Neighborhood Notes

Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission – District 5 Newsletter

Nick Cichowicz- District 5 representative 
My name is Nick Cichowicz and I am the elected District 5 representative on the Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission (NCEC) and the current Chair of the commission.District 5 includes the following neighborhoods: Downtown East, Downtown West, Elliot Park, Loring Park, North Loop, Harrison, Near North, Sumner-Glenwood, Willard-Hay, Bryn Mawr.
In This  Newsletter
  • Thoughts on MPLS 2020 and 5 recommendations
  • Next NCEC Meeting 
As a resident of Minneapolis since 2008, who has spent time as a volunteer at the neighborhood level for four years and now on the NCEC for the past four years I would like to offer my personal thoughts on MPLS 2020 along with five recommendations.

I truly love being a Minneapolitan and could not see myself living anywhere else. Besides the normal comments we hear about Minneapolis’ beauty and friendliness (on clear display during the recent Final Four), for me it’s much deeper. This city has afforded me the opportunity to serve as a board member and chair of a local neighborhood association and along with building lasting friendships, we were able to advocate for residents and invest real dollars back into the community.  This is what grassroots government looks like. When I share stories about resident participation with my friends who live outside of Minneapolis they are astounded by the commitment of so many people spending evenings and weekends working together to build a better Minneapolis.

I would not be where I am today in my professional and personal life without the opportunity to hear other ideas at the neighborhood level and be challenged to think outside my comfort zone. Instead of financial support for neighborhoods, we need increased financial support from our City Council.  Neighborhoods are uniquely situated to take on and solve societal issues, chief among them the growing inequality within our city. Let’s empower and build upon the positive work of neighborhood associations over the past 20-plus years and allow for all residents to know that their neighborhood is a place that embraces openness and transparency.

I would be wrong to not acknowledge that I have heard stories and met residents in person who feel as though there are barriers to participation in their local neighborhood associations. This is a real issue and must be addressed in any formal neighborhood support with city funds. As an advocate for neighborhoods and their associations I believe MPLS 2020 is a chance to “get it right” and work together to address concerns from those that have been left behind by their neighborhoods. This isn’t the time to walk away from supporting neighborhoods or to change the tone of city interaction with neighborhoods into something that is cold, distant and transactional.

I believe the benefits of expanding neighborhood support and the actual positive results achieved through community focused resident volunteers outweighs moving toward the system proposed by NCR. Many neighborhoods and residents are watching with great anticipation to see if their elected officials decide to support true grassroots organizations.

As chair of the NCEC I have regularly commented to our commissioners and others who view our monthly meetings that we need to hear all voices, and that includes the professional thoughts from the NCR department and the voices of individuals who feel as though their neighborhood association is not being inclusive and working toward hearing all resident voices within their boundaries.

I’m saddened by the fact that many resident voices are expressing a lack of trust in the process and the motivations of city staff. I believe if we move forward with the current path suggested by the NCR department we will see a city divided instead of a city united in the way that it should, and has been in the past. With that in mind I, as an engaged and proud supporter of neighborhood associations and their work, offer the following five recommendations:

1) A delay of 6 months at least, before a final decision is made by the Minneapolis City Council in reference to Minneapolis Neighborhoods 2020

2) Third party or parties should be brought in for a new round of community engagement around MPLS 2020

3) That Dave Ellis, because of his leadership of the 5 citywide  Community Conversations dealing specially with the issue of MPLS 2020, Robert Thompson and CURA (Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota) lead the next round of community engagement

4)  Allow NCR to have an opportunity to offer their best proposed framework influenced by the recent community comments that were shared from residents of Minneapolis

5) All Minneapolis residents need to advocate for your preferred vision of MPLS 2020 with your City Council member and hold them accountable for their final votes.

Also, please attend the Minneapolis PECE committee on May 6th at 1:30 pm and offer your thoughts directly to the committee on the City Council responsible for this topic (be aware that this time and agenda could change so please look for updates from the City of Minneapolis)

If these 5 steps are put into place I believe by the end of 2019 we will have a fully formed funding, governance and community engagement plan; a plan in which all Minneapolitans can rally behind.

Next NCEC Full Commission Meeting

As a preview the NCR Department will be presenting their updated, based upon resident comments, framework template this evening. 

When: Tue, April 23rd,  5pm-7pm
Where: Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401, United States (map)
-Meetings held in the Doty Board Room

Nick’s contact info-
nickcichowicz@outlook.com or 612-735-0949