NNIP Recognizes Center for Urban and Regional Affairs for Advancing Neighborhood Equity in City Capital Investments

Center for Urban and Regional Affairs   (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

May 2017

In May 2017, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership conferred the inaugural G. Thomas Kingsley Impact Award to the Center for Urban Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota. The award recognizes an NNIP Partner organization who has demonstrated impact using neighborhood data to improve local policy and practice to benefit low-income communities. Working with the East Side Neighborhood Development Company (ESNDC) in St. Paul, CURA assembled data for the first time on capital allocations by neighborhood, which is very rarely available through city data. Their analysis brought greater transparency to city spending, prompted policy reforms in selecting capital projects, and motivated improved data collection for easier tracking of spatial patterns in the future.

For years, ESNDC voiced concerns that their low-income neighborhoods might not be receiving a fair share of City capital investment, but they had not been able to get the attention of decisionmakers. Last year, it asked CURA to obtain the necessary data and study the issue. The report revealed that the east-side districts, which account for 34 percent of the City’s population, had received only 19 percent of its capital spending from 2006 to 2015.

In response to the publicity from the analysis, St. Paul City Council passed a resolution for the Capital Improvement Budget Committee to tabulate plans by geography and to explicitly include geographic equity in the rating system for investments. ESNDC reports that the study has put the issue on the short list of hot button issues for the next mayoral election, and a number of grassroots groups are using the study to demand attention for investments in their communities.

The Impact award honors the legacy of Tom Kingsley, the founding director of NNIP, who has been a champion for the importance of neighborhoods and of the power of local data in community-building and policymaking. NNIP would like to express appreciation to the Award’s 2017 review panel: Cindy Guy (Annie E. Casey Foundation), Craig Howard (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), Seema Iyer (Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance), Lisa Nelson (Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and NNIP Alumna) and three Urban Institute staff (Tom Kingsley, Leah Hendey, and Kathy Pettit).