Four nights of peace in Ferguson give us all a moment to breathe a little more deeply. It gives us an opportunity to escape the hypervigilance a situation like that brings to everyone: people of color, white people, officers, civilians. I have felt that tension as I have walked on the North Side, I have felt it as I walk downtown, and I felt it as I have walked the first floor in City Hall as our officers have come in and out.
The tension we feel here is not about Ferguson, not really. It is about Minneapolis.
We in Minneapolis have some of the worst disparities in outcomes between people of color and white people in the country. We have some of the worst segregation in the country. Our unemployment rate overall is very low yet our unemployment among people of color is very high, including African American people; while unemployment for white people is declining, for people of color it remains stagnant. Housing, health, education: on any of these metrics Minneapolis is at or near the bottom in outcomes for people of color.
All of our disparities are wrong and intolerable and I along with countless others are dedicated to ending them.
I have been saying for a long time that these gaps impoverish our community for everyone. We have a legacy of brutal oppression of people of color in this country, this state, and this city. We have a legacy of quieter oppressions, too. I often make the argument that the economic price we are and increasingly will be paying for this is high: were we in this region to end our racially based gaps by 2040 we would be able to put $32 billion more dollars of personal income on the table. I make this argument for two reasons: one, it is 100% true. Two, it is an argument that most people can hear.
These gaps impoverish our community, too, because they leave many people of color rightfully furious and many white people feeling freaked out, often not quite knowing why, but suspecting it might be because we might just be benefitting from the inequities that exist.
What’s happening in Ferguson reminds white people that many people of color are angry about how they are treated and their relative lack of opportunities. White people are confronting right now (or vigorously or angrily denying) that we feel bad about the relative advantages we have. Right now many white people are compelled to unwrap our fears of what it might look like for us if we were to share those advantages with people of color. It has also unwrapped our discouragement that things could change for the better. Most of all, right now white people are having to face – consciously or unconsciously – how scared we are of people of color’s feelings about racial disparities.
These fears – and the systems that aim, in part, to protect us from facing these fears – are hugely painful and detrimental for white people. Not in the same way as for people of color and certainly not with the same impacts, but harmful nonetheless. Ending our deep inequities will benefit people of color, and ending them will benefit white people.
At the center of this communal conflict we place police forces. The tensions live highest in the places we ask people to enforce our rules. The opportunities for misbehavior and retaliation on any side are high. And when a situation spirals downward, the potential to unleash fury spirals upward. On any side.
The Minneapolis Police Department under Chief Harteau’s leadership is forging a path forward called MPD 2.0. At the heart of it is the expectation that officers’ guiding question be, “Did my actions reflect how I would expect a family member to be treated?” It is up to me, the City Council, and all city and community leadership to support and work toward that vision.
We must create opportunities for our police force and our community to build relationships and trust with each other, which means more rather than fewer opportunities to interact as human beings. That’s why in my proposed budget I funded more officers. It allows officers to get out of cars more often so that our residents and officers can actually talk to each other, and create the human contact that builds relationship and trust.
We must have a department that looks like and reflects the community it serves. That’s why in my proposed budget I put in on-going dollars for Community Service Officer classes. CSO classes are the best ladder we have for people of color from the community to become Minneapolis police officers.
And we must have as much clarity about police/community interactions as possible. Speculation and assertions recede as clear evidence rises. That’s why I have long championed body cameras for police officers and why I put in my budget funding to implement a full program. Cameras aren’t foolproof, but they go a long way in more accurately portraying what actually happened in an interaction between the police and the community.
We must do this. However, more important than even community and police relationships – and make no mistake, they are vitally important – is the work we are doing to eliminate disparities at all levels in Minneapolis and the community. None of us – white people, people of color, officers, civilians – can afford to take our eyes off of that prize. The well-being of our entire community depends on it.
As Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
I laid out my values – and my proposed 2015 budget – last Thursday at City Hall in my first budget address. You can also watch the video of the speech here.
In coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more details about my proposed budget, what’s in it for residents, and how you can share your feedback. But today, I wanted to give you just a quick overview.
I offer a budget that has been deliberately crafted with intention, focusing on the three themes of the work that you elected me to do: Running the city well. Growth. Equity.
Last fall, more than anything, we voted for a city focused on eliminating the gaps that divide us by race. A study this year shows that unless we eliminate these gaps, we in this region will short ourselves $32 billion in personal income by 2040. There is something in it for each and every one of us when each and every one of us has unfettered opportunities to thrive.
While we are entering a period of growth, people of color are not sharing equally in it. For Minneapolis to maximize our growth potential, both short-term and long-term, we must make certain everyone can benefit from and contribute to our growth.
For these reasons, I have proposed a number of new investments in equity in my budget, including:
- More City dollars for affordable housing, and a new initiative to promote home ownership in communities of color, in order to rebuild wealth in our neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
- Additional support for helping entrepreneurs and small-business owners of color in growing jobs and wealth.
- Support for youth-violence prevention, and extending the effective work of downtown youth-outreach workers.
- For the first time ever, adding resources to develop the City’s own equity work, in order to ensure the most equitable outcomes for residents and our employees.
When we voted last fall, we voted to make crucial steps forward like these for the health and vitality of our entire city. We voted for equity, knowing that growth is required to meet those goals and for all our city’s goals.
As a result, when we voted, we voted for growth.
Growth in cities is quickly becoming the status quo rather than a new trend, and Minneapolis is leading this trend. When we are intentional and deliberate, our investments in growth can both help accelerate our pace of growth and help increase our quality of life that more people are sharing in.
Some of the ways that my budget helps grow Minneapolis are:
- Fully funding the investment in the redesign of Nicollet Mall. Governor Dayton, the Legislature, and the downtown business community have already invested, and now we are adding our share to this long-term investment in our economic vitality.
- The first investments in a network of protected bike lanes, many of which will be in diverse and low-income neighborhoods in Minneapolis.
- A new transportation-planning division that will allow us to keep ahead of future projects.
Finally, my budget invests in the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal in North Minneapolis. Now that the lock and dam will soon be closed for good, we have an opportunity to map out a future where North Minneapolis finally has its own valuable riverfront amenities.
Running the city well
Unless we do the basics well – plow the streets, keep them safe, and care for our environment – we will not reach our vision for growth or equity. In this budget, I propose we continue to invest deply in these essential functions. My proposed budget supports:
- Ten more police officers, for an authorized strength of 860 sworn officers. It also supports more classes of community service officers, which boost the diversity of our police force, and an additional police cadet class for 2015.
- The implementation of body cameras for officers, which protects officers from frivolous claims and provide more transparency for residents in their interactions with officers. A pilot program is ready to being this fall, with full implementation next year.
- Two recruit classes in the Fire Department, and the department’s Explorer program, which recruits Minneapolis high school students into careers in firefighting and emergency response.
- More 911 operators.
- A comprehensive pedestrian-safety initiative.
Finally, in my budget, I propose implementing curbside organics recycling in every Minneapolis neighborhood in 2015. It’s been a popular and successful pilot project in a few neighborhoods, and it’s time for the whole city to reap the benefit.
We are grateful to be coming out of the recession, but we are still dealing with the aftermath of the economic crisis, not to mention a decade of State cuts to Minneapolis that were stabilized only last year by Governor Dayton and the majorities in the Legislature.
For a decade, in order to make up for cuts, recessions, and other issues like debt and pensions, we had to raise property taxes above inflation, while making significant cuts to key services. For years, residents paid more and more, and received less.
More recently, we were able to cut the property-tax levy last year, and hold it at zero or below inflation for the two years before that. It was the right thing to do. But when we don’t account for inflation, holding the levy flat means a cut to public safety and the services that our residents count on.
And while Minneapolis is growing, growth in the property-tax base does not automatically mean growth in the City’s coffers.
We must catch up with inflation if we wish to keep our basic services – already cut to the bone – functioning. To do that requires increasing the amount of money that we raise in property taxes in order to meet this year’s inflation factor – and do some catching up to years past, to make the investments that the voters asked us to make. For these reasons, I am proposing a 2.4% levy increase for 2015.
Over half of this proposed increase is simply to account for inflation and natural rises in the cost of maintaining just our current services. And much of the rest of it helps pay for our increased investments in public safety and running the city well.
Even with this modest, largely inflationary increase in the property-tax levy, half of Minneapolis’ residential properties will see no increase, or will even see a decrease, in the City portion of their property taxes.
When we voted last fall we knew it would take all of us putting our shoulder to the wheel to get where we want to go together. We knew that all of us do better when we all do better. That’s what this budget does – intentionally and deliberately moves us forward together to our best future through investment in ourselves. When we voted last fall we knew it would take investment in our people, our infrastructure, and our future to get where we choose to go together.
It starts now.
Public safety is the most important part of running a great city well. As mayor, it’s my number-one priority. It’s also the number-one priority for the Police Department, the Fire Department and everyone who works for the City of Minneapolis, be they in the Health Department, Public Works, Animal Control, or in any of the core services that we offer residents and businesses.
But really, public safety is all of us, and our neighbors. That’s why I’m thrilled that this evening, Minneapolis is again number one in America for the 31st Annual Minneapolis National Night Out, shattering the record – well, our own record, because we’ve been number one for many years now – for registered events.
National Night Out, held every year on the first Tuesday evening in August, is a time for us to pause for a few moments in our busy lives, get out into our neighborhoods and communities, and get to know each other – or know each other even better – at block parties and other fun, local events. National Night Out is also a great way to get to know by name the police officers who work in our areas. Above all, it’s a great way to build cohesive, connected, safe neighborhoods.
There are already more than 1,470 National Night Out events registered this evening in Minneapolis – that’s like 25 per square mile in our city. If you are already planning to host or attend one of these block parties, thank you for your investment in your community and in public safety. If you aren’t currently planning to attend one, I encourage you to find one in your neighborhood and take some time to stop by tonight. You can find the full list of registered events here. I’m planning to hit several of them myself.
Thank you for doing your part to keep our neighborhoods healthy and safe. We couldn’t do it without you. Have fun tonight!
Today’s StarTribune story about Southwest LRT contains a serious misrepresentation.
The only on-the-record quote that my spokesperson Kate Brickman gave reporter Pat Doyle about mediation was that the City is respecting the confidentiality of mediation. Because we are.
On background, Brickman made the point that there were a lot of crazy rumors out there about what’s happening at the mediation table, but that they are just rumors and we shouldn’t respond to them or treat them as valid.
Unfortunately, Doyle misrepresented her on-background comments to do exactly the opposite: he reported her as spreading one of those rumors — when in fact she used it as example of precisely the kind of wild rumor that shouldn’t be believed. It’s hard to understand why he would do that.
Everyone who is actually at the mediation table from Minneapolis and the Met Council is respecting the confidentiality of the process. And let me be clear: Minneapolis is not holding out on Southwest LRT to force the Met Council to build a streetcar. That doesn’t even make sense.
We are working to see if a resolution can be found that addresses legitimate concerns raised by residents about how freight and LRT will affect them, and protect a precious regional corridor in the process.
I will not let Doyle’s irresponsibility affect this important work.