Month: October 2015

The 13 Minneapolis City Council Members

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis - 2014 Minneapolis City Council
Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis – 2014 Minneapolis City Council

The City Council is one part of the two-part – strong council, weak mayor – governing body of Minneapolis. There are 13 council members who are elected by the city’s voters every four years and by ranked-choice voting (each council member is elected by their respective ward’s citizenry). This means the next election cycle for the city council will take place in 2018; thus, the previous election cycle took place in 2014.

The Minneapolis City Council’s structure consists of a council president, a council vice president, a majority leader, a minority leader, and nine council members. As of 2014, Barbara Johnson, who represents the 4th Ward, serves as council president; Elizabeth Glidden, who represents the 8th Ward, serves as council vice president; John Quincy, who represents the 11th Ward, serves as the majority leader; and Cam Gordon, who represents the 2nd Ward, serves as the minority leader.

Although the majority of the city council is representative of the dominant group, “white,” it is fairly equal and equitable across gender lines. For example, in the case of leadership, both the council president and vice president are female. In the case of equality, there are 7 men and 6 women. That is, 54 percent of the city council is male; whereas, 46 percent of the city council is female, which is right in line with Stockholm, Sweden, for example.

Comparing the dominant group to the non-dominant group, Blong Yang, who represents the 5th Ward, “is the first Hmong-American to be elected to the Minneapolis City Council,” Abdi Warsame, who represents the 6th Ward, is the first Somali-American to be elected to the Minneapolis City Council and the first Somali-American to be elected to a policy position in the United States, and Alondra Cano, who represents the 9th Ward and who immigrated to the United States from Mexico during her youth, is the only member of Latino heritage sitting on the council, although Mexico is a North American country.

The other ten members are either from Minnesota or somewhere else in the United States  and are of european descent, i.e., the dominant group. This means that 23 percent of the city council is representative of the non-dominant groups in Minneapolis; whereas, 77 percent of the city council is representative of the dominant group of Minneapolis.

Comparing these city council group percentages to the 2010 census of the general population of Minneapolis, which states that approximately 64 percent of the city’s residents are “white” and 36 percent are not “white,” is called relative frequency in statistics. What this means is that when someone compares the “racial” composition of the city council to that of the “racial” composition of the city, one would expect the “racial” compositions of each to be relative or very similar to each other. Obviously in regards to Minneapolis, this is not the case.

Here is the list of the 13 current council members:

  1. Kevin Reich (Ward 1)
  2. Cam Gordon (Ward 2)
  3. Jacob Frey (Ward 3)
  4. Barbara Johnson (Ward 4)
  5. Blong Yang (Ward 5)
  6. Abdi Warsame (Ward 6)
  7. Lisa Goodman (Ward 7)
  8. Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8)
  9. Alondra Cano (Ward 9)
  10. Lisa Bender (Ward 10)
  11. John Quincy (Ward 11)
  12. Andrew Johnson (Ward 12)
  13. Linea Palmisano (Ward 13)

Author’s Notes:

  • Barbara Johnson has been serving as council president since 2006.
  • Politically, there are only two parties currently represented on the city council: the Democratic Farmer Labor party and the Green Party of Minnesota.
  • The filing fee to run for city council member is $250.
  • With respect to the city council, this author admits that each member of the city council would need to identify him or herself as “white” or not “white” for the percentages to be codified. The city council statistics were based off of observations and of course observations can be misleading.
  • “Whites” are the dominant group; whereas, the non-dominant groups are not “white.” There is a scientific reason for this, which has to do with systems in general.

The 6 Forbes Companies of Minneapolis

According to the 2014 list of Forbes 1000 companies, there are nine Forbes 1000 companies that reside in Minneapolis. However, after accounting for the political boundaries of Minneapolis codified by the city charter, and an argument challenging Forbes for the exact number of companies that belong to the Minneapolis system, Urban Dynamics proposes that there are only six Forbes 1000 companies in the Minneapolis economic system.

Here is the list of the six Forbes 1000 companies including their respective industries:

  1. Ameriprise (Financial)
  2. Excel Energy (Energy)
  3. Target Corp (Retail)
  4. Thrivent Financial (Financial)
  5. U.S. Bank Corp (Financial)
  6. Valspar Corp (Manufacturer of paint and coatings)

Again, this list does not include those Forbes 1000 companies outside of the political boundaries of Minneapolis. Those companies are Donaldson in Blaine, General Mills in Golden Valley, and Medtronic in Fridley. On the other hand, Ameriprise, Excel Energy, Target Corp, Thrivent Financial, U.S. Bank Corp, and Valspar Corp either reside on the light-rail blue line, which runs from Mall of America to Target Field, or they reside within a 3 to 4 block radius of the blue line in Minneapolis’ 3rd Ward (Downtown). In addition, they are all located within just a few blocks of each other; and their proximity to each other is what perpetuates the economic heart beat of Minneapolis.

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Rebuttal: Be Mindful When Selecting Halloween Costumes

According to a recent opinion piece in the Iowa State Daily, it was stated that

One could argue that people possess their First Amendment right to express themselves and dress up as whatever or whoever they want to for Halloween. But that doesn’t make it right.

There are two problems with this statement. First, it is a person’s constitutional right to “express themselves” under the law. This actually is not an arguable point, nor is it up for debate in regards to this specific topic. Now, there are constrictions on free speech but dressing up as “Kim Davis. Donald Trump. A Mexican. Bill Cosby. [and] Caitlyn Jenner” is not one of them. I am absolutely positive that there has been no case-law decided concerning Halloween costumes, nor has a judge pondered such obtuseness at the local or federal level including the Supreme Court.

Second, a person can indeed dress up as whoever they want and it does not make it wrong. Does it make it tasteless? Yes. I will concede that point. Is it something I would do? No. I stand in solidarity with the Pagans and Wiccans. Does the Iowa State Daily approve of appropriating someone’s faith for entertainment purposes? Perhaps I will come back to this obvious hypocrisy at another time. But back to the second problem, is it wrong to wear somebody else as a costume? That is the question.

But is it wrong to wear somebody else as a costume? According to your argument it is. However, you do not seem to object to a costume of Kim Davis, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, or Caitlyn Jenner.

As you pointed out

those projected to…be among the top Halloween costumes this year? Kim Davis. Donald Trump. A Mexican. Bill Cosby. Caitlyn Jenner. These are costumes that might get a few chuckles as you mingle with friends, but to a Mexican student watching you walk into the party wearing a sombrero and a mustache it is anything but humorous.

What is wrong with this picture? Is it perhaps that during the editorial board’s crusade to point out the tastelessness of another, in the guise of Social Justice, they failed to see their own duplicity? Are Kim Davis, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, and Caitlyn Jenner not allowed the same courtesy as the rest of us mere peasants? Perhaps this rebuttal is best ended with a quote and question by someone of some importance who once said

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?


The 15 Most Recognizable Economic Entities from the Blue Line

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics - Blue line, Lake St. Station
Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics

The Minneapolis Light-rail blue line corridor is more than just the number of people who ride it every day to their respective locations. It is a line that connects most of the economic wealth of Minneapolis. In other words, the vast majority of Minneapolis’ economic production of wealth and vitality reside on the blue line. In addition, two of Minnesota’s most traditional and successful sports franchises reside on the blue line as well. And finally, the birth place of Minneapolis, the Falls of St. Anthony, is only three short blocks from the Downtown East Station, which is adjacent to the Minnesota Viking’s new home, U.S. Bank Stadium.

Here is a list of the 15 most recognizable, and important, economic entities on the blue line between the Mall of America and Target Field:

  1. Mall of America
  2. Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) International Airport
  3. Valspar Corporation
  4. U.S. Bank Stadium (Home of the Minnesota Vikings)
  5. Lutheran Financial
  6. Government Plaza (City and County Governments)
  7. U.S. Bank
  8. Century Link
  9. Center Point Energy
  10. Excel Energy
  11. Nicollet Mall
  12. Theater District (Arts & Entertainment)
  13. Warehouse District (Arts & Entertainment)
  14. Target Center (Home of the Minnesota Lynx and the Minnesota Timberwolves)
  15. Target Field (Home of the Minnesota Twins)

As you can see, this is quite a list. Did you realize, or know, that all of these businesses were connected by one track?

To put this into perspective, Valspar, U.S. Bank, Excel, and Lutheran Financial are all in the Forbes 1000. In addition, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins are both ranked 18th in value in their respective leagues for 2014 according to Forbes. In total, there are four major sports franchises accessible from the blue line. Finally, MSP International Airport moved more than 35 million passangers in and out in 2014 and Mall of America created about 2 billion dollars in economic activity in 2014 according to Triple Five. Not bad for a line just over 12 miles long.

Author’s Notes:

  • The list is in geographic order starting with the southern most business (Mall of America) to the northern most business (Target Field).
  • Currently, there are 19 stations on the blue line.
  • The blue line as been in service since June 26, 2004.


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Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

GIS Map|Urban Decay in North Minneapolis

By Matt Johnson

Continuing the analysis of the North Minneapolis system and its dichotomy with the rest of the Minneapolis system, the City of Minneapolis Geographical Information System provides some much needed and useful data. As the reader will notice, there is an obvious discrepancy of vacant and Condemned buildings in North Minneapolis compared to the rest of the city. Here is the link: Vacant and Condemned Properties.

Welcome to North Minneapolis
Photo Courtesy of Youtube

This grouping of vacant and condemned housing may help explain some of North Minneapolis’ continued discrepancies in unemployment, education, health, and crime. There are of course other consequences that occur because of the environment that urban decay helps to facilitate, but these are the most recognizable and easily understood.

In systems science, we call this striking grouping a spatial pattern. As the reader can see, the spatial pattern has a fairly well-defined boundary of the group itself and it is fairly constricted to North Minneapolis (here is an article to refresh your memory on boundaries). Obviously, there are other vacant and condemned buildings in Minneapolis, but these are fairly spread out through the city and the other groups of vacant and condemned buildings are less pronounced in both numbers and concentration.

Why is this important? In the future, it will help provide quantitative information to the Minneapolis system, specifically the North Minneapolis system and its environment. This quantitative information will allow a systems scientist (mainly your writer) to view the interactions taking place in the environment of the system; for example, what type of effect do vacant and condemned buildings have on the economic system? Is it depressing (or making harder for) cash flow into the system?

To test this idea philosophically, I will pose a question for you the reader. Do you think vacant and condemned buildings help the economy of North Minneapolis, or do you think they hurt the economy? Intuitively (instinctively), I imagine that you would say that it hurts the economy and I imagine you think the question I pose is a silly question. Sometimes the silly questions are the most prudent in science and mathematics. Why does an apple fall?

Let me ask this question another way. Pretend you are a real estate developer and you are looking to invest some money. Do you invest in an area that not only has the highest rate of vacant and condemned buildings, but also the highest rate foreclosures and presumably the highest unemployment rate in the city of Minneapolis? My presumption is that North Minneapolis has the highest unemployment rate because it has the highest concentration of non-dominant residents (African Americans). According to recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate of the non-dominant group is almost three times higher than that of the dominant group, i.e., “whites.”

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of – Mae C. Jemison

Another consequence of this happenstance is the attractiveness of that part of the city. In other words, urban decay will not attract businesses and thus will not attract potential immigrant workers (labor and management from other cities and states). System scientists do not use the term immigrant the same way as those who participate in journalism or political debate.

I must stress once again, and I will continue to do so, that North Minneapolis is not a bad place. It is a beautiful place with a lot of potential. I realize that it has this negative reputation amongst the other residents of Minneapolis, but this does not mean that it does not have good people who work hard and push forward day and day out. On the contrary, your writer has a history with North Minneapolis in both the experience of living and playing youth football there. It is precisely for these reasons I see North Minneapolis in a different light.

North Minneapolis is filled with caring and hard working people. It is diverse and it is place where all people are welcomed. It also deserves better from the city government. The children of North Minneapolis deserve better as well. I have long believed that the next Albert Einstein or Mae C. Jemison will come from North Minneapolis. It is just a matter of that young boy or girl being provided the opportunity to show such skills. But in the mean time, I will continue to investigate, construct, and research the system of Minneapolis in hopes of finding dynamical solutions for policy that will help raise North Minneapolis both economically and politically to the level of the rest of Minneapolis.

Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

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Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Getting out of Race: A Prelude

The idea of race is deeply embedded within the culture of the United States. And there is good reason for this happenstance. First, this territory, the United States, was involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade long before the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution. Second, many of the early colonial laws such as the Act XII in the colony of Virginia during the mid 1660’s differentiated between “white” and “black,” and free and slave, respectively. In the case of Act XII, it specifically used the term “negro” and slave as synonyms for Africans. Third, the government of the United States was used as a tool to play favorites between those who immigrated from Europe and those who were, again, forced here through the Atlantic Slave Trade and into generational bondage in the new colonies.

And finally, although there are plenty of other examples to illustrate this point, there is the lack of scientific knowledge by the American culture at large. What is meant by this is that very few Americans seem to understand, at least in the opinion of this author, that humanity is an African species evolved to question its own existence. The anthropology, biology, chemistry, genetics, and mathematics, to name a few disciplines, illustrates such an existence. All United States citizens no matter if they are of European, African, Asian, or middle eastern descent, are all descendents of those first Homo sapiens who emigrated out of Africa 10s of thousands of years ago.

So here is the crux of the problem. Americans in the mainstream, both liberally and conservatively (but this author would say that liberals are more guilty of this phenomenon), perpetuate race as though it was real. Somehow “black” is a race, “white” is a race, and Asian is a race. This makes little sense until one understands that Americans do not have the basic and most fundamental tools to comprehend between the fallacy of race and the reality of the species. That is, Americans conflate race, or the act of racism, for competition between the dominant group and the non-dominant group mixed with prejudice and xenophobia. As a consequence, race is treated as real, but it is really just an illusion.

A Comparison of Minneapolis’ Foreclosure Rates by Ward

Despite the current downward trend of foreclosures overall in the City of Minneapolis, Wards 4 and 5 in North Minneapolis have experienced both the highest number of units foreclosed and the highest percent of units foreclosed since the first quarter of 2014 according to the most recent Minneapolis Trends Report. For example, in the first quarter of 2015, Ward 4 had 48 foreclosures, which was 30 percent of the total foreclosures in Minneapolis. In the second quarter of 2015, Ward 4’s number of foreclosures dropped to 28 units, while the percentage decreased slightly to 26 percent. So even though the number of foreclosures was cut nearly in half for Ward 4, its percentage stayed relatively high because the city’s total number of foreclosures decreased overall.

Data Collected from the City of Minneapolis
Data Collected from the City of Minneapolis – Graph Created by Urban Dynamics – Figure 1

Of course, some information can be gleaned from this information right away. First, these foreclosures are occurring in parts of the city that face other types of urban decay and challenges.

For example, North Minneapolis has the highest concentration of condemned and vacant buildings in the entire city, which are centrally located in Wards 4 and 5, respectively. North Minneapolis also faces some of the highest unemployment rates (possibly 2 to 4 times higher depending on the group’s non-dominant, “racial,” status) in Minneapolis; depressed educational opportunities and potential market competitiveness; and higher levels of health issues ranging from heart disease to sexually transmitted diseases as was reported by the Minnesota Department of Health in a recent news release. Moreover, North Minneapolis exists in what’s often referred to as an urban desert. This is an urban environment where the inhabitants lack the access or resources to acquire healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Another piece of information that can be gleaned from the comparison between Wards 4 and 5, and Ward 2 (Figure 1) which is located in Northeast Minneapolis and Wards 4 and 5, and Ward 10 (Figure 2) which is located in Southwest Minneapolis. The obvious difference is the number of foreclosures and it is quite distinct. As the tables illustrate, the foreclosures in Wards 4 and 5 have remained relatively high while the foreclosures for Wards 2 and 10 have remained relatively low. In fact, compared to both Wards 2 and 10, Wards 4 and 5’s foreclosure numbers are several times higher.

Data Provided by
Data Collected from the City of Minneapolis – Graph Created by Urban Dynamics – Figure 2

From this information, it is not a reach to suggest that the opposite of North Minneapolis is happening in Southwest Minneapolis and Northeast Minneapolis. That is, low condemned and vacant units, low unemployment rates, better educational and potential market competitiveness, and lower levels of health issues. In fact, and in the case of Southwest Minneapolis, specifically Ward 10, it is located in proximity to both Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. And it is relatively near healthy food stores. Both the access to healthier foods and the natural resources perpetuates a healthier lifestyle which in turn fosters increased mental health benefits.

These comparisons, as painful as they may be to some, are important because they begin to tell a tale of two different cities. These comparisons begin to paint a picture of life for a group of residents who experience a much different side of Minneapolis from their fellow citizens in Southwest Minneapolis or in Northeast Minneapolis. Moving forward, there are questions that arise, for example, how did this difference come about? Why are these trends continuing with what seems like no change in sight? And how do these discrepancies play into the picture of the Minneapolis system?