The Minneapolis City Council passed Mayor Jacob Frey’s $1.55 billion budget Wednesday night, after three hours of contentious public comments over removing money from the police budget.
The mayor’s 2019 budget includes a boost in affordable housing, a cornerstone of Frey’s first year in office. The mayor allocated $40 million in one-time and ongoing funding for a series of affordable housing programs, including a $3.3-million program that will help students and families experiencing homelessness, preserving what the city calls “naturally occurring affordable housing” and increasing homeownership in the city.
“Thanks to our city’s collective commitment to addressing our housing crisis and this record-setting level of support, our city is poised to lead the nation in affordable housing work,” Frey said in a statement. “The 2019 budget fully funds the affordable housing agenda we put forward earlier this year and lays the groundwork for a new direction for city policy.”
Most of the three hours of the public comments on Wednesday night was taken up by opposing voices over the reallocation of $1 million of the Police Department’s budget next year for community-based initiatives to reduce violence. Several Somali-speaking residents also spoke at the hearing through an interpreter, complaining about what they said was deteriorating public safety around the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Some voiced concerns about taking money away from the police. They urged city leaders to hire more Somali-speaking police officers.
“We’re mothers who care about the well-being of our sons and daughters,” said Fartune Del, who has a business in Cedar-Riverside. “There has been an uptick in killing and robberies, theft and other similar crimes in our neighborhood.”
Activists who called for cuts to the police budget placed a memorial near the lectern to individuals who have been killed by police officers over the years.
“I’m really thankful to the council for being willing to think critically and not listen to what you were told by the department about the ways to keep our city safe,” said Tony Williams of Reclaim the Block.
Frey proposed the $1.55 billion spending plan in August and the City Council amended it in a markup session on Friday with minor changes.
The new budget raises the property tax levy — the amount of property tax the city collects — by $18.7 million, or 5.7 percent.
The increase will help pay for new city employees, construction projects and affordable housing. That includes an extra $100,000 for parks and recreation.
The council approved a $500,000 one-time fund that will come from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create a “renter support” program that will provide a mediation and legal support for renters.
“This is, given the scope of the investment in housing this year, a pretty modest shift from the Trust Fund into a fund that will go to augment the amount of money that we are providing for renters to have legal protection,” Council President Lisa Bender said.
Bender and Council Member Jeremiah Ellison also proposed raising the funds available to repair decrepit rental properties from the regular $200,000 to $2 million.