NRP Policy Board Candidates at a Glance
Gregory M. Bastien
Address: 2709 E. Minnehah Pkwy. (55417)
Neighborhood of Residence: Nokomis East
Years in Neighborhood: 18 years
Years in Minneapolis: 52 years
- How have your life experiences prepared you to be a neighborhood representative?
Over several decades I have participated in city and neighborhood issues; such as stopping the freeway on Hiawatha Avenue, investigating municipal power for Minneapolis, sitting on the community school task force, the Minneapolis School citizen budget committee, park and recreation issues. Through work experiences I have been part of insurance task forces looking at ways to cut costs and improve benefits for public employees. Additionally, I have worked on numerous political campaigns as a volunteer. All of these activities have equipped me for the task of being a neighborhood representative.
- What do you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of the NRP?
The NRP has proven to be a superb planning tool for those who have become involved. Citizens have been empowered by the development of action plans and the allocation of discretionary funds, which makes neighborhood associations effective partners in small and medium scale development. Social as well as brick and mortar development has occurred in Minneapolis because of the action plans.
The weakness is in the strength. A strong well run association also carries with it a fiduciary responsibility that calls for continuity of leadership. This can freeze out newcomers, create an insider/outsider framework and lead to rejection of new ideas. This is by no means insurmountable and has been with several action plans.
- How have you participated in your neighborhood organization and its NRP process?
I have been Chair of the NRP steering committee, a member of the association's administration committee, board member and vice-chair. Currently I'm on the board and serve on the housing committee. In the Nokomis East neighborhood I helped draft the original Participation Agreement and held meetings throughout the four neighborhoods that make up Nokomis East.
- How do you plan to maintain a relationship with the neighborhoods you would represent if elected?
This component of being a representative is of critical importance, but it is also one that has been most difficult to fulfill for members of the Policy Board. Some possible solutions would be to post notes and positions on the NRP website, create a list of associations for e-mail, attend meetings of the associations represented and in these ways solicit input for board decisions. All of the neighborhood representatives could hold quarterly meetings in different areas of the city for feedback as part of their Policy Board duties. I would certainly try to do these things as a member of the Policy Board.
- Name one thing you would like to work on if elected.
Increasing the amount of discretionary funds and maintaining the integrity of an independent NRP are tasks I want to continue working on. As a Board alternate, I worked on the Minneapolis Focus Group; along with other neighborhood representatives on this focus group I supported discretionary funding for neighborhoods, an independent Policy Board and NRP staffing. Ideas that should become part of the formula for Phase II include: counting other than NRP money in the 52% for housing thereby increasing the amount of discretionary funds for associations, greater access to CDBG money, and improving city department coordination with action plans.
- Why are you running for a neighborhood representative seat on the Policy Board?
Continuing the theme from the last answer, I support a strong and representative NRP. In many ways we have proven ourselves vibrant, but we also should examine our representation in neighborhoods to answer those who complain not enough people are participating. Our ability to empower is not limited to discretionary dollars alone. We have and continue to give people an opportunity to connect with our city in a way that values their input. Strong neighborhoods mean lower crime, higher property values, stability and most importantly the intangible concept of respect. Ideas freely debated lead to better projects and relationships.
- Please list any community-based organizations with which you are currently involved.
I am a volunteer for the MPRB, Longfellow Garden citizen advisory committee, a member of the Community Advisory Committee for LRT, a member of the Sierra Club sprawl committee, a member of SMAAC on airport noise, a member of a community orchestra, past performer in the Corcoran Park Players, a member of the Minnehaha Affordable Housing Committee and a member of Neighbors for Neighborhoods.
- Please list all current paid and unpaid affiliations.
I believe all of the affiliations have been included in the previous question. Additional national affiliations include: the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Oxfam, and a contributor to a micro-loan bank.