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Minneapolis joins network of 'resilient' cities


Minneapolis has been selected for a competitive global program that aims to make cities more prepared to overcome big challenges ranging from natural disasters to racial inequities.

In a news conference Thursday, Mayor Betsy Hodges announced that Minneapolis is one of the newest cities to be picked for the Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities” initiative. The philanthropic group has been selecting cities for the program since 2013, and the most recent round of selections brings the total to 100 cities.

Backed by representatives from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis Environmental Advisory Commission, Xcel Energy and Fresh Energy, Hodges said the city’s selection could prompt more investments in the city from both public and private sources.

“This is all part of the work we have been doing as a city, but this is bigger picture, and longer term,” she said.

The recognition does not come with a specific amount of money for city programs.

Instead, it provides a grant to help selected cities add a new position: a chief resilience officer. The program’s website describes the position as one that can help coordinate a city’s communication efforts between departments, link the city with outside groups working on similar efforts, and “act as the ‘resilience point person,’ ensuring that the city applies a resilience lens so that resources are leveraged holistically and projects planned for synergy.”

Hodges said the program does not provide a specific amount of funding for the new position. The amount is determined based on the economy and job market in each city. She said the city would likely have the position for two years, and possibly up to four.

The program also provides “expert support” for development of a resilience strategy, along with “access to solutions, service providers and partners from the private, public and NGO sectors” to help implement those strategies. The mayor said the 100 cities in the program have access to a total of $200 million in private resources, but it’s not clear how much of that share Minneapolis might receive.

Erin Golden • 612-673-4790

Minneapolis council pledges support for transgender community, advisory group

The city of Minneapolis will create a permanent transgender issues advisory group as part of a broader pledge to support the transgender community.

In a committee meeting Wednesday, the City Council unanimously voted in support of a list of recommendations forwarded by the city's two-year-old Transgender Issues Work Group. That committee suggested that the city formalize its efforts to research and help develop policies related to transgender people, and continue hosting community events on the topic. 

For the past two years, the city has hosted an annual Trans Equity Summit, and council members said a third event is planned for this fall. Several council members and Mayor Betsy Hodges have been vocal of their support for transgender people; Hodges has raised the issue in her State of the City addresses for the last two years. 

Members of the Transgender Issues Work Group told the council that the city's support is particularly meaningful at a time when local and state governments elsewhere are enacting policies regarding transgender people and restroom use, among other issues.

Andrea Jenkins, a former council policy aide and current curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota, said she was thankful so many city departments were working to support the transgender community.

"At a time when transgender people are under attack legislatively ... this is the right time to make this statement," Jenkins said.

Phillipe Cunningham, a senior policy aide for education and youth success in the Mayor's Office and self-described "out, proud, black, gay transgender man," said that when he moved to Minneapolis, he was surprised -- and glad -- to find that city officials were actively advocating for transgender people. He was hired on with the Mayor's Office after meeting city officials at the city's Trans Equity Summit.

"In a country that seems to be turning to hate and violence toward the trans community, I am grateful to live in a city that sees us, hears us, and respects us," he said. 

Minneapolis has officially banned discrimination based on gender identity for more than two decades, and Council Member John Quincy said he expects other Minnesota cities will follow Minneapolis' work on other issues related to the transgender community.

"We're a city that leads on this topic," he said. "When it happens in Minneapolis, it will happen in other cities and throughout the state."

Above: Phillipe Cunningham, a senior policy aide in the Mayor's Office, speaks to the City Council in support of a resolution on transgender issues.