Off Beat

Taking Their Ball and Going Home

OFF BEAT WANDERED into the Whittier Park gym February 8 to bear witness to a public mulling-over of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). Ostensibly, the citizenry had been invited to give "input" on how to tweak the program as it enters the second of its two ten-year "phases." In reality, the event served as an occasion for city officials to make it clear that they fully intend to wrest back control of the process. At issue is NRP's failure thus far to allocate a state-mandated 52.5 percent of its funding to housing (Phase I came in at 46 percent). The city presented five options for running the program from now on: One would leave the process unchanged; the others called for either holding back funding earmarked for housing or offering "incentives" for neighborhoods to spend it that way. "What incentives?" one resident wanted to know. Replied City Coordinator Kathy O'Brien: "We really haven't envisioned exactly what they would be." (Or, as Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton put it, "This pot of soup has not been cooked yet.") Another resident complained that it was "ridiculous" to ask citizens to support any of the options in the absence of specifics, while a third asked whether neighborhoods might have a formal say in the matter, rather than mere "input." Not likely. As it stands, the decision will be made later this year by the city's 18-member policy board, which includes the mayor. As for the likelihood of leaving the process alone, Sayles Belton pretty much nixed that, saying it would perpetuate Phase I's "haphazard" approach to spending. Lest anyone get disheartened, however, City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, who moderated the proceedings, concluded the meeting by assuring one and all , "I know it sounds trite when we say, 'Thank you for your comments'--but I really mean that."

More Greenbacks for Green Space

Everyone seems to agree that the north end of Minneapolis's Nicollet Mall could use a boost. But city and county officials have taken different views about using public dollars in the overhaul of the former Federal Reserve building that squats at that nexus. The $59 million overhaul recently proposed by developer Art Petrie includes a plan to use public money--$7.25 million in tax-increment financing (TIF), to be precise--to turn the building's plaza into park space. That doesn't sit well with Hennepin County Deputy Administrator Richard Johnson, who reviewed the deal for the county board of commissioners. "The plan fails to explainwhy the building renovation and enlargement, which will be funded privately, would not succeed unless [TIF money] is expended to convert the granite plaza into a public-use park," Johnson informed commissioners in a January 26 letter. In other words, according to Johnson the scheme doesn't satisfy the county's guidelines for using TIF. The point, however, is moot: Though state law specifically bars the use of TIF for park space, last year the city secured exemptions for three projects, including the Federal Reserve. The county has no veto power in the matter, and the city council's Community Development Committee unanimously approved the plan last week. (The full council is expected to give the project the go-ahead this Friday.) Jim White, senior project coordinator for the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, confesses that he could have done a better jobselling the idea to the county and maintains that the park is indeed a crucial element of the redevelopment plan. "It also helps the city because we don't have any kind of green space downtown," he notes helpfully.

An Ounce of Prevention

ON THE OFF chance that current events have got you worried your employer may get the urge to sniff around for incriminating evidence on your home computer's hard drive, we thought it might be time for an edition of Off Beat's Helpful Hints: Putting a file in the "trash" doesn't truly delete it (even when said receptacle gets "emptied") because the data lingers for an indeterminate period of time--until it's overwritten by new data. There is, however, a way to keep things tidy, and keep snoops at bay: Invest in a program that locates those not-quite-trashed files and writes over them with "blank" data (Symantec's "wipeinfo" feature, for instance, available as part of its Norton products). According to unimpeachable sources, this simple method is foolproof--or nearly so. Says one tech geek we know: "If Ross Perot wanted to find out what was on your hard drive, he probably could, unless you sawed it into little pieces."

 
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