Minneapolis would spend millions more on violence prevention, housing, mental health and climate change programs under a new proposal unveiled Tuesday by Mayor Jacob Frey.
In a 22-minute State of the City address posted to the city’s YouTube channel, Frey pitched his plan for using the city’s remaining $43 million in American Rescue Plan funding as part of a larger effort to help Minneapolis bounce back from a tumultuous two-year period that was marked by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and George Floyd’s murder.
“This is a moment for sincere unity to show our city and the world that transformation is indeed happening in Minneapolis, that we are honoring the calls for change,” the mayor said.
The mayor’s speech marked the beginning of a weeks-long process in which City Council members will also have a chance to offer their suggestions for how the city should use its remaining federal aid dollars.
Minneapolis received $271 million total through the American Rescue Plan, which federal lawmakers passed in part to help local government agencies cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Agencies across Minnesota have used the funding for a wide variety of causes, such as supporting hospitals and students to boosting Girl Scouts participation and providing financial aid to crime victims.
Many council members contacted Tuesday evening said they were still reviewing the mayor’s proposal. The address was posted online during a meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole, on which all of them sit.
Those who did weigh in Tuesday expressed early support for the mayor’s plan. Council President Andrea Jenkins said it “focuses on some of the most, seemingly, intractable issues facing the City of Minneapolis.”
In his speech, Frey delved first into efforts to boost both formal violence prevention programs and other infrastructure efforts aimed at improving safety in the city.
“In Minneapolis, we’ve rejected the false dichotomy that good policing cannot coexist with effective, public health based violence prevention,” Frey said. “And our investments reflect this approach.”
The mayor noted that the 2022 budget already included funding aimed at bringing on five recruit classes “to rebuild capacity within the Minneapolis Police Department.” His new proposal calls for giving roughly $6.5 million to programs aimed at ending cycles of violence in the community and for helping people who are coping with the trauma of having witnessed crimes. That includes an additional $1 million in funding for MinneapolUS teams, whose members walk city streets in hopes of connecting people with services and mediating conflicts before they escalate into violence. Those teams launched months after Floyd’s murder.
The public safety portion of the plan also includes $2.4 million aimed at improving camera systems and lighting systems, including along Broadway Avenue and Lake Street.
That portion pleased Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw, who represents parts of Minneapolis and believes solving issues like lighting can go a long way toward helping combat crime.
“Some of this stuff, it feels so big and it feels so distant,” she said. “I want to actually focus on things that we can do.”
She added too that she was grateful to see parts of the proposal that could benefit her ward. “I like that the allocations really addressed stuff we’re seeing throughout the city. He didn’t just focus everything on one part of the city — you know we always get feedback that Southwest gets all the resources.”
In addition to the safety funding, the mayor’s proposal includes about $5 million for programs aimed at increasing affordable housing throughout the city and continuing staffing on some homelessness response programs into 2023. It also includes roughly $3 million aimed at eliminating lead poisoning in rental homes by 2035, and $4 million aimed at improving energy efficiency or reducing carbon emissions.
Frey’s plan includes $3 million for improvements at North Commons Park. That’s about half the amount Park Superintendent Al Bangoura had previously requested to help cover the costs of a $19 million to $22 million upgrade to the park’s recreation facilities.
“While we were hoping for $6 million, we deeply appreciate the $3 million Mayor Frey has committed to the North Commons Park phase one project,” Bangoura said. “The collective generosity and strong support of our federal and state legislators, the mayor and the community is going to result in an amazing new community center and waterpark, and a renovated park playground.”
City officials will begin a series of public meetings early next month, and residents will have their chance to offer feedback during a public hearing May 12. Elected officials said they hope to approve a plan by the end of May.
Staff Writer Susan Du contributed to this report.