April 20, 2022: Open Streets Minneapolis Remains Unfunded
Dear Open Streets Minneapolis supporter,
Earlier this year, we launched a campaign to let community members know that Open Streets Minneapolis events were becoming financially unsustainable for our organization.
This public campaign was launched after nearly five years of internal attempts in good faith with our partners at City of Minneapolis Public Works to gain public financial support for the program. However our efforts were unsuccessful. On the verge of signing a three year contract that would have locked our organization into receiving $0 in funding from the city, we were left with no choice but to make our concerns public. This public ask for funding did not come as a surprise to City of Minneapolis Public Works. We stressed this need to City of Minneapolis staff at the highest level over several meetings in 2021, including before and after responding to the Public Works Request for Proposal (RFP).
A lack of funding means that Open Streets Minneapolis will become less accessible to community members–especially impacting those who have been marginalized. We are also unable to host Open Streets Minneapolis events in parts of the city that have been left out of transportation decision-making. The lack of City funding has constrained the route selection process and forces Our Streets Minneapolis to charge higher registration fees that create a financial barrier for disadvantaged vendors and participants. It means that we are often forced to exclude entire communities in the route selection process. In order for Our Streets Minneapolis to continue to host these events and make them fully accessible and equitable to all, financial support from the City of Minneapolis is essential.
Thanks to you, our campaign was incredibly successful. Supporters like you sent over 7,000 emails in support of our ask for funding. This speaks to the deep love and value people of our city have for the Open Streets Minneapolis program and the communities it serves.
Because of this public pressure, City of Minneapolis Public Works worked internally to find ways to fund the program. Earlier today, Our Streets Minneapolis staff and board members met with Public Works Director Margaret Anderson-Kelliher and other public works staff. At the meeting, we were told that due to procurement constraints, no direct funding would be made available to Our Streets Minneapolis in 2022. However, Public Works committed to working with our staff to support the program in kind–to the tune of approximately $20,000.
We thank Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher and her staff for their hard work to investigate and present us with these options. While these are a positive first step, the fact remains that the program still remains unfunded. Our Streets Minneapolis will continue to organize for public funding to ensure the sustainability of the Open Streets program in perpetuity. Our focus will be on the Mayor’s 2023 budget proposal including a line item or $100,000 to support the program, at a minimum, and a city-led Racial Equity Analysis of the program.
We look forward to working with the City of Minneapolis to resolve these concerns and ensure that we grow and make Minneapolis truly accessible to everyone in the City.
Thank you again for your support for creating places for people in Minneapolis.
Our Streets Minneapolis
We have collaborated with the City of Minneapolis for over a decade to host Open Streets Minneapolis events. Open Streets Minneapolis events are some of the city’s largest and most beloved events. These events are a canvas on which residents creatively showcase our city’s incredible cultural diversity. Each route has local vendors, organizations, artists, and more. Beyond the fun, Open Streets Minneapolis is part of a global movement to make streets places that put people first.
Since the first Open Streets Minneapolis event in 2011 that was attended by an estimated 5,000 people, the program has grown to a peak attendance of 103,500 in 2019.
As Open Streets Minneapolis, these events have continued to require more resources from our organization. As a small non-profit with a team of six, and just one person managing a majority of event planning & logistics, this is a growing concern for the future of Open Streets Minneapolis events. We historically have not received any compensation from the City of Minneapolis to cover the costs of organizing Open Streets Minneapolis. In 2022, the City of Minneapolis is proposing the creation of a new contract that seeks a contractor to organize future Open Streets Minneapolis events. The compensation provided through this contract is $0 (City of Minneapolis Agreement).
The City’s lack of monetary support is having a serious and continued impact on Our Streets Minneapolis’s ability to organize Our Streets Minneapolis events sustainably and equitably.
Looming participation costs: To cover the cost of hosting the event, event participants pay a minimal fee for a spot at Open Streets Minneapolis events. While this fee is manageable for some, small businesses, nonprofits, and other event partners face significant barriers to entry. Receiving funding from the City would reduce the cost burden on participants.
Limited route selection: Due to capacity and funding constraints, Open Streets Minneapolis events are hosted on corridors that have the resources to support an event. This means that streets with lower incomes and areas along Minneapolis cultural corridors are left out of Open Streets Minneapolis activities. The business and communities in these areas deserve celebration. Funding from the City would allow us to increase the number of events we can host, specifically in lower income areas.
Open Streets Minneapolis is named as a priority in the recently adopted City of Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan. To ensure the current and future sustainability of the Open Streets Minneapolis initiative and to truly make it accessible and equitable for all city residents to enjoy, we are asking the City of Minneapolis to monetarily invest in this program.
We are asking for the following:
The Department of Public Works amending the 2022-2022 Public Service Agreement for the Open Streets Minneapolis contractor to include yearly compensation of $100,000 for the Open Streets Minneapolis events, sourced from the Public Works discretionary budget.
The inclusion of $100,000 of ongoing funding in the Mayor's 2023 budget to support Our Streets Minneapolis in hosting these important events in our communities.
11 Organizations Sign-on to Support Open Streets Minneapolis Funding
11 past participants, nearby neighborhood organizations, and other partners have signed on in support of City funding for Open Streets Minneapolis. Public support from organizations goes a long way in showing the City that the community wants to see these events thrive. Have you attended an Open Streets Minneapolis event, or maybe wanted to and couldn't due to financial barriers? Please consider adding your organization to this sign on letter.
Past participants support funding
Our Streets Minneapolis sent out a survey to participants asking about our funding request. 97% of past participants support a city funded Open Streets Minneapolis that reduces the cost burden of participation for vendors. Responses also showed interest in more support for vendors (such as providing tents and materials) and more frequent events throughout the year. City funding would significantly reduce barriers to entry and improve the experience for all partners. We encourage you to take our survey if you have participated in an Open Streets Minneapolis event.