Being divided into 84 neighborhoods isn't always an advantage for Minneapolis. It's a daunting number of distinct districts to grapple with, for officials at City Hall as well as community organizers.
But that impressive roster may have helped Minneapolis secure host-city status for the Neighborhoods, USA Conference
in 2013. The Mill City outscored four other cities vying for the national organization's annual meeting -- by a large margin, according to Neighborhoods, USA staffer Karen Huber.
A three-person Minneapolis contingent blew away the organization's board of directors with an impressive presentation at this year's conference, held recently in Alaska. Runners up included Rochester, Minn. (in second place), as well as a couple Pacific Northwest outposts: Eugene, Ore., and Tacoma, Wash.
Board members scored competing cities on criteria that included number of neighborhood organizations and their level of activity. (Most--but not all--of Minneapolis' 84 neighborhoods have resident groups.)
Racial diversity was another consideration for the Neighborhoods, USA board, half of whom are African-American. Minneapolis looked better than some places the organization has considered in the past, Harber says, recalling the response to a relatively homogeneous Utah city.
The group met in St. Paul in 1986. The economic downturn of the last few years has made centrally located cities more appealing as meeting places, she says. The cost of travel has cut attendance by the grassroots activists who make up the group's membership, says Harber, from 1,000 before the recession to a low approaching 400. For the conference in Minneapolis, Harber says the group is anticipating 500–600 attendees.
They'll fan out across the city for tours and meals in Minneapolis neighborhoods. Harber says people who come to the conference are "very relaxed" and down to earth. Some are still learning to grapple with grants and making demands on local leaders at city halls. The conference is a low-key event where they can hone those skills. "You don't have to impress the big shots," Huber says.
Source: Karen Harber, Neighborhoods USA
Writer: Chris Steller