2014 State of the City: Three Questions and a Brag

April 24, 2014

Thank you, Daniel Yang and Bill Means for your humbling and warm welcome. Thank you, Madame President and Council Members. Thank you for convening this meeting for this purpose.

Good afternoon, everyone. I look around this space and I see not just a place, but the center of a community that is one of the many great things about Minneapolis. The physical nourishment here has been provided in part by Waite House. The spiritual nourishment by the amazing drummers Ringing Shield. I am grateful to be here surrounded by friends, colleagues, peers, and family. Thank you to the members of the Park Board, School Board, County Board, and Met Council who are here. Thank you to Congressman Ellison for being here in particular. Thank you to Met Council Member Gary Cunningham, who is here with two hats on as both my Met Council Member and as my husband. And thank you and hello to my mom and dad. I think if you had told them when I was a moody teenager obsessed with Duran Duran, or as a radical college student who knew everything and what was wrong with it, they might have been surprised to hear that I would be giving the Minneapolis State of the City address someday. But Mom and Pops, here we are.

As I look around this center, I think of the history and community that is in these walls. Since 1974, Minneapolis American Indian Center has had a rich history as one of the first urban American Indian centers in the country, first under the leadership of longtime Executive Director Frances Fairbanks, a pioneer in the area of community leadership, and today under the leadership of Mary LaGarde. Thank you, Mary, for hosting us here today.

This center lies in the heart of the Native American Cultural Corridor that is defined in The Blueprint, a community-driven vision for this neighborhood and for the Native community in Minneapolis. The City has long partnered with the community through our memorandum of understanding, and I am committed to partnering to turn the Blueprint into reality.

Two ways that our partnership culminates is first, through the celebration of American Indian Month, which begins a week from today on May 1. Second, it is especially important that we are here today on the eve of a historic vote, a vote that will, at long last, recognize the history, culture, and resiliency of the people who originally inhabited our country and our city. Tomorrow, the City Council will vote on a resolution to start recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the day that until now, we have recognized Columbus Day. This act will recognize and celebrate the native people who still live on this land, and will foster stronger relationships moving forward. I am grateful to the community for organizing to make this a reality, and I very much look forward to signing it when it comes forward, as I promised last summer I would.

Inclusive Growth: The Foundation for Moving Forward

The kind of vision that the American Indian community has put forward for itself shows that together, we are stronger – and that especially includes growth.

My vision for growth is of another 107,000 people in the city – this means the people and the businesses that support them and give them jobs. My vision for growth is of the transit to get them around the city without a car. And my vision for growth is that the fruits of that growth are shared by all – people of color and white people; low-income and high; north, south, east, and west.

It is great to work with two champions of growth, Zoning and Planning Committee Chair Lisa Bender and Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee Chair Lisa Goodman.

And the secret is that this growth cannot happen *unless* the fruits are shared by all.

The first step is to share the goal, and that’s where I begin today. When we eliminate our disparities, we will both ignite and propel our prosperity. Individually, yes, of course – but far beyond individual success, eliminating disparities will bring prosperity to the region, not just among people who are newly participating, but among all of us by increasing a customer base, increasing a solid workforce that draws new business investment, increasing the productivity of the city and the whole region, and, yes, by increasing our tax base.

Data back this up. The International Monetary Fund shows that in countries that reduced their inequality by 10% – just 10% – the length of their growth spurt was increased by 50%. They had 50% longer to bring in new businesses and new development. They had 50% longer with an opening to reduce inequality even more. They had 50% longer to build on that success in an upward spiral of growth.

I want no less for Minneapolis. I want this kind of growth for Minneapolis because there is something in it for all of us. A recent Met Council study shows that we will be a majority-minority region by 2040, and Minneapolis sooner than that. It also shows that if Minneapolis–Saint Paul were to eliminate our disparities, we could have:

And in terms of economic growth? We would pick up 31.8 billion dollars of personal income that we are otherwise leaving on the table. 31.8 billion dollars.

This is where to begin; this is the key that will unlock the door to our growth as a city: growth that includes us all will propel us far further than doing what we’ve always done. Doing what we’ve always done will get us what we’ve always gotten. What we’ve gotten is growth that is thwarted by the biggest disparities in the country between white people and people of color and $32 billion lost in personal income. While we are a great city, we are not great for everyone and that truth limits how far we can go. No, it doesn’t just limit it. Over the next three decades it will actively erode the gains we have made that we are rightfully proud of.

In other words, if we bench our entire infield, there is no way we are going to win this game. Some of us are still playing – we have a pitcher, perhaps, and an outfield and we can cobble together some kind of team, but there is no way we are going to the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, if we keep our players on the bench. And if game after game after game, we keep benching more players, we keep falling further and further behind our ability to play at all.

So I start with that premise: I want to add to our understanding that increasing equity is the just thing to do. It is the just thing to do, and were that the only reason, it would be enough. But I want to start with the premise that ensuring that all of the community – white people and people of color, high-income and low-income – must be in a position to both contribute to and benefit from our growth and our increased prosperity. All of us have a stake in that. Universally we benefit when universally we participate. And, more telling, universally we lose out when even some of us do not participate.

That is what animates my work as Mayor; that is the premise with which I start work every day and end work every night. We get to grow, Minneapolis, and we get to do it all together. We get to truly become One Minneapolis, all of us – by necessity – contributing to that growth and prosperity and all of us by necessity sharing in that growth and prosperity.

Three questions

When you walk into my office you’ll see a few things. You’ll see that there’s a new coat of paint on the walls. You’ll see that I really do have a thing for Wonder Woman – she’s on the walls, too, and the bookcases and on my coffee mugs. You’ll see that there’s an amazing team of people working on our top priorities.

And you’ll see The Whiteboard, capital T, Capital W. It’s new, replacing one so well used and well loved by the previous administration that when I started, I could still see faint, inerasable marker traces of the plans being made and executed until the last minute of the last term. And now, with me, there’s a new, clean board that has already seen its share of plans written on it. For that matter, this speech was created and outlined and refined on that whiteboard.

There is one element of my whiteboard that has not and will not change, however. At the top of it, I have written three key questions. Everything I do – every policy decision that in front of me, every appointment I make, every initiative we propose – passes through the filter of those three questions.

The accumulation of the answers to those three questions will not only define my mayoralty, they will define the course of the city long into our collective future. They are the questions that, if we answer them well and let them guide what we do, will help create the best possible next version of Minneapolis. So I keep them up there every day.

The questions are:

The truth of the matter is that these three questions are inextricably linked. If we do not run the city well, it is not possible to meet any of the other goals we have for ourselves as a people and as a city. And if not every part of the city is getting the level of service that they need, we are neither equitable nor running the city well. Equity relies on creating opportunities for people to thrive, and that takes growth. For us to be One Minneapolis, we need to know and act like these questions are all connected.

Moving the dial on running the city well

What does running the city well mean? It might seem obvious, but sometimes city services are so embedded in our lives that we don’t truly acknowledge what our tax dollars are buying on the most basic of levels. Clean water comes out of our taps from one of the best filtration systems in the country, and we don’t give it a second thought. We step into a restaurant and get good food, and we don’t consider the licensing work and inspections that make sure that the business is operating safely. Our garbage and recycling gets hauled away on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday and we don’t pause to connect it with our own investment in the community. But that’s what taxes are – your investment in your community. Thank you for paying them.

Most important in running the city well is to make sure you’re getting the basic services you should expect to receive. Ground-breaking work with innovative ideas is not enough if we aren’t taking care of the basics: potholes, streetlights, inspections, and sewers. So we do take care of them. I was proud to work with the City Council to fund an additional $1 million in pothole repairs this year. We can’t control the conditions that lead to a worse than normal year for potholes, but we can control how we take care of those potholes. And I’m proud to say that our Public Works crews have been doubling their efforts to keep our city moving, under the dedicated leadership of Steve Kotke.

City workers – our public servants – provide basic services like these across our entire enterprise every day, with little fanfare but great professionalism. We all owe them a debt of thanks.

At the inaugural party in January, I took my precious moment on stage to do something I might never again have the opportunity to do: I asked everyone to cheer for structurally balanced budgets and pension reform. Those are some of the sweetest cheers I have ever heard. Fiscal responsibility isn’t particularly sexy, it doesn’t get a lot of frothy press coverage, but it matters every day to what we can do as a community. Getting it right is no small feat, but running the city well depends on getting it right. Iassure you that the budget that I will present to the City Council in Augustwill be structurally balanced, will be based on our priorities, and will take the next financial steps toward our shared future.

Running the city well means knowing that city operations are secure. Council Member Linea Palmisano is leading the charge to make sure that the city’s audit function, newly reimagined in 2010, is configured going forward to ensure that our dollars are secure and our city functions properly. I pledge to continue my dedication to that work as I support her leadership there.

A city that runs well also pays heed to its place in the world. Climate change is real, it is happening now, and we will continue to feel its impact on our city. So running the city well means planning for our energy future.

But there is no bigger marker of how well we are running the city than by how well we are providing the most basic of municipal services: public safety.

This year we have seen the amazing work the Minneapolis Fire Department does – this year, tragically, we have seen too much of that good work. Chief John Fruetel and his team are now working to make sure we have that kind of talent long into the future. With their Day One Recruitment program, they are going into the high schools to talk with and give hands-on experience to sophomores about what it could mean to choose firefighting as a career.

Our Regulatory Services Department, led by Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, makes sure that our buildings are up to code inside and out, that our animals are safe for people and from people, and that our neighborhoods look like the safe places that they are.

911 operators and dispatchers, under the leadership of Heather Hunt, provide a vital link between people in distress and the response they need. 911 operators and dispatchers answer more than half a million calls a year. And at 5.6 seconds for an average answer time last month, we are at our best response times in years. Minneapolis is a safe city.

Our Police Department, with Chief Janeé Harteau at the helm, continues its strong work to make Minneapolis as safe as it’s been in a generation, with violent crime at rates last seen three decades ago.

To enhance that work, residents need to see police officers who reflect them and their community. In the next year, close to 100 new hires will come on board, and as we hire, we are making every effort to make sure that our force will look more and more like the city that we serve. As a result, I believe that levels of community trust and the connections with the community will be stronger than ever before. 

I must say, though, that our officers will only reflect the community they protect and serve if we recruit – and if you apply to be a police officer or a community service officer.  Please consider this my personal request to women and men from everywhere in the community: apply to be a police officer.

While crime remains at historically low levels, we know it’s not evenly distributed. I want to thank Council President Barb Johnson for co-chairing a Public Safety Summit on Northside crime and livability concerns, and for her years-long advocacy for North Minneapolis and for the safety of our neighborhoods. We walked out of that summit with specific recommendations and commitments from law enforcement, neighborhoods, the courts, the state, and the city for improving safety in North Minneapolis.

Running the city well – taking care of the basics and keeping it safe – must run through everything we do. And we get to do more: we get to move the dial on equity.

Moving the dial on equity

I made the point earlier that in the 21st century, true growth and equity are intertwined. The greatest opportunity we have to create equity is with our kids. They are where we must begin.

Recent research by University of Minnesota professor Aaron Sojourner demonstrates clearly not just that disparities aren’t inevitable, but that in fact, they can be prevented. When you add this work to Minnesota economist Art Rolnick’s years-long research on and advocacy for effective early-childhood investments, you have a powerful call to action that Minneapolis can and must follow.

My Cradle to K initiative will help transform how we think of early-childhood interventions. I am proud to announce that Peggy Flanagan, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota, and Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow, will be the co-chairs of my newly-forming Cradle to K Cabinet. Their charge will be to help coordinate and align work to increase the early experiences of all children prenatal to three years old and to help create a plan to bridge across silos and sectors so we can maximize a child’s ability to be ready for early-education opportunities. It will build on the great Healthy Starts work happening in the Health Department under Gretchen Musicant, and it is the place where the City itself can have the most impact on educational outcomes. I am eager to take our work to the next stage.

And although in Minneapolis, the City does not directly control our schools, mayors across the country are becoming increasingly involved in K-12 education, because the success of our cities is tied to the success of our public schools. In Minneapolis, a city where 70% of public-school students are young people of color, we will never grow in the way that we need to until we eliminate racial disparities in educational outcomes. And no mayor in America understood this sooner, or got involved more effectively with public education in his city, than Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. He is a model for me as a mayor, and a friend.

I’m especially pleased about the contract that was just ratified between Minneapolis Public Schools, led by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, who is here with us today, and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, under the leadership of their president, Lynn Nordgren. By creating flexible community partnership schools, and by lowering class sizes in high-priority schools, this contract is a strong step forward in empowering teachers and communities to end our gaps.

The City’s Youth Cabinet is another place we help focus and coordinate our work for young people. The Youth Cabinet is a collective of city staff established to use both an equity lens and a youth lens to support young people and identify opportunities to do the work even more effectively. Council Member John Quincy has been instrumental in moving that work forward and with his leadership, we will be able to do even more. This work joins our strong, ongoing, multi-sector work with the Youth Coordinating Board, and our Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence.

Creating equity for our children that starts before birth and continues through a lifetime is where we must start, but it is not enough: we must also focus on ending existing disparities in jobs, wealth creation and housing, among many other areas. And that’s what the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development is doing. The work of the department – whether in workforce, economic development, housing, inspections or planning – is structured around the triple bottom line: growing the city, promoting sustainability, and ending disparities.  So for example:

It would take all day for me to tell you about all the great work that the City and are partners are doing to build equity. I won’t take that long, but I want to mention two other important initiatives:

Finally, for all the work that we are doing together, Minneapolis is blessed to have a true champion in the White House, in President Barack Obama. Last month, he announced his My Brother’s Keeper initiative to create and expand opportunity for boys and young men of color. I have been in contact with the White House about how Minneapolis can share the good work we’re doing here with the rest of the country, and how we can partner with the White House to do even more.

So, we get to continue to run the city well, and we get to move the dial on equity. But as I mentioned earlier, equity relies on creating opportunities for people to thrive. So we also get to move the dial on growth.

Moving the dial on growth

We are a thriving, growing city. My goal remains to make us the great city of the 21st century. And we are on our way. In 2013, between increasing market values and new construction, the tax base of Minneapolis increased by close to $3 billion.

From the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013, the City of Minneapolis added more than 8,000 jobs, an increase of 2.7%.

In 2013, the city issued $1.2 billion in construction permits. This year, we’re on track to exceed that number. I plan to keep City Assessor Patrick Todd very busy.

What is the key to our success? Our public investment in the public good is making us a city people want to come to and choose to invest in. We have parks surrounding lakes and rivers and creeks. We are bikeable, we are walkable, and getting more so every year. We have libraries, city services and public spaces that enrich our lives and support small businesses and strong neighborhoods. We have planned well for our development future.

In Minneapolis, we view transit investment as an effective and essential tool for sustainable development: a tool to grow jobs, housing, and economic development in Minneapolis and along revitalized urban corridors. In our vision of Minneapolis, transit improvements, bike and pedestrian improvements, green space, and economic development are seamlessly and sustainably interwoven.

You need look no further than the Central Corridor LRT line that opens in June to see the impact public investment in rail can have. It has already has spurred $2 billion in new development.

Imagine what our city would look like if we could replicate this on all our transit corridors. When these corridors meet their full potential, the whole region will win. These wins take investment, however, which is why we also need to pass a ¾-cent metro-wide sales tax, as proposed by MoveMN and unanimously endorsed by our City Council.

Make no mistake: Minneapolis knows exactly what it wants. We have a plan and we have leadership who can make it happen. Leadership like Council Member Kevin Reich, new at the helm of our Transportation and Public Works committee and already building on his years of work to make our system grow and run smoothly.

Right now, we are at the beginning of some of the biggest developments in downtown in a generation. The reinvented Nicollet Mall will be another shining jewel in the crown for our state, region, and city.

Our shared vision for the new Mall is a 21st-century destination, drawing visitors and residents alike to its curving grandeur and its series of unique moments along the way. It is one of the many ways we are integrating our gorgeous river with our bustling, growing downtown.

The redesign of Nicollet Mall is much more than just a street project, it’s a regional amenity of critical importance to our partners in Minnesota’s business community – an investment so important to their success that they have stepped up to the plate with a commitment to fund half the project. We are grateful for the strong leadership of Steve Cramer and his board at the Downtown Council, the dogged advocacy of our authors, Senator Bobby Joe Champion and Representative Ray Dehn, and of Senator Kari Dziedzic, and the steadfast support of Governor Dayton and our united legislative delegation.

But it’s more than just downtown, by far. Our neighborhoods are the bedrock of Minneapolis, and new developments in neighborhoods all across the city are bringing more people, more business, and more tax base to the city.

Some of our biggest development opportunities also lie outside downtown:

We are growing, Minneapolis; we are thriving. The key is knowing what will take us to the next level.

To realize the promise of growth – sustainable growth, growth of people not cars, inclusive growth – we as a city have to do everything we can to make sure we are fostering rather than thwarting investment. That is why I have already asked our City Attorney Susan Segal – a strategic, forward-thinking leader – to review all city regulations that govern business in the city. Over the years we have made ordinance additions and changes, each one designed to protect the public or solve an individual problem. Over decades, though, the code has become so cumbersome for business that it makes it harder for people to invest here. And if it’s hard for a wizened investor who’s done a score of projects to navigate, then for a first-time business owner – perhaps with another language as her first language – the barriers might be more than she can afford to wade through. So we get to streamline our regulations while still making sure the public interest is protected. The project will take time, but the payoff will be great.

We do have economic sectors ripe for concentrated growth: energy, health, high-tech, our local food economy. Taking good economic sectors and making them great is a cornerstone of good economic development.

Our arts economy, for example, is a showcase for our city and a lauded cornerstone of our livability. It is also, however, an important part of our economy. What the arts do to create a place people want to be in cannot be overestimated. But it is also an economic driver itself. The Minneapolis Creative Index, which measures the value of our creative sector, shows that it pumps $700 million into our city’s economy in a single year. That outpaces the national average by nearly 5 times and has stayed steady even in tough times. This is an economic sector that, when we grow it, will make us a more attractive place to live but also increase our bottom line as a city.

If we can elevate people’s knowledge of what we offer, we can grow that economic sector further. That has a double bottom line: it makes us livable and it makes us grow.

But as I said in the beginning, our growth needs to be inclusive growth. Awhile back I met with a group of Somali business owners, mostly women, to talk about the investment they are making in our city. Many of them own the equivalent of a market stall in one of the malls – Karmel or 24 – in South Minneapolis. Many of our regulations and small business support programs are not designed for microenterprises like theirs. As a result the assistance these women need and could have is falling through the cracks. Now we are looking at how to adjust our programs to accommodate new realities.

That is what I mean by inclusive growth: making sure our policies and programs are set up in such a way that all can participate. We need to make certain our business assistance programs are flexible enough to meet the needs of today.

I am proud to announce that on Monday, Erick Garcia Luna will be joining my staff as a policy aide to work on economic development. I give great thanks to US Senator Amy Klobuchar for being so kind as to let me hire Erick away from the excellent work he’s been doing for her.

Bragging about it

When we are inspired by these three questions – when we move the dial on running the city well, increasing equity and growing inclusively – our One Minneapolis will be the great city of the 21st century.

And so, I come back to where I began – we really are an amazing place.

Now, I have just spent a fair amount of time bragging about our city, about how fabulous it is and how fabulous we are. A few years ago, site selectors came to our region to see what would propel us forward and what was holding us back. Those are people who try and figure out where companies that are new, expanding or moving should go. They know a little something about what attracts business and development. And they found that we as a region have so much to offer: we are boxing above our weight in Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies, we top all kinds of lists for livability, and when people come here for work or school they don’t want to leave.

The problem? Nobody knows it. We are, as I have said before, militantly modest. We could discover cures for seventeen kinds of cancer and we would say nothing, and if someone else noticed we would say, “Yeah, well, thanks. Anyone else would have done the same.” And then we would change the subject to the weather. This happens across the board, across race, class, and culture: all of us are impeded in one way or another by the modesty that Minneapolis has been steeped in.

If we are going to grow, if we are going to bring opportunity here, we can’t afford to be modest. We can’t afford to hide our lights under all those bushels. And we sure can’t settle for merely being less modest. We have got to *brag*, people. Actively, loudly, with more vigor than we know we have we must shout to the *rooftops* that Minneapolis and our people are the Best. On. Earth.

Starting to feel uncomfortable yet?

Good. Because to get where we are going you are going to have to get uncomfortable. That’s why I will be initiating a week where we all get to practice together. I call it “The Best Week of Bragging About Minneapolis Ever,” it will be from July 14–20, and you are all invited.

What does Bragging Week look like? We will showcase the best of our city – and ask you to do the same. We will have lists extolling our virtues and ask you to practice with your neighbors – or better yet, your friends in other places. We will have social media suggestions – tweets about our “best of” victories, Facebook posts about how great our neighborhoods are. The fun has just begun, so stay tuned.

And is it really bragging if it’s really true? We are an amazing place of an amazing people and we have much to brag about – as soon as we learn how through at least a week of practice.

The key to our future and our future growth rests on bragging. The key to our future rests on the City’s continuing to make the basic investments and innovative changes needed to support even more growth and development. And most of all, as I said in the beginning, the key to our future rests on making sure that we all thrive when everyone has what they need to take advantage of all that we have.  Our common future rests on it.

We are One Minneapolis, my friends. Acting like it will get us everywhere we choose to go.

Last updated Apr 24, 2014