Mayor Betsy Hodges
2017 State of the City Speech
“One Minneapolis and the Call of Transformation”
May 23, 2017
Masjid An-Nur, North Minneapolis
Thank you, Council Vice President Glidden, for the kind introduction, and thank you, Imam El-Amin, for your warm words of welcome. To City Council Members, to Council Member Blong Yang, in whose ward we gather today, to City department heads and leaders, clergy and religious leaders of many faiths, and everyone in this space of peace and reflection, welcome. Thank you for being here.
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On Monday, January 6, 2014, Inauguration Day for this City Council and me, we made an agreement with one another — as a people, a community, residents, Mayor, Council, City employees, all of us — to become more than the great city we are. We agreed to heed a call from our community to be more than great. I said on that day, “…we have the power, and the duty, to heed the call to become more than just a great city.”
That call was to become One Minneapolis.
One Minneapolis is a city that works for everyone, and a city where everyone contributes to making it work for everyone else.
One Minneapolis is a city where people understand that another rising doesn’t require us to fall.
One Minneapolis is a city where all of us, people of color and white people, low-, middle-, and high-income people, immigrants and people born here, know that we are in the picture of our city’s vitality and success.
One Minneapolis is a city where we transform our systems, our structures, and our policies so that neither race, nor current income, nor zip code reliably predicts anything about life outcomes. They have no hold on how high we climb.
One Minneapolis requires change, it requires connection to one another, and it requires a commitment to sitting through the discomfort of change to get to a stronger, better other side.
So I am here today to say: The state of our city is strong. We are growing. We are increasingly known for what is great about us and for the strong, creative ways we are tackling our biggest challenges. We are strong, too, because we are heeding the call of One Minneapolis, even while facing resistance and uncomfortable change, and the results of that work are powerful and necessary for the whole city and our future.
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Heeding the call of transformation
Three and a half years ago we agreed we would take on the hard and often uncomfortable work of transformation: not tinker at the margins or make minor improvements, but fundamentally change how we operate in Minneapolis. We agreed we would recreate the relationships between the City, our residents, and our businesses. We agreed that we would eliminate the gaps of race, place, and income that hold us all back. We agreed that we would grow our city in a way that works for everyone in every neighborhood. We agreed that we would run the City well.
We agreed to become One Minneapolis.
We also agreed to do the rewarding, exhilarating, difficult, uncomfortable work of getting us there.
We have been heeding that call, and we are meeting with success.
Here’s a great example: One Minneapolis means families of all sizes have housing that works for them. I hear time and again from Somali families in particular that they have larger families, extended families, and they cannot find the housing they need. That’s true for many families in Minneapolis. Our old ways of funding housing couldn’t meet the need: our focus on the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and its structure meant we couldn’t create incentives to build larger-unit affordable housing. To really accommodate all of our families, we had to transform how we fund affordable housing in Minneapolis. And we are.
Working through a major change to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund was uncomfortable. I had many conversations with housing advocates, community members, and Council Members. There was fear that funding housing outside the trust fund would set back our housing work and would derail organizing efforts that had focused exclusively on the Trust Fund. It was a risk for housing advocates inside and outside City Hall to do it a different way. We kept our eyes on the better future on the other side of that discomfort and pushed ourselves to think differently. Through diligence and persistence and communication, we came to agreement that we could and should do it differently. Now, in Council Member Andrew Johnson’s ward, the first large-family affordable housing under the new program, the Minnehaha Townhomes, is close to reality.
And that’s what I mean by discomfort: to do things differently, we have to do things differently. And the only thing people dislike more than the status quo is change, especially if we can’t see ourselves in the picture on the other side. In the famous prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, we ask for not only the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, but the courage to change the things we can. Change takes courage because we are stepping into the unknown. We are doing something we have not done.
Minneapolis, we have courage. We have had sudden, dramatic changes like tornadoes and bridge collapses thrust upon us and we met those changes with courage and community.
We are doing the same with One Minneapolis and the changes that it requires to get there.
It’s uncomfortable to abandon the safety of tinkering around the edges of major challenges, and instead choose to take them head on. It takes courage to do it anyway, trusting that a better future awaits. But we need that courage, because there are challenges that tinkering just can’t solve. I hear from people who are already living in discomfort, who are not yet afforded every opportunity to succeed, that little feels worse than hearing the comfortable tell you that the tinkering is actual change. This is why we chose transformation as the path to One Minneapolis.
Compare it to a marathon. Every marathon starts with that first mile, but somewhere around mile 16 or 18 — trust me on this — your feet are killing you, you’re not sure you can breathe anymore, your mind is frazzled, your body wracked with pain, and all you want to do is stop.
When you hit that wall, you have a choice: you can give up, or you can press on. You can catch a ride to the end and not get that medal around your neck. Or you can push through and finish, and find out that getting that medal is a transformative moment, one where you really, truly understand that if you can do that, you can do anything. And, like any challenge, when you’re done, the discomfort does end.
It’s hard to make the choice to live through troughs of discomfort. It’s hard to keep the finish line in focus and remember that transformation lies on the other side, and that the discomfort ends. But here’s the thing: I know we can do it, because we are already doing it. That’s true vision: not only seeing a bright future, but seeing the challenges to getting there, planning for them, walking through them, and actually getting to that brighter future together. We are doing that, Minneapolis. Because of that, the state of our city — our remarkable, wonderful, great city — is strong, and getting stronger all the time.
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The other side of discomfort
One important, immediate, literal transformation that requires discomfort but has a huge payoff on the other side is our infrastructure. Transforming our infrastructure has been crucial to fostering and maintaining our growth. Our bike lanes, our revolution in street design, all require vision, and they require forbearance. Nowhere is this more evident than in our downtown.
In downtown, transformation is happening everywhere: Downtown East, with the beautiful, brand-new, green Commons in the heart of it; the ever-expanding North Loop; our breathtaking Riverfront.
Several years ago now, as the Nicollet Mall that we had loved for decades was inevitably reaching the end of its useful life, forward-looking downtown business and philanthropic leaders approached the City to enroll us in the project of redesigning and revitalizing it for the next 50 years. We agreed, and the City, represented by Council Members Barb Johnson, Lisa Goodman, and Jacob Frey, and me, worked hand in hand with them and legislators to make the hard financial commitments, select a world-class design by a world-class designer, and get this transformative project in the ground. We agreed to do this even though we knew it would take years to complete; that is, after all, the nature of construction projects. Together, we came up with a plan to mitigate the discomfort of this transformation.
Even so, there is no doubt that some people have been experiencing real pain. Even though the project is on time and on budget and on the plan we created together, some are questioning the wisdom of choosing this path in the first place. For some, this is mile 18 of the Nicollet Mall marathon, when discomfort is at its most acute. Yet the finish line is actually in sight: by the end of the year, Downtown’s central spine will be transformed into a bustling mile of offices for the 21st-century workforce, outstanding food and entertainment, public art and public spaces to delight every imagination, and yes, a wide range of creative, specialty retail. It’s the reason that 601West Companies grabbed the opportunity to transform the historic Dayton’s building: they know that in less than a year’s time, Nicollet Mall will be a destination in its own right, every day and every season of the year. We all will benefit from this transformation — including those who are feeling the most discomfort right now. It will be good for all of us.
Public safety and public trust
Nowhere have we faced the headwinds of discomfort more than in the work we are doing to transform public safety, policing, and police–community relations — and nowhere are we sticking with the work through the discomfort more tenaciously, to the benefit of everyone.
Three and a half years ago, we as a community agreed that one of the greatest challenges of our time, and far and away one of the greatest opportunities of our time, was the transformation of policing and police–community relations. For far too many people and far too many communities in Minneapolis, especially communities of color, police–community relations have been in need of transformation for far longer than three and a half years. We knew that our success, and the safety afforded by an increase in trust, would benefit everyone: all of our residents, all of our communities, and all of our police officers.
Yet, there are people who are deeply uncomfortable with, who strongly object to, the whole agenda of 21st-century policing because they say it gets in the way of police officers’ doing their jobs. Some say that doing the work of transformation means we cannot be doing the work of public safety, that transformation is to the detriment of public safety.
Some go so far as to claim that Chief Harteau and I have told officers not to enforce the law — a claim that is patently, demonstrably, 100 percent false. Let me repeat that: I have always, explicitly, expected police officers to do their jobs and do them well. Anyone who is tempted to perpetuate a myth that says otherwise should take it up with me. I want to thank right now the brave men and women of the MPD who put themselves on the line for us every day, and who are withstanding the discomfort of change themselves as we head into the 21st century. Never would I ask you not to do your job. We need you to do your job.
I say, not only is it false that 21st century policing would harm public safety, the opposite is true: we can only have true public safety with public trust. Three and a half years ago, we as a community agreed that the time for officer-worn body cameras in Minneapolis had come. Here, again, we faced resistance in the face of the discomfort that change brings: we could hear it in the questions asked, the delays put forth. But we persisted, and today every officer who responds to a 911 call is wearing a body camera.
We are also transforming public safety away from just law enforcement to the understanding that true public safety requires a collaboration between law enforcement and the community. This is why in the City’s 2017 budget, I funded over a million dollars in community-based public safety strategies.
One of those initiatives is a daring, first-of-a-kind effort in our city and this country: I proposed $500,000 for community members along West Broadway and in Little Earth to decide for themselves what on-the-ground, downstream, collaborative public-safety strategies they want to see in their neighborhoods. The City Council embraced the initiative, and next month, community members in the West Broadway area and in Little Earth will kick off community safety strategies of their own design.
As we get closer to launch, the discomfort of change is here again. Some on the Northside are uncomfortable with this transformational work: although we have followed the process that the community designed and agreed upon, some would prefer to retreat to familiar territory, to fund familiar good work rather than allow the community to take responsibility of choosing for themselves. This is true even though we can see that on the other side of this reimagination, beyond that discomfort, lies true public safety, not just more law enforcement.
Earned sick and safe time
Sometimes the discomfort manifests as out-and-out resistance. Right now, Republican legislators are trying to limit our ability to keep Minneapolis, and the people who work here, healthy.
I first proposed earned sick and safe time in my State of the City address two years ago because tens of thousands of people in Minneapolis — a majority of them women and people of color — were putting their own health at risk, and everyone’s health at risk. They were going to work at low-wage jobs when they were sick because they couldn’t afford to stay home. We agreed it was a problem that we had to address and needed a solution; but that the solution was a new way of doing business, a new way of setting community standards for workers and businesses, that made some deeply uncomfortable and resistant. We created a process to air, confront, and work through the discomfort: as a result, now we are working with businesses and advocates to implement some of the strongest protections in any city in the country. Now, no one in Minneapolis has to choose any longer between getting well and getting paid. And that is better for everybody.
All of these examples — redesigning Nicollet Mall, shifting our affordable housing model, protecting everyone with earned sick and safe time, and transforming policing and public safety — are examples of honoring our agreement to each other and with the residents of Minneapolis. Honoring those agreements when conflict, doubt, and discomfort arose was hard. But instead of giving up and letting discomfort win, we moved forward through it, through hitting the wall, with our eyes on the finish line, with an unwavering focus on getting where we had chosen to go.
This is our strength as a city: moving forward together.
This is what it takes to go from great to more than great. This is what it takes, and will take, to get to the kind of city we choose to be, the city we all agree we want. This is what it takes, and will take, to truly create One Minneapolis.
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One Minneapolis in the time of Trump
It has long been said that the arc of history bends toward justice — but it doesn’t bend on its own. That curvature is the result of so many hands, pulling on that arc until it points in the right direction.
Discomfort in the face of transformation is a force telling us that pulling it in the direction of justice is too hard, that we can let go of the arc and take a rest, and maybe come back to pulling on it later when it doesn’t take as much out of us.
Part of our greatness in Minneapolis is that we know not to let that kind of discomfort get the better of us. In our greatness, we know that we can’t leave matters of justice to chance. In our greatness, we know that we have to do the work of real transformation, however long it may take and however uncomfortable it may get.
Since last November 8th, however, we have been living through what happens when discomfort wins out in America.
Donald Trump’s presidency is the result of broad swaths of America not pulling on the arc of history, but pushing against it. It is the result of communities fearing change and resisting the discomfort that can lead to a future of more connection and more shared success and prosperity.
By an overwhelming majority, we in Minneapolis, like most cities across the country, did not choose this path for our nation, Now, however, cities like Minneapolis and the people who live in them are squarely in Donald Trump’s sights. As a result, we are facing headwinds on our way to One Minneapolis unlike any we have faced before. We must also assume that we will face them for the next three and a half years. But his agendas of oppression, regression, and suppression have no place in Minneapolis, and we are standing firm in our resistance to it.
In particular, we stand with our Muslim community, as President Trump singles them out for attack and unfairly-targeted policy. All members of one religion should not be assumed responsible for the reprehensible acts of a few. Our constitution forbids it. The Mayflower was full of people fleeing religious persecution.
This house of worship is called Masjid An-Nur, which translates to Mosque of the Light. I asked you all to join me here today in the Mosque of the Light for this annual rite in the life of our city because our Muslim neighbors, right now, need to know that we as a city see them, and value them, and understand the light they bring to our community. We stand with them in abhorring acts of senseless violence from any corner, against any victim, including the heinous attack in Manchester. We choose to turn toward our Muslim neighbors in the light of love and togetherness, and turn away from the darkness of fear and exclusion.
Minneapolis is stronger — our culture more dynamic, our economy more vibrant, and our souls more nurtured — because we are a welcoming city for all who come in peace, for all who come for light and for hope. No president will make us change that.
So yes, we stand here with our Muslim community, just as we stand with our Jewish community, our Latino community, and our immigrant community. We stand with our LGBTQ community, with people with disabilities, with indigenous people, with trans kids, with Christians, with people of color and white people, and with people who don’t agree with the President’s policies and people who do. We stand with anyone and everyone who calls Minneapolis home.
In Minneapolis, we believe in connection, not alienation. We believe in compassion, not indifference. We believe in love, but we are not timid. We will not be moved from the values on which our community is built. We will not let the national discomfort prevail here. We will fiercely protect ourselves and our loved ones from policies and politicians that would do us harm. This is our city. One Minneapolis gives us the strength to stand with our neighbors, not cut them out, group by group.
When Donald Trump comes after any part of our community, he’ll find 419,000 Minneapolitans and me standing squarely in his way. That’s the kind of wall I can support.
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The state of our city is strong, and getting stronger all the time. We are stronger precisely because we have been willing to name, sit with, and work through the roadblocks and discomfort that have arisen along the way to One Minneapolis. We are not stronger despite the discomfort, we are stronger because of it.
We get to acknowledge that. We get to celebrate how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished through the discomfort. But we are not done. We also get to focus on what is yet to come, on the finish line that lies ahead, if we choose through the discomfort to stay the course of One Minneapolis.
The future of One Minneapolis depends on having a planet that can sustain life. In the work of sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change — which is real — One Minneapolis offers us great hope.
When Pope Francis invited mayors from around the world to meet with him at the Vatican about the threat of climate change, particularly to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, I had the chance to meet and talk to the mayor of Gaborone, Botswana. He told me about the impact that drought was having on the people of his city — the dramatic migration that drought was sparking, and the privations that migrants and refugees were facing. And I realized once again, that the choices we make here in Minneapolis don’t just have an impact on the ozone above our heads at that moment. They have an impact on the ozone layer that covers our planet and all the people on it, now and into the future.
What we do here in Minneapolis, good or bad, matters to everyone everywhere, now and for many years from now. When we choose to come together as One Minneapolis to transform how we live, we can, and will, have a positive impact on climate change. And as we bring on our first-ever chief resiliency officer at the City, we get to think big about the interconnection of all the challenges, risks, and opportunities facing us as a city and as a planet.
We’re making that impact already. Opting in to our organics recycling program requires a small change to our daily routine and the minor inconvenience of three containers in the alley. When we choose to make that change, we aren’t sending 2,700 tons of organic waste to be burned at the HERC this year. That makes an impact.
When a small dry-cleaning business makes a small investment in their operation that puts fewer VOCs into the air, by accepting the help of our Green Business Cost Share program — a program that helped us reduce pollution by 38,000 pounds in 2016 — that makes an impact.
When the Neighborhood Hub knocks on a door in North Minneapolis and helps a homeowner see the benefit of the energy-efficiency investments we’re making through the Clean Energy Partnership, that makes an impact.
There is discomfort each time any one of us makes a decision to reduce our environmental impact. There was discomfort and resistance at the City when we introduced organics recycling, and when we formed the Clean Energy Partnership. But we can be proud that those decisions that we made through discomfort are amounting to transformational change, here and around the world.
Because low-income communities of color have borne the bulk of the fallout from the human creation of climate change, being One Minneapolis means we must focus on treating those impacts.
Over North, we are moving Northern Metals out, and we are putting resources into lead abatement and asthma prevention, aided by resources that the Promise Zone helped us create. In Central Minneapolis, with the support of the community and Council Member Alondra Cano, we are pursuing our first Green Zone: we are focusing resources for development and economic growth into a community hard hit by environmental impacts.
Our future as One Minneapolis is more than the sum of these parts. Yes, we get to fold sustainability into everything we do: into economic development, public health, job training, everything. But it won’t be One Minneapolis until we put environmental justice at the heart of that work. We should use environmental justice as the test for all of our sustainability and resiliency work: if we are getting it right for low-income communities of color, it means we are getting it right for the whole city — and therefore the whole world.
When it comes to our streets, yet another of the basics for which we are responsible, we also get to celebrate a number of transformational steps which have led us irrevocably away from treating streets solely as funnels for moving cars out of the city as fast as possible, and to the cusp of a revolution in street design that I call Streets 3.0.
In my first budget, I created a new Transportation Planning Division to prioritize walkers, people with disabilities, cyclists, and transit riders within an equitable vision. Next, I fully funded our first protected bikeway network. Working closely with Council Members Lisa Bender, Cam Gordon and Kevin Reich, we advanced Complete Streets to adopted policy. I hired a new Public Works Director with the skills to lead towards our vision. And finally, after three decades of warnings that our residential streets were crumbling to the point of no return, and after nearly a decade of State cuts that dramatically hindered our ability to slow or forestall the decline, the City Council, the Park Board, and I enacted our historic 20-Year Parks and Streets Investment Plan, backed up by the real, ongoing funding Council Member John Quincy and I insisted on.
With every one of these steps, we overcame serious discomfort, and we are now making our streets safer for all users. Acting on the principle that no preventable death is acceptable, more work is underway, which includes Council Members Elizabeth Glidden, Lisa Bender, Linea Palmisano, and Kevin Reich, to develop a plan to eliminate traffic fatalities that includes policy changes, education, equitable enforcement, and every tool at our disposal.
Streets 3.0, which includes “Smart Cities” approaches to technology and data, will also prepare us for dramatic changes ahead. Together with revolutions in electrification and ride-sharing, automated vehicles will begin to transform transportation in America and in Minneapolis. Not in the distant future: in the next decade. Whether or not these changes benefit our city and our climate depend on the actions we take.
It’s true that some parts of the future we seek to build, like transit, depend on currently unwilling partners at the Legislature. We will keep working on that. But most of Streets 3.0 is entirely under our control. This is our city and these are our streets, so we get to choose to proceed with the forward-looking policy we have set and enhance the investments we have made that benefit both our city and our climate. I am confident that we can lead the way through discomfort and make sure these changes happen not to us, but with us, for us, and for our future.
Public safety and policing in the 21st century
When it comes to public safety and 21st-century policing — perhaps the most basic service we provide to the people of Minneapolis — we get to acknowledge the work I spoke of earlier, the fact that we are doing more than any other city in America to advance 21st-century policing. We also acknowledge and share the pain that the shooting of Jamar Clark and the subsequent occupation of the grounds of the Fourth Precinct laid bare. While we continue to work through that pain, and continue to manage the discomfort that has arisen from our accelerating the pace of our progress as a result of that pain, we also get to — and we must — keep in constant focus the challenges of public safety and the constant need to improve it.
Let me say this as clearly as I can. Anytime anyone shoots someone else with a gun in Minneapolis, it violates the values we hold as a people. MPD and our partners are working hard to enforce the law and hold accountable shooters and those that aid them, whether downtown — where there have been some high-profile shootings and other behavioral issues that we are addressing comprehensively — on the Northside, or anywhere in our city.
Gun violence in any and all parts of our city must end, and can end. These efforts to end it are all connected because we as a city and a people are connected to each other. What happens in one part of Minneapolis, good or bad, affects all of us in every part of Minneapolis: whether Downtown, Northside, or Southside, we rise together when we celebrate each other, when we pull for each other, and when we hold each other accountable.
Staying the course of transforming public safety and 21st-century policing will require continually using and sharpening every one of the many new tools that we have added to our toolbox in the last three and a half years.
It will mean putting sustainable systems and funding in place so that our promising, brand-new Group Violence Intervention work can succeed in dramatically reducing shootings and transforming people’s lives.
It will mean ensuring that both residents and officers see and feel the positive impact of the training that MPD officers have received in implicit bias, procedural justice, crisis intervention, and fair and impartial policing.
It will mean continuing to look hard at each new class of recruits, cadets, and CSOs to make sure that we are hiring the best officers and that our police reflect the communities they serve.
It will mean enhancing community policing to make real the promise of building trust through building authentic, meaningful, long-lasting relationships between police and community.
And it will mean continuing to enforce our ordinance that separates the work of Minneapolis police from the work of federal immigration officials, which makes everyone in every community safer. As long as I am Mayor, that ordinance will stand.
Minneapolis at Home
Housing, too, spans many consequential areas of work: from the Clean Energy Partnership Agreement to Cradle to K, from development-oriented transit to Youth Violence Prevention. Yes, we have consistently invested in the City’s traditional housing programs: I have invested $40 million in affordable housing in the City’s last three budgets, including $14.5 million in 2017. And we have done more.
In the 2017 budget, I also proposed and the Council passed the City’s first investment of $1.5 million in preserving Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, to help stem the loss of existing affordable units that we have been losing faster than we can replace. We have supported the creation of market-rate housing in low-income neighborhoods: for example, by supporting the success of Green Homes North, and by funding an infill-housing pilot to increase community access to City- and County-owned homes and property.
Through Heading Home Hennepin, we have continued our longstanding commitment to ending homelessness: one success is that we are closer every day to functionally ending veteran homelessness. The goal of Heading Home Hennepin right now is to end chronic homelessness in 2017, and end family, child, and youth homelessness by 2020 — in three years.
I call this bundle of work Minneapolis at Home. It has required change and discomfort, yes, but it has also been meeting with strong results that we can be proud of. All of that required change, transformation, and innovation.
All of this and more will be required to get to the next level of One Minneapolis. To build the future of One Minneapolis, to make sure everyone in Minneapolis is at home, we get to pursue every serious policy path that will ensure every resident has a safe and affordable place to live. That means adopting a land-use policy that encourages density along our major roads and transit lines, and expanded protections for renters who face eviction or steep rent increases. That means looking hard at the City’s and the State’s regulatory and financing tools to make sure that we’re incentivizing the right mix of new housing, and building new tools to prevent the displacement of low-income residents when we invest in the communities in which they live.
This is our next horizon: everyone housed, and stably housed, with a range of housing options for all incomes in all neighborhoods. People who need help staying in their homes receive it, just like people who need a hand buying their first home receive that, too. Our neighborhoods are distinct and retain their personality, but everyone knows they are welcome in all of them.
Housing is one example of public investment in the public good being the best foundation we have for strong economic development. In the past, cities, including Minneapolis, were expected to dole handouts to potential investors and pick winners and losers in the private market. Over the last decade, however, we have instead focused our development strategy on public investment in public goods, knowing it builds a city that people choose to invest in. I am talking about public goods like our infrastructure: transit, complete streets, and bridges. Like good life-cycle housing, and strong public safety. Like clean air and water, and a vibrant park system. In other words, many of the things I have talked about today.
That transformation in how we attract investment helped us get through the recession better than most cities, and continues to spur the economic boom we are seeing now. Indeed, we have had five straight years of more than one billion dollars in development permits in Minneapolis, and the cranes keep going up in the sky.
Right now, I want to say thank you to everyone who invests in Minneapolis: our homeowners and renters, our visitors and our guests, and everyone who works in Minneapolis. Thank you.
I want to say a special thank you to our entrepreneurs and small business owners. Smaller employers supply the bulk of our job opportunities in this city, and those dollars more than any other circulate back through our economy.
We have worked hard to transform how we support small business. I know that too often, we as a city have hindered rather than promoted investment in Minneapolis. That’s why I initiated Business Made Simple, to honor and assist people who choose to make business investments in Minneapolis. We have simplified our regulations and are working to make sure that we are getting to a yes any time we have to say a no. Our Business Technical Assistance Program has grown in the last two years and is helping more low-income business owners succeed than ever before. And our new small business navigators will be on the ground soon to make sure that business owners who are investing in Minneapolis get access to the help and resources they need to thrive.
This is a solid foundation for a bright future for small business in Minneapolis. All of this investment has required and will continue to require a transformation in how we think about our entrepreneurs — a get-to-yes mentality in the enterprise in addition to a strong regulatory function. It isn’t easy or comfortable, but it is worth it.
We also have some of the most civically-engaged, forward-thinking corporate leadership in the country. One of the best ways we have to support them in their work is to make sure they have the workforce they need to thrive now and into the future. Luckily, we’ve got a lot of genius here in Minneapolis, and with the right supports, partnership, and investment, they will be ready for that too.
In my 2015 State of the City speech, I asked, “How much genius are we willing to leave on the table?” The answer then was none. The answer today is still, resoundingly, none.
We cannot become One Minneapolis unless we are tapping into all of our genius. In particular, the genius of people and communities that our political and economic systems have traditionally ignored or let trail behind: people of color, low-income people, youth, immigrants, people reentering society, and women of all backgrounds.
We cannot even remain the Minneapolis we are today if we are not intentionally educating, training, hiring, retaining, and promoting people from these communities to take the many good jobs in fast-growing sectors that are already going unfilled. Our growth will stall and our economy will slowly wither on the vine if we do not act.
So act we have. Through our TechHire program, we are deliberately identifying, training, and placing people of color and women in good jobs in the tech sector. And our groundbreaking BUILD Leaders program grows both public safety and our 21st-century workforce by training young people who have made bad choices early in their lives and are ready to get back on a good path to work in youth development, with the goal of offering even younger people real alternatives to those bad choices.
The Opportunity Hub in Cedar-Riverside, which Council Member Abdi Warsame and I partnered to support through the last two budgets, just opened this year with the promise of reducing barriers to employment in the East African community.
At the City of Minneapolis, we have created new pathways and been intentional in our hiring practices in the Fire Department, in the Public Works Department, the Police Department and many others. We have continued our support of STEP-UP and have expanded the very successful Urban Scholars program that Director Velma Korbel and her staff run so well in the Civil Rights Department. We have set aggressive goals for adding and promoting women and people of color in the City’s workforce, and are training all hiring managers in implicit bias to support those goals.
As we move forward on the path of One Minneapolis, I am calling our investments in our workforce and entrepreneurs of the 21st-century “Our Genius.” We will partner with MnSCU and MCTC and Minneapolis Public Schools to directly connect the institutions that educate the workforce of our future with the large employers who will hire, retain, and promote them.
Minneapolis, Our Genius isn’t only a matter of identifying and training youth, immigrants, and people of color to take the jobs and create the businesses of the future. It isn’t only a matter of improving the economy for everyone as we do it. It’s also a matter of transforming our ability to recognize genius in everyone, so that we see it around us every day in forms and faces that were previously invisible to us. When we come to that moment, Our Genius will have completed the transformation of our economy.
Cradle to K
As we look to the future, we look to our children. The future is in our babies’ hands. We need to make sure they’re ready for it.
Cradle to K has been a joy. The headwinds of discomfort and resistance seem to fall away when we talk with adults and caregivers about the joys of talking, reading, and singing to babies; when we talk about creating healthy homes for our youngest; when we talk about providing development-centered childcare for all of our children.
Think of it: when we make some carefully considered, strategic, tested investments in our smallest residents, we can actually prevent some of the disparities of income and race from arising in the first place. Actually prevent them.
It’s when adult fears arise — about money, about status, about the status quo — that we get uncomfortable. Talking about what babies need means we have to talk about what parents need — and some parents need a helping hand. They need a job, or chemical dependency treatment, or housing. They need help overcoming trauma, or just learning how to be a parent.
Making these investments now for the astronomical financial, social and yes, spiritual benefits that they the can return is best investment we could ever make as a city, a state, a nation, and a people.
And so in the end, it all circles around to One Minneapolis.
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Cynthia Occelli has said, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
As many of you may know, I am fond of quotes. I am especially fond of this one. To me, it speaks to the moment we as a city and a people have come to so many times in the last three and a half years: the moment when we realize our shell that protected us and our usual, habitual ways of relating to each other is irretrievably cracked. That moment has left us time and time again in a discomfort that to some has felt like danger.
Minneapolis, our shell is cracked. And from that will come the full flower of our potential, whatever we are destined to be.
To some, who can only see this moment, it may indeed look like complete destruction. In reality, it is transformation. And transformation, as we’ve seen over and over again for the last three and a half years, is the way — the only real way — that we will get to One Minneapolis.
One Minneapolis is our call. As I said in my inaugural address:
When we heed that call — when we head together toward something bigger than ourselves, and by so doing find one another and ourselves — that moment is when we become more than just a great city. It’s when we become a great people. That, Minneapolis, that is our true call.
…To be more than just a great city, to be a new city: shining as a beacon brightly enough to show our nation and the world that when we come together as a people, in government and in community, it is possible to be transformed.
It was true three and a half years ago, and it is still true today — except that today, we are nearer to the transformation that is One Minneapolis than ever before.