Hodges delivers 2018 budget address

The mayor's budget prioritizes climate change, housing, police-community relations and resistance to the Trump administration

Mayor Betsy Hodges on Tuesday outlined a 2018 city budget that aims to take action on climate change, increase access to affordable housing, improve police-community relations and counteract the Trump administration.

The roughly $1.4-billion budget comes with a proposed 5.5-percent increase in the city’s property tax levy. The levy increased 5.5 percent in 2017, too, and Hodges said the hikes were in line with the city’s commitment to an $800-million deal struck in 2015 with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to fund street repairs and park improvements over the next 20 years.

Describing climate change as the “single greatest threat to our city and our planet,” Hodges proposed $6 million for clean energy and efficiency programs, which she said was a 60-percent increase over her 2014 budget. On the recommendation of the city’s Clean Energy Partnership with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, the budget also includes a half-percent increase in the franchise fees paid by those utilities to fund ongoing renewable energy and sustainability programs.

In her budget address, Hodges described the “twofold” challenge the city is facing on the housing front as “finding ways to retain our current supply of affordable places to live and finding ways to add to that supply without pricing longtime residents out of the neighborhoods they’ve invested in for years and sometimes generations.”

Hodges said the city’s rising rents and near 2-percent vacancy rate were clear signs that demand exceeded supply. But she also acknowledged that new developments can displace longtime residents, a noted that her budget includes $24 million for housing programs, including the creation of a new, full-time housing stability specialist position at City Hall to focus on the city’s complex housing challenges.

Describing a “persistent disparity” in homeownership rates — currently standing at a 35-point gap in homeownership between the city’s white families and families of color — Hodges said her budget included $500,000 to expand a program that helps families buy homes.

“We’ve seen other cities fail to act or act too late to address these problems,” she said. “Minneapolis can’t afford to make the same mistake.”

When Hodges released a bare outline of her budget in August, she said she was delaying the release of more details in part to give new Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo input on his department’s budget. During her address, Hodges reiterated that she didn’t want Arradondo to “have to wait 12 months of a 17-month term to have an impact.”

Her 2018 budget includes $4 million for police and public safety programs, including $300,000 to begin a three-year expansion of the Minneapolis police bodycam program so that all officers will eventually wear them, not just those responding to 911 calls. The budget also adds eight civilian community liaison positions to the police department, which she said was another of Arradondo’s top priorities and part of a strategy to improve the department’s relationship with the community.

The budget also includes funding for an additional civilian investigator to respond to claims of police misconduct.

Hodges ended her address by speaking forcefully and at length about the administration of President Donald Trump, which she described as “a disaster for our country.” Among other things, her budget includes investments in programs meant to counteract the administration’s targeting of immigrants and the transgender community, as well as $1.2 million to “protect and support” voting rights.