The Star Tribune recently published commentaries on what has gone wrong in Minneapolis. Norm Coleman identifies a lack of leadership (“Defund and disband City Hall leadership,” June 17). Joseph Anthony attacks the ward-based system of representation (“Yes, Minneapolis government is dysfunctional,” June 26). I share both concerns. In fact, last year, I was part of a group that brought a proposal to elect more council members citywide. We didn’t even get a hearing.
Yet both commentaries miss an important piece. Minneapolis has been touted as one of the most progressive cities in America. It also has some of the worst racial disparities in the county. These two facts are inextricably linked.
When I talk about “progressive,” I mean a very specific set of policies that define urban progressivism today. One touchstone is density. We must build more housing, goes the refrain, at almost any cost. Yet homeownership is the single most effective way American families build wealth.
In a city where Black homeownership is one-third that of white, over 90% of new housing approved by the city over the last six years has been rental. On top of that, the city stood by as corporations like Havebrook bought up single-family homes in north Minneapolis and converted them to rentals. All new housing subsidized by the city over the last six years has been rental.
It should be no surprise that Black families cannot build wealth through homeownership — urban progressive policies haven’t produced any homes to own.
Families of color are twice as likely than white families to be multigenerational, to have four children or more and to have a nonfamily member living with them. Yet 70% of new housing units built in Minneapolis over the last six years has been one bedroom or smaller. No wonder the affordable housing crisis is so much worse for families of color. Urban progressivism has created it. In fact, it incentivized the destruction of homeownership opportunities and celebrated when Minneapolis became a majority-rental city.
Rental in Minneapolis is a $1.6 billion transfer of wealth from individuals to the pockets of corporations every year. Think how much wealth could be built with different policies.
Urban progressives ignored, then gutted, policies that shaped development, allowing developers to go where they would make the most money, not where we needed it. Uptown and Northeast have thousands of new housing units and jobs, yet Broadway never seems to change. This didn’t just happen. It was chosen by urban progressives.
The city’s 2040 Plan, the bible of urban progressives, says we must cut automobile travel by 40% in the next 20 years. Yet they never talk about how people will get to jobs. Minneapolis has 15% of the jobs in the region. There is no bigger indicator of a family leaving poverty than availability of a car. Yet Minneapolis didn’t even plan for automobiles. At the same time, Black commuters use bikes at one-third the rate of white commuters. How are people of color supposed to get to jobs?
Children under the age of 18 make up 20% of the population of Minneapolis. Two-thirds of children in Minneapolis Public Schools are children of color. Some 26% of children grow up in deep poverty. Yet there is no planning for where they will live, how they will get to school or how their lives will get better.
This isn’t just a moment for recognition of the killing of a Black man. It is a moment of reckoning for urban progressive policies that keep people of color poor. We need a complete reorientation, not just of our police department, but of the whole urban progressive agenda. People of color deserve no less.
But it isn’t going to happen. In Minneapolis, urban progressivism is driven by a tiny number of activists, mostly online and mostly paid. Anyone who strays from their orthodoxy is immediately harassed and humiliated, until they are driven out of the policy discussion. That is what instantly shut down the discussion of a different structure for the City Council.
And it isn’t going to change until we elect leaders who listen to all voices in Minneapolis, not just paid, online activists.
We have an election next year. We are looking for candidates.
Carol Becker lives in Minneapolis.