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November 24, 2003 // UPDATED 11:07 am - April 30, 2007
By: Skyway News Staff
Skyway News Staff

Citizens begin police chief candidate review On Dec. 13, a group of 21 citizens will spend all day interviewing finalists for the Minneapolis police chief's job.

Mayor R.T. Rybak created the committee, which includes a cross-section of leaders from different ethnic and minority communities, business, the police union, corrections, elected officials and others.

The Citizens Committee met for more than three hours Nov. 12 to review the backgrounds of approximately 17 candidates who made the first cut, said Doug Federhart, deputy director for OutFront Minnesota, a committee member.

Federhart, whose organization advocates for those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community, said he was surprised by the consensus among committee members. They generally agreed the city needed a chief who was able to work with diverse communities and who backed the community policing concept.

"We didn't have arguments over people; I wasn't sure what to expect," Federhart said. "There weren't eyebrows that even quivered when I was talking about the gay and lesbian stuff -- that we needed a chief who really understood factors in that section of the community. We were talking, and people were nodding."

Deputy Mayor David Fey said committee participants signed limited confidentiality agreements. They could discuss the process in general but not specific candidates -- for now. State data privacy law protects the names in the initial candidate pool. The city's consultant, the Oldani Group, will narrow the field in early December, and the city will release finalists' names.

The city received more than two-dozen applications, Fey said. The Oldani Group will use the Citizens Committee's comments to create the finalists' list.

Rybak will interview the finalists separately. He then will meet with the Citizens Committee to discuss its impressions before recommending a new chief to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee, made up of the mayor and Council leaders, formally nominates the chief, whom the entire Council must approve.

Rybak and current Police Chief Olson have been at odds since Rybak took office in 2002.

Olson's contract expires in the first week of January, Fey said. The city will hire the new chief in December, and that person will start in January. There will be no gap -- nor overlap --between chiefs.

The goal is "to have a clean break," he said. "Whoever is offered the position is at liberty to contact the chief and sound him out before beginning. We are not planning on a structured overlap." -- Scott Russell

No city calendar for 2004 The city calendar that usually arrives at your door this time of year won't.

The calendar cost $160,000 to produce and distribute, and it was one of the cuts the City Council made earlier this year to cope with cuts in Local Government Aid, said Sara Dietrich, a city spokesperson.

The calendar had information on snow emergencies, solid waste pickup, key city phone numbers, a guide to elected officials, a city budget summary, health and safety tips, and other information, such as Fire Department response times. It served as a mini-annual report, Dietrich said.

The city still will send residents information on solid waste and recycling and snow emergencies -- in a less-expensive format, she said. It is looking for private funding to produce the calendar in 2005.

The city has done the calendar on and off over the years, Dietrich said. It increased the quality -- and cost -- in 1999, an effort to make it nice enough so residents would keep it year-round and use it as a resource. -- Scott Russell

YOU CAN HELP

Thanksgiving drivers needed The nonprofit, Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, seeks volunteers to drive seniors to Downtown's Minneapolis League of Catholic Women on Thursday and share a Thanksgiving dinner with them.

The organization is hosting its annual Thanksgiving Day feast for elders at the office, 207 S. 9th St.

Volunteers are needed to pick up one or two seniors at the seniors' homes and drive them to the party, share dinner with them and then bring them home afterward. The party runs 12:30-3 p.m.

Those interested in helping out should call the Little Brothers' volunteer department, 721-6215. -- Sarah McKenzie

Police reserve seeks help The Minneapolis Police Reserve organization is seeking applicants for their spring 2004 volunteer training class. Members of the organization work to help the Police Department with traffic and crowd control for large events, handling natural disasters, assisting in crime prevention and providing educational services.

They need volunteers for the reserve who are able to give a minimum of 120 hours of service a year. All applicants must successfully complete an interview, a background check and a 10-week training course. The organization prefers volunteers be metro-area residents.

For information on how to get involved or to find an application, visit www.policereserve.org or call 370-3881. The deadline for applications is Dec. 13. -- Robyn Repya

City plans medical-business corridor Downtown Riverfront development corporation suffers setback By Scott Russell The city is working to launch the Minneapolis Lifesciences Corridor, an effort to bolster medical and health innovation along Chicago Avenue from Downtown's Elliot Park neighborhood to Lake Street.

The corridor would be three blocks wide and stretch from the Hennepin County Medical Center at South 6th Street and Chicago Avenue past Abbott Northwestern and Childrens' hospitals near 27th and Chicago to the old Sears Building at Lake Street and Chicago.

The Lifescience Corridor was one of 26 items on the 2004 work plan for the newly created Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department. CPED Director Lee Sheehy presented his first annual work plan to the Executive Committee (consisting of the mayor and City Council leaders) Nov. 12.

The City Council created CPED earlier this year, merging the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, the Planning Department, the Empowerment Zone and other city functions. It's Sheehy's job to bring the super-agency to life -- to better coordinate planning, development and transportation in the city, to simplify regulatory bureaucracy for city entrepreneurs and to provide better financial reporting.

After Sheehy presented his work plan, some Executive Committee members questioned whether he had overextended.

Mike Christenson, CPED's director of strategic partnerships and the former executive director of the Allina Health Systems Foundation, is taking the lead in creating the Lifescience Corridor.

Christenson said Mayor R.T. Rybak's first assignment for him was to develop "a Minneapolis approach to biosciences." The mayor has met with a number of "super docs" to sound them out and help shape the concept, Christenson said.

The corridor would encompass 19 health and medical institutions, 61 research and clinical labs, and 250 researchers, according to a preliminary city proposal. The corridor has more than 2,300 doctors who had more than 1 million patient visits in 2002.

"We think this is one of the biggest medical corridors in the country," Christenson said.

The city's goals include creating an incubator to attract startup companies and a multibank, multi-investor community development corporation to back biosciences firms, the plan said. It calls for "research tanks," new educational opportunities and neighborhood redevelopment.

One of Sheehy's 2004 goals took a big hit before it started. His workplan proposed creating a Riverfront Development Corporation -- a public-private partnership to guide development along the Mississippi from Downtown upstream.

It hinged on collaboration with the Itasca Group -- business and nonprofit leaders, including McKnight Foundation President Rip Rapson, Sheehy said.

The startup money would have come from $150,000 in the mayor's capital budget to plan for the reuse of the Upper Harbor Terminal in North Minneapolis, he said.

The Council's Ways and Means Committee axed the money during budget markup Nov. 19. The full Council has yet to vote.

Other CPED projects in the 2004 draft work plan include:

  • Determining the city's long-term role in operating city-owned theaters (1st quarter).

  • Creating planning manuals for neighborhoods -- a step-by-step cookbook -- so neighborhoods' planning efforts will mesh well with the city's Comprehensive Plan (2nd quarter).

  • Beginning a Downtown parking and transit study with Public Works (2nd quarter).

  • Creating a Cultural Affairs Plan to map the future direction of arts and cultural affairs (3rd quarter).

    Sabo snares federal cash for whitewater park Congress has passed a legislative package that includes $750,000 for restoring Lower St. Anthony Falls and a possible whitewater park along Downtown's riverfront.

    Minneapolis Congressman Martin Sabo, a Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, secured the funding in the $27.3 billion Energy and Water Development Act on Nov. 18.

    All told, Sabo has gotten about $3.35 million for the falls restoration efforts in the past couple Congressional sessions, said Travis Talvitie, Sabo's spokesperson.

    The Department of Natural Resources along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on the $2.5 million whitewater park. Park construction involves cutting a 40-foot-wide by 2,000-foot-long channel on the river's east bank.

    The park would feature world-class rapids with courses in rafting, kayaking and canoeing.

    The park would also make use of a 25-foot vertical drop in the river. Planners hope to complete the project by December 2006.

    Said Sabo in a prepared statement, "The Mississippi River is a tremendous asset. Not only has it contributed greatly throughout our state's history, but we continue to benefit from its environmental and economic values."

    The bill awaited President Bush's signature when this issue of Skyway News went to press. -- Sarah McKenzie