A new public safety center on Lake Street, unarmed "safety ambassadors" in several neighborhoods and a boost in funds to address hate crimes were all approved by the Minneapolis City Council on Thursday as members began to work through ideas to reshape Mayor Jacob Frey's proposed 2024 city budget.
The process, which continues Friday, is raising disagreements between Frey and the 13-member council, who between them offered some four dozen proposals to the Budget Committee charged with shaping the spending plan.
At one point, in an uncommon spectacle, Frey and council members publicly haggled on the record in council chambers over how, when or whether to create three positions to assist people in the throes of domestic violence. That impromptu bargaining session was ultimately set aside — for the day.
Frey most strenuously objects to council plans that would cut positions he proposed in his budget. They include eight new positions in human resources; without them, Frey said, efforts to hire people across city departments are in jeopardy. And without at least five new positions to implement a vision to reimagine policing, he said, that work will stall.
Frey and the council must agree on the budget before the end of the year. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in City Hall.
The bulk of Frey's proposed $1.8 billion spending plan, which he unveiled in August, will remain untouched. But the 48 budget amendments proposed by council members amount to millions of dollars of potential spending on high-profile programs, including public safety efforts by unarmed people, and retention and recruitment efforts for 911 personnel.
Many proposals from council members seek spending on alternatives to traditional policing; the money often would come from a $19 million pool of public safety funding from the state. Frey unsuccessfully sought to use up to $15 million of that money to recruit and retain police officers; a divided council rejected that, dealing a setback to the mayor, Police Chief Brian O'Hara and the police union that also had the effect of freeing up a hefty chunk of outside dollars not otherwise spoken for.
The council, in two votes on Thursday, agreed on two ways to spend some of the state money. They are:
3rd Precinct 'interim safety center'
Council members unanimously approved spending $500,000 of the funding for the rental, design, build and communication of an interim Safety Center in the Third Precinct. Council Member Jason Chavez said he has already toured two potential locations along Lake Street.
He said the facility would not replace or conflict with an envisioned — but as-yet-undefined — safety center to be opened at the new Third Precinct police station at 2633 Minnehaha Av. that the council approved a month ago. Frey cited the potential redundancy in his opposition to the idea.
The functions of the interim center weren't immediately clear. Chavez said residents could file police reports or return lost or stolen items there. But the wider intent was to supplement the city's efforts to determine what a safety center should entail, given expectations that a network of them could offer services not available at police stations.
Council President Andrea Jenkins and others referred to the facility as similar to a "police substation," such as the one that once was in the area. But City Attorney Kristyn Anderson cautioned that the state money proposed to fund the interim center cannot be used for a police station.
In a related proposal, also approved unanimously, council members agreed to set aside $4 million to explore pilot community safety centers across the city.
Frey's administration opposed this spending as well, arguing in a memo sent to council members this week that it "will likely not be able to be spent down for many years and overlaps with various other programs and initiatives already accounted for in the proposed budget."
In another unanimous vote, council members approved spending $2.1 million in state funding to start neighborhood safety programs using unarmed "safety ambassadors" in the city's seven cultural districts along West Broadway, Central Avenue, Cedar Avenue South, Franklin Avenue East, East Lake Street, 38th Street and Lowry Avenue North.
Public Safety Commissioner Todd Barnette cautioned council members that, while he supported the program, he was skeptical it could begin in the next year even with the additional funds.