What we’re doing to fix potholes in Minneapolis

This has been a terrible, terrible year for potholes. We’ve all experienced it — I’m no exception — and it’s no comfort to know that every city in the metro area is facing the same problem. Driving conditions on some busy streets are downright awful, so I’m writing to tell you about three things: 1) what we’re doing right now in Minneapolis to fix this problem, 2) how we prioritize patching potholes — and what you can do to help us, and 3) what we’re doing to improve and extend the life of our roads in the long term.

1) What we’re doing right now

We’ve been doing temporary patching of potholes for several weeks now, but thanks to the recent good weather and the early availability of hot asphalt, we’ve started permanent patching this week. Just as the underlying reason for this year’s potholes was the exceptional Christmas Day weather (snow followed by rain followed by a long freeze with no intermittent thawing), so the relatively early full thaw that we’ve had over the past week or so has allowed us to start permanent patching earlier than normal. (In most years, we’re not able to start permanent patching until April.)

We know, however, that the demand for patching potholes is great, so even as we shift some crews to permanent patching, we’re keeping other crews doing temporary patches in order to reach as many potholes as we can as quickly as we can. Permanent patches are more durable but take longer to make, while temporary patches can be made quickly but don’t hold as long. So we’re trying to strike a balance between speed and quality.

(Check out the P.S. if you’d like to know more about the difference between temporary and permanent patches to potholes, and why and how we make them.)

2) How we prioritize, and how you can help

For public-works purposes, we divide the City into three districts. The supervisors of each district are on constant alert for road conditions that need repair and are constantly updating and revising their priorities. When it comes to prioritizing potholes, they weigh both the severity and the location of the pothole. Understandably, the most serious ones on the busiest streets get patched the fastest.

Unfortunately, however, potholes pop up without notice, especially at this time of year — which is where you come in. If you see a pothole that you want the City to know about, call 311 or go online to the 311 page of the City’s Web site. When you do this, it helps our Public Works Department get the full picture of the need and prioritize repairs, even if other potholes have to take priority over the one that you reported.

As we transition away from temporary patching to permanent patching, our crews will in most cases be focusing pothole repair on major arterial streets that carry high volumes of traffic, and will move onto residential streets later in the season.

3) What we’re doing in the long term

Making sure that it’s easy and safe to travel on our streets isn’t just a matter of fixing bad conditions when they arise — it’s also a matter of planning ahead and building better, safer roads for the long term. That’s just what we’re doing with the City’s Accelerated Infrastructure Program.

Through the Accelerated Infrastructure Program, which the City Council passed in 2008, we will resurface or sealcoat one-third of all City-owned arterial streets by 2013. In 2009, the first full year of the program, we resurfaced or sealcoated 41 miles of arterials, with the program directly responsible for improving 27 of those miles. And it’s already paid off: we’ve had no serious pothole problems on any of the streets that we improved last year.

This year, we will resurface or sealcoat a similar number of miles of major arterial streets in Minneapolis. Making this kind of focused, long-term investment in our infrastructure will not only keep our streets from developing any serious pothole problems in the near future, it will extend their life significantly. And it will not only put people to work immediately, it will further set the stage for job growth and economy development in the long term.

We’re hard at work fixing the really bad pothole problem. I appreciate your help in letting us know when problems pop up, and I hope you soon start noticing significant improvements.

The ‘New Normal’ of the Minneapolis Economy

Today I delivered my annual State of the City speech. In short, my main message was this: In Minneapolis our economy is like the Twins—we’re playing on a whole new ball field. But just like in baseball, regardless of the field, the fundamentals remain the same.

The “fundamentals” I was referring to are the fundamentals of getting people back to work — which is an effort in which the City of Minneapolis has been very actively engaged for the last several years. These fundamentals are:

  • Investing in people
  • Investing in the common ground that helps everyone succeed
  • Focusing our efforts to help small business thrive
  • Fostering an innovation economy
  • Knowing when to help, and when to get out of the way 

I began my speech by talking about the tornado that hit South Minneapolis last August. I said that after we responded to the immediate aftermath, we started working together to get back to normal — but that getting back to normal really meant getting to a “new normal.” Then I talked the “economic tornado” that has hit Minneapolis and spoke about some of the steps that the City has taken to help people find work and get to a new normal. Our results include:

  • Since 2003, we have helped 11,000 adults find work and 11,000 youth find summer employment. We have an ambition goal this year of helping another 2,300 youth find summer jobs.
  • We have partnered with President Obama to put $7 million in economic-recovery funds to use to train people and place them in good jobs.
  • Since 2007, our Great Streets program has invested $3.7 million in small businesses, creating 400 jobs, retaining 125 jobs, creating tens of thousands of construction hours and leveraging millions more in private investment.
  • We partnered with Mayor Chris Coleman, the City of Saint Paul and the Blue Green Alliance in promoting opportunities to grow jobs in the Clean Energy Economy.
  • We cut red tape and regulation to help businesses grow and create jobs more quickly.
  • In 2009, we helped prevent nearly 500 foreclosures — which means that for an investment of around $25,000, the City helped prevent $30 million in costs to private lenders and the public (at approximately $70,000 per foreclosure). 

I know that nothing is easy now, but in Minneapolis we know what works — the fundamentals that Minneapolis has followed. In my speech I concluded — and firmly believe — that, in the uncharted territory of today’s economy, we don’t know what’s around the corner. But we do know this: We’re ready for it.

I made a few other announcements today:

  • In the context of the deep crisis of the State budget and in response to the governor’s proposed $29-million additional cut in LGA to Minneapolis, I will present a supplemental 2010 budget in April that, I have to say, won’t be pretty.
  • Despite the budget challenges that we face in Minneapolis, the City has been underinvesting in small business development. As I prepare the City’s 2011 budget, I will look for more consistent long-term community development funding.
  • This year has been a  terrible year for potholes, but it would have been even worse had we not implemented the Infrastructure Acceleration Program in 2008 to repair more streets faster.
  • On March 23, I will present recommendations to the City Council for proceeding with streetcar development, in light of the Obama administration’s new support for streetcars. 

Along the way, I highlighted some recent facts that offer encouragement about our results and the direction in which we’re headed:

  • Statistics released this week show that the unemployment rate in Minneapolis, at 6.8%, remains lower than the unemployment rate in the metro area as a whole, at 7.4%.
    • Nearly 5,000 more Minneapolis residents were working in January than were working one year ago, a 2.5% increase that surpasses the rate of increase in the metro area.
    • In addition, 428 more Minneapolis residents were working in January than in December — in contrast to job losses in January around the metro area and state.
  • Last week, Forbes Magazine ranked Minneapolis–Saint Paul the #4 metropolitan area in the country where the recession is easing (see here: http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/02/cities-recession-jobs-lifestyle-real-estate-housing.html).

These are just some quick highlights from my speech. If you’re interested in reading the full text of the address, please go here: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/mayor/speeches/speech-soc2010.asp.  Thanks as always for your interest in making Minneapolis the great city of our time.

Coming together – and staying together – to stop youth violence

Minneapolis is grieving over the death last weekend of Alisha Neely, as well as for the victims of a horrible period of violence. Our community has come together to make Minneapolis a safer place to call home over these last few years. Now we need to stay together at this very difficult time.

The violent incidents this weekend are active cases, so I will defer to the Police Department to release more information as it’s appropriate to do so. Because of assistance and cooperation from the community, the Police Department has been very successful in solving most of our violent crimes. Now, once again, we need the community’s help to bring peace and justice.

Tragic situations like these are why the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), our city’s Youth Violence Prevention initiative and the Minneapolis Public Schools launched the anonymous “SPEAK-UP Minneapolis” tip line, so that youth can phone or text in a report of violence or potential violence.

We know that 50 to 100 people attended the party where Alisha Neely died. To do justice to her memory, we need everyone who attended, whether they believe they have direct knowledge of the circumstances of her tragic death or not, to call 1-866-SPEAK-UP or the Minneapolis Police Department tip line at 612-692-TIPS. The right time for anyone with information about these crimes to call is right now. (People may also text MPLS to 847411.)

In addition to dedicating significant resources to investigating last weekends tragic events, we are working closely with community leaders and outreach workers on prevention strategies.  The Minneapolis Police Department has directed increased uniform patrols in North Minneapolis along with our Juvenile Division, Special Operations, Intelligence and Gang Units in order to aggressively enforce any criminal behavior to curb additional violence.

In addition to this work, two weeks ago we reconvened the Youth Violence Prevention Committee that helped draft and implement the strategies that led to a 40% decrease in juvenile crime over the past several years. We took a hard look at the plan to determine how it can evolve to meet changing needs of the recent incidents.

Some of that work is already underway. Last month, the City of Minneapolis, along with Hennepin County, Hennepin County Medical Center and North Memorial Medical Center, announced a new program called the Minneapolis Youth Violence Intervention Program (MY-VIP) – a hospital-based initiative designed to identify, address and intervene in the lives of youth violence victims who come to HCMC. To date, nearly 40 agencies in the metro area have agreed to offer their services in partnership with the MY-VIP program, including the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, MAD DADS, Youth Link, Urban Youth Conservation, Holding Forth the Word of Life Church, and Salaam Project. We will continue working closely with community partners like these to put new strategies in place to eliminate youth violence.

We cannot accept last weekend’s tragic level of violence, and we are taking action. But building safe communities is not done with a single act or by a single person. Our whole community has come together in the past few years to make Minneapolis safer. We need to stay united as a city and a community through this difficult and challenging period until we reach our goal that every part of our city, every moment of every day, is a safe place to call home.

To learn more about how I’m working to address the issues affecting our city, sign up for my e-mail update at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn/mayor