In her third State of the City speech, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges touted the city’s building boom and praised its high-rated parks and arts community, but also acknowledged it faces persistent challenges, particularly in terms of racial disparities.
Tuesday, in a 50-minute address at the MacPhail Center for Music, Hodges highlighted recent work on issues ranging from police-community relations to early childhood education. Unlike last year, when she introduced her Working Families Agenda package of workplace reforms, the mayor did not use the annual address to make any major announcements or introduce new programs. Instead, she reiterated her support for a broad range of efforts and communities, from Muslims confronting prejudice to businesses preparing for the likely passage of a new, citywide sick leave ordinance.
Throughout the speech, Hodges pointed to Minneapolis as a city of “deep truths” that sometimes appear at odds.
“Minneapolis, it is profoundly true that we are a great, wonderful city,” she said. “It is also profoundly true that we are a city with many challenges, especially regarding race.”
The mayor began her speech with a discussion of the uptick in gun violence in the city, particularly in north Minneapolis. She said more officers are joining the police force and that officials are aiming to cut into violent crime by encouraging police to do more community outreach. Officers will also be outfitted with body cameras this year.
She acknowledged the city has gone through “several tough, emotional months” following the police shooting of Jamar Clark, which prompted an 18-day occupation of the Fourth Precinct police headquarters and other demonstrations.
“Positive police contacts in the neighborhood are up 63 percent over last year and 231 percent over two years ago,” she said. “This work of building community trust has a long-term deterrent effect on violence. The fact that we measure it at all is a sign of change in how we approach policing in Minneapolis.”
The nod to the North Side won praise from Council President Barb Johnson and Council Member Blong Yang, who represent north Minneapolis.
“I’m grateful she did that,” Johnson said. “People need to know how challenging it is for people living in north Minneapolis.”
Johnson said she was also encouraged by the mayor’s focus on job-training and education programs targeted at young people in the area. Hodges pointed to TechHire, a high-tech training program aimed at women and people of color, along with BUILD leaders, another youth job-training program.
The mayor applauded the successes of some of the 52 people she invited to sit on the stage, a group that included city officials, leaders of nonprofit, labor and religious groups, business owners, students and school principals.
“Each person was willing to be here, even though we haven’t always agreed, because they share a vision for a bigger, better future for Minneapolis,” Hodges said.
Adapting to growth
Noting a boom in development — and in population — Hodges said it’s clear the city is growing. She said the city is adapting with those changes by dedicating additional city funding for roads and parks maintenance and working to make the city friendlier to businesses by repealing dozens of outdated ordinances.
She pledged to continue to support groups facing challenges, including Minneapolis’ Muslim community, and efforts like the Opportunity Hub, a planned job-training center to be located in the heart of the city’s Somali-American community.
Council Member Abdi Warsame, who represents the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood where the center would be located, said he was glad to hear mention of the plans.
“If you want to reduce the equity gap, you have to have less talk and [have] more action,” he said. “And more investment in youth programming, youth summer school.”
Hodges closed by encouraging people to take interest in one another and work together.
“Let us do the good, hard and necessary work, together, to transform Minneapolis into ‘One Minneapolis,’ ” Hodges said.
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.