Planning Commission Under Fire Over Ethics Issues

Mayor has called for investigation.

If you believe its worst critics, Minneapolis' City Planning Commission is full of cronyism.

In a report in Monday morning's Star-Tribune, Commission members Dan Cohen and Councilmember Gary Schiff (Ward 9) attack the body for what they say are conflicts of interest among many of its members. The commission is made up of a mix of representatives from the Minneapolis School Board, Hennepin County, the Minneapolis City Council, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and a majority of mayoral and City Council appointees, and reviews redevelopment plans, zoning changes, and other aspects of new construction. Cohen represents Hennepin County on the commission, and Schiff represents the City Council

It's those appointees, though, that has Schiff and Cohen worked up. Most are architects, consultants and other members of the development industry. When a member has a hand in a project that comes before the commission, they recuse themselves.

Schiff, Cohen, and now Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak are raising concerns over the number of times the development professionals on the commission are recusing themselves, suggesting some commission members may be subtly pressuring their colleagues to support projects they're involved in. The mayor ordered an ethics review in July. 

"It's planning commissioners using the Planning Commission as their own personal piggy bank," Cohen told the Star-Tribune. "And that is not right. Sitting in the audience doesn't cure it."

The commission's president, landscape architect David Motzenbecker, told the Star-Tribune that "there's nothing wrong or ethically challenged about what we are doing."

Alex A September 11, 2012 at 02:58 AM
It is about time the Planning Commission gets investigated. Too many times their decisions are opposed by the community, the Neighborhood Councils, the Minneapolis City Council and the Mayor. Let’s hope we can get this fixed and have more things like the Linden Hills' Development Plan.
James Sanna (Editor) September 11, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Well, I'm not sure the ethics investigation is focused on how "business-friendly" the CPC is or isn't—just on whether the commissioners are getting any personal benefit from their seats on the council.
Alex A September 11, 2012 at 03:45 PM
James – they might be connected. Hopefully the investigation will dig deep enough to clear up all issues because the perception of the Minneapolis' City Planning Commission is not favorable. If there is not a complete investigation that is transparent to the public, it will only look like a cover-up of cronyism or worse. The quotes below show they need for an unbiased, detailed and complete investigation of the Minneapolis' City Planning Commission. Maybe an outside investigator should be used. Council Member Gary Schiff “Schiff says he is "alarmed" by rulings from the city attorney's office. “They create a precedent that I think is going to make ... planning in Minneapolis seen as a developer's game where Planning Commission members are profiting," Schiff said.” "It's planning commissioners using the planning commission as their own personal piggy bank," said Cohen, who represents Hennepin County on the commission. "And that is not right. Sitting in the audience doesn't cure it." Minneapolis Mayor "We are concerned that the risk of an appearance of impropriety may erode public confidence in the work of development-related Boards and Commissions," Mayor R.T. Rybak”


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