Phase 2: Big Questions (May – December 2016)

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In the Phase 2: Big Questions, Topical Research Teams began the work of analyzing existing policy – assessing trends, backgrounds, and priority issues related to their topic. Additionally, the teams had the benefit of public input on “big ideas” gathered from the Launch. To set the stage for this phase, the Topical Research Teams identified topics for the community to address in preparation for crafting their topical priorities. City staff did not conduct in-person engagement on every topic, but instead focused on some of the core elements of the plan – transportation, jobs, housing, and the environment – and visions for tying all the pieces together. The engagement questions were designed to engage with the public on their perceptions, values, aspirations, and experiences in their daily lives.

Throughout the summer, City staff continued to raise awareness about Minneapolis by reaching out to key audiences at street and cultural festivals. Staff tabled at various events throughout the City and encouraged the community to share their vision of the future of Minneapolis through Ernest Hemingway’s Six Word Story. Stories were recorded on cards, and shared with participants throughout each event.

In order to help achieve the engagement goals and objectives of integrating artistic strategies into the engagement process, the City issued a Call for Artists to help design and engage traditionally underrepresented communities in civic processes. Artists responded to the call for three different projects:

  • Social Practice Artist – The purpose of this project was to hire an artist or artist team to assist in engaging public meeting attendees during a set of open houses. The social practice artist is responsible for designing meetings that are fun, thought-provoking, interactive, and family friendly.
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  • Happenings Project – The purpose of this project was to hire an artist or artist team to assist in engaging the community during a set of open houses. This project resulted in an artist-designed performance during the meetings that raises awareness of comprehensive plan issues and offer thought-provoking questions for the audience to consider rated to the plan.
  • Mobile Engagement Tool – The purpose of this project was to hire an artist or artist team to design and fabricate a highly portable and durable engagement tool that can be used for indoor and outdoor engagement activities such as street and cultural festivals and large events.

Artist Monica Sheets was selected as the social practice artist to help design engagement activities, and worked alongside consultant Community Design Group (CDG), to implement and design two open houses that took place in Phase 2: Big Questions. Artist Eric F. Avery was brought on board for the Happenings Project, and the artist team of Mike Hoyt and Molly Van Avery was selected to commission the mobile engagement tool and carry out engagement in subsequent phases.

Phase 2 culminated in an engagement push in October and November that included online engagement materials and questions, Tweet with a Planner, an updated Meeting-in-a-Box, eight Community Dialogue listening sessions with key audiences, and two identical open houses on the north and south sides of the city.

Engagement Activities

Big Questions Open House - MGM
10/25/16 - Midtown Global Market

Big Questions Open House - NC
10/27/16 - North Commons Park

6/18/16 - North Mississippi Regional Park

Somali Independence Day
7/9/16 - East Lake St.

Open Streets - Lake Street
7/24/16 - East Lake St.

Cedar Riverside Health Fair
8/5/16 - Brian Coyle Center

Open Streets - West Broadway
9/10/16 - West Broadway

Monarch Festival
9/10/16 - Lake Nokomis

PARTNERS with Youth Conference
9/16/16 - Minneapolis Convention Center

Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID)
9/27/16 - Minneapolis American Indian

African American Leadership Forum (AALF)
10/8/16 - Hallie Q. Brown Community
Center, St. Paul. MN

Senior Center Community Dialogue
10/26/16 - Skyway Senior Center

Latino Community Dialogue
10/26/16 - Waite House

NACDI Breakfast Bites
11/2/16 - All My Relations Gallery

Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities
11/2/16 - City Hall

Minneapolis Youth Congress
11/10/16 - Central Library

Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors
Housing Subcommittee
11/21/16 - American Indian OIC

Southeast Asian Community Dialogue
12/9/16 - Harrison Community Center

Tweet with a Planner

Digital Workshop
October - November 2016

Phase 2 Meeting-in-a-Box (Packet)

Engagement Questions

For the earlier part of the phase, the public engaged on the question of their vision for Minneapolis by asking their “Big Ideas”. Community members were engaged at street and cultural festivals through the summer and asked to share their vision. Later in the fall, City staff engaged on the public’s experiences on topical elements around housing, jobs, transportation, the environment and the vision for tying it all together. These engagement questions included:

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  • Share your six-word story for the future of Minneapolis!
  • Transportation: How do you get around the city today? How do you think your transportation needs will change by 2040?
  • Jobs: What opportunities do you need to help you feel financially stable and secure? How will your employment needs change between now and 2040?
  • Housing: Are you satisfied with the housing options available to you right now? If not, what’s missing? How will your housing needs change between now and 2040?
  • Environment: Are we, the people of Minneapolis, doing enough to improve the environment? If not, what’s missing? How do you think your life will be different in 2040 as a result of climate change?
  • Vision/Tying it Together: What does your ideal Minneapolis look like in 2040? What makes you feel connected to your neighborhood?


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Staff attended street and cultural festivals to raise awareness of Minneapolis 2040 and seek “Big Ideas” for the future of Minneapolis. At each of these events staff used coloring activities to draw youth and kids in to have a discussion about the future of the city, and to envision their community when they have aged 20 years. Participants were given an overview of the comprehensive plan, and Minneapolis 2040 project information on post cards. Participants were asked to share their ideas with a Six Word Story. Stories were recorded on cards, and shared with participants throughout each event that were hung on clothes lines. 

A second round of Community Dialogues were hosted in the community. In earlier discussions, communities identified the need to focus the conversation around two or three topic areas, so staff returned with key discussion questions around transportation, jobs, housing, and the environment. City staff also returned with Department Leaders to engage and listen to participants. Participants were asked to share their experiences around those topics today, and how those needs may change in the future. 

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Two community meetings were held at the end of October, one at the Midtown Global Market and the other at North Commons Park. Community members interacted with staff at topical stations on housing, jobs, transportation, and the environment. Monica Sheets, a social practice artist, was a major contributor in designing meetings that were fun, thought-provoking, interactive and family friendly. This included writing the engagement questions, subcontracting artists, and soliciting feedback on the engagement process.

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On more visionary questions, poets and graphic artists listened to participants share their perspectives and aspirations and represented their responses through poetry or visual art. Participants also had the opportunity to take part of a mini focus group called “Dig Deep with a Planner” which was staff led discussions about the participants’ choice of topics.

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Eric F. Avery, a performance artist, interactively engaged participants in a performance called TV2040, a fake television program being recorded live in 2040, which included a game show and 1 on 1 interviews with participation from the public.

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Community members unable to attend the public meetings had access to the same content, questions, and feedback opportunities via the project website through interactive graphics and comment boxes. Another online method used was Tweet with a Planner. Over the lunch hour City staff posed questions based on the six Comprehensive Plan Values for community members to engage on.

What did we hear?

Engagement feedback collected throughout Phase 2 were transcribed and organized under themes that were representative of all the comments. The themes produced were an attempt to show the range of comments that were received. It shows the depth of comments that did not necessarily fall into the predefined topics of the comprehensive plan, but shows the concerns and ideas shared by participants. These themes include:

  • Arts
  • Buildings
  • Community and People
  • Comp Plan
  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Equity
  • Gentrification and Displacement
  • Governance
  • Growth
  • Health
  • Heritage Preservation
  • Housing
  • Land Use
  • Parks and Open Space
  • Public Safety
  • Streets
  • Sustainability
  • Transit
  • Transportation

Themes that informed engagement in future phases are highlighted below, which includes collected comments and summaries.

  • Equity
    • Participants identified many areas of inequity and disparity in the city, including air quality, access to jobs, housing, education, income, and access to City resources.
    • The city needs more economic investment zones to help build development in historically abandoned and underinvested neighborhoods.
    • Invest more in areas with the most inequities. For example, complete the bicycle infrastructure, spur development, improve air and water quality, maintain affordable housing, and expand number of high-frequency bus routes. How do we invest in communities while not displacing families of color and small businesses?
    • City government needs to be representative of the people in the community
    • We have to change structures of power and privilege relative to policing and repair the community’s trust in these systems.
  • Community and People
    • We need to maintain affordability and the high quality of life in Minneapolis, especially for people of color so they are not driven out like they have been in other cities.
    • There is a need for culturally-specific programming. Examples cited include language and youth enrichment programs that preserve Native culture and a community center for members of the Southeast Asian community.
    • Many people are cognizant of the fact that we will all be older in 2040. We need to design our city with aging in mind.
  • Housing
    • There is a need for housing for large families that is within a household’s budget – sometimes families have to ignore their lease requirements so they can have more family members live with them. This includes multi-generational families.
    • Landlord issues are a problem. Tenants are uncertain what it means for them when their landlord’s rental license gets revoked and landlords are taking advantage of tenants with charging for repairs, cleaning on top of damage deposit, and unloading of taxes.
    • There are not enough affordable housing options in Minneapolis. Families eventually move out into the suburbs because housing in the city is too expensive.
  • Economic Development
    • City resources and regulations for small businesses need to be more transparent and user-friendly, including financing programs and licensing.
    • The City needs to address educational disparities by supporting unique programs that provide skills training for people at all ages to prepare them for high-demand jobs.
    • There should be more pathways to high-demand jobs and the removal of barriers to entry, such as criminal background disqualifiers and degree requirements that aren’t necessary.
    • People want transit connections between job centers and where people live.
    • There needs to be more options of spaces for small businesses that are affordable.
  • Transportation
    • Walkable, people-centered neighborhoods are sustainable and livable.
    • Bike infrastructure needs to accommodate users of various levels of experience that makes it safe and accessible for all to use.
    • More high-frequency bus routes in more parts of the city.
    • Transportation investments can reduce disparities by connecting people to amenities like parks, schools, businesses, and people.
  • Gentrification and Displacement
    • Cultural communities fear the loss of housing, economic status, and cultural identity.
    • Renters are worried about rising rents that will displace them from their communities.
    • How can we be honest with ourselves about gentrification and the racialized harm it entails?
  • Health
    • Family stability and a healthy home can help youth with school attendance by improving physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.
    • More affordable fitness and exercise options are needed throughout the city, particularly for youth and seniors.

All the raw data collected from Phase 2: Big Questions, and a summary handout of engagement activities, can be found here.

Next Steps/How was the feedback used?

A common theme that was heard throughout Phase 2 engagement was the topic of racial equity on topics such as housing, jobs, transportation, the environment, and health. Community members acknowledged that disparities between people of color and indigenous communities compared to white people continues to persist, and that there is a lack of opportunities for economic mobility and access to healthy and safe homes that meets their needs.

The engagement feedback influenced City staff to formulate overarching goals for the comprehensive plan. The purpose of the goals is to state the plan’s intent as clearly as possible, and to provide guidance for staff in developing the draft comprehensive plan.

The history of systematic racism and its influence on today’s conditions became a focal point of discussion among many community members. This influenced City staff’s direction in the design of engagement around content in order to raise the narrative of racial inequities and the history of it in Minneapolis for Phase 3: Policy Framework.

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