Hodges focuses on city’s ‘deep truths’ in State of the City speech

Mayor Betsy Hodges delivers her State of the City Address at the MacPhail Center for Music on Tuesday. Photo by Sarah McKenzie

Mayor Betsy Hodges centered her 2016 State of the City Address on Tuesday around dualities about life in Minneapolis.

“In Minneapolis, we get to take into account two of our own complementary and deep truths. Minneapolis is a remarkable and wonderful city, and Minneapolis is a city of deep challenges, particularly regarding race,” she said during the roughly 50-minute speech at the MacPhail Center of Music in the Mill District. “We come together for the common good, and we strain to come together as a people and we are divided. … These statements seem contradictory. All of them are true. This duality? It is the state of the city.”

She covered a lot of ground in the speech, including the city’s strategies for dealing with an increase in gun violence, efforts to make it easier to launch and run businesses in the city, her initiatives focused on fighting disparities among youth, work addressing climate change, race relations and the strength of the city’s creative economy, among other things.

Hodges first addressed the city’s response to rising violence on the North Side.

“Gun violence is up sharply. The intensity of violence is shocking and entirely unacceptable, and I condemn it,” she said. “No resident in any neighborhood should have to endure this kind of violence. It has no place in North Minneapolis or anywhere in our city.”

There were 118 shooting victims in the city as of May 16 — up 90 percent from the same period last year, according to Minneapolis Police crime statistics.

She said Police Chief Janeé Harteau has increased police presence and focused resources in crime hot spots in North Minneapolis. Hodges said she has also directed the chief to focus new police personnel to the 4th Precinct.

She pointed to city diversion programs designed to keep youth out of the criminal justice system and youth outreach work as key efforts in fighting youth violence.

Hodges also addressed the police shooting death of Jamar Clark and the occupation of the 4th Precinct police station — events that have served as the most significant test of her leadership skills in her first term as mayor.

“It’s been several tough, emotional months in Minneapolis. For all of us,” she said. “The death of Jamar Clark on Nov. 15, and the occupation of the 4th Precinct for 18 days after that, was hard on everyone: family members, demonstrators, neighbors, community members, police officers. It is true that police-community relationships have been in need of transformation since long before that, especially in communities of color. Perhaps on no other issues are we so divided from each other.”

She highlighted her push to implement a policy body camera program, which is expected to be fully up and running this year. The Minneapolis Police Department is also close to implementing a new early intervention system to identify potentially problematic officer behavior.

Hodges also pointed to the city’s involvement in the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. Minneapolis is one of six cities in the country to be part of the initiative, which focuses on improving procedural justice, reducing implicit bias in police departments and promoting racial reconciliation.

As for growth in the city, Hodges touted the latest population figures showing Minneapolis with 412,517 people — the highest level in about 40 years.

The city has added just under 30,000 residents since 2010 — nearly 8 percent growth.

She also provided an update on her Business Made Simple initiative, noting the city has repealed about three dozen “anachronistic ordinances” that have been a burden on businesses.

The city is also developing a new online portal in 2017 that will allow businesses to apply for and renew permits online, among other things.

Hodges expressed support for the proposed sick time ordinance — an idea she first discussed during her 2015 State of the City Address. The City Council is holding a public hearing on the proposed ordinance tomorrow at City Hall at 3 p.m. Workers in Minneapolis employed at companies with at least six employees would be eligible to up to 48 hours of paid sick time in a year.

“Here again, people from different backgrounds and sectors who do not always agree have come together to take a stand for the health of the public and to transform the workplaces of tens of thousands of low-wage workers,” she said.

On education and addressing youth disparities, she highlighted the work of her Cradle to K Cabinet, including a new initiative called “Talking is Teaching” set to launch this summer — a public awareness campaign to encourage parents and caregivers to spend more time talking, reading and singing to very young children.

She also said she is co-chairing a campaign with Congressman Keith Ellison focused on building support for a Minneapolis Public Schools referendum on the ballot in November.

On race relations, she said white people need to acknowledge their role in systems that have created disparities.

“The history of race of leaves us white people thinking that this isn’t about us,” she said. “… It is about us. Race and racism is a system that we are part of, like it or not. To carry on in the face of world set up so differently for us than for people of color, at some level we have had to shut down our awareness of that difference.”

Hodges ended the speech by paying tribute to the late artist and community activist Kirk Washington Jr., who was recently killed in a car accident. He co-authored the One Minneapolis poem for her inauguration.

“When we acknowledge our profound truths, when we come together through the strain of doing so, when we encounter each other’s humanity, and show true interest in each other — in that moment, we are able to take what Kirk Washington called at my inaugural ‘a unified breath that electrocutes fear and misunderstanding,’” she said. “… Let us do the good, hard, and necessary work, together, to transform Minneapolis into One Minneapolis. We have everything and we are everyone that we need. That is our profound truth.”

A large group of community leaders invited by Hodges sat behind her as she gave her third State of the City Address as mayor.

Mikkel Beckman, director of the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, was among the group. He serves on her Cradle to K Cabinet.

“The mayor gave a courageous speech that was aspirational, while acknowledging the duality of our two truths as a city. And, having called them out, the mayor laid out a path forward to move us towards the hope of ‘One Minneapolis’; of greater equity, equality and expanded opportunity,” he said. “I appreciated her thoughts on race and on the progress report on activities that are working as well as the work before us.”

Tom Hoch, CEO of the Hennepin Theatre Trust and chair of the Downtown Council board of directors, was another one of the community leaders invited to sit on the stage during Hodges’ speech.

“She talked quite a bit about how we are as a people and how we want to be as a city. I think that is an important conversation — certainly an important one for the mayor to be having with the citizens of the city,” he said. “I appreciated her focus on the arts and the role they play in enhancing the quality of experience in our community. When we talk about equity, it is really a portal to which we all can find a reflection of ourselves.”

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) called the mayor’s speech “really thoughtful.”

“She began by calling out the violence in North Minneapolis and stated that it will not be tolerated,” she said. “I thought her point of being interested in each other really made me think. The more we learn about each other, the more we learn about the struggles and challenges that we face, the more we grow.”

— Megan Cavanaugh contributed to this report