I’m proud that the City Council has adopted my budget largely as I proposed it, and I’m grateful for all of the work in departments across the city to arrive at a structurally sound budget that will help move Minneapolis forward. As always, my budget is not just balanced for next year, but is structurally balanced over five years.
As I look back at my time serving the people of Minneapolis—four years as Mayor, and eight years on the City Council before that—I do so knowing that I’m leaving the city in excellent financial shape, and on much firmer footing than it was 12 years ago.
When I took office in late 2005, the City was gripped by major financial problems that inhibited our ability to tackle our biggest long-term challenges. We faced massive internal service fund debts, a crisis in funding our community libraries, a broken pension system that benefitted middlemen at the expense of taxpayers and retirees, and years of chronic underinvestment in our parks and streets.
In my first term on the Council, I proudly supported plans to pay off the debt to the internal service funds. In 2007, as Chair of the Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee, I helped lead the charge to merge the City and County libraries into combined system supported by a stable tax base, which ensured that libraries could stay open, reopen, extend hours, and serve every neighborhood of Minneapolis. In addition, for over five long years, including as Chair of the Council’s Ways & Means/Budget Committee, I led the effort to finally fix our chronically broken closed-pension system, saving taxpayers millions — and $20 million alone in 2012 — and doing right by our retirees. And I helped make sure we kept to this fiscal discipline even in the wake of brutal Republican cuts to Local Government Aid. Those years of hard, often behind-the-scenes and thankless work meant that by the time I became mayor in early 2014, we were in a financial position to take on the one challenge that had as yet been unaddressed. As a result, in 2016 we passed our historic 20-Year Parks & Streets Investment Plan. Because we had the courage to take on this big remaining challenge—and because at my insistence, our plan is funded with real money, not the financial gimmicks that some proposed — our streets and parks will finally be rebuilt, and future generations of taxpayers will not be stuck with an insurmountable bill for crumbling infrastructure.
The fiscal responsibility and hard-won structural balance of which I have been a consistent champion allowed me as Mayor to propose and implement budgets with major new long-term investments in our future. We extended organics recycling to every household in Minneapolis. We expanded the City’s investment in the arts. We have more firefighters and police officers than at any time in recent history, and have matched those investments with real dollars in groundbreaking work to building public trust between community and law enforcement, work that is unmatched in any other city in the country. We have invested in diversifying the City workforce in the long term, so that City employees look more like the communities they serve. We reinvented how we invest in sustainability and combatting climate change through the Clean Energy Partnership. We redesigned Nicollet for the next 50 years. We made major investments in affordable housing, and began to transform how we do it. And we did all of it, and much more, while making significant investments in racial equity, and putting racial equity at the core of everything that we do. We could not have done any of it without the structural balance and fiscal responsibility that I led on for so many years.
As I leave City Hall after 12 years of service, I do so with pride that I am leaving the City on firm financial footing, with all my budgets structurally balanced and no major financial challenges remaining. What future leaders choose to do with this legacy is up to them, but in my view, this is the firm foundation on which One Minneapolis can and must continue to be built.