2023 State of the City
Good morning! Council President, how are you doing? Council Vice President, how about you? Good morning to all Council Members. For the last few years, we did this speech virtually – it’s good to be back with all of you.
Some days you wake up in the morning with a hop in your step and the wind at your back. Smiling is effortless. It comes naturally because you’re happy. I’m here to tell you that there’s great reason to smile at where our city is going, there’s reason to be happy about the progress we are making. There are extraordinary people and communities to celebrate. And the state of our city is in rebound.
The rebound comes in so many forms. I couldn’t possibly cover it all in this speech. So, for today, I’ve decided to elevate these pieces: our record-setting affordable housing work and the 2040 plan, community safety and the drop in violent crime, the downtown transformation underway, new investments in climate action and public health, recognizing our incredible city staff, and finally getting out and experiencing this great city that we love.
This is an optimistic speech. The city is coming back.
It’s cool to feel good about our city. It’s okay to be excited about where we are going. In fact, let’s stop for a moment... and let’s give each other permission to be excited and happy about Minneapolis. The people we represent, the city we are, and the progress we are making.
No literally, let’s give each other permission to be excited. I’m going to tell you what I’m excited about in a minute, but let’s stop and tell the person next to you what you are excited about.
I know you might not know the person sitting next to you, but that’s the beauty of this – we all have something to be excited about and we should share it. Ok, whether you like it or not… please turn to your neighbor and tell them what you love about our city.
…So, we’re all excited. The city is in rebound.
And as part of that rebound, I want to first focus on something that has been the very core of my career in public service. Something that is foundational to every human being. A home.
In my first inaugural address, I stated that housing was a right... and for the first time, affordable housing would not just be an afterthought to our City’s budget, but a centerpiece.
We have wholly shifted the way we budget for affordable housing by adding money on an ongoing basis.
We have invested $320 million into affordable housing work since 2018. That’s $320 million.
And due to the historic investments we’ve made consistently over the past six years, we are now producing affordable housing at a record pace. We're producing six times the amount of deeply affordable, low-income housing on an annual basis. That’s six times the amount of deeply affordable, low-income housing.
Add to that – last year, we saw our highest number of affordable housing units under construction in any given year – ever. In 2022 alone, 919 new affordable rental housing units started construction in Minneapolis. Better yet, 264 of these units are deeply affordable to households with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income.
In 2023, we are continuing to invest and sustain our progress on affordable housing. We have 23 projects funded already – and these projects will eventually provide 2,221 units for families and individuals across Minneapolis.
So, am I here to talk about all the great work we’re doing? Yes, I am... I’m here to brag about because there is a lot of good work happening. We can and we should take pride in that work. That is our rebound.
Some of those 919 housing units I mentioned are right over there at the Currie Commons. Wellington Management started construction here last year – and the final product will have 187 affordable homes inside of it.
This is a beautiful space that we’re in today – the Leef Building – and I want to thank Wellington, especially, David, Kim, and Pat for your gracious and kind work in making today’s address possible here. A great place to be when talking about our housing work is right in the middle of the work. So, thank you, Wellington team.
As you can see right here, all around us... this work is real, it’s tangible.... and it’s not just happening here at the Currie Commons, it’s happening all across the city.
We’re seeing projects close and buildings break ground every month. And more importantly, people are moving in! From 3301 Nicollet over in the Lyndale neighborhood to the Amber Apartments on Hiawatha and 46th, from to the Peregrine on W. Broadway to the Flats at Malcom Yards. These are homes. Affordable homes. And they are the product of an incredible commitment by a whole bunch of people.
Over the past couple years, the City and Hennepin County have invested over $200 million of pandemic relief funding for housing and homelessness response. The strength of this partnership was not an accident. Our decision-making reflected our shared values and shared commitment to affordable housing.
While we’re rebounding and setting records, we’re doing more than ever before for people experiencing homelessness in this city.
We knew that making investments in Avivo Village and Homeward Bound would be life changing. By the way, those investments are working and nation leading….and we should duplicate these models over and over across our city. And we have great projects in the pipeline to do just that, through our community partners at Simpson Housing and Agate Housing.
You want another example? I think you do.
Stable Homes Stable Schools. We started it, we built it... and it’s working.
We all know safe and stable housing is among the most significant factors for predicting academic success. If you have a home, you’re more likely to graduate high school. Period. We want our kids to graduate high school.
And research shows that the earlier we can stabilize kids and their families, the better the educational outcomes. So, we’ve been giving them homes, with a focus on Minneapolis Public School elementary students with the highest rates of homelessness.
Now, Stable Homes Stable Schools has been a permanent fixture in the City’s budget since 2021 – and as of today, the program has ensured a home for over 4,000 kids and their families.
We are seeing results. It’s going so well, that we are expanding the program even more for the next school year, and we’ll have a big announcement on that in the coming weeks.
Some of the most important housing stock is publicly owned. Over the last few years, we have invested historic amounts in our public housing inventory – far more than we have in decades.
But because our public housing stock is so critical – and because we have seen disinvestment in it for generations... we have to come up bigger. So, I’ve convened local leaders to find new strategies to preserve and expand public and deeply affordable housing. This group has already started meeting, and we’re going to find a way to get the job done.
Also, I’m committing today that public housing will be an important component of our budget next year – and we’re going to lead the way.
So, the work we are doing around affordable housing is nation leading work... and it’s part of our rebound.
And a big part of keeping housing affordable is increasing the supply of housing. A recent Pew Research study noted that between 2017-2023, Minneapolis has kept our rent increase at just a 1% growth. In fact, in this area, we have been leading the nation.
Why? Because we’ve built a lot of housing. And we’ve allowed for a diversity of housing options in all neighborhoods.
How have we done this? In my first year of as mayor, we approved the 2040 plan. Let me take a step back to remind everyone why we did this:
Let's look at the history. We have maps at City Hall dating back to around 100 years ago. These maps quite literally designated North Minneapolis as a slum for Black and Jewish people. Communities were intentionally segregated from vital assets. Using industrial highways, they set up barriers restricting their access to wealthier neighborhoods. Add to that, redlining, unfair lending practices, and restrictive covenants that ran with the land... and what you have is a recipe for exclusion and inequality.
Now eventually, through the Civil Rights Act, it was made illegal to create these racists policies explicitly. But let's be clear – racism in housing didn’t end there. Those same policies were solidified implicitly through zoning codes. And our zoning code was set up so unless you can own a really big home on a big parcel, you can't live in major swaths of the city. The tails of those policies still have an impact today.
I often get asked what the strategy is to allow for affordable housing in upper- and middle-income neighborhoods. The first and most obvious answer is: you have to actually allow for it. If you don’t allow for multi-family, affordable housing in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods, it won’t happen.
I believe in a diversity of housing options and a diversity of people in every neighborhood. I believe more people should be able to pick a neighborhood of their choosing. And our neighborhoods should not be segregated based on race or socioeconomic class. The 2040 plan was a way to correct these wrongs.
And that plan passed to national acclaim. We championed this; we worked for it. The 2040 plan is a standard for the rest of the country. But in years since, that plan has been under attack. Through both politics and now lawsuits.
None of the arguments change the fact that we still live in a segregated city. “All are welcome” signs do little good if you can't afford to live in the neighborhood to begin with. Progressive action should actually bring about progress. This plan could over time see more progress than any other policy.
The progress to help low-income residents get housing is not limited to the record amounts of affordable housing production and the comprehensive zoning policy. There is another simple answer that is proven to work – give people money to pay the rent.
Whether through rental assistance, which we did, or a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot – we did that too. These are policies that the research supports. This is not my opinion; these are the facts. And in Minneapolis, we believe in facts.
So, what do the facts say? The facts support the work we are doing, they support the 2040 plan. The facts support more production and preservation of affordable housing. Did I mention we are doing that are record levels? And the facts support the effectiveness of rent and cash assistance programs on housing stability.
Long story short, we need to continue to keep up the pace with our affordable housing production, we need to fight for the 2040 plan, and we need to increase investments in rent and cash assistance programs. I can assure you, I am deeply committed to all three.
Now, moving on... because housing isn’t the only critical issue we face. Let's talk about safety.
We’re making major progress. Progress that we should all get behind. On the theme of rebounding, crime is down. Everyone say it with me... Crime. Is. Down.
As of May 1:
- Homicides are down 43% year to date
- Carjackings are down 41% year to date
- Gunshot wound victims are down 32% year to date
- Shots fired calls are down 28% year to date
- Robbery is down 24% year to date
- And our police have recovered over 300 guns from the streets – a record pace.
We are on the rebound. Are we there yet... of course not. But we are trending in the right direction. And we intend on maintaining that momentum.
We have a new integrated and comprehensive safety system – we have new leadership in both our Commissioner and Police Chief. We are creating a new, reformed police department. Our officers are part of a wholly new approach.
And to every employee that’s involved in the Office of Community Safety – from police, fire, 911, emergency management, and neighborhood safety... thank you.
We’re also not doing this safety work alone. We’ve been leaning into a multijurisdictional approach to address crime in hot spots across the city. This was, and continues to be, a data-driven approach to reducing violent crime. And it’s working.
From our partnership with the US Attorney’s office – which just yesterday announced the success of a huge RICO operation – and other federal partners, to the BCA and State Patrol, to our Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office locally... We couldn’t do this work without you.
And that partnership across law enforcement agencies will be crucial to our continued success.
Now, the crime stats I just listed out are city-wide, but I’ll tell you this – crime in downtown is also down.
Which leads nicely to the next section of the speech – downtown revitalization.
So, what does the rebound look like downtown?
Let's first talk about what it doesn't look like. It doesn’t look like 100% of people going to an office five days a week. With remote or hybrid work – for many, that’s a thing of the past. I get it...actually, I don’t really – I'm very much so for coming into work all five days, and that’s what I do and what my staff does at City Hall.
But I do get that sweatpants on Mondays sounds appealing… and I get that some people want to get out of town on Fridays.
So, let me introduce to you the concept of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – these are days in the middle of the week where everyone could come downtown, collaborate, and work in a shared atmosphere. Wouldn’t that be nice to have everyone back downtown for three whole days each week?
These are days where people can ideate with one another and build the type of work culture you just can’t get in a remote setting. Did you know that the likelihood of inventions, patents, and new business concepts go up dramatically when people congregate. It’s true. So, let’s stay on the cutting edge. Let’s keep our edge over other cities.
By the way, there is no better place in the world than downtown Minneapolis on a Thursday afternoon and evening in the summer.
The sun is shining, the music is playing. People linger a little while longer. My memories of just hanging out with friends, coworkers, and loved ones on Nicollet Mall or Washington Avenue are among the best memories of my life.
I’m sure there will be a big push to brand Thursdays. I don’t really care what you call it... call it Thirsty Thursday, Thriving Thursday... Just enjoy each other and our city.
So first, let’s make a commitment on getting back to work downtown on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Second, we need to shift our view of retail downtown.
The days of massive square foot, multi-level department stores are over. The days of the gigantic Sports Authority or Barnes and Noble is a thing of the past. But retail is alive and well. With the advent of online purchases, it’s just changed. The difference is that when people go shopping, they want to have an experience – and we can help provide it.
That’s why I convened the Vibrant Downtown Storefronts Workgroup late last year... to look at our current downtown storefront space. This group is looking at and analyzing local and national trends to consider how those can be applied here – both for the street and skyway levels. I know this group will come up with some great recommendations, and I look forward to seeing those later this spring... stay tuned.
And finally, beyond storefronts downtown, we need to look at the office buildings that that are lacking in occupancy and explore a shift to residential. Sometimes the walls are going to have to come down – literally. We can be innovative and use buildings in a variety of ways, chopping up the space and figuring out new purposes for it... like housing.
I envision old, historic commercial buildings being transformed to residential. Office space today does not necessarily need to be office space tomorrow.
I’ve directed CPED to come up with recommendations to keep Minneapolis ahead of the national curve. To allow greater flexibility in how space is used, and to lift barriers for those that are looking to do things differently.
All that to say... we can simultaneously get people back downtown, create needed housing, and have a vibrancy on the street that is unrivaled.
Downtown is a destination, it’s our economic engine, it’s a place where people live, and it’s a cultural and entertainment experience.
And downtown’s vibrancy is a big factor in the trajectory of our rebound.
Climate and public health
In the area of climate and public health, we are charging ahead.
I’m proud to announce that we have achieved 100% of our renewable energy goals for City-owned buildings already this year. We set a goal and we met it. That’s important.
But our climate goals go beyond the walls of City-owned buildings. Our goals impact every corner of Minneapolis and every resident, business owner, and visitor. We plan to step up our efforts to hit 100% renewable electricity citywide by 2030. Realizing these ambitious goals will take all of us. And we will start by prioritizing low income and BIPOC communities.
And we’ve already started this progress. We have saved nearly $120 million dollars in energy costs – this includes supporting thousands of low-income residents in addition to hundreds of businesses. And we’re going to do more.
We are continuing to weatherize homes in the city, prioritizing homes in our Green Zones. Now, this means homes are equipped to deal with the hottest and coldest days of the year – and you all know we have those extremes in Minnesota.
When your home is insulated, it helps our planet, and your energy bills will go down.
And the future of clean electricity is for both buildings and cars. We are adding infrastructure around the city to allow for more electric vehicles. Freeing people from the need to drive their car is important, too... so we’re supporting the expansion of rapid transit all across the city – including on Lake Street, Chicago Avenue, and in North Minneapolis.
If you’ve heard me talk about trees before, you know I’m passionate about them and what they mean for our city. Since we’re a City By Nature, we will continue planting trees in our major heat islands. We are planting twice as many trees annually than we ever have before – and we will double down on that in the next few years.
To get all of this done, we will invest in a green workforce – that's right, new green jobs will be coming online focused on opportunities for BIPOC communities.
If this isn’t enough, you can expect major climate action investments to be included in this year’s budget. For example, the Climate Equity Plan gives us a roadmap for the next 10 years. This is a plan to incorporate everything I have talked about – reducing utility bills, promoting green job training, and planting trees... and it sets a goal for our community to significantly reduce climate pollution by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.
And something new to be announced later this year: the Minneapolis Climate Legacy Initiative.
Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Well, this initiative is ‘the how’ we will achieve the goals of the Climate Equity Plan. It’s a culmination of the climate work we started back in 2019.
And in the area of public health, we are also leading.
We cannot continue to let children be lead detectors. Children are not lead detectors. To solve that, we are on track to be the first city in the country to eliminate childhood lead poisoning... and we’re going to do it by 2035.
We have also continued to welcome people to our city to find the care the need.
Both through executive order and ordinance last year, we made Minneapolis a safe haven for anyone seeking abortion access and reproductive care.
We also made Minneapolis a safe haven for anyone seeking gender-affirming healthcare. Telling our trans community, we have your back – you will be protected in our city.
Whether someone is already a Minneapolis resident, or they are traveling here to seek support – we see you and you are loved. That’s what we do in Minneapolis. We care for one another, and we seek to right injustices.
To do this important work, we need a local government that is set up to be responsive to our most immediate needs.
Recognizing City staff
This is the first State of the City speech I’ve given under our new government structure. The biggest change in our government over the last 100 years is standing.
Setting up this new form of government has been a massive undertaking that has involved so many people... starting with the voters who approved the Charter Amendment back in 2021. To our Council Members, thank you. To our attorneys and City Clerk’s Office, thank you. Implementing this change could not have happened without your guidance, skill, and partnership.
And thank you to my executive leadership team – acting City Operations Officer Heather Johnston, City Attorney Kristyn Anderson, and Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander. You are at the forefront of the full implementation of this new structure. Thank you for your adaptability and openness to change. And for your unwavering leadership.
But there’s another group of people that are so critical to the rebound. All of our City staff – both in leadership and on the front lines. In fact, they take these jobs not for glory or money, they can get higher paying jobs elsewhere – believe me, it’s happened. They do these jobs because they care.
They pick up our trash, they keep us safe... they give people homes, food, improved health, and opportunity. They have a deep and abiding respect for the people of this city, and we should have a deep and abiding respect for them. But far too often, they do not receive the respect they deserve.
So, I will say this here: I am proud of our City staff. I respect the tough jobs they do every day to make Minneapolis the best city it can be. And we all should have their backs.
Our City staff are experts in their fields. They are hired here because they are the best for the job. They are trained, skilled, and knowledgeable. They think critically, solve problems, work collaboratively, and seek to find the best possible solutions for our city and its residents.
When you have the third snowiest winter in the history of our city, the huge potholes are not the result of our city workers sitting on their hands. They are the result of the third snowiest winter in history.
Our Public Works staff came up with solutions to get out in front of this historic winter. They offered free parking during the major snowfalls... and the minute the freeze thaw cycle completed, they started blanketing the city to patch the holes. Thank you.
The record setting housing strategies that we have delivered on and that I talked about in length today – those can be attributed to the great minds in our CPED department. Thank you.
The work in Regulatory Services is expansive. From traffic control to animal care to coordinating our response to homelessness, they face many of the toughest issues in our city. And they do so with grace and grit. They step up to the plate and get the job done... and done well. Thank you.
This goes for every department and division. They are all doing excellent work on behalf of our residents. The work is done efficiently, effectively, and equitably. Thank you, all.
And the world is watching what happens in Minneapolis. I can guarantee you that. And it’s not just limited to public safety. The world is watching how we respond and react across the entire government. The world is watching how we treat one another. And prospective City employees, they are watching, too.
If we want to continue to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, we must treat them as such. Which they are. Our City staff are amazing.
May is Public Service Recognition Month. Let’s give our City staff the recognition and respect they deserve – in May, and always.
They are a big reason as to why this city is rebounding.
Experiencing the City
Look at the North Loop, check out East Lake, visit West Broadway, notice what’s happening on East Hennepin.
These are parts of our city where a richness of small and locally owned businesses are sprinting ahead with concepts that people want to visit and experience.
Experiencing our city is something we all still crave. We want to experience the talent of local artists and makers, experience the razor-sharp banter of the person behind the counter, and experience a beautiful night out with friends.
With this rebound, there will be even more opportunities to have these experiences.
When my friends come from out of town, you know where I like to take them? Karmel, Mall 24, Midtown Global Market, or Mercado Central. Why do they love it? It’s an experience. A uniquely Minneapolis experience.
And not one you can get online. This is why we live in a great city... to experience people. To talk with them, interact with them, give them a hug. Even just people watch.
On May 12, all the people shopping at Martin Patrick will be able to get a drink at David Fhima’s new place, Maison Margaux. And the very next day, Doors Open Minneapolis returns – a free, weekend-long event that gives you behind the scenes access to historic and really interesting buildings all across Minneapolis.
So let’s get out and enjoy the city.
We’re on the Northside right now. And I’ll tell you, the Northside is on a roll.
The City just committed $1 million for the V3 Sports Center... You know what they’ve got? An Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool. And who can that project serve? People who can't swim. Where can you learn to swim in an Olympic-sized pool, hang with family and friends, and be exposed to incredible job opportunities at the same time? North Minneapolis.
It’s not new news that our parks system is world class. But check out what’s happening over at North Commons Park. The Park Board is making intentional investments to help everyone gain access to a world class park – no matter what part of the city you live in.
In the heart of North, Ion Corporation will be building spaceships. When asked what North Minneapolis does... you can soon say, among many things, they build spaceships.
The 48-acre Upper Harbor Terminal will soon be a mecca of art, music, affordable housing, and community health. How do you combine all those things together along the riverfront? I don’t know, but we’re doing it.
The Southside is rocking, too.
Have you been to Eat Street Crossing yet? It has to be the best first date location anywhere. It’s on Nicollet, just before the street dead ends by the old Kmart.
Speaking of the old Kmart... very soon, we’re going to be knocking that thing down. The street will get reopened. When the sunlight starts shining on that old crappy block, it will grow.
Have you checked out La Michoacana Purepecha on East Lake? Has to be the best mamey ice cream in the entire country. I’m serious.
Speaking of East Lake, very soon the entire corridor will look different. The City and County received a $12 million federal grant to fund critical safety improvements like wider sidewalks and bump-outs – there may even be more greenery. So, you’ll be able to cross the street safer – and take a rapid bus line. That’s pretty great.
Back over in Uptown, the classic Uptown Theater is reopening. The iconic sign is being relit soon.
Chef Yia Vang is using vacant spaces on West Lake as new pop-up restaurants – bringing Hmong cuisine to Minneapolis. The Green Room just opened up this past winter, with live music and events being a focal point back in Uptown.
And just down the street on Lyndale and Lake, Wrecktangle Pizza just received the “Best Pizza in America” Award from Good Morning America with local Chefs Ann Kim and Justin Sutherland on the judging panel.
Across the city over in Cedar-Riverside... just this week, the owner of Afro Deli, Abdirahman Kahin, was named the national small business owner of the year by the Biden-Harris Administration. This is big news for Kahin – and for Minneapolis.
Now, this is just some of the proof that Minneapolis is rebounding... And because I knew I didn’t want to stop there, here’s a list with a few more good things.
[On the list:
- PRIDE and Taylor Swift will be in downtown in the same weekend – June 23-24. We are expecting Super Bowl-level crowds.
- Bde Maka Ska pavilion will be opening this summer – bringing new food and a new look to the lake’s shoreline.
- Target Field and the MN Twins just recently announced that TC Summer Fest is coming to Target Field on July 14-15. This will include Imagine Dragons and The Killers.
- And... you’re going to like this one. You all remember Taste of MN? Well, it’s coming back and it’s coming to downtown Minneapolis. On July 2-3, it’s going to be on Nicollet Mall. You know where I’ll be that weekend.]
If you’re not experiencing all of this, you’re missing out. You’ve all heard of FOMO... but have you heard of FOMOOAGC? …Which of course is: Fear of missing out on a great city.
Apologies for my dad joke. But this State of the City Address is the first one in person since I became a dad.
A City in rebound
So... the city is rebounding.
We are all a part of this rebound.
It’s happening, and it takes all of us. And it happens further, better, bigger, with all of us going out and participating, loving, and experiencing our great city.
How many of you have cells phones that tell you where you have been every day? You take the same path to work, go to the same places for lunch, same grocery store in the evening.
I challenge you to this... Get out of your heat map and try something new! We all like to say we enjoy meeting new people and trying new things. But do we really do that?
This spring and summer, do that. Do that for yourself – and do that for our city.
We have the momentum; the city is coming back. Minneapolis is in rebound.
[Remarks as prepared, not a transcript.]