Minneapolis needs strong working families

In the week or so since the Star Tribune reported my thoughts about the best path forward for a minimum-wage increase, some people have respectfully asked for more information about where I stand on support for working families. I am happy to provide that here.

Wages in the American economy for low-income and middle-class workers and families have stagnated in the last 40 years. The gap between low- and middle-income workers on the one hand, and the highest-paid people on the other, is the widest it’s been in nearly a century. In our region, people of color and women disproportionately suffer the consequences of such inequality. That shameful gap, unfortunately, continues to widen as family-supporting jobs are harder and harder to come by. This structural income inequality has devastating economic effects, and devastating social and moral effects as well. It hurts all of us, no matter our income, gender or race.

For these and other reasons, I support higher wages for low- and middle-income families generally, and I support increasing minimum wages. I was part of the broad coalition at the State Capitol last year in the fight for the minimum-wage victory here in Minnesota. I have stood with fast-food workers in Minneapolis to support industry-wide minimum-wage increases in that sector. For the good of our economy and the good of all of us, the minimum wage in our country and our state should be higher. 

In the bigger picture, I strongly support reviving collective bargaining in the private sector overall. It’s a key part of our collective future prosperity. Our country’s 30-year, post-war economic boom was built on the foundation of strong unions, and our economic stagnation since then is due in large part to the weakening of collective bargaining in the private sector.

Collective bargaining and broad-based minimum-wage increases are two powerful tools to support and elevate working families. There are many potential tools in our tool belts that could make a big difference for working people: I am weighing all of those policy choices so that we have the best outcomes possible in Minneapolis for low-wage workers and their families.

In addition to the urgent need for state and federal action to raise the minimum wage, I believe we can explore a regional approach to raising it. Such an approach might fit our region and our families well.

I have also studied work other cities have done and are doing on municipal minimum-wage increases. Comparatively, Minneapolis alone doesn’t dominate our region the way Seattle, Chicago and New York dominate theirs. We are also unique among metro regions in having two core cities, not one, and suburbs that are home to significant numbers of minimum-wage jobs as well: Saint Paul and Bloomington are rich in the kind of jobs and businesses that would be affected by an increase. I believe Minneapolis’ going alone on a minimum-wage increase in this environment doesn’t make strategic sense for the long-term health and prosperity of the city.

I am also concerned in this context about two harmful proposals at the State Legislature. One bill would roll back last year’s statewide minimum-wage success by instituting a tip credit, which is nothing more than a loophole that would create two classes of low-wage workers. Unfortunately, Seattle took this approach to its minimum wage. This regressive policy has no place in our state and should not be part of any minimum-wage proposal. 

Second, another bill would ban any city not only from raising its own minimum wage, but from requiring paid sick time. In this context, it is unwise to pursue a one-city, go-it-alone strategy, because it would create a target for legislators who are hostile to minimum-wage increases to pass laws to preclude them altogether at the local level.

I support a wide array of policies that would support and uplift working people and working families. I support minimum-wage increases as one of those policies. I was proud of us as a state last year when we made it a priority to increase the minimum wage, with indexing, and I know the good it is already doing for everyone in Minnesota. I also believe an innovative regional approach to the minimum wage may be promising. I am proud to be part of the broad conversation in Minneapolis about how to best support working families to build wealth and how best to support low-income workers improve their lives. I have been and continue to be engaged in that conversation and, along with others, am weighing the best policy options moving forward. There is a lot we can do and will do to ensure that all of Minneapolis can participate in and benefit from our growth and prosperity. Together we can find that path forward.   

Join the Cradle to K Cabinet at a community meeting

My Cradle to K Cabinet has been hard at work since last year on a plan to eliminate disparities for our youngest residents. Last month, I released the Cradle to K Cabinet’s draft report, which outlines policy, legislative and collaboration recommendations. 

Read the draft recommendations here.

These draft recommendations are grounded in research and the prevailing best practices in the field and in our community. Recommendations range from increasing housing options for the lowest-income families, expanding home visiting, increasing early childhood screening at age three, and more.

Now I’m asking for participation from all of you.

Join the Cradle to K Cabinet at a community meeting to learn more about the draft plan, to talk with others in the community and to share your feedback on the recommendations and strategies.

Food will be served and Child Care is available at both meetings. We want to make sure we have enough food and chairs, so please let us know you are attending.

 

Tuesday, March 3

6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Children’s Hospital – Education Center, 2nd Floor

2525 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, MN

Co-hosted by Children’s Hospital, Way to Grow and YWCA of Minneapolis

Register at: http://march3forum.eventbrite.com

Thursday, March 5

6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Phyllis Wheatley Community Center – Gertrude Brown Room

915 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN

Co-hosted by Children’s Defense Fund, Think Small, Start Early Funders

Register at: http://march5forum.eventbrite.com

 

If you can’t make it to one of the meetings, we still want to hear from you. Share your feedback with us online at the link below.

http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/mayor/cradle/WCMS1P-136627

Many of these recommendations won’t be possible without support from the community, so we are inviting all of you to be part of this process as we work to create equity with our kids.

Apply now: help us achieve our clean energy goals

Last week I attended the first meeting of the newly formed Clean Energy Partnership board. It was an exciting day, one that showed the tangible results of this community’s efforts to achieve our clean energy goals, including reducing greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, and making energy more affordable and reliable for everyone.

                                                                                                                                           Read more about the Clean Energy Partnership here.

                                                                                                                                            The Clean Energy Partnership is a first-of-its-kind City-utility collaboration that includes the City of Minneapolis, Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy. I’m proud to chair this board, as the City and the utilities work to make progress on our shared goals.

                                                                                                                                              But we want the community involved in that work, too. After all, it was the community who helped us reach this point through its passion and advocacy.

                                                                                                                                        Please consider applying to serve on the Energy Vision Advisory Committee (EVAC). This committee will play a critical role in shaping the partnership board’s work, providing feedback on the board’s work plan and performance reports, offering expertise, and representing Minneapolis communities.

                                                                                                                                          We’re hoping to assemble a diverse board to represent a multitude of viewpoints, including labor and industry; public buildings; community organizations; business interests; students and academia; environmental justice, and more.

                                                                                                                                                I’m hoping you’ll join us as we continue in this important work, preparing for our energy future.

                                                                                                                                               Apply now for the Energy Vision Advisory Committee – applications are due February 20.

2014: A Look Back at Mayor Hodges’ First Year

When I think back over Mayor Betsy Hodges’ first year in office, it’s mostly a blur. I remember the bitter cold on the day of her inauguration ceremony; I recall the sorrow on Valentine’s Day morning when five young children died in a fire; I remember celebrating outside City Hall when we learned we won the Super Bowl; and I still think daily of the community members who shared their struggles with us at public forums and protests, through letters and emails, through the news media and on social media.

I smile when I think of the intelligent and talented team she surrounded herself with, whom I have been lucky enough to work with, and I laugh when I think about some of the more interesting events we experienced, like Comic Con and meeting Garth Brooks.

As I looked back to try and compile what we did during the first year, I realized it would be impossible to capture everything. Instead, I offer for you this year in review.

We were lucky to spend a lot of time out and about in the community, for celebrations, events and more.

  • Met incredible women from the Death to Life healing group
  • Door knocked to get out the vote with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC)
  • Cut the ribbon for the Cookie Cart re-opening
  • Joined the Teamsters Local 120 for the Remember 1934 Picnic
  • Became a bone marrow donor for Be the Match; kicked off the annual Run/Walk
  • Attended dozens of events including Uptown Art Fair, Tour de Camden, FLOW, Camden Farmer’s Market, and more
  • Joined Mayor Coleman for a national day of recognition in honor of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members
  • Attended the Minneapolis Brag Week Improv Comedy Show hosted by the Theater of Public Policy
  • Proclaimed October 8, 2014 as Latino Heritage Day
  • Hosted a regional Racial Equity Convening with Mayor Coleman, including community leaders from across the region
Cookie 1

Cookie Cart Ribbon Cutting

Door knocking with NOC

Door knocking with NOC

Tour de Camden

Tour de Camden

Death to Life Healing Group

Death to Life Healing Group

Minneapolis Brag Week Improv Comedy  Show at the Theater of Public Policy

Minneapolis Brag Week Improv Comedy Show at the Theater of Public Policy

Back ceremony with local Hmong leaders

Baci ceremony with local Hmong leaders

 

One of Mayor Hodges’ major priorities is making our city more sustainable as we work to become a Zero Waste Minneapolis. On this front, there was a lot to celebrate.

Touring the Eureka Zero Waste Lab

Touring the Eureka Zero Waste Lab

Sustainability Round Table

Sustainability round-table at Tiny Diner

Signing the Clean Energy Partnership

Signing the Clean Energy Partnership

 

We spent a lot of time and energy working on improving public safety and police-community relations. There is still a lot of work left to do.

National Night Out

National Night Out

National Night Out

National Night Out

Minneapolis Police Department cadet graduation

Minneapolis Police Department cadet graduation

EMT class at Roosevelt High School, first Minneapolis Fire Department Explorer class

EMT class at Roosevelt High School, first Minneapolis Fire Department Explorer class

We Win Institute at a Public Safety forum

We Win Institute at a Public Safety forum

 

Together, we worked to advance civil rights and advocate for justice.

Fast Food Strike

Joined CTUL at the Fast Food Strike

Protest of the Washington football team name

Protest of the Washington football team name

Fast for Families press conference for immigration reform

Fast for Families press conference for immigration reform

Mayor Hodges focused on our youth as a place to reduce violence, improve outcomes, and increase equity.

Cradle to K Cabinet Press Conference

Cradle to K Cabinet Press Conference

Dr. Josie Johnson Day Celebration

Dr. Josie Johnson Day Celebration

Minnesota Urban Debate League

Minnesota Urban Debate League

Mayor Hodges and Cara, her Step-Up Intern

Mayor Hodges and Cara, her Step-Up Intern

Reading to children at a Minneapolis Public School

Reading to children at a Minneapolis Public School

12

Minneapolis Urban Scholars

7

La Creche Early Childhood Center Graduation

 

2014 brought many moments of celebration about the success and growth of Minneapolis, while presenting more opportunities for economic development and inclusive growth.

  • Hosted business listening sessions as part of Streamline Minneapolis efforts to review licensing and business regulations
  • Applied for a Promise Zone application, including one of the largest gatherings of stakeholders around equity
  • Hosted and celebrated the first ever Best Week of Bragging About Minneapolis Ever, raising the visibility of Minneapolis
  • Included funding in the 2015 budget for the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal
  • Led the Racial Equity Policy Work Group established by the City Council
  • Completed the Somali 100-Day Plan, which included a meeting with Somali women entrepreneurs
  • Included funding in the 2015 budget for two new positions in the City Coordinator’s office to focus exclusively on the City’s racial-equity work
  • Broke ground on the new Vikings stadium and Downtown East development
  • Won the 2018 Superbowl bid
  • Hosted a successful MLB All-Star Game, bringing thousands of visitors to the city
  • Won the Final Four bid
  • Celebrated hitting $1 billion in building permits in August, much earlier than in previous years
  • Secured funding from the state legislature for Nicollet Mall renovations; included final funding from the City of Minneapolis in the 2015 budget
  • Assembled and met with the Somali Advisory Council to focus on issues affecting the Somali community
Business listening session at Holy Land

Business listening session at Holy Land

Somali women entrepreneurs

Somali women entrepreneurs

Watching the MLB All-Star Game Parade

Watching the MLB All-Star Game Parade

 

We also saw major progress in our efforts to expand transit options and keep our city running smoothly.

Dinkytown Green opening celebration

Dinkytown Greenway opening celebration

Opening of the Green Line

Opening of the Green Line

 

Mayor Hodges celebrated the typical milestones and built a solid foundation for the future.

Mayor Hodges and the City Council at inauguration

Mayor Hodges and the City Council at inauguration

Spencer Cronk's swearing in ceremony

Spencer Cronk’s swearing in ceremony

 

In addition to all the work, there were a lot of fun and exciting moments we never quite expected.

Minneapolis Comic Con

Minneapolis Comic Con

Egart Run for Girls Health

Egart Run for Girls Health

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama

All in all, it was an exciting, challenging and rewarding first year. Here’s to 2015 and the many milestones yet to come!

#pointergate

A few days before the November 4th election, I took a photo with an organizer while doorknocking to get the vote out. In that photo, the organizer and I pointed at one another (after, it has often been remarked, an awkward moment of set-up). A local news station ran a story that the pointing of our fingers constituted gang signs, that the photo undermined the morale of the officers in the Minneapolis Police Department, and that participating in the photo constituted poor judgment on my part. The head of the Minneapolis Police Federation — the union that represents Minneapolis police officers — made a comment publicly to that effect. He said, “She should know better” and asked, “Is she on the side of the cops or the gangs?”

As one of the two people pointing in the photo, I’ve tried to understand what the head of the police union thinks I should do, or not do. There seem to be four options.

First, maybe the head of the police union would like me to stop pointing altogether for the safety of the community. If that were truly his concern, that my pointing constitutes gang activity, then his outrage would have been sparked long, long ago. Because as the internet has documented in great detail, I point. I point a lot. Lots of people point. The President. Bill Clinton. Stephen Colbert. Babies. It is the earliest form of human communication.* I’m not going to stop pointing.

That option doesn’t make sense.

Second, maybe the head of the police union wants me to refrain from being in the presence of people whose criminal history I don’t know. In other words, maybe the head of the police union doesn’t want me interacting with the public. When I meet people, I don’t know if they have ever been arrested for or convicted of embezzlement, or domestic assault, or shoplifting, or murder, or burglary, or driving under the influence, gun or drug possession, or too many parking tickets. I have no way of knowing, nor do I ask. Frankly, if I did know that someone had a criminal past, it wouldn’t prevent me from talking with that person. It certainly wouldn’t prevent me from working on a Get Out The Vote drive with that person. That’s the kind of mayor Minneapolis chose.

That option doesn’t make sense, either.

The third option may be that the head of the police union doesn’t want me standing next to young African American men. One frightening implication of the KSTP story and police union President Delmonico’s support of that story is their implicit assumption that I should use stereotypes to assess with whom I should or should not meet or stand or talk. As The Onion once satirically wrote, “Stereotypes are a real time saver.” It is not a good basis for decision-making, however. It blunts the humanity of the person making the judgment and creates unnecessary separation between two people in a world where more, rather than less, human connection is needed for us to move forward as a community.

This is yet one more option that doesn’t make sense.

Which leaves one final option. It could be that the head of the police union wants me to stop working to raise the standards of police culture and accountability. It could be that he objects to the community policing and relationship-building measures that I am acting on, and attempted to use this non-story to discredit this work.

I share the public’s speculation that this is the real option.

If that is the case, he has failed on two levels. First, the people of the internet have called out this story over and over with outrage and humor, shining the light of day on the ridiculous premise on which it was based.

Second, and more significantly, I am undaunted in my commitment to making sure that police–community relationships are as strong as they can be. I am undaunted in my desire to support and develop police officers who serve respectfully and collaboratively every day to keep people safe and make all our neighborhoods stronger. I am undaunted in my plans to increase accountability for consistent bad actors in the police department.

Let me be clear on this final point. There is a critical difference between our good officers who have a bad day on the job, and officers, however few, who have a standing habit of mistreatment and poor judgment when relating to the public, particularly people of color. I am as concerned with the negative effects of this conduct on the police department as a whole as I am with its effects on our community. I am convinced that we can change it, even if it takes years.

If the fourth option is correct, my commitment to this work means that the head of the police union or other detractors will pitch more stories that attempt to defame that work and its leaders to various media outlets. So be it. I know the charge that I have been given by the people of Minneapolis and by my own conscience. I will continue to follow that charge.

*UPDATE: My apologies to The Daily Show, whose research was instrumental to my understanding of pointerology. “The President. Bill Clinton. Stephen Colbert. Babies. It is the earliest form of human communication.”

My commitment to public arts

This past week a one year change in my proposed budget has raised questions about my commitment to the arts. I know that for Minneapolis to be a thriving, growing city our arts and our creative culture are key components to our success. That’s why I have proposed significant new investments in the arts for 2015 and beyond, and why I have ensured investment in public art moving forward. I am and will continue to be a strong supporter of the arts in Minneapolis.

The new and continued investments are in on-going support for our creative vitality. In fact, my 2015 budget includes funding for new initiatives such as Creative City Making, the completion of a Creative City Index, and funding for a Creative Economy Study and Report. The arts and our creative economy are important to me personally and for the city’s future. These initiatives will support the expansion of the arts in the City in addition to funding for public arts.

So why are people under the impression that I have ceased supporting public art? I believe first, because I made decisions about cash flow that have been interpreted as lack of support and second, because I have not done a good job communicating those decisions. For the latter, I apologize. I will do my best here to explain them.

In the big picture, the City of Minneapolis has a Five Year Capital Improvement Plan that includes planning and resources for Arts in Public Places. Every year decisions are made about what projects the Arts in Public Places program supports in the near and long term and the mayor and council ratify those decisions. Those decisions are used as a guide for allocation of bonding authority. Bonds are not tied to any specific project, however. While the Five Year Plan and our plans for bond issuance are related to one another they do not depend on one another. For example, bonds that we issue in 2015 might be used for projects prioritized in 2011 for which bonding authority was set aside. There is a limit to how many bonds the city can issue in any given year. That means if we authorize but don’t issue bonds this year, we are foregoing other opportunities for public investments that are paid for with bonds, including streets and bridges.

Through the end of October, the City had only utilized $115,709 of the $605,000 made available in the 2013 budget and none of the 2014 budget of $480,000. This leaves $890,000 in funding available from now until the end of 2015. These funds are sufficient to provide for any needed resources through 2015, and likely into 2016 when an additional amount of $545,000 is planned to be added to the program.

Bond authority and how to manage that cash flow are distinct from our planning activities, however. The AIPP Committee has done great work proposing a vision for public art and a long-term plan for making it real. That plan is still our guide, and those projects will be made real. Cash flow for the program and support for the program are distinct from one another, and I am committed to seeing the plan through. That’s why I have made sure increased bonding authority is included in the proposed five year financial direction for the city. We can proceed with the plan we have, and continue to plan for the future, knowing that the $545,000 of bond authority not proposed in this budget will be available in future years. We will be able to make real the plans we have in place now and for the future. I am committed to matching resources with the need to execute these plans – including continuing the commitment of 2% of overall bond allocation to support the plan.

To recap: the only implication of a one year pause in bond authority for public art is providing an opportunity to allow utilization to catch up with available resources and ensure that resources will be available in the future. For now and the foreseeable future, all of our plans for public art investments and planning remain steady as she goes.

Why did I make that choice? If we authorize bonds this year that we know we will not use for arts this year, we will be asking taxpayers to forego resources that would pay for street and bridge repair while simultaneously asking them to pay taxes for bonds for arts that we will not use this year. Since we have the resources needed to move forward on our public art plan, I decided to make sure we could move forward on other fronts as well.

This is a complicated issue to explain, and I realize that more information on the front end could have prevented unnecessary concern about the future of public art funding in Minneapolis. Please know I am and remain committed to arts funding as a crucial part of what Minneapolis needs to grow and thrive.

Our clean energy future

Today marks a new era in how Minneapolis can work on achieving its clean energy goals. With the passage of new franchise agreements with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, and the creation of a City-utility Clean Energy Partnership, Minneapolis is forging a new path to work jointly with the utilities to address one of the greatest challenges we face – climate change.

This would not be possible without the tireless advocacy of members of our community that have kept the issue of our energy future on the forefront. Because of your efforts, we now have a groundbreaking platform to work on ensuring that as our city grows, our impact on the environment doesn’t.

So, what’s next for the Clean Energy Partnership? City and utility staff are already working out important details, such as a two-year work plan and the formation of the Energy Vision Advisory Committee. Our goal is to hit the ground running in early 2015 for the first meeting of the Clean Energy Partnership. As we begin our work, the continued involvement of our community matters and will bring accountability to make sure we reach our goals. Please stay tuned.

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