2022 Mayoral Inaugural Address

Mayor Jacob Frey delivered his inaugural address at the Minneapolis Convention Center on January 10, 2022.

The speech was proceeded by the opening ceremony and swearing in of the Mayor.

Good morning, Minneapolis! Today is a great day. Four years ago, I had the honor of standing at the foot of the grand staircase in City Hall, wishing our city a good morning, a buenos dias, a subax wanaagsan. I am humbled and grateful to be standing up again today as we purposefully chart the next chapter of our city.   

Despite a change of scenery, we knew this momentous day couldn’t be appropriately marked without all of you, which meant we needed more space to be together safely. Thank you to the Minneapolis Convention Center for graciously opening your doors to us.

I’ll say it again, today is a great day – a day of reflection and celebration as we honor where we’ve been and send a clear signal of where we’re headed.

Outside my office in City Hall, there’s a wall of photos of all the mayors that have come before me – from Dorilus Morrison in 1869 to a photo of me from four years ago. The face looking back at me from the frame is bright-eyed and bushy tailed, far less weathered than I am today, far fewer crow’s feet and grey hairs. However, the more important changes have materialized internally: a deepened respect for, and awareness of, the magnitude of our work. The importance of service.

I’ve been a student to many lessons learned over the past four years, I think we all have. The murder of George Floyd, and the global racial reckoning that followed, rocked our city to the core and we have been forever changed. It is on us as leaders to hold in our hearts the weight of this chapter in our history, not burdened but reminded of our solemn responsibility to be unrelenting in our pursuit of better serving the people of Minneapolis. 

It is this dedication to service that binds us here today and must be present in every decision, every meeting, and every interaction that we have.

This morning, on our first official appearance together, we stand to take up this mantle of service. To tightly grasp the opportunity before us and harness our collective talents, passions, and convictions to uphold our oath of office.

To our returning council members – Council Members Lisa Goodman, Linea Palmisano, Andrew Johnson, Andrea Jenkins, Jeremiah Ellison, Jamal Osman – you’ve earned the trust of your constituents and proved your ability to represent your unique communities. You are bastions of experience and voices of wisdom. These are gifts I hope you will share liberally.

And to our new council members – Council Members Elliott Payne, Robin Wonsley Worlobah, Michael Rainville, LaTrisha Vetaw, Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai and Emily Koski – I look forward to getting to know you all, not just as elected officials, but as people. And forging new partnerships as fellow public servants.

Council Members, you are up to the challenge ahead; you were elected because you reflect the values of your community. As of your swearing in, the responsibility is yours to not only represent those values, but to put them to work in service to our city.

The politics of last year are behind us. The hard work of governing lies ahead. In addition to your role as an individual representative of your communities, you are now a member of an extraordinary team, our city enterprise.

That team importantly includes our members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, Sam Pree-Stinson and Steve Brandt, who are helping us be good fiscal stewards as we serve our city.

From the team in my office, to council members and staff down the hall, and all the way up to the water filtration plant past Northeast, we are all individual pieces of something greater than ourselves. The sum of our parts is a powerful force that keeps people safe, keeps the water running, and keeps the trains moving – sometimes literally – for the more than 430,000 residents and even more workers and visitors who count on us every single day.

They are counting on all of us because public service is a team effort.

This sentiment is possibly best exemplified in the successes and yes, shortcomings that we’ve seen in Minneapolis’ community safety system. The discussion around the future of public safety has dominated conversations, from dinner tables to board rooms, and everywhere in between.

Today, the campaign is behind us. The work of making our public safety system better, more effective, and more inclusive is before us. My ask is simple: Pull up a chair.

We need all levels of government at the table. We need neighbors at the table. And we need to be pulling in the same direction, fully recognizing that our end destination is the same: every resident in every neighborhood needs to feel safe.

This team includes our park board and community organizations to make sure that children have places to go, a positive outlet where they can just be a kid, or a young adult. Do you like playing the trombone or mixing new beats? Are you interested in robotics or coding the next big video game? We’ve listened. We’ve planned. And now, thanks to our once-in-a-generation investment in youth recreation in our parks, this spring these critical pieces of youth-inspired infrastructure will become a reality. Kids need space to run with a great idea, run through a new song, or sometimes for a kid who can’t sit still, they just need to run.

We create these systems intentionally for young people who are grappling with new and unfamiliar challenges, to redirect our kids away from a path of violence – a path that far, far too often is ending in tragedy.

Tragedy that not only acutely impacts a neighborhood, but our entire city. This tragedy fuels the urgency of city-wide solutions.

In developing those solutions, we cannot afford to deal in absolutes.

We uplift and support officers that demonstrate values of procedural justice and build community trust, while holding officers accountable that fall short of those ideals. From the Community Safety Workgroup working diligently on recommendations for deep-seated reform and results-oriented policies, to a recent meeting I had with Representative Cedric Frazier around empowering the Minnesota POST Board to revoke licenses for misconduct – we can build a thorough, more equitable criminal justice system without diminishing accountability and the need to uphold the law.

We’re doubling down on our work to expand our own team here in Minneapolis by proactively seeking service-oriented recruits and cadets, and making lateral hires, with the intent of bringing on four recruit classes by the end of this year. We are building our pipeline of talent through our Community Service Officer program. Thank you to those community-minded officers who take up this call to be the change in our department.

But public safety is not a police-only issue and will not be a police-only solution.

From funding Adolescent Group Violence Intervention through our Office of Violence Prevention, to providing Mental Health Responders to care for those in crises, we are taking action to create a comprehensive and integrated public safety system. We’re pulling up chairs for leaders from across the city to bring a sweeping range of perspectives to the table and making sure their diverse lived experiences are reflected in our public safety and accountability programs.

These issues are complex and deeply interconnected. There is no single solution, but we have a singular goal. We need to be better serving all people of Minneapolis.

The ripple effects of our progress here will be felt across this local government’s priorities. That includes the push to fuel truly inclusive economic recovery in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is coming back. We will rebound in fine form. We will blow by the old normal to recover in a way that values and uplifts Black and Brown communities that have traditionally been left behind.

From investing in BIPOC commercial property ownership, to relieving millions of dollars in City-issued licenses and permits for cash-strapped businesses – when we talk about recovery in Minneapolis, we are talking about committing to inclusion as a matter of practice and expectation.

The pandemic has reinforced what the Minneapolis business community – the economic driver of this region and state – has understood for decades. As Jonathan Weinhagen at our Minneapolis Regional Chamber will tell you, we depend on one another. There exists a symbiotic relationship across businesses and communities that has sharpened our propensity for innovation and propelled our community forward. The ecosystem is being rebuilt, stronger than ever.

For the first time, maybe in history, businesses both new and old are coming back online at the same time. And they’re working together. The brewery is hosting events featuring products from a local boutique, the boutique is sending customers to a nearby restaurant.

From a budding cultural and commercial hub in Camdentown to the hundreds of employees coming downtown with the introduction of Deluxe’s headquarters, Minneapolis is steadily building back as we navigate the many chapters of this pandemic.

We know bolstering economic recovery is not exclusively a business endeavor.

We are weeks away from families beginning to participate in Minneapolis’ FIRST Guaranteed Basic Income pilot. The pandemic continues to exacerbate racial economic disparities in Minneapolis and the families most financially impacted have been front and center in the creation of this program. Five hundred dollars a month will be in the hands of two hundred Minneapolis families this year, with payments rolling out in the coming months.

With a service-minded approach, we can more directly support the unique needs of the most vulnerable families. Our solutions must be both broad and precise.

As I said in 2018, housing is a right. It’s our job to make sure that right is extended to everyone and we have our work cut out for us in continuing this pledge.

We need housing solutions that are as dynamic as the communities we serve.

Our partners at Homeward Bound – led by our host Mike Goze – and Avivo Village are building innovative and culturally specific low-barrier models for residents experiencing homelessness. They’ve served hundreds of individuals – more every day – and they are models for cities across our state. Sometimes service to someone in need is as simple as a door you can shut behind you at night, a nightstand on which to put your belongings, a space that makes room for partners and pets. We must demand dignity in shelter for our unhoused neighbors.

It is through partners like these that we can amplify our efforts to provide safe shelter and stable, affordable housing.

In the last few years, Stable Homes Stable Schools has prevented or ended homelessness for over 3,150 children, in over 1,100 families, and we’re only going up from here. Jurisdictions here in Minnesota and around the country are looking at Stable Home Stable Schools as a model for improving housing and education stability.

I’m thrilled to welcome my friend and proponent of this program, Dorothy Lawson, as my honored guest today. Dorothy, your story is an inspiration to me and countless other people. From helping children of families in shelter stay caught up at school, to supporting unhoused teens grappling with mental health challenges, Dorothy’s propensity for making connections and her deeply kind heart have been a guiding light in some of the darkest times for many Minneapolis families. Simply put, we can help more kids through Stable Homes Stable Schools because of your generosity. Please join me in saying thank you for your work.

It gets even better. The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials recently recognized Stable Homes Stable Schools with an Award of Merit, citing the program’s unique solutions for tackling homelessness and the achievement gap, simultaneously.

I’m immensely proud of our progress so far and am eager to continue this important, impactful work with all of you.   

In many ways, our service extends well past the 58 square miles within our city limits. We are not on an island. As citizens of this planet, it is our responsibility to think globally and act locally.

Our Green Business Cost Share program is providing incentives and support for businesses to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency options. We’re investing in that program and focusing on bringing the most innovative green technology to businesses of all sizes in all neighborhoods.

We will prioritize and incentivize transitioning away from fossil fuels to meet our ambitious clean energy goals by 2030. When making financial decisions, our analysis won’t be limited to dollars and cents today but will include the extraordinarily expensive social cost of carbon, tomorrow.

How does this service come together and get to work for the people of Minneapolis? Excellent service requires excellence in clarity and efficiency. Right now, with the passage of the government structure amendment, we have an opportunity to create a government that can achieve both and if done right, will last for generations.

A steadiness of purpose and honesty of implementation is perhaps more important in this endeavor than anything we’ll do in our time here. Our form of government transcends any policy or program, any politician or department head. Our integrity of government is the rock upon which all progress is built and it’s up to us to ensure it is rock solid.

The decisions made here won’t necessarily grab headlines because these decisions are in the weeds of our local government, but it is within these weeds that our seeds for the future are planted.

One thing is certain, any individual success is dependent on our ability to work as a team.

We have every reason – every incentive – to serve as a united front in the challenges that lie ahead. But to be sure, unity does not mean unanimity. At times we will disagree. Disagreement and constructive argument are a cornerstone of our democracy, but that cornerstone is kicked loose when we fail to prioritize our commonalities.

In this work, we will make mistakes. Some shifts in direction we take today, decisions deemed righteous now, will be deemed extraordinary in 25 years. Others will fizzle out or fold under changing times and newer, better ideas. It’s our job to strive for the extraordinary, work like hell to get there, and where we fall short – and we will, occasionally – we fall short as a team. Because when we rise, we rise as an entire city.

I am grateful to the residents of our city for the opportunity to serve another term. I know the opportunity would not have even presented itself if not for the tireless love and strength of my wife Sarah. Through the most challenging days of the past four years, Sarah has been a constant support and a reliable recalibration when I needed it most. You’ve given me the greatest support of my career and the greatest gift of my life with our daughter, Frida.

Thank you to my Mom and Dad, who traveled here to help us celebrate this important day, and it means the world that you’re here. Thank you for supporting me for who I am and always showing up, no matter what. 

Partners and families experience the highs and lows of service as directly as public servants, sometimes more so. To our council members, your families won’t sign your oath of office, but they probably should. It’s our families, defined by love, that pick us up and put us back together each night. Their names are not on the certificates, but they are here today and to those families, please accept my personal thanks for your service. Give them a round of applause.

For the extraordinary leadership of our department heads who have walked alongside us as we navigated one of the most challenging chapters of our city’s history, thank you. As we chart a path forward – with a few new faces in the mix – I am endlessly grateful for your unique talents and dedication to this city.

And last but certainly not least, to city staff for their herculean efforts to keep our city running, day and night. You have overcome barriers that would have seemed incomprehensible just two years ago and you continue fearlessly scaling barriers that have existed for generations. Every day your work exemplifies the noble profession of public service. Your work is essential, and we must trust your expertise accordingly. Please join me in thanking them.

From the people who have been doing this job for 25 years or more, to the people who have been doing this job for 25 hours – all of our contributions fuel the engine that pushes us forward, steered by the purpose and convictions we have all committed to, here on this stage.

Our commitment to service is why we are here today and what binds us together as we approach the challenges of tomorrow as a team.

The honorable work of good governance requires long-term focus with immediate urgency. As public servants, we must do both. The people counting on us to get this right are not afraid to demand the highest level of service and we shouldn’t be either.

It is my hope that our most lasting legacies outlive our tenure as public servants. That if, generations from now, our names are forgotten, the mark we leave remains because right now we are the ones in the arena. We strive valiantly, sometimes coming short again and again, yet we remain committed to our worthy cause because the stakes are high. The moment is now. Today is a great day.