The Minneapolis City Council whittled away at Mayor Betsy Hodges' public safety priorities Friday as they worked to finalize the 2018 budget, ditching her plan for nighttime traffic enforcement downtown and cutting in half the number of new police community liaisons.
In her proposed budget, Hodges devoted $478,000 to hiring traffic specialists to work downtown late at night and during bar close on the weekends, and proposed adding eight new police department community navigators to respond to calls when officers aren't needed.
On Friday, the council unanimously approved an amendment by Council Members Lisa Bender and Jacob Frey, the mayor-elect, that uses the $478,000 as matching funds for a federal grant that will help pay for 10 new police officers to fight gun violence in the city.
The council also moved to pay for the hiring of a "culturally sensitive" housing inspector and two full-time employees to review body camera video at the police department. To pay for these hires and the matching funds, the council's budget cuts four community navigators.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who had requested the community navigators, said he understands the decisions, and is excited to put the four remaining community navigators to work. They'll be focused on, for instance, helping undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime, or people addicted to heroin and other opioids.
"I'll absolutely accept those positions that were granted," Arradondo said. "We will really try to utilize those four positions."
In a statement Friday, Hodges said she wanted the community liaisons to support the chief's vision for the department. Relieving "late-night congestion" would also contribute to safety downtown, she said.
The funding of the culturally sensitive health inspector was suggested by Council Member Lisa Goodman, who noted that language and cultural barriers often impede inspections.
"One of the things I've noticed in our tenants' rights work is that the inspector often is feared by tenants," Goodman said. "It's becoming a problem for us when it comes to making sure our housing is safe and healthy."
Council Member Linea Palmisano, who has led the push for accountability with the city's body camera program, introduced the amendment to add two positions to the police department for reviewing body camera footage. Palmisano said the positions are "absolutely necessary."
The council also addressed concerns that the budget hasn't adequately funded enforcement of the minimum wage and sick leave ordinances. Council Member Elizabeth Glidden added $90,000 to the Civil Rights Department's budget to fully cover the cost of adding a third investigator to the Labor Standards Enforcement Division and give the division $50,000 for outreach and education about the ordinances.
"That's going to be critical so they can do the work, which we have supported almost unanimously," Glidden said.