In a continuing effort to make his city “work for everyone,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter laid out a number of initiatives on public safety, restorative justice and fair, affordable housing during his second State of the City address Thursday. Together, the efforts hold promise to improve some of the city’s deepest challenges. The strategy addresses not only the crime, housing or policing issues, but their underlying causes.
Efforts under his “Community First” framework announced last year are now grouped under several core principles. Among them: those who trust in fair treatment from police and are economically stable and connected to community are more likely to obey the law and help with investigations. And public spaces that are well-designed, maintained (street repair and repaving) and lighted limit opportunities for criminal activity.
In the housing area, Carter proposes working in partnership with schools and nonprofits to provide supplemental rent assistance to low-income families and policies to address housing discrimination. Carter is promoting neighborhood courts and restorative justice groups for lower-level, nonviolent crimes with victims’ consent. And the mayor is establishing a “returning residents” council to help successfully reintegrate former offenders into the city.
“Our job as a city isn’t just to create conditions where success is possible, it’s to aggressively seek and destroy every barrier that limits the potential of our ... children and families; our workers and innovators,” he said. To that end, the city has already raised the minimum wage, simplified the permitting process for those who want to invest in homes or businesses, and launched a city office of financial empowerment to help individuals and families increase their incomes.
Like his first State of the City address, Carter turned the annual report into an inclusive, interactive event. His “Our State of the City Summit,” included but was not limited to his speech. Rather, it included focus group-type sessions during which the 200 or so attendees discussed their concerns and shared thoughts with the mayor and his staff.
After talking about a number of big ideas to build St. Paul, the mayor urged city residents to think small. He challenged residents to come up with simple, immediate things they could do to help themselves, another person, the community or to speak up in a public way.
Through the #4SaintPaul Challenge, Carter asked residents to select a small action they plan to take and share it on social media. The goal is to foster broad community investment and ownership. It’s another way Carter is making good on his promise to be inclusive and give all St. Paul residents a role in building their city.