The hall outside the Minneapolis mayor’s office smelled like fresh paint, and moments after he was sworn into office Tuesday, Mayor Jacob Frey said he has “hit the ground running very hard” working on unity at City Hall, affordable housing, public safety and police accountability and “economic inclusion.”
One of his first moves was to give all City Council members key card access to the mayor’s suite of offices, a departure from recent administrations.
“If the Mayor’s office has access to Council Chambers, council members should have access to the Mayor’s office,” Frey said. “Now they do.”
The City Council has five new members, including the first two transgender city elected officials — Council Member Phillipe Cunningham in the Fourth Ward and Council Member Andrea Jenkins in the 8th Ward. Other new council members are Steve Fletcher in the Third Ward, Jeremiah Ellison in the Fifth Ward, and Jeremy Schroeder in the 11th Ward. Council Members Kevin Reich, Cam Gordon, Abdi Warsame, Lisa Goodman, Alondra Cano, Lisa Bender, Andrew Johnson and Linea Palmisano are returning after winning re-election.
Frey and the 13 City Council members were sworn in at City Hall Tuesday morning in a quiet ceremony with family and staff where they pledged to support the constitutions of the United States and Minnesota, the charter and ordinances of Minneapolis and “well and faithfully perform and discharge the duties” of their offices.
The inauguration and official ceremony for the elected officials will be Monday in the City Hall rotunda, after which the City Council will elect a council president.
Frey said the number one issue at City Hall over the next four years will be affordable housing.
“We believe that everyone has the right to live in a great city, and we’re going to retain affordable housing that is presently existing, create new affordable housing, as well as provide tenant protections to make sure the people who have grown to love their neighborhoods do not get displaced when rents rise,” Frey said.
He said when it comes to public safety, “we need both safety and accountability — in fact those two issues are intrinsically linked.” He introduced a new staffer, Shauen Pearce, who will work on economic inclusion, and he and his staff are working on appointing department heads. City Coordinator Spencer Cronk will soon leave for Austin, Texas, to be that town’s city manager.
“I’m just filled with a whole lot of hope,” Frey said. “We’ve got an extraordinary city with people that are capable of enacting the change that they envision, and as mayor I want to be a big part of that. Visible, present, facing the world hand in hand with the community to get things done that quite simply help people.”
Frey attended St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s inauguration midday Tuesday, and was set to ride a garbage truck around in the afternoon. He also held a news conference at City Hall, taking questions on the delay over whether to charge the police officer who shot Justine Damond. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said last week he won’t decide whether to charge police officer Mohamed Noor until sometime in 2018.
“I would not want a lack of evidentiary gathering to result in an unnecessary lack of charge,” Frey said. “It makes sense. Let’s go back, let’s get the right evidence, and then come back with the right result.”
He said he is “hearing a whole lot of things” on who will be the City Council president, but won’t get involved. The leadership post is elected by the council members, and the president appoints members to committees, picks who chairs which committee and assigns office space to each of the 13 council members.
“The decision as to who should be council president is a decision the council members should make,” Frey said.
Spouses, partners and children made a rare appearance in City Council chambers. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis, stood with his son Jeremiah Ellison while he was sworn in to represent the North Side’s Fifth Ward.
Schroeder’s two young children drew chuckles for a bathroom-related pronouncement from the podium. Council Member Lisa Bender’s two young daughters were more reverent in the moment.