Advancing a Green vision for low-income, high-pollution neighborhoods

GZ_group_pic.jpgImagine the summer breeze as you bike on the Greenway towards the new home of the Midtown Farmers Market at Lake and Hiawatha.  But instead of smoke stacks and an open asphalt pit, you pass LEED certified affordable housing that is seamlessly integrated with the Greenway with an ample green space where families play outdoors. As you ascend the Sabo Bridge you pass a bike shop and an indoor urban agriculture food hub that provides green jobs for our neighborhood youth.  This East Phillips Urban Farm, which offers year –round food growing opportunities, is one of Minneapolis’ most forward looking developments. Neighbors come together to teach nutrition and cooking classes or launch small businesses selling jams, sauerkraut, or cold press coffee that they prepare in the commercial kitchen.  A community Solar Garden stretches out over the roof of the Urban Farm and on top of the LEED certified Minneapolis Water Yard.

This is the vision that the Phillips community has developed for itself and that I, as Minneapolis Ninth Ward City Council Member and leading co-author of the Green Zones resolution, have advanced with and for our communities.

The Phillips neighborhoods, located right across Lake Street from Corcoran, like many majority low-income, Indigenous, and People of Color neighborhoods across Minneapolis and the country, has a history of disinvestment and siting sources of toxic pollution and freeways. Children in Phillips and the Near Northside neighborhoods suffer from the highest rates of asthma hospitalizations and lead poisoning in the State of Minnesota.  These communities bear a disproportionate environmental burden- it is this situation of environmental injustice that Green Zones efforts seek to address.

The vision of Green Zones is one where overburdened communities decide a future for themselves, as the residents of Phillips have started to do.  It is a vision of economically depressed communities re-invested in , where Cities target regulatory and green community development  resources at those neighborhoods that have historically been passed over.

Passing a Green Zones Policy has long been priority of the Environmental Justice community in Minneapolis. Due to community pressure it was incorporated in the City’s Energy Pathways Study and the Climate Action Plan, and was endorsed by the Environmental Justice committee of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission. It has been my honor to work with many of the community members who have been working to get this program implemented over the last several years in finally fulfilling this community demand.

In February I was a lead author of a resolution passed unanimously by the City Council  that established the Green Zones working group, composed of residents from overburdened communities representing the cultural and geographic diversity of the City as well as representatives of nonprofits, business and industry. They will be developing screening criteria for identifying the geography of the first Green  Zone(s) and working with the broader community in these areas to further define what Green Zones will be in our City. I look forward to hearing the policy, program and budget recommendations that come out of this workgroup and will continue to move this vision forward into 2017. I am honored and humbled to represent such powerful and dynamic Ward who has stood up for environmental justice, racial equity and a sustainable future time after time. Thank you for being the driver of this unique and much needed change!

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