Judith Martin, president of the Minneapolis Planning Commission, is featured in the May 29 issue of the Downtown Journal, www.skywaynews.net/articles/2006/05/30/hot_dish01.txt . She’s been president for eight of the 15 years she’s served, but Mayor Rybak has decided not to reappoint her to another term. His explanation? He wants “new voices.”
Martin is a geography professor and chair of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Studies Program, so no one can say she doesn’t know her stuff. But she has also lived for 24 years on Nicollet Island.
This is where some heat glow begins. The Planning Commission deals with street vacations. The current proposed location for the DeLaSalle Stadium would necessitate closing (vacating) Grove Street. This is why last month the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota named Grove Street to its list of the state’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Places for the second year. It’s a historic street that existed for almost half a century before DeLaSalle was founded.
Judith Martin lives on Grove Street. If, as a Planning Commission member, she had abstained from voting on an issue where she had a clear interest, where would that have put City Council President Barb Johnson in subsequent DeLaSalle votes? After all, President Johnson is a board trustee of DeLaSalle.
In fact, President Johnson plays a dual role, as she represents both the proposer (DeLaSalle) and the regulatory body (Minneapolis), whenever she votes on DeLaSalle matters before the city.
Unlike CM Cam Gordon, who abstained from a vote because his son had been accepted to DeLaSalle, Pres. Johnson has voted twice in the last six months on DeLaSalle matters before the city.
But a move to abstain by Judith Martin because of her Nicollet Island connection would have increased the heat on Pres. Johnson. For no matter what the law may say regarding these individuals’ legal status regarding conflicts of interest, common sense and fairness say they each would undeniably have a vested interest.
Now we’ll never know how that showdown may have played out.
Did Mayor Rybak possibly have concerns about the potential church/state conflict that the street vacation would set up? When a street is vacated, by law ownership of half of the property on each side of the vacated street goes to the adjacent property owner.
In this instance, that would mean the city would transfer land ownership to a religious body (Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis) in clear violation of Article 13, Sec. 2 of the Minnesota Constitution. For, while a governmental body may sell land to a religous body at fair market value, “giving” the land away most likely sets the city up for a lawsuit over the constitutionality of such a move — one hot issue.
Certainly there were multiple aspects to Mayor Rybak’s decision. His new Planning Commission appointments, Lara Norkus-Crampton and Lauren Huyhn, have represented opposing positions on Lake Calhoun development, but both represent the same general Southwest area of the city. That area includes Uptown, where issues of development scale, density and height are definitely hot, hot, hot.
Yet with the qualifications Judith Martin brings to the job, there have to be considerations beyond the palid expanation of wanting “new voices.”
Mayor Rybak may have switched some of the players, but the realities have not changed: the heat of conflicts remains as surely as does the heat of the Minneapolis summer.
Stevens Square/Loring Heights
–which is my home, but I own private property (not Parkland) on Nicollet Island, on which I pay the same property taxes as all owners do whether or not they live on land owned by the Park Board, with the exception of DeLaSalle, which is a tax-exempt religious entity.