At our City Council meeting last Friday, June 7, I gave notice of my intent to introduce ordinances on Wage Theft Prevention & Freelance Worker Protections along with Council Members Palmisano and Cunningham.
Since then, we have followed progress at the state level on these worker protections, and were pleased to see that the final budget signed by Governor Walz included policy changes and additional funding to increase the state’s ability to enforce state wage and hour laws.
The ordinance we intend to introduce will complement our existing Minimum Wage and Earned Sick & Safe Time ordinances, and increase our Civil Rights Department’s ability to ensure workers get paid for the work they do in Minneapolis.
I have a real problem with both of these business models — especially in apartment buildings — since that is not why the City approved these development projects. When we have historically low vacancy rates and increasingly unaffordable rents, we need as many of our housing units as possible to be available as housing, not as an alternative to hotels. I see the value of this option as a traveler, and I’m open to the possibility of allowing it in some low quantity, but nowhere near the numbers in which it is being proposed.
For all of these policy priorities: wage theft prevention, freelance worker protections, and short-term rental regulations, I encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback with me.
You will also see that there are many other newsworthy developments in these policy areas in the newsletter to follow. All of this work is critical to making sure that Minneapolis is a city for everyone.
After looking at the ways in which other cities have addressed this issue, notably Seattle, this work will most likely return to Council for adoption first as a set of Privacy Principles, followed later in the year by additional policies and any necessary ordinance language.
There will be several points in that process where I’ll request public feedback on these principles and policies as they progress. If this is a policy area that especially interests you and you’d be willing to volunteer a little time to participate in an informal advisory group on data privacy issues, please contact my office and we’ll make sure to invite you to take part.
Renters’ Rights Policy Development
Minneapolis is now a majority-renter City, including Ward 3, and as our rental housing market has gotten tighter, with vacancy rates in the low single digits, it has become harder for low-income people to find places to live. One of the goals of the City Council is to identify and eliminate barriers to safe, stable housing.
With that in mind, Council President Bender and Council Member Ellison have been working on ordinances to increase the rights of prospective renters, and they recently released two drafts: one to limit landlords’ ability to “look back” at a criminal record, and the other to put a cap on security deposits.
Both of these proposals make a lot of sense to me, based on both my time working with renters around the city, as well as from my own personal experience as a renter over many years, and I intend to support them when they come forward. They achieve the goal of eliminating barriers to housing, and ensuring that people are treated fairly.
I’ve been disappointed by the response of the Multi-Housing Association on this issue. Rather than engage constructively, as they’ve been invited to do, they’ve launched a public campaign to arouse people’s fears, implying that these straightforward and common-sense ordinance changes will somehow prevent landlords from meaningfully screening tenants, or that limiting predatory over-sized deposits will lead to higher rents. Neither argument stands up well to scrutiny, and I’m hoping the tone and tactics of their response on this issue are not an indication of how we’ll work together on future tenant protection policies, including ones I am proposing.
A few weeks ago, I introduced an ordinance at Council to establish an additional right for renters: a Right of First Refusal to buy their properties when they are put on sale by the owner. There are a lot of questions to research and choices to make about the details of this policy, but it has the potential to increase community-based ownership of housing at a time when our housing stock is increasingly owned by out-of-town landlords.
I am working on this policy with Council Members Ellison and Schroeder, with support from Council Member Gordon, and expect it to be ready for Council debate and action later in the year.
Downtown Public Safety & Policing
With summer upon us, late night activity downtown is in full swing, and that brings a lot of additional people to our entertainment district. I want our downtown to be a 24-hour destination and a welcoming one, so I am working to expand our late night food truck options and increase activation to encourage positive activity as much as possible.
This year, we have the additional complication of the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction project, which has moved bus routes and displaced a lot of street activity to other locations. Ride-hailing options like Uber and Lyft really have the ability to clog things up at bar-time, so we are also looking at establishing some designated pickup locations to mitigate their impact.
Unfortunately, there have also recently been a set of violent crimes in the entertainment district downtown, and that understandably raises anxiety about public safety on the whole. While violent crime in the First Precinct (which encompasses all of Downtown, the North Loop, Elliot Park, and Cedar-Riverside) is up compared to last year, it is also still substantially lower than two years ago. No amount of crime is good, and we have plans in place to even further reduce crime downtown so that everyone can feel safe and have a good time.
This year we established an Office of Violence Prevention in the Department of Health, and they recently selected organizations for contracts for violence prevention work downtown, including Mad Dads, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Green Minneapolis, and St. Stephens. Those contracts were just approved by the City Council at the end of last week, so they will now be able to get started on that work for the rest of the summer and year.
I have also heard specific concerns about current MPD staffing levels. Our authorized sworn force is 888 officers, which is an average that is allowed to fluctuate within the year — sometimes higher, sometimes lower, depending on retirements and other attrition. Right now the city has 891 sworn officers, but the number of officers assigned to Patrol is down from last year, temporarily, because that total number includes recruits completing their academy training and others completing field training. By June 30, our Patrol force should be back up to full staffing.
As the summer progresses, I intend to work on more ways to attract positive activity downtown to make it a safe place for all of us to live, work, and play.
MN Court of Appeals Ruling Upholds City Ordinance Barring Section 8 Housing Discrimination
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday, June 10 that the City of Minneapolis can enforce our ordinance prohibiting landlords from discriminating against tenants who receive federal Section 8 rent assistance.
The ruling means the city can again prohibit landlords from refusing to rent housing units to people with Section 8 housing vouchers. The ordinance, which was passed by the City Council in 2017, was struck down by a Hennepin County judge last year.
Metro Area Housing Agencies Set to Open Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program Waiting Lists in June
The Metropolitan Council Housing and Redevelopment Authority (Metro HRA), the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, and the St. Paul Public Housing Agency will all be accepting online applications for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Online applications will be available from 8:00am Wednesday, June 12, 2019 through Noon on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Applicants must apply to each waiting list separately.
On July 1, the minimum wage in Minneapolis is going up to $11 for small employers and $12.25 for large employers.
The Minneapolis minimum wage ordinance defines small businesses as having 100 or fewer employees and large businesses as having more than 100. Tips and gratuities do not count toward payment of a minimum wage.
The City’s Department of Civil Rights oversees enforcement of the municipal minimum wage, and workers are encouraged to report violations online. The City has received 28 reports of minimum wage violations to date. Employees have received over $21,000 in back wages and penalties as a result of investigations into those violations.
Increases in Minneapolis’ minimum wage benefit tens of thousands of families. The ordinance supports the City’s goals of promoting economic inclusion and reducing economic and racial disparities.
MN Court of Appeals Ruling Allows Full Enforcement of Sick and Safe Time Ordinance
The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that our sick and safe time ordinance does not violate state law and can be fully enforced! The City of Minneapolis is revising the rules and FAQs implementing the sick and safe time ordinance to implement the Court of Appeals decision. The ordinance took effect July 1, 2017, but had not previously been fully enforced due to litigation.
The City will now be able to enforce the ordinance to ensure workers employed by businesses based outside of Minneapolis but who work in the city earn sick time when they do so. Under the revised rules, when workers at employers based outside of Minneapolis work more than 80 hours in a year within the geographical boundaries of Minneapolis, their employers must now comply with the sick and safe time ordinance and will be subject to enforcement after the rule changes take effect.
Under the sick and safe time ordinance, employers with six or more employees must provide paid sick and safe time. Employers with five or fewer employees must also provide sick and safe time, but it can be unpaid. All types of employees are covered, including part-time workers. One hour of sick and safe time accrues for every 30 hours worked within the city. Sick and safe time may be used only when an employee is scheduled to work in Minneapolis.
Employees can use sick and safe time for their own illnesses; to care for an ill family member; to address issues caused by domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking; and to care for a family member due to an unexpected closure of their school or daycare.
Nice Ride Offers Discounted Memberships for Residents with Low Incomes
Minneapolis residents enrolled in SNAP or TAP programs can enroll online for discounted Nice Ride memberships. Nice Ride is making a significant commitment to bike share equity, access, health and a greener city with a new discount program called “Nice Ride for All” for low-income Minneapolis riders with low incomes.
Nice Ride is offering a limited-time promotion for new enrollees of Nice Ride for All. To celebrate the launch of this program, individuals who sign up through August 2019 will pay only $5 for their entire first year of membership. The Nice Ride for All membership will typically cost $5 per month outside of that. Once enrolled, people will have access to unlimited 60-minute bikeshare rides throughout Minneapolis.
This season, Nice Ride is expanding its footprint in Minneapolis larger than ever before, installing more than 575 more bike parking hubs and nearly 50 more stations in Minneapolis. Riders can download the Nice Ride app to locate stations and unlock bikes, either dockless or station-based. Rentals at the station kiosks or via member key are also available.
About Nice Ride
Launched in 2010, Nice Ride is the hometown bike sharing system of Minneapolis. Overseen by the nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota and now operated and powered by Lyft, Nice Ride’s mission is to enhance quality of life by providing convenient, easy to use bike sharing that will provide residents and visitors a healthy, fun, different way to get around town.
To sign up for Nice Ride for All, individuals enrolled in SNAP (food assistance) or TAP (transit assistance) programs can visit niceridemn.com/nicerideforall and sign up online by entering their EBT or Go-To Card number.
Call for Artists – Minneapolis Art Wraps
Minneapolis Art Wrap designs by Gail Katz-James (left) and Kirsten Walstead (right, also in photo)
The City of Minneapolis is seeking 20 artists to create the next generation of Art Wraps! The Art Wrap program has become a popular form of Public Art on our local utility boxes, and has helped decrease tagging and graffiti on utility boxes. The selected designs will be available to communities at the end of this summer through our public art permit application process.
Sen. Bobby Joe Champion and Reps. Ray Dehn and Diane Loeffler have also been invited
This was a difficult legislative session at the state capitol, with a lot of great policy and budget priorities blocked by the Senate. In the end, the budget deal signed by Governor Walz was missing some key city priorities that we’d hoped for, but our Minneapolis delegation can also claim some important victories that they fought hard to pass into law for us.
Join us next week to discuss the legislative session and what it means for Minneapolis!
Our Next Good Morning Ward 3 is Wednesday, July 17
Mark your calendar for my next Good Morning Ward 3 on Wednesday, July 17:
Good Morning Ward 3
Wednesday, July 17th from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
Kramarczuk’s, 215 E Hennepin Ave.
Coffee With Your Council Member
Council Member Fletcher holds regular open community office hours, normally at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, at a rotating neighborhood coffee shop in Ward 3 for constituents to drop by, ask questions, and raise any issues you see in the community.
All are welcome! RSVP on Facebook or just show up. If you want to discuss a specific issue or project, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add you to the agenda.