Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday announced his priorities to steer the city through some of its largest challenges over the next two years.
For anyone following the city, the broad strokes won't sound new: Housing and policing top the list.
But this is the first time since Minneapolis voters approved the "strong mayor" structure in 2021 that Frey can unilaterally direct city departments to pursue them via his cabinet.
"This is the first year we're able to set an agenda in full from the very beginning," he said. "The mayor can set the tone, the agenda and the priority items."
The mayor's goals were woven into his proposed 2023 budget, the majority of which was approved by City Council in December.
While the council retains legislative authority and could overrule aspects of Frey's priorities through a veto override, the broad strokes of his priorities aren't expected to raise hackles.
Nonetheless, some friction is likely to surface over certain issues with at least some council members. For example, the council will soon take up the possibility of rent control, and Frey is at odds with parts of a plan endorsed by a majority of a City Council-established task force.
Wednesday's announcement signifies the start of the mayor's plan to carry out the priorities.
Housing and homelessness
The number of unsheltered people in the city continues to be a problem; their encampments are an all too familiar sight. The spike in the cost of housing over the past several years — with rising home sales prices leading to rising rents — has only added pressure to the system.
Frey's central goals are to increase the supply of "deeply affordable housing" targeted at the lowest economic rungs and expand the supply of emergency shelter housing.
The path he charts includes city funding and partnerships with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Hennepin County and various nonprofits.
Frey committed to continuing the city's new approach to provide public safety and racial justice after the murder of George Floyd by police and an increase in violent crime over the past two years.
The plan includes replenishing the Police Department's ranks, as well as expanding initiatives aimed at preventing violence, such as expanding behavioral crisis response, which focuses on responding to mental health emergencies with mental health expertise before badges and batons.
With more details to be rolled out this year, Frey wants the city to "focus on cutting greenhouse gas emission with a specific focus on reducing racial disparities," according to a statement from his office.
The 2023 budget includes $500,000 for businesses to convert to solar power and improve energy efficiency, and $700,000 — combined with $2 million to $3 million in federal funds — to expand electric vehicle charging stations.
Economic inclusion and recovery
Initiatives using city and federal funds are underway or in development to help Black, indigenous and people of color-owned businesses and entrepreneurs own their own businesses and real estate.
Frey also said he wants to prepare the city for the potential full legalization of marijuana, including "licensure and planning for a smooth transition for small-business owners, with a focus on supporting communities most impacted by the failed policies of prohibition."
As part of adapting the executive branch of City Hall to the new "strong mayor" structure, Frey said he wants to return the city's workforce and basic city services to pre-pandemic levels with an eye on racial equity.