Hodges issues call to action in State of the City speech

Mayor Betsy Hodges delivers her State of the City Address at the American Swedish Institute on Thursday. Credit: Photo by Sarah McKenzie

“We can’t leave anyone’s genius on the table.”

That was Mayor Betsy Hodges’ key message at her second State of the City Address at the American Swedish Institute in south Minneapolis on Thursday.

“We have the strength we need to address our biggest challenges: climate change, workforce, public safety, community trust, equity, to name some of them,” she said, wearing red-frame glasses and a red blazer. “To meet those challenges successfully, we are going to need our greatest strength: our people and every bit of talent and every ounce of genius we have got. All of that genius is right here, ready to build our economic future, and our city’s future. The question before us is: how much of that genius are we going to leave on the table?”

The roughly 50-minute speech included several calls to action for the people of Minneapolis, including a request for more AchieveMpls’ Graduation Coaches to mentor Minneapolis students and a new Minneapolis Climate Champs Challenge encouraging residents to participate in monthly challenges to help the city reach its environmental goals.

“Each one of us can do something here to stop the progress of climate change,” she said. “Each  one of us has a gift to offer the process. Each one of us has something we can do, that we choose to do, to make sure we have a healthy planet and people.”

She also announced the launch of the Zero-Waste Minneapolis Workgroup, which will start crafting a zero-waste plan for the city. The group will include Hodges and Council Members Kevin Reich, Cam Gordon, Linea Palmisano and Alondra Cano.

Building on a pledge to streamline city regulations for businesses outlined in her first State of the City Address, she said City Attorney Susan Segal has drafted initial recommendations dubbed “Minneapolis Business Made Simple.” She said she’ll be working with city staff and City Council members to move forward on those suggestions.

The mayor also promoted a new Minneapolis Working Families Agenda that will be focused on advocating for worker’s rights in three areas — fair scheduling, protections against wage theft and paid leave policies.

“The expectation that if you worked hard you could get ahead is now more myth than reality for low-income people and many people of color,” she said. “Even in Minneapolis, where we are famous for our class mobility, the mobility becomes very limited when we start looking at outcomes for people of color. This has to change. We can change it.”

The mayor’s office will work with community stakeholders and City Council members to look at ways to strengthen protections for workers.

The City Council will also consider a paid parental leave police for city employees later this month. 

City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) said there is broad support on the Council for the agenda. “[The policies] are ones that can produce a stronger economy for everyone,” she said. “They start to get at the inequity in the city and can help even the playing field.”

City Council Member Lisa Bender (Ward 10) also commended the mayor for her focus on workers.

“I was happy that the mayor’s speech included such strong support for improving workplace conditions in Minneapolis,” she said. “Everyone wins when workers are no longer forced to choose between going to work sick or working unpredictable hours and not being able to provide for themselves and their families. I know we can work hand-in-hand with our amazing small business community and take action soon to protect working people.”

Matthew McGlory, a north Minneapolis resident and member of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) who works for the North Face in Uptown, said he’s encouraged by the mayor’s focus on workers’ concerns.

“All Minneapolis workers deserve jobs that will allow them to take care of their families,” he said in a statement. “We’ve been organizing for fair schedules and earned sick and safe time with NOC because these shouldn’t be fringe benefits, they should be available to everyone in Minneapolis. We’re glad to see Mayor Hodges stand with us.”

Minneapolis Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer said the mayor’s focus on “reducing the complication of doing business in Minneapolis” is positive and said the business community is eager to learn more about the Minneapolis Working Families Agenda. 

“Employers of all sizes and in all sectors of the City’s economy will be very interested in and concerned about how the initiatives around workplace conditions are formulated, and will look to have a strong voice in that discussion,” he said.

Hodges also focused on the transgender community and applauded people involved in the city’s first Transgender Summit. She said more work is needed to fight discrimination against transgender people.

“Everyone in our city can learn from the courage that our transgender friends display every day,” she said. “To my transgender friends, I want to thank you for your investment in Minneapolis, our community, and our people.”

She ended the speech by urging everyone in the city to get involved to make sure everyone lives up to their potential.

“This is your invitation to use that gift in service of One Minneapolis. You fit in this picture. But without you, this picture is incomplete,” she said. “The state of our city? We are one city. We are One Minneapolis. Let us resolve in 2015 every day to match our behavior with that truth.”