On Thursday, August 15, Mayor Jacob Frey presented his 2020 budget proposal to the City Council. Starting in September, we will meet as the Budget Committee to hear more from every department. It is our job as the Council and as a community to dig in to the details, evaluate his proposal, and make changes where we find that there are opportunities to make improvements.
Mayor Frey and his team spent months crafting this budget, so I’m going to give it the time and careful study it deserves before rushing to judgement. My initial reaction: the Mayor has provided a great starting point for this discussion, and he and his staff deserve credit for all of the work that went into it.
The Mayor’s proposal includes another significant investment in affordable housing; investment in areas of our city, through Cultural Districts, that have historically seen disinvestment; public works investment in mobility hubs and better curbside management, and an initiative to improve our snow clearance at street corners for pedestrians; further investment in energy efficiency; funding for our outstanding elections staff and early vote centers; a baseline of neighborhood funding, and a whole lot more.
Mayor Frey is proposing a 6.95% levy increase to support these investments, though that does not mean that everyone’s property taxes will go up by that percentage since changes in property value factor into it as well.
The most high profile debate surrounding this year’s budget, so far, is around the police budget, and I’ve been vocal in resisting a narrative that adding more officers is inevitable, or is necessarily the best investment we can make to improve public safety outcomes. This debate is occurring in two simultaneous and contradictory contexts that are generating strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
On the one hand, while crime has been generally trending downward over many years, and last year was an especially low-crime year, there have been some scary incidents of violence that rightly have many people worried, and that have negatively impacted crime victims’ lives. That’s looked different in different neighborhoods across the Ward and around the city, but any new crime or uptick in crime is disconcerting. People see police responding to those incidents, and appreciate their work. I myself have been in the passenger seat on a ride-along when we heard shots fired and the officer I was riding with turned immediately toward the sound of the gunfire, rather than away. There’s an important role that police play, one that deserves our gratitude and respect. People who are focused on that context often think more police would be helpful.
At the same time, this community is reeling from incidents that have resulted in mistrust and in tragedies and loss of life. People have seen the city pay significant settlements because our department’s discipline, supervision, training, recruitment, and operations wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny in front of a jury, and many constituents are demanding increased accountability. Under Chief Arradondo, we’ve made some meaningful improvements, but there is a lot more to do. Our Police Department has a data dashboard that provides some of the best transparency and insight of any department in the country, and that’s enabled some Ward 3 residents to confirm their suspicion that our policing is producing racially disparate outcomes. While many in our community experience a sense of safety when they see an MPD officer, others become fearful because of experiences where they’ve been treated unfairly or witnessed abuses. People who are focused on that context would often prefer to see investments in public safety go to solutions other than more police officers.
Both perspectives have been aggressively on display on social media, on the news, and in council chambers. Enough people are polarized around police staffing as a political issue that I’ll be disappointing one group of constituents no matter how I vote in December. Chief Arradondo proposed 400 officers by 2025. Mayor Frey proposed 14 additional officers in 2020. Others are advocating for a reduction, to focus resources other places. My commitment is this: I’m going to keep listening to everyone. I’m going to study the underlying problems and do my best to hold our whole city – not just MPD – accountable for finding the best solutions to public safety problems. We’re going to move forward in a way that’s thoughtful, and that makes our city safer, and that hopefully invites more of the community in to be a part of the solution.
In that spirit, I have an invitation for you. I’ve especially received a lot of questions and concerns about downtown nightlife and safety in our entertainment district along Hennepin and 1st. While thousands of people are still coming downtown to have fun every weekend, others are staying away, either because of something they’ve seen, or something they’ve heard. The best way I’ve found to understand the complicated dynamics of our late night scene is to walk around and see it for myself – something I’ve done often the last two summers. I want to invite you to do that with me.
We will meet this Saturday night, August 17, outside Lyon’s Pub near Hennepin & 6th at midnight, and then walk around — if you arrive late, come find us! If you plan on coming, you can RSVP on Facebook or email Aurin.Chowdhury@minneapolismn.gov.
City Council Unanimously Passes Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance
On Thursday, August 8, the City Council unanimously approved the wage theft prevention ordinance that I co-authored with Council Members Palmisano and Cunningham! I am so thankful for everyone who stepped forward to share their experiences with wage theft during the ordinance process, including members of CTUL, ROC, SEIU, the Building Trades, and more. Grounding our laws in the experiences of those most affected by them is what makes our democracy and our City more equitable.
I am also thankful for all of the businesses, small and large, that engaged thoughtfully to make this ordinance better. We passed this ordinance to make sure everyone working in Minneapolis gets paid for the work they do, and to create a level playing field for all businesses that follow the rules.
We’re still working on a companion ordinance that will extend these basic protections to independent contractors to make sure they get paid for their work — more on that below.
Priority Policy Updates: Freelance Worker Protections, Short-Term Rental Regulations, and Data Privacy
Alongside our Wage Theft Prevention ordinance, which will protect the wages of employees, I am working on a companion ordinance for Freelance Worker Protections with Council Members Palmisano and Cunningham.
I have heard from a lot of independent contractors over the years about contracts they had a lot of difficulty getting paid for, or had to give up on altogether. This type of work is growing in our economy, and we need to make sure that everyone gets paid for the work they do, regardless of their exact employment setup.
Because independent contractor arrangements can vary so widely, this has been a little bit trickier to address, and we want to make sure we get it right. I expect to have a draft to begin sharing for public engagement and feedback soon, so stay tuned.
Our work continues on ordinance changes for Short-Term Rental Regulations. Since giving notice of introduction on this topic earlier this summer, I’ve learned about even more variations on the business model, and talked to a lot more people who have an interest in some aspect of this issue, either because they are engaged in short-term rental themselves or because they are impacted by neighboring properties being used for short-term rentals. People have raised a lot of good issues that will inform our work moving forward.
Next month, we’ll be hosting a listening session to try to get some more structured feedback to inform our work. Using the feedback from that session, and from everyone who’s contacted us already, we’ll convene staff working groups to take the ideas we’ve heard from community, the laws that have been passed in other cities, and create the best version of short-term rental regulation for Minneapolis.
Please continue to share your thoughts and feedback with me on all of these policy priorities: freelance worker protections, short-term rental regulations, and data privacy.
Renters’ Rights & Affordable Housing Policy Updates
In my last newsletter, I wrote about two Renters’ Rights initiatives, and I have an update on both:
Council President Bender and Council Member Ellison have been working on two ordinances — one that puts a cap on security deposits, and one that limits landlords’ ability to screen out prospective tenants using certain criteria that have been shown not to correlate well with tenant stability — and they recently released updated drafts to both that incorporate much of the feedback we received from landlords, advocates and renters.
There will be a Public Hearing on these ordinances at the Housing Policy Development Committee meeting on Wednesday, August 28 at 1:30 P.M. in City Council chambers.
I also wrote about an ordinance I am working on with Council Members Ellison, Schroeder, and Gordon, to establish a Right of First Refusal for renters to buy their properties when they are put on sale by the owner.
We continue to research different policy choices and look at examples from other cities around the country, and to that end we will be holding a Council Study Session on Renters’ Opportunity to Purchase Housing on Friday, September 20 at 10:00 A.M. in City Hall Room 319.
Meanwhile, work continues on a permanent Inclusionary Zoning policy to increase the creation of affordable housing citywide, and as part of that policy development I’m working to ensure that student housing is included. The student housing market works differently than other housing, and our traditional systems for defining affordability and who qualifies also do not work for students, so we need different solutions.
I’m working with the Minnesota Student Association at the U of M to identify what some better options are, and will be scheduling an event to talk about those options in the early fall.
Celebrating Summer with the Downtown Improvement District
I was pleased to join the Downtown Improvement District for two special events over the last month as part of their outstanding work bringing activities to Nicollet Avenue and the rest of downtown.
On July 10, the DID celebrated their 10th anniversary! Council Member Lisa Goodman and I were proud to celebrate with DID ambassadors by reading a proclamation from Mayor Frey to honor their work. They have become an invaluable resource for residents and visitors alike, and I am proud to support their efforts.
On Tuesday, August 6, I joined DID for the second year in a row to kick off National Night Outwith a live music performance on Nicollet Ave! This has been a really fun opportunity to dust off my guitar and contribute to the great atmosphere that the DID creates downtown.
After that kickoff, I took a Nice Ride bike to six or seven different National Night Out block parties in Northeast this year. NNO is always one of the best nights of the year, and this year was no exception. Thanks to everyone who hosted an event to build community in Ward 3!
Nice Ride has rolled out a limited pilot of 50 electric pedal-assist e-bikes! E-bikes are the newest, nicest way to get around without breaking a sweat — with a motor that amplifies a rider’s own pedaling power.
The e-bikes seamlessly integrate into the existing Nice Ride system and app so riders can find, unlock, ride and dock an e-bike just like any other Nice Ride — and have no additional cost to riders during the pilot.
This new, limited pilot features a different model of pedal-assist e-bike than the one Nice Ride previously planned to launch earlier this spring.
Minneapolis Ranks Fourth on National Clean Energy Scorecard
Minneapolis ranked fourth out of 75 U.S. cities assessed for energy efficiency by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. This spot – behind only Boston, San Francisco and Seattle – is the highest Minneapolis has ranked on this scorecard, propelled in part by a suite of new policies addressing energy in existing buildings. A highlight of these is residential energy disclosure requirements so people buying or renting homes would understand what their energy use would cost. Minneapolis also excelled in its community-wide initiatives thanks to efforts such as the Green Zones initiative.
The “ACEEE Scorecard” tracks cities’ policy efforts to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy, because both are needed to build a clean energy future and address climate change. It is the most comprehensive national report that tracks city progress toward climate goals. Total points are based on:
Local government operations
Energy and water utilities
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy calculates that Minneapolis’ policy advances have already established it as a leading city for clean energy and anticipates that we can rank higher in future scorecards if we continue to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Council Approves Policy Priorities for Our Strategic & Racial Equity Action Plan
The City Council has approved policy priorities for the City’s first-ever Strategic and Racial Equity Action Plan, a four-year plan that embeds racial equity principles into all aspects of the City’s work and defines goals that can be objectively measured and inform resource decisions.
The City’s three policy priorities include:
Reducing involuntary displacement in rental housing for black, indigenous and people of color communities.
Increasing the number of Minneapolis-based businesses owned by black people, indigenous people and people of color; and increase businesses with black, indigenous and people of color ownership that are still in business after five years.
Increasing the number of black people, indigenous people and people of color ages 10 to 24 living in higher violence areas of Minneapolis who participate in high quality youth programs.
Responding to the urgent need to prioritize and address historic racial disparities in Minneapolis, this is the first time the City has merged its strategic planning with a racial equity framework.
The Strategic Racial Equity and Action Plan also builds on Minneapolis 2040, the City’s comprehensive plan, and will inform the City’s budgets in 2020 and beyond. Minneapolis 2040’s first goal is to eliminate disparities, and a targeted number of policy areas from it have been identified as the policy priorities for the Strategic and Racial Equity Action Plan.
Additionally, the City Council adopted eight goals earlier this year to guide the plan and four City enterprise goals in December 2018 as part of the action plan: increasing the retention of racially and ethnically diverse employees, diversifying the City’s vendor base, improving the use of racially disaggregated data in policymaking, and improving the capacity of the City’s boards and commissions to advance racial equity work.
As for next steps, the City’s Racial Equity Community Advisory Committee will provide an annual evaluation report to the community on the City’s progress in closing racial disparities. The City’s Racial Equity Steering Committee will also monitor the City’s progress and provide regular updates to the City Council. City departments will use existing reporting and monitoring processes to report progress on goals, including the Results Minneapolis program and the City Council committee reporting structures.
Stable Homes Stable Schools Secures Housing for Families
This summer, the first 21 families enrolled in the Stable Homes Stable Schools initiative have secured or preserved permanent housing. The pioneering program is a partnership led by the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), Minneapolis Public Schools and Hennepin County.
Six families have received rental assistance and moved into permanent housing, and another 15 families have received one-time emergency assistance to maintain their housing and prevent homelessness through the Housing Stability Fund. Since the program’s launch earlier this year, 101 families and 327 children have enrolled in the program and are on their way to receiving housing assistance and achieving long-term housing stability.
The program needs additional rental units for families throughout Minneapolis. Property owners with current and upcoming vacancies interested in participating in the program should contact the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority at OwnerOutreach@MplsPHA.org or 612-342-1222.
During the 2017-18 school year, MPS identified 5,002 youth experiencing homelessness. Of those youth, 3,069 were enrolled in MPS—about 7% of all enrolled students in the district. The goal is to support as many as 650 students during the initiative’s first three years.
To make sure you get your comments into the public record, you can submit written comments to Peter.Crandall@Minneapolismn.gov or attend the hearing and share your thoughts with the Planning Commission directly.
City Launches New Online Dashboard for Property Inspections
A new resource allows people to look up information on Regulatory Services inspections to see how the department works to help protect residents and improve the livability of Minneapolis.
Regulatory Services inspectors enforce fire and housing violations of the Minneapolis code of ordinances and State fire code to keep Minneapolis safer, healthier and livable for all. Violations range from nuisance violations, such as unkept grass, to safety violations, such as having no fire alarms.
Look up information on a property to see if an issue has been reported or resolved.
Learn about the condition of a property, both past and present.
Understand the maintenance and compliance trends of property owners and managers.
Dig into nearly 30 years’ worth of enforcement information to undertake your own analysis.
Search for enforcement history for a specific neighborhood or ward to understand how Regulatory Services serves your community.
The information updates each morning to provide the previous day’s work. (Information on follow-up actions for the violations, such as citations, are not included, nor are violations issued by other City departments, such as Business Licensing.)
Sasha Cotton Appointed Director of Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention
A director for Minneapolis’ new Office of Violence Prevention within the Health Department has been appointed. Sasha Cotton will lead the City of Minneapolis in efforts across departments to prevent violence citywide.
Sasha Cotton has been the youth violence prevention coordinator for the City since 2014. During that time, she has created connections with community organizations and community members. She has fostered work across the City enterprise and other government agencies that has led to decreases in youth violence and the creation of several new initiatives. Before working for the City, Cotton was the national resource director for the University of Minnesota School of Social Work’s Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community and was the prevention program manager for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
Recognizing the intersection between various forms of violence and its impacts on youths, families and communities, the City of Minneapolis established a new Office of Violence Prevention within the Health Department in December. Building on the City’s 13 years of youth violence prevention services and programming, the new Office of Violence Prevention will allow the Health Department to address various forms of violence and better coordinate throughout the City enterprise. The office has established a steering committee, which will meet starting this month, and contracted with community organizations for violence prevention projects citywide.
NEXT WEDNESDAY, 8/21: Housing Rights Panel & Townhall with the Civil Rights Commission
WHERE: United Labor Centre, Room 218, 312 Central Ave. SE
WITH: Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission
The Civil Rights Commission of Minneapolis and Council Member Fletcher are joining together to host a renter and public housing focused know-your-rights community event.
Hear from housing experts, members of the Civil Rights Commission, community advocates, and Council Member Fletcher on an informative panel about your rights and available resources. Share your concerns and ask your questions about housing in Minneapolis.
WHEN: Wednesday, September 18th from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Kramarczuk’s, 215 E Hennepin Ave.
WITH: County Commissioner Irene Fernando
I’ll be joined by Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando to discuss how the City and County collaborate on a whole host of issues, from affordable housing and transportation to partnerships like Heading Home Hennepin or our Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership.
Working across our different levels of government can sometimes present challenges, and we are both committed to making that relationship and collaboration more effective. Bring your ideas and your questions for us both!
Coffee With Your Council Member
Council Member Fletcher holds regular open community office hours, normally at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, at a rotating neighborhood coffee shop in Ward 3 for constituents to drop by, ask questions, and raise any issues you see in the community.