A fresh, young set of leaders formally took office Monday at Minneapolis City Hall on a hopeful, conciliatory Inauguration Day, promising to tackle affordable housing, police reform and economic growth for all.
With bunting and a massive American flag hung from the balconies and observers looking on from five levels around the echoing rotunda, Mayor Jacob Frey and the 13 members of the new City Council were sworn in and presented to the public.
“The time for talk alone is over,” said Frey.
Five of the council members are new, making up “the most diverse City Council in our city’s history,” said newly elected Council President Lisa Bender. Two council members — Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham — are transgender, five are people of color and five are women.
Bender was elected later in the day to head the council in a 13-0 vote, after weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling. Jenkins was elected unanimously as council vice president.
Frey, 36, and Bender, 39, each struck a tone of unity despite having been on opposite sides of a hard-fought mayoral campaign.
Frey paid tribute to his predecessor, Betsy Hodges, whom he defeated in November, and who did not appear to be present for the inauguration.
“Minneapolis is stronger because of your focus on equity, and your 12 years of service,” Frey said. “The city is better because of you.”
Bender, addressing Frey in the first meeting of the year in Council chambers, said she was ready to work with him.
“You campaigned on a platform of affordable housing, of improving police-community relations, and economic inclusion,” Bender said. “You will have my full support in passing the policies and budget investments needed to achieve these goals.”
The inauguration was attended by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter — to whom the assembly sang “Happy Birthday” — former mayors Chris Coleman of St. Paul and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, and several members of the Minneapolis legislative delegation.
The celebration, nearly a week after a quieter official swearing-in ceremony, included an American Indian blessing and song, a Hmong ceremonial blessing, a gospel rendition of “America the Beautiful,” an invocation by Imam Asad Zaman and a benediction by a rabbi.
In his speech, Frey said “housing is a right” that had been denied to many over the decades in Minneapolis because of deliberate discrimination against blacks and Jews.
“The very first challenge we face is expanding access to affordable housing,” he said.
A group of sign-wielding activists off to his left occasionally heckled him, shouting, “Rent control now!”
Frey also said that police relations with the community must improve. “We must expect more accountability from police but we also must expect more accountability from ourselves,” he said.
In a meeting after the ceremony, Bender kicked off the term by discussing President Donald Trump, and contrasting his rhetoric with Minneapolis, which she described as “a place of hope.”
The city is growing, has diverse representation and is focused on racial economic equality and combating climate change, she said.
New committee leaders
Bender said in an interview that the deal to deliver her the council presidency was still being finalized on Sunday.
“This is a complex negotiation between 13 people, and every single member of the council had to compromise,” Bender said. “My goal was always to get to 13 votes. I think it’s an important way to start the term.”
In moves that reflected the bargains that were struck, she announced changes to the City Council’s committee structure. Several council members who have not been Bender’s allies ended up with choice positions.
Council Member Abdi Warsame will be chairman of the coveted Ways and Means Committee, though the crucial budget markup toward the end of the year will be chaired by Budget Committee Chairwoman Linea Palmisano.
Council Member Lisa Goodman will chair a new Economic Development and Regulatory Services Committee, with the housing portion of that committee’s work moving to a new Housing Policy and Development Committee, which will be chaired by Council Member Cam Gordon. Bender said it’s important for housing to have its own committee, given that the mayor and council are unified in their desire to address affordable housing in the term.
Council Member Kevin Reich will remain chairman of the influential Transportation and Public Works Committee. Council Member Alondra Cano will chair the Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee.