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."