We began 2020 planning the 10th Open Streets Minneapolis season and gearing up to launch a new advocacy campaign featuring many in-person community meetings.
In early March when COVID-19 descended on our city, we shifted to remote offices and worked with our local partners to identify how we could adjust our programs and advocacy work.
In May when Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, we recommitted to uprooting white supremacy in our work, supporting our staff, and advocating for better streets without relying on policing.
As our city fights a pandemic, confronts a long history of racism, and combats the climate crisis, we continue to build the equitable, sustainable transportation system our communities need now and in the future.
Today we’re taking a moment to share how we navigated this year, the advocacy and encouragement initiatives we carried out, and our financial situation as we go into 2021.
How we got here
Around this time last year we put together an overview of what we accomplished together in 2019. We shared that we hosted a record-breaking Open Streets Minneapolis season, celebrated many advocacy successes, and hosted the final year of our Bicycle Connectors program.
We also told you that we were facing a funding challenge. We went into 2020 with a budgeted deficit of about $20,000. We planned to cover this deficit with part of our savings, which totaled over $100,000.
County Streets for People
Our 2020 advocacy centered around the launch of our newest advocacy campaign: County Streets for People. Through this work, we’re partnering with local communities to make Hennepin County-owned streets in Minneapolis places for people. These streets include Franklin Ave, Lake St, Lowry Ave NE, Lyndale Ave S, and West Broadway Ave.
Our work centers on raising the voices of people who have been historically left out of transportation decision-making, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who bike, walk, and roll.
Our September County Streets for People Kick-off event was well attended, creating momentum as we continue to build this work in 2021.
Making winters walkable
We continued our work to change the winter snow and ice clearance system in Minneapolis. Together we advocated for city-led winter sidewalk maintenance to be included in the City’s Transportation Action Plan. While the final plan as presented by staff did not include this, with your help we convinced City Council to amend the plan to include evaluating city-led winter sidewalk maintenance on their Pedestrian Priority Network.
Speaking up against traffic enforcement
This year we reaffirmed our commitment to de-policing our streets. We encouraged our supporters to urge our leaders to remove traffic enforcement from the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan and Transportation Action Plan. While we were not successful in entirely removing traffic enforcement from these plans, both emphasize the importance of not amplifying racial disparities in enforcement. Our advocacy also helped make sure that the City’s Transportation Action Plan did not include plans to increase police officer based enforcement.
Streets for People Work Group
Early in the year our Downtown Bikeways Work Group and Pedestrian Work Group merged becoming the Streets for People Work Group. This year the work group helped shape our advocacy priorities and led on their own grassroots advocacy projects including work around Bryant Ave S, Hennepin Ave S, and the Downtown/Whittier Bikeway connection.
Our Streets Minneapolis was tasked with co-chairing the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction work group of Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MnDOT) Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council. We helped pass a nation-leading slate of recommendations, including asking MnDOT to set a driving reduction goal and move away from expanding highway capacity.
This year our encouragement work took on a new form. Rather than in-person events and programs like Minneapolis Bike Month, we hosted a wayfinding and story sharing program called Healthy Trips, Healthy City. Through this program we placed dozens of decals across the city directing people from popular biking and walking routes to essential businesses like grocery stores and libraries. We also encouraged people to share Instagram and Twitter posts of their bike, walk, and roll trips using #HealthyTripsHealthyCity.
Open Streets Minneapolis
This year we planned to host seven Open Streets Minneapolis events, including separate East Lake and Minnehaha events for the first time in several years. All of these events were canceled due to risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked closely with partners at the City of Minneapolis to make this decision. The health of our community was our top priority in our decision-making about Open Streets Minneapolis.
An update on our finances
As we mentioned earlier, we came into 2020 with a budgeted deficit of about $20,000 and savings of over $100,000. Going into 2021 our financial situation is very similar.
Our 2021 budget has a deficit of just under $19,000. We will again have over $100,000 in savings going into 2021, and we plan to use some of this savings to make ends meet next year.
Our journey back to this position has been mixed. When we cancelled the Open Streets Minneapolis season, we lost a significant income source, along with reducing some of our expenses. At the same time, we’ve been fortunate to receive a Paycheck Protection Loan from the federal government along with grants from the RE-AMP Network & the Mobility Fund. We expect to end the year with a deficit of about $25,000.
The Our Streets Minneapolis staff and Board of Directors are working together to secure the long-term stability of the organization. To do this, we are continuing to prioritize developing strong relationships with both grantmakers and individual donors.
Folks can help by making monthly or one-time gifts to our organization, spreading the word about the work we do, hosting a virtual house party or fundraiser for us, or sending grant opportunities our way. Please send any ideas or opportunities to partner on fundraisers to our Development & Communications Director, Emily.
We also welcome folks who have more questions to reach out to us, or listen in on our board meetings which take place the first Tuesday of every other month. You can find information about our board meetings on our event calendar.
After 11 years of working to make Minneapolis a better place to bike, walk, and roll, we’re still here because of you. The power of our movement lies in each hour of volunteer time, each email sent to decision-makers, open of our email newsletter, re-tweet and share of our social media posts, each financial gift, and most importantly every single conversation you have with your friends, family, and coworkers about our shared work.
Thank you for keeping us moving forward.