Nearly a year and a half after Minneapolis became the center of a nationwide rallying cry against police brutality, and following a lively municipal election with strong voter turnout, our city has chosen a path forward that combines our history of common-sense reform with a deep-seated desire to build a more equitable city.
Now that voters have rejected the public safety referendum known as City Question 2, embraced a strong mayor system, re-elected Mayor Jacob Frey, and added new voices to the City Council who campaigned on creating partnerships and delivering real results, it's time to get to work on building a better, more inclusive, more responsive city that is prepared to win in the competition for talent while delivering prosperity more equitably.
First, I want to address why the Minneapolis Regional Chamber played such an active role in this election. Our nearly 2,300 business members employ tens of thousands of people in Minneapolis and around the region. The investments these businesses are making in the city, both physical and in personnel, help fuel our region and state. Our members are critically concerned about the future of Minneapolis.
Over the past many months, we've seen that Minneapolis is at a crossroads. The dual crises of systemic racism and a global pandemic spotlighted long-existing inequities, while also inspiring demands for action.
Our city has been simultaneously struggling with significant safety concerns, businesses facing uncertain futures and neighborhoods recovering from social unrest.
This election served as a definitive touchpoint regarding the work that comes next. It sent a clear message to policymakers that residents want action, not more words and unformed plans. They appreciate the sometimes-unlikely alliances among business, labor and community organizations to tackle the issues we face. And they want elected leaders and other policymakers to apply pragmatic solutions, open dialogue and good government to tackle our most challenging problems.
To succeed, the Twin Cities and Minnesota need a successful Minneapolis. Now that the election is over, and as we welcome more workers back to offices and workplaces in downtown and across the city, we ask our re-elected mayor and new and returning council members to focus on some critical issues that need immediate attention:
Make our community safe. We embrace the need for substantive reforms to our police force but believe those should incorporate serious concerns about keeping our community safe and should include the leadership of Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. Crime is increasing across the city. We support adding 200 sworn officers along with additional mental health support and alternate response systems to protect Minneapolis residents, workers and visitors.
Support our downtown and neighborhood economies. A thriving community needs thriving businesses. Businesses provide jobs and tax revenue that support services for our communities. We need to recover and make our city an attractive place to do business.
Strengthen relationships across the region. Too often Minneapolis views itself as an island. We encourage Mayor Frey and the incoming City Council to work with cities across the region in a true collaboration. The Minneapolis Regional Chamber has been engaged in this work and is willing to host sessions to foster a deeper regional partnership.
Invest in affordable housing. Residents need dignified housing to be part of our economy and community. We support expanding affordable housing policies that create new units, recognizing that the private sector plays a critical role in developing additional housing.
The phase after an election is an important time for reflection. This election, unfolding during a volatile time and with emotional controversies on the ballot, requires a particularly focused period of contemplation.
Not all elections are created equal. People on all sides considered this one the most consequential election in the modern history of Minneapolis. Now that it is over, we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to use the lessons learned and create a city that is safer and better.
Jonathan Weinhagen is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and can be found on Twitter at @jweinhagen and @MplsChamber.