In her State of the County address Tuesday, Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison highlighted many successes and challenges in public safety, transportation and health services in 2017.
Callison discussed the lack of affordable housing in the county and the impact it has on families. Other problems include a fractured mental health system, an overwhelmed child protection system, antiquated state computer systems, entrenched social, economic and health disparities, and uncertain federal and state partners, she said.
Callison focused on one initiative — outreach to county residents to help shape board priorities. “It will complement the work that is underway in the update to our comprehensive guide plan,” she said.
‘Wide range of services’
More than 400 county and local officials attended the address, which was held at the new, $18 million Brookview Community Center in Golden Valley. Callison, who is the board chairwoman, started the address with a quiz. How many cities are in Hennepin County? (Answer: 45.) What percentage of the county is rural? (15 percent) And what percentage of the population receives direct services such as child protection and economic aid from the county? (25 percent)
“People are often amazed at the wide range of services that we offer or are engaged in — public safety, transportation, libraries, environmental services, elections, health and human services … even mosquito control,” she said.
She praised the county’s program to attract and retain employees, its improved access to services for jail inmates with mental health problems, and new transportation projects.
After the address, Commissioner Mike Opat said he was intrigued by Callison’s community engagement proposal. While she didn’t give any details on the plan, he said “we will figure out a good way to do it.”
In her broad sweep of county issues, Callison did not mention another big step: the county’s $55 million purchase of the Thrivent Building in downtown Minneapolis to consolidate county offices and set up a new family court.
“Government is all about problem-solving and we have no shortage of problems to solve in Hennepin County,” she said. “But we also have no shortage of people who are focused on our challenges each and every day, and we see the results of that commitment before us.”