2018 State of the City
Introductory performance by students of the Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts
Call to Order and introduction by City Council President Lisa Bender
Thank you for that kind introduction, Council President Bender. Your partnership is critical to the success of our city. Thank you to the members of our City Council. In this journey to form a more perfect city, your work is critical and appreciated.
My amazing wife, Sarah, is here today. Together, we’re navigating an entirely new and public life. And she’s doing it all while working full-time and putting herself through law school. Sarah you’re an inspiration to me and everyone lucky enough to know you.
Many of our partners from the state legislature are here as well. This session was a difficult one, but they gritted it out and got some good things done for Minneapolis. Please stand to be recognized.
Our relationship with Hennepin County is only improving, and I’m glad to see so many partners from the County Board here with us today. Would you also please stand to be acknowledged?
And as of yesterday – for the sixth consecutive year – our city was recognized as the best park system in our nation. I think our Park Board Commissioners, many here with us today, deserve a round of applause for that. Please stand.
Mayor Melvin Carter, of course, my partner across the River made it as well. Melvin – thanks for being here today.
While we’re at it, how about our Lundstrum students? That performance was spectacular!
I also want to thank my staff and the department heads who keep our city running. Will you all please stand? Thank you. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that there’s no team who will work harder to get the job done than this one.
And welcome, everyone, to our Administration’s first State of Our City Address; welcome to the Lundstrum; and welcome to North Minneapolis.
North Minneapolis, the home of people who for generations have invested in this community.
North Minneapolis, home of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Center.
North Minneapolis, the home of Eye Bobs, Thor Companies, the Minneapolis Apprenticeship Training Center, Wolf Pack Promotions, Project Sweetie Pie – and more than 700 businesses.
North Minneapolis does not operate from a deficit.
North Minneapolis is a force of positivity.
But when some hear Northside, they don’t think of those statistics, those facts, they don’t think about North Minneapolis as the asset it is. That speaks to a deeper need; a deeper need to reexamine how we look at ourselves, and reimagine how we see every corner and every neighborhood of our city. We need to flip political paradigms on their heads.
We are ushering in an era of action, guided by a results-oriented approach in City Hall. I’m talking about results; not rhetoric—results. We need to take “what’s practical” and trade it in “for what’s possible.”
Here’s what’s possible.
The team at the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center is making our regional economy stronger. This March, the Opportunity Center marked its one year anniversary. They’ve done a lot in that time. In the first year alone, more than 550 people have secured employment through the Opportunity Center. That’s more than one job placements per day!
Council Member Abdi Warsame recognized what was possible, and made it happen by rallying public, private, and nonprofit partners around the goal of boosting employment and higher education enrollment – and I’m proud to say they are hitting the marks. All this goes to show what’s possible when we work together – unfettered by skeptics, undeterred by doubt or the “way it’s always been done.” I’ll continue working with Council Member Warsame and stakeholders to further strengthen workforce development.
By partnering with our labor allies and higher education institutions, we can work towards a scholarship program that supports members of our community pursuing a trade or apprenticeship. This is real tangible progress that can be measured. We’re committed to being accountable to the goals we set by clearly measuring the results. That’s why, this year, our city’s strategic plan will no longer be defined by values alone. Values will undoubtedly continue informing the policies and resource allocations we prioritize – but moving forward, the work of our city will be guided by measurable and tangible goals. The abstract and the theoretical will take a back seat to the concrete and the possible.
Our city government can be more efficient and more responsive to the needs of the people who live here. “Have we done what we said we were going to do?” will be at the heart of how we operate in City Hall. Thanks to the good work of our City Coordinator, Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, and her team, that will be the expectation for our city.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about the youth of my Administration and the relative youth of the Council. Usually when these words are uttered, it accompanies a mentality that our relative youth is a liability. I disagree. It’s an asset. It’s an asset specifically when new perspectives and ambitions are coupled with experience and know-how. It’s an asset when, forward-thinking public servants and seasoned, experienced ones take the time to learn from one another.
Twenty some years ago, a young activist Council Member, former Finance Director of Paul Wellstone, Executive Director of NARAL, and arch opponent of corporate subsidies entered City Hall for the first time. Her name was Lisa Goodman.
Now, new Council Members—like Phillipe Cunningham—have taken up the mantle of young trailblazers while drawing from the expertise of time-tested leaders. We have exactly the right blend of experience, the right diversity of background, and importantly an appreciation for the urgency of now. Good. The challenges of the day demand it.
Despite significant investments over the last 18 years, we have lost housing that is affordable to people at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) faster than we have produced it. At the same time, renter incomes are down 14 percent from 2000 while rent is up 11 percent.
It is difficult to overstate the severity of our housing crisis and the need to address it. So today—
“We will not measure up to these tasks unless we have teamwork and sincerity of purpose on all sides. In return, I ask for cooperation and assistance in making possible the realization of the type of Administration that will best serve our community.”
I borrowed those words from a 1945 speech that then-Mayor Hubert Humphrey delivered to frame up an issue he deemed a crisis. Then, like now, that issue is housing. That call to action and commitment to collaborate resonates today, just as it did then. And it is indicative of our history … one that spans centuries and includes intentional segregation, redlining, restrictive covenants … a history wherein North Minneapolis was explicitly designated a slum for Blacks and Jews.
We didn’t stumble into these circumstances. We can’t expect to stumble out of them.
We must move forward with intentionality. Earlier this month, I rolled out an affordable housing agenda for the city. We announced the recommendations put forth by my affordable housing taskforce, which included an historic, $50 million push for affordable housing, a level four times greater than any previously put forward by the City of Minneapolis. This is an historic amount for an historic problem.
I am calling on all of us to make history and back my push to secure that funding. While I cannot guarantee that we will reach the $50 million figure this year, I can make a promise to each and every one of you … each and every person who calls and wants to call Minneapolis home … that if we fall short – it won’t be for lack of trying.
Affordable housing must be in every neighborhood. I believe in socio-economically diverse neighborhoods. And I believe in pushing back on intentional segregationist practices, and so this affordable housing plan must be a plan for the entire city. And that investment is key to effectively setting our affordable housing agenda, which is designed around four primary goals: Expanding access to housing; preserving existing affordable housing; standing up for tenants; and promoting homeownership.
First with a two percent vacancy rate and demand well outpacing supply, expanding access to affordability is paramount. While it would be naïve to think we can simply build our way out of this crisis, it is essential that we make building more affordable housing a key component of our plan. Too often, the affordable housing built has not been affordable to people who need help the most, specifically those making at or below 30 percent of AMI. And a majority of renters at or below that 30 percent level are people of color. Building that deeply affordable housing is a critical part of our agenda because if we are truly being intentional about helping those who are struggling the most, those who have been subjected to historic disinvestment, then deeply affordable housing has to be top of mind – not an afterthought. I know our Housing Committee Chair Council Member Cam Gordon agrees.
I believe you should be able to live in a neighborhood of your choosing, be that North, South, or Southwest – and our investments need to reflect that mentality. Building deeply affordable housing will be challenging even when are fully committed. But it will be impossible if we rely on half-measures. That’s why we should remove the city’s self-imposed $25,000 per unit cap on affordable housing funding. Removing that cap would give people who want to build deeply affordable housing more opportunity to do so.
Preserving the affordable housing we already have is crucial, too. That’s the second corner of our housing agenda. Preservation is the most cost effective way to support affordable housing, yet it has also been one of the most neglected strategies. Our 4d pilot program is a good example of how we can do more. Using city partnership to expand eligibility for a property tax reduction, this program incentivizes keeping at least 20 percent of their units affordable at or below 60 percent AMI.
We’ve already received applications for the 4d pilot for hundreds of units from neighborhoods across our city. That strong start comes in no small part thanks to the great work of our City Council – including Council Member Goodman, who helped shape the policy early on.
If the end results of this new program are as positive as the launch has been, I want to work with my colleagues and the state on bringing it to scale. We should also be doing more to invest in efforts to support acquiring, rehabilitating, and renting naturally occurring affordable housing throughout Minneapolis.
I intend to increase the funding in the City’s NOAH acquisition fund to do just that.
Standing Up For Renters
And beyond the buildings, we need to look out for the people who occupy them.
We need to stand up for renters, who account for more than 50 percent of our population. Too often, the deck is stacked against people who are looking for a safe home. The practices of landlords like Steve Frenz and Mahmood Kahn have made that all too clear. Strengthening renters’ rights will require that we actually understand the housing conditions our low income renters are experiencing every day. Hiring more inspectors will help us do better on that front. And when legal action does prove necessary, tenants are too frequently out-matched by landlords with more time and resources.
That’s why the City should be making better use of Tenant Remedy Actions (TRAs). In the past the City has not substantially involved itself in landlord-tenant disputes, leaving cost-burdened renters to fight for justice against some of the wealthiest, attorney-backed landlords in town. Now, through a new TRA approach, the city can step into the shoes of the tenant, putting the full weight of our City Attorney’s office behind them.
And even before a person has found a home, there are institutionalized barriers like exclusionary rental screening practices that can disqualify people solely for a singular, past issue with rent payment. That’s not right. Several of my colleagues on the Council are working to end those practices and make tenant screening more inclusive.
So we need to be doing more to stand up for renters. But we also need to be making it easier for those who are struggling to find affordable homeownership opportunities.
A great place to start would be to dramatically increase vacant City lot development. Developing more vacant lots to provide homeownership opportunities does more than boost tax revenue and quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is one of the surest ways to effectively build generational wealth. Complementary to this approach is increasing support for down payment assistance for affordable homeownership. By adding a new, first-generation homebuyer program to complement traditional first-time home buyer programs, our city can make real strides in reducing poverty.
Stable Homes, Stable Schools
But we can’t stop there. Housing is about more than shelter. Housing provides a foundation from which people can rise.
Currently, 8-and-a-half percent of our Minneapolis Public School students are experiencing homelessness and housing instability. That’s over 3,500 students. Our kids don’t walk into the classroom as a blank slate. They enter the classroom with all the successes and failures of society – failures we can either perpetuate or prevent. We must do our part so as not to fail our schools, our teachers, our parents and families, and our children who so deserve to focus their attention on their futures, rather than where they’ll rest their head at night.
I’m really excited to announce a new initiative – one that will provide stability, promote learning, and help to create a more direct correlation between hard work and success for our students. Working in conjunction with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Minneapolis Public School, and Hennepin County my office has arrived at the Minneapolis Stable Homes, Stable Schools initiative. Through this initiative, we will be providing support directly to families – not through a developer or some outside agency – but directly.
Directly, so that students and their families who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability have rapid, direct support to find housing near their school or prevent them from being displaced at all. The program also looks to provide wrap around services for students and their families, including school supplies, job training and support, and other services. We can provide housing stability for as many as 320 families and 648 MPS pre-k through 8th grade students. These are the same students who encounter the most significant barriers in the classroom. We need to do our part, and this will be a direct allocation in the budget.
Schools are the bedrock of community, but that bedrock is not solid without stable families and stable homes. With $3 million on an annual basis from the City, $1 million from MPHA, support from Hennepin County, and help from our foundational partners, we can help break the cycle of poverty for our kids and help bridge the budget shortfall our school district now confronts.
Minneapolis Stable Homes, Stable Schools is a landmark plan for an increasing need. The time is ripe for action.
We’re leading from a place of unprecedented potential in our city. But that potential will not be realized without a clear plan … a Comprehensive Plan that recognizes we aren’t limited by hundred-year-old laws any more than we’re limited by our willingness to change them. Thank you to Council President Bender for your work on this endeavor, and thank you for your partnership in seeing it through. As a body, we are not inheriting a comprehensive plan; we are granting one to future generations. Traditionally, our plans have been comprehensive in areas of agreement but apprehensive in areas of controversy. I’m not under the false impression that all aspects of our Comprehensive Plan will be universally accepted without vigorous discussion in our communities. But I am of the impression that without that vigorous discussion, we are taking the same apprehensive approach that dodges our foremost deficiencies.
Do I believe in the notion that we should change our zoning code to allow for a greater breadth of housing options? You’re damn right I do. Here’s why I believe that.
Right now, as much as two-thirds of our city is still zoned exclusively for single family homes and restricted further for the wealthy by lot size. In other words, unless you have the means to own, not just a home but a very large one on a very large lot, your chances of living in many neighborhoods is zero. I believe in neighborhoods that are built on inclusion and diversity of use. And that kind of all-encompassing vision will not be made real unless we’re willing to take a closer look at how our zoning code impacts disparities. And I look forward to doing exactly that with our Zoning and Planning Chair, Council Member Jeremy Schroeder.
The concept of inclusion also applies to our growing economy. Do I want businesses to start here, grow here, and most importantly, stay here? Absolutely. And if we’re serious about that, we must retain and expand land designated for job-producing uses. We must ensure a welcoming business environment by implementing policies and processes to support small, mid-size, and large companies.
Our Minneapolis will be the place where entrepreneurs find roadmaps to success, not roadblocks to opening. We also can’t be agnostic about where our investments go and who benefits from our processes. This is key to our global competitiveness. So through our Comprehensive Plan process, I want to hear your input … concerned input … enthusiastic input … or even your “I hate the comprehensive plan” input … Our zoning codes, our policies, and our practices are important – but the most precious assets are our neighbors.
A good neighbor can make a world of difference – just ask Blas Garcia.
Inclusive In Every Way
When Blas was fifteen-years-old, his parents returned to Mexico. Before they left, they asked then-officer Giovanni Veliz to look out for their son. Lieutenant Veliz did more than that. He mentored Blas and made sure that he finished his education at Washburn High. He stepped up, the way good neighbors do, and helped a young man who needed it. Lieutenant Veliz made sure Blas felt a part of the community … that he was included.
“An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation,” wrote civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. “Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.”
Lieutenant Veliz demonstrated the type of compassion that our city must be defined by – precisely at this moment in time, so blatantly tarred by a lack of compassion in our national politics.
New Americans are not simply residents in the City of Minneapolis. They are our brothers and sisters. They are our shopkeepers, workers, CEOs, and artists. For many of us, they are the loves of our life. Our entire society and everything we believe rests on standing up for them right now. They matter. They count. But the Trump Administration (and I promise that’s the only time you’ll hear the name) insists on pretending they don’t.
Not since 1950 has a citizenship question appeared on the U.S. Census. In 2020 it appears that it will be asked again. That’s because the citizenship question flies in the face of the Constitution and is indeed an extension of concerted, racist efforts to take power away from welcoming communities like ours. And getting the Census right is about getting government right. An accurate count lays the foundation for a strong and healthy democracy. Cities also depend on census data for delivering good services that help improve people’s lives.
Here in Minnesota over $1,500 per person is allocated by the federal government each year. That money goes toward everything from housing to healthcare. Through our Census 2020 Initiative, the City is partnering with trusted nonprofit and diverse community leaders to help fight back against intimidation and fear, and keep our participation in the Census strong. Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins along with Council Members Alondra Cano and Abdi Warsame are helping spearhead that work, and I trust that these efforts will only gain momentum as we make our way toward 2020.
Immigrants and new Americans have rights. We need to make sure they know what those rights are. Sworn officers throughout the United States are required to plainly state the rights provided to those being detained in the form of Miranda. I believe that those who are undocumented should be aware of their rights with the same level of clarity. That’s why today we are announcing that Minneapolis police cars will soon be outfitted with language from our City Attorney’s Office outlining those rights. We will be installing placards with language – in both English and Spanish – detailing a person’s rights as far as they relate to ICE. We will not let the lack of compassion demonstrated at the highest levels of our government prevent us from doing right by our immigrant community.
So I’m committed to partnering with my colleagues on the Council to implement a Municipal ID – one that would benefit and help protect Minneapolis’ immigrant, trans, and non-gender conforming communities. We need everyone in our city to feel safe, valued, and loved – and to have the tools they need to succeed.
Resolve To Do Right
We cannot resign ourselves to accepting the hand that the federal government or state legislature deals us. We must resolve to acting where we have the authority and pushing boundaries where we don’t.
Santa Fe … Parkland … Newtown … Virginia Tech … Columbine … are all irreversibly etched in our minds.
But we can’t forget 21st & Penn … Chicago & Franklin … 22nd & Elliot … and 8th & Elwood … all intersections right here in Minneapolis where gun violence has claimed a life.
Picking up the morning newspaper shouldn’t draw tears. In 2018, too often it does.
Continued and sustained advocacy at the Minnesota legislature and in Washington D.C. will be critical to making meaningful gun reform happen. But community-led and community-backed efforts locally are already making a difference. In 2017 the City of Minneapolis began an important and impactful initiative on the Northside: Group Violence Intervention (GVI). The premise is simple. The results are encouraging. GVI relies on a public health-based, three-prong approach to curb gun violence in our communities. Here’s how it works. Based on an individual’s likelihood of being involved in gun violence – in any capacity – they’re brought in to participate in GVI and receive a message. Through a call-in or custom call with law enforcement, social service providers, members of the community, and peers, individuals are presented with two options: Put down the guns and stop shooting; or know that both you as an individual as well as your group will receive increased law enforcement attention.
So long as that commitment to stop shooting is upheld, GVI clients are provided the wraparound services and support needed to effectively change their lifestyle. GVI is working. It’s exceeding expectations. So, I’ll be looking closely at ways to expand it.
Accountability and Trust
Many of you have heard me say that the concepts of safety and accountability are intrinsically linked. We won’t have safe neighborhoods unless people trust the police, and right now – especially for many communities of color – that trust has been broken. So we’ve begun rebuilding trust through instituting measures that increase accountability with the Minneapolis Police Department.
First, after substantial changes to our Body Camera Policy, we now provide disciplinary measures when cameras are not properly used and turned on when they need to be. In fact, the numbers show a clear increase in compliance with the body camera policy. In February and March, police officers were failing to activate their body cameras nearly half the time. Our policy change took effect on April 4th, and compliance soared to 81 percent. Thanks to Council Member Palmisano, we can now track our progress – or lack thereof – through transparent audits. Thank you, Council Member, your work has been invaluable.
I’ll continue working with you, Chief Arradondo, the full City Council, and leadership from our internal audit team to monitor and measure the data collected and refine the policy as necessary. Additionally, throughout the coming year, we will set out to change the structure of our police union to better account for the reporting realities of a working administration. Right now those identified as supervisors – Sergeants and Lieutenants – are placed on the same side of the bargaining table as those being supervised – our rank-and-file officers. It is human nature to be less willing to discipline and hold accountable those who are on your team, whether that’s a police union, a sports team, or in partisan politics. And so we will move to separate out lieutenants and sergeants, creating two separate bargaining units. That’s good for government. That’s good for accountability.
Just as we are committed to fostering accountability among our officers, we are continuing the hard work of changing the culture of policing. In March 2016 Minneapolis was one of just six cities from across the nation to be selected for the Obama Administration’s National Initiative for Building Community Trust & Justice. MPD’s participation in the National Initiative has brought many positive changes internally, and has helped set a framework for changing the culture of policing.
From procedural justice and implicit bias trainings to crisis intervention, being a part of the National Initiative has helped move us toward reconciliation and rebuilding trust with communities who have been subject to historical harm. We are policing differently, and we are honoring the sanctity of life as a cornerstone for everything our officers do.
Chief Arradondo has instilled procedural justice into everything our department does in an effort to rediscover and reinforce our MPD’s role as peace officers – not just law enforcement. The Chief stated it best when he said, “public safety is not just the absence of crime; it is the presence of justice.”
Just as we expect accountability from our officers, we as elected leaders must be accountable in giving officers the necessary tools to succeed and to be the best versions of self. Being your best version of self requires self-care, especially in a profession like policing, which we know is traumatic. Don Damond, Justine Rusczyk, Damond’s fiancée, has stressed to me directly the importance of officer wellness, the importance of allowing officers to be their best selves, and the importance of giving them the necessary time to recalibrate between calls – so that difficult situations do not result in deficient decision-making.
We must do what we can to help ensure our officers are in the right state of mind in the heat of the moment. That benefits both the officers and the communities they serve and protect. Building trust also requires improved police-community interactions. If every interaction is negative, the perception of our police department will be informed by exactly that – trauma and negativity.
I want to add officers – not to patrol a community that does not want patrolling – but to engage, protect, serve, and respect communities throughout our city that deserve just that. I want to help Chief Arradondo strengthen the three values upon which the Department, under his leadership, is centered: Trust, Accountability, and Professional Services. When I talk about adding community-oriented police officers to generate more positive interactions with the community, Blas Garcia – the young man who Lieutenant Veliz took in – is exactly the type of candidate we should recruit.
And thanks to his experience with Lieutenant Veliz, Blas wants to give back to our city as a police officer. He has embarked on that journey. He’s currently a Community Service Officer, finishing his education and becoming eligible to serve. He’s here with us today, and he will continue to be an asset to our city.
Policing is now and will continue to be a difficult topic of discussion.
I fully expect that in the days ahead that discussion will continue. It should. And we should have it in honest terms. Are these conversations at times uncomfortable? Yes. But feeling that discomfort tells me that we’re collectively leaning into a pain that has too often been swept under the rug. I hear you, and I won’t stop showing up – even when it’s uncomfortable. I won’t stop working with you to make our communities safer. And we have already begun fighting what may be one of the greatest health and safety issues of our time: the opioid crisis.
Council Member Alondra Cano, from her seat as the Chair of our Public Safety Committee, has worked in lock-step with my office to launch our multi-jurisdictional opioid taskforce. Many of our taskforce members are here – please stand to be acknowledged. Our taskforce is made up of five neighboring jurisdictions and over 30 community partner organizations. We are focused on developing a coordinated plan to reduce opioid abuse, dependence, and overdoses in Minneapolis. We’re also pursuing ways to expand access to treatment and support recovery strategies that are culturally-specific and evidence-based.
As the scourge of the opioid epidemic lays bare the need to step up efforts in City Hall, it’s also revealed a shared commitment to the health and safety of our community. Kelly Doran saw reports earlier this year about our launch of a naloxone pilot project. We equipped 125 of our officers, primarily in and around Little Earth, with the lifesaving anti-overdose medication. Kelly’s family, like so many across the Twin Cities, has been affected by the crisis. So he stepped up, and has personally donated the necessary funding to make sure that our entire force will be trained and equipped with Naloxone by September. In many ways we are as strong as we’ve ever been.
Arts & Creative Economy
My Administration, this council – we are going to work to make our city even stronger. We are Young, Scrappy, and Hungry. That was a not so-subtle way of reminding you all that Hamilton is coming to the Orpheum this year. If that’s not a testament to the strength of our arts scene, I don’t know what is.
But here are a few more proof points: Minneapolis has the sixth highest place on the creative vitality index in the nation, with a ranking nearly four times the national average. More than a quarter of all creative jobs in our entire state can be found right here in Minneapolis. The average wage for those jobs is about 21 bucks an hour. Comprising nearly 5 percent of all jobs in Minneapolis, our creative economy has put our city on the map and helped fuel economic growth. And we’re not limited to the Walker and Guthrie.
This last weekend at Art-a-Whirl, the streets of Northeast were teeming with art – in all shapes and forms. We find art on buildings, under bridges, and in the minds of people who haven’t even discovered they are artists yet. Our communities are packed with potential, ready to be discovered. Earlier this month, I met with a group of pre-kindergarten students. I was reading them a book about a cat that kept losing their buttons. Inevitably, subtraction questions became a focal part of the story. The students answered them with ease.
Wonderfully surprised I asked, if they were all mathematicians; they laughed. I asked if they were all scientists; they laughed again. I asked if they were ready to be teachers; again, a laugh followed by a resounding, “No.” They assured me they were just students. After I finished the book, a four-year-old girl in a green dress with braids sat in my lap, threw her arms around me, and whispered in my ear: I’m a scientist! Just like Dorothy Lundstrum, this building’s namesake, she has an unbridled belief in herself, in her ability to define her future. And Dorothy Lundstrum’s story helps assure us that a little girl growing up in Minneapolis can be anything she wants to be. Dorothy’s commitment to her craft and to the Northside never wavered.
Council Vice-President Jenkins is now pushing to create an African American Museum and Center for Racial Healing, so black people in Minneapolis have a space to come together, reflect, and find inspiration. Collectively, we should support projects like that and continue working hard to make Minneapolis a place where all kids have the support they need and a fighting chance at living out their dreams.
The only way we continue to grow is together.
Here’s why. As you know, we’re experiencing a workforce shortage in the Twin Cities region. As of just a couple weeks ago, we had over 100,000 job vacancies.
If we don’t access every bit of talent we have on the table, if we don’t make sure that every kid, regardless of ZIP code and skin color, has the opportunity to succeed – then we will lose over $31 billion in GDP by 2040. $31 Billion! Any good business person would tell you that losing $31 billion is bad business. Any honest person would tell you it’s stupid. You may have noticed that I’m not talking about Minneapolis exclusively – but the Twin Cities region. Minneapolis doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
We operate in a regional economy, and our policy decisions should reflect this reality, not obscure it. Mayor Carter shares this regional vision, and I’m thankful for his partnership. The economic progress of black and brown people will not come about because a non-profit task force talked about it. It will come about when we support black-owned business. It will come about when people of color and indigenous people have the same access to capital – financial, social, and political – as their white counterparts.
Let’s begin with the financial. Village Trust Financial Cooperative will be the only black-owned financial institution in the state of Minnesota. This is huge. Why? Because whether it’s mortgage underwriting, lending criteria, or access to capital in general – black people have traditionally gotten the short end of the stick. How do we change that? Move out of the way and support black bankers in making the banking decisions. As Me’Lea Connelly, Village Trust’s Founder, says, “This is not about opening the doors for community. It’s about changing who owns the doors.”
Village Trust has achieved in 18 months what has taken most other financial institutions 3 – 5 years: Securing the financial backing to open and begin lending. Me’Lea and her team are changing the game. I believe in this organization. Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who has taught me a great deal in his first several months, has also championed Village Trust. This is real, this is happening. We are supportive. You can anticipate seeing that support reflected in our budget.
And the City of Minneapolis is going to benefit from increased access capital for people who have historically been denied it. And the importance of accessibility doesn’t stop with financial matters. It’s environmental, too.
As the City of Lakes, the City of the Mississippi River, as a great city in a park, we should make that access a reality for everyone. The Mississippi runs through Minneapolis. But the Northside has been denied access by heavy industrial, followed by a significant highway. Because of these barriers, there are kids growing up half a mile from the Riverfront who don’t even know that it’s there.
We envision a North Minneapolis riverfront where a kid gleefully sprints full speed from school through cascading slopes of grass, dirt, and dandelions, to dip her toe in the cold waters of the Mississippi. The pure, unadulterated happiness that water can bring should not be portioned off for those who pay the highest price. The Mississippi River is an emblem for our city, and no community should have exclusive rights to it.
To this end, Upper Harbor Terminal is our number one capital improvement priority, and it has the potential to transform an underutilized and vacant former industrial hub into a practical connection, facilitating economic growth, inclusion, and access for more people. Policies aimed at economic inclusion are only as good as our ability to enforce them.
One already-existing policy that we need to better enforce centers on wage-theft, also known as stealing. When people are deprived the overtime pay that they’re due, their contractually agreed upon wages, or simply not paid at all; that’s not just unfair, that’s unjust.
I worked as a civil rights and employment law attorney. A lot of you likely know that I represented people who were victims of wage theft. Doing that work required a passion for upholding agreements and doing what you say you’re going to get done. Here’s one contract, one basic bargain I believe into the core: An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Any violation of that contract must be enforced. That is fundamental to our society, our way of life.
For us to do nothing in the face of violations of that agreement is – in and of itself – a degradation of that promise and the foundation of our sense of right and wrong. Council President Bender and Workplace Advisory Committee are doing good work to step up enforcement. Council Member Steve Fletcher is leading on a resolution that we will pass tomorrow, which reminds us that at a time when workers’ rights are under attack, cities are often the last line of defense. That’s what this is about.
But we can’t be content with just preventing bad business practices. We need to bolster, support, and propel good ones. Recently Council Member Andrew Johnson, our Ideas Guy, brought to my attention a mobile flower shop that might be shut out of doing business in our city – not because the business was in jeopardy of failing, but because we didn’t have an appropriate license. That’s unacceptable. We can’t risk not being home to the next Lyft, the next Bite Squad simply because our laws aren’t keeping pace with innovation. And I know Council Member Johnson is working to make sure that we are innovating every day.
This is a pro-growth and pro-business Council. I am a pro-growth and pro-business Mayor. We recognize the great role that our business community plays in our day-to-day lives and in making Minneapolis as strong as it is. From Marla’s on Bloomington and 38th to Target, we value our business community. We’re ready to partner. Moreover, I know that our businesses value our community, and they are ready to partner. Things aren’t bad when they make money; they are good when they catalyze growth broadly.
Jamez Staples knows this well. He has dedicated his career to providing high-quality training in the energy, construction, and engineering fields. His programs will prioritize unemployed and underemployed adults in areas of high unemployment, people of color, women, and returning military veterans. His partnerships with workforce agencies will help address climate change and also meet the ever-increasing demand for workers in emerging business like clean energy and energy technology start-ups.
Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. Minneapolis isn’t just talking about strategies to tackle climate change or reducing air pollution. We are implementing them and investing alongside our non-profits, businesses, and community partners to bring about change. As a result of sweeping environmental reforms I authored while on the Council, we have created the most aggressive environmental incentive programs of any city in the country. Already the projects this year will have increased our commercial solar production nearly ten-fold, giving us the capacity to fully power over 750 homes on renewable energy. While reducing our impact on the planet, these organizations are saving roughly $855,000 annually in energy costs and improving our City’s economic resiliency at the same time.
This is all great news, but we can do more. We have aggressive goals that can only be reached by new and innovative approaches. Council Members Cam Gordon, Jeremy Schroeder, and Steve Fletcher have laid the ground work for moving us to 100 percent renewable electricity for municipal facilities and operations by 2022 with a Minneapolis-wide goal of reaching 100 percent by 2030.
Sustainable, multi-modal transit is another key element to protecting our environment and combating climate change. We have to ensure people are getting to and from their work, their home, their place of worship, their grocery store - with ease and safety. With more diverse housing options come neighborhoods of the future … Where you can walk to the local store … you can say hi to your neighbor … you know each other by name. But we can’t make that vision a reality if cars are the only way we plan to get around.
Council Member Kevin Reich has been a champion of both transportation and collaboration. He’s worked with the Met Council, Hennepin County – and anyone willing to listen – to make sure our transit priorities move forward. I wish I could say the state legislature shared his collaborative and forward-looking approach. But despite resounding support from seemingly everyone from the Blue Line Coalition to the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, we cannot get funding for our Bus Rapid Transit lines or support for our Light rail lines at the State Capitol. We know that these projects are good for business, good for community, good for growth, and good for equity. You’d think it’d be a slam dunk, but we continue to be hampered by gridlock. Still, we persist.
Between the Blue Line Extension and Southwest LRT line extension routes, we expect ridership to exceed 60,000 rides per weekday. When we get our Bus Rapid Transit projects going, we’ll see even more growth in daily ridership. Luckily, our C-Line bus rapid transit is being constructed in North Minneapolis.
I’m proud that Metro Transit, the Met Council and partners at the County prioritized the Penn Avenue Community Works program and made this route rapid line in Minneapolis. This line alone will have 9,000 riders per day, and many of the riders are transit dependent, people of color or from low-income communities. We cannot be agnostic about who benefits from growth and our investments. As we grow, we need to center the experiences of communities who have historically been excluded and ensure we grow through inclusion.
The focus of transportation should not be on a train, a bus, or a car. The focus should be on the people who these modes are supposed to serve. When I see someone on their bike, or in a wheelchair, I think first about that person's every day experience, and how we can make it just a little bit easier for them. The curbs that need updates … the price tags that go along with it … the coordination and budgeting process all flow from that … from the needs of people. Thanks to the work of Our Streets Minneapolis and our Public Works department, we are considering how budgets can look different, how we can center people in our work.
So I’ve been asked to identify the state of our city. And over the last five months, I’ve seen the very best of our city. I’ve seen a city built around the values of opportunity, inclusivity, and justice – and so did the entire world during the Super Bowl. We shined on the world’s stage.
I’ve seen total strangers and our public works team shovel one another out of snow drifts after major blizzards.
I’ve seen neighbors not just accept housing for people with a felony record – but welcome it with open arms.
And I’ve seen our City Council and the entire City Enterprise focused on improving the lives of people who live in Minneapolis.
I’ve been asked to explain to you the State of Our City – and the state of our city is poised.
We are poised to deliver not just a recitation of values, but results.
We are poised to realize the opportunities that have evaded our city in years past.
We are poised to experiment with policy, test and measure results at every turn – and be a laboratory of democracy – a beacon of progress for our state and this country.
The hard work of good governance is sometimes messy. The fight for progress is often met with powerful resistance. When Marriage Equality became law of the land, President Obama said, “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”
There will be set backs. But I’m asking you to hang in there with me on those days. I promise that if we stand united—if you keep working alongside me—then together we will make the most of the moments ahead. We haven’t arrived yet, but we are poised – in every sense of the word – to do so.
Thank you, and I look forward to attacking this work together.