Minneapolis is making progress toward eliminating racial and economic inequities, but that transformational change is difficult and often uncomfortable, Mayor Betsy Hodges said Tuesday in her annual State of the City address.
“Discomfort” was a word the mayor used 40 times as she spoke in front of a crowd her aides estimated at about 150 people inside North Minneapolis mosque Masjid An-Nur, where she introduced by Imam Makram El-Amin and City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden. In the speech, Hodges harkened back to the “One Minneapolis” theme of her first mayoral campaign in 2013, which emphasized inclusion and the urgent need to stamp-out the city’s stubborn disparities.
“One Minneapolis requires change, it requires connection to one another, and it requires a commitment to sitting through the discomfort of change to get to a stronger, better other side,” she said Tuesday near the beginning of her roughly 40-minute address.
Hodges, who is running for re-election, said the city was strong, growing and gaining attention for the “creative ways we are tackling our biggest challenges.” Just as she did at a special address in April at a Southwest Minneapolis temple, the mayor pledged to stand up to the Trump Administration, criticizing the president’s “agendas of oppression, regression and suppression.”
As an example of the difficult but rewarding changes the city is undergoing, Hodges cited a recent adjustment to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It cleared the way to build multi-family housing with larger units for large families — something the city’s Somali community, in particular, had been asking for, Hodges said — resulting first in the in-progress Minnehaha Townhomes project, featuring 16 units of varying size, from two to four bedrooms.
Hodges said the signs of transformation are visible all around downtown Minneapolis — maybe nowhere more than the still-under-construction Nicollet Mall. Begun in April 2015 and on schedule to be “substantially complete” this fall, according to the city, the project was a major disruption for area businesses, but Hodges said the recent purchase of the former Dayton’s department store building at 7th & Nicollet was a sign of the turnaround to come.
Hodges said the “headwinds of discomfort” blow strongest against the city’s efforts to improve relations between police and the community. She said the adoption of body cameras by the Minneapolis Police Department was one example of its shift toward so-called “21st-century policing” practices, which emphasize trust, accountability and crime prevention.
Hodges said accusations that she and Chief Janeé Harteau have told officers not to enforce the law are “100-percent false.”
“Let me repeat that: I have always, explicitly, expected police officers to do their jobs and do them well,” she said. “Anyone who is tempted to perpetuate a myth that says otherwise should take it up with me.”
Beyond body cameras, Hodges touted several other accomplishments from her first term in the mayor’s office, including passage of an earned sick and safe time ordinance by the City Council, the landmark deal between the city and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to invest in street repairs and park updates over the next 20 years and creation of the city’s first Green Zones to promote health and economic development in North and South Minneapolis neighborhoods that have disproportionately been affected by pollution.