Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District

Have you noticed any change to our downtown district has become cleaner, safer, greener and better? Thanks for Andy‘s blog about special service district, which ignites our group to further explore Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District(DID). DID was formed in early 2009 after more than 5 years of formative planning and advocacy by the Minneapolis Downtown Council. As economic rational peeople, each of us may ask: why would we like to take more money from our skinny pockets for public services under difficult economic times? Why is the DID service different than from other government actions?

DID is one type of business improvement districts (BID). As we have learned some public services are more efficient when they are carried out by lower level government, they can understand and satisfy local residents’ unique characters and preference. BID is a new public-private partnership stemming from the idea that today’s entrepreneurial leaders know how to improve their business as while as improve their community. Therefore, “the basic approach for BID is one in which a majority of businesses defined by geographic location agree to provide an extra level of public service in their area by imposing an added tax or fee on all the properties or business in the area. The job of local government is to legally establish the district, collect the special tax assessments, and then transfer the funds over to a BID organization to use as it sees fit.”(Jerry Mitchell) Hundreds of BIDs have been operating in 42 states today. The successful examples are Washington DC Business Improvement District, Alliance for New York Downtown, etc.

In the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District a non-profit entity is working with three committees: Operations& services budget, Greening design & infrastructure and DID communications. Currently DID is providing services which clean the streets, improve sidewalk experiences, provide safety services and plant greenery with DID ambassadors who are on the streets. Below is a video the DID created to promote their services.

DID is funded largely by charges to commercial properties that are included as special assessments on property tax invoices. It is interesting to see how DID separates downtown area into three types of district and provides different scale services to each district, please check their maps by block number and service level.. You can also find their annual report and operating plan on the DID website. Below is their working result in between July 2009 and June 2010:

Can DID make a difference? They claim DID is 100% business managed, utilizing sound business principles and the same quality and cost control by businesses when managing private properties. We can view DID like a “tiny government” charging tax to provide extra services for public values. We can also view DID like a business company charging fees to provide special services we want. DID, as a type of public-and-private partnership, may has advantages like bringing innovation, private expertise, competition and serving better public interest.

Blog by Peter Hamma, Lyssa Leitner, Rose Ryan, Paul Teicher, and Yizhuo (Serene) Zhao

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