsletter. Dirk and Pat volunteered to help Sally with calls.
Minutes submitted by Dan Williams, TNA Secretary