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At heated meeting, council president accuses Minneapolis of ignoring North Side


Too much talk, too little action, was the criticism leveled at the City of Minneapolis for failing to address the serious poverty, education and crime problems plaguing north Minneapolis.

Mayor Betsy Hodges had to intervene during a heated City Council debate Wednesday after council president and north Minneapolis Ward 4 member Barbara Johnson accused the city of ignoring the North Side, the Star Tribune reports.

The debate, which can be seen below, centered on whether to apply to make that section of the city a "Promise Zone," an Obama administration program that gives poorer areas a better chance of getting federal grants to improve public safety and boost the local economy, MinnPost reports.

Johnson went on the offensive, the Star Tribune says, alleging broken promises over increasing the number of police on the streets, accusing the Park Board of focusing on northeast and ignoring the north, and questioning why the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority places so many low-income renters in the north side.

She told the meeting: "We have one-seventh of the population of the city; we have a third of the Section 8 units."

MinnPost says Johnson was joined in her criticism by Ward 7 council member Lisa Goodman, who was extremely skeptical about the Promise Zone initiative.

"I wonder how we can make this the Promises-We-Can't-Keep-Zone?" she said. "Too many times … promises have been made where outcomes have not changed."

Goodman argued the federal program is similar to previous zones designed to fight poverty, in particular Enterprise Zones and Empowerment Zones, except that there is no guarantee of funding, according to MinnPost.

In response, Hodges said that the failure of certain projects in the north does not mean the city council should not turn down the opportunity to increase the chances of federal funding.

The problems in north Minneapolis

This year has seen an increase in calls for action to arrest the growing deprivation and associated crime issues in north Minneapolis, which came to the fore over the summer after a spike in crime and shootings that heaped pressure on Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau.

According to the Minneapolis Foundation, more than 75 percent of children living in parts of north, south and central Minneapolis live in poverty, and a map depicting poverty levels shows a high concentration in northern areas.

At the beginning of the year, Metropolitan Council chair Sue Haigh highlighted the levels of poverty afflicting the city's people of color, the Pioneer Press reports.

She said that of the 38 areas in Minneapolis where more than 50 percent of the population are people of color and 40 percent are at the federal poverty line, 20 of them can be found in north Minneapolis, the newspaper notes.

And a study of teacher evaluations found that the city's worst-performing teachers are working in low-income school areas, with the largest proportion of poor-performing teachers found at Bethune Elementary in Near North Minneapolis, according to the Star Tribune.

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Building a stronger community... meet the president and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation

Sandy Vargas, president and CEO of The Minneapolis Foundation since April 2007, was profiled in the book Heroes Among Us in 2008, received WomenVenture's Pioneer Award in 2009, and was awarded the Medal of Honor from St. Catherine's University in 2010. In this interview, Sandy shares her insight into how philanthropy is evolving in our society, as well as the formative experiences and relationships in her life, and what it’s like being the CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation.