In light of the recent article in the Star Tribune,
which makes it sound like the Council opposes many of the most important things
in the mayor’s budget, I want to lay out the parts of the budget I support, and
those I’m open to changing.
I strongly support the new positions to focus on equity. I strongly support spending capital dollars
on protected bikeways. I strongly
support creating a citywide curbside organic composting program. I think the people of Minneapolis and the
majority of my colleagues on the Council support these initiatives as well. Here’s a little run down, one by one.
Minneapolis has among the largest gaps between whites and
people of color among all large cities in the US, in many different measures of
success: income, wealth, employment, education, health and more. This is not only unjust, but this fundamental
problem drives many of the other challenges the City is forced to address, including crime. We cannot and will
never get a handle on crime and violence without addressing this root cause.
The inequities in our society are not accidental. They were crafted over hundreds of years of injustice
and disinvestment – very clear decisions by government to leave certain
communities out of the prosperity of our city, our state and our nation. But this is cause for hope, because it means that these toxic disparities are not natural,
they are not inevitable. If people –
especially people in power – could build an unjust society in which people of
color do worse on every measure of success, then people – especially those of
us with some power – can remake our society to be more just. I believe that we can build a city in which
the color of a child’s skin is no longer a strong predictor of her later
success in school, likelihood to suffer from Type II Diabetes, chance of being
victim or perpetrator of a violent crime, the amount of money she will make, or
her chances of ending up in prison.
But this will take work.
The existing systems of institutional racism were created, on purpose,
over centuries. They will not go away on
their own. We have to actually do
something about them.
I’m proud that the City is stepping up to do this critical
work. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take rigorous study. Sometimes many of us – myself included – will
feel frustrated that we aren't making more progress more quickly. And this work will take resources. I am proud to have helped move the conversation
about equity forward in Minneapolis through the first equity in employment resolution back in
August of 2012. I am proud of Mayor Hodges for
making it a priority in her campaign last year and in her first budget this
fall. I will be proud to vote for equity
I believe that the people of Minneapolis agree. That’s why they supported a mayor and
majority of Council Members who made equity a key theme in their races last
year. In my conversations with my
constituents, they understand that ending racial injustice is critical to the health of our city, that
true public safety is impossible without social justice, and that the City has
to be part of the solution to the racial inequities in our society. I believe that a majority of my colleagues
Protected bikeways are one part of a much broader movement
that recognizes that our current transportation system is unhealthy. It’s unhealthy for
the environment, because single-occupancy automobiles are a key contributor to
climate change and poor air quality. It’s
unhealthy for our bodies, because a sedentary lifestyle is a key driver of
obesity and many related diseases. It’s
unhealthy for our communities, because we can’t build thriving, vibrant
commercial corridors and public spaces that are thruways dominated by autos.
So last year, the City Council unanimously passed a Climate Action Plan that called for the City
to build 30 miles of new protected bikeways by 2020. This strategy is in the plan because we have
very good reason to believe that building more comfortable protected bikeways
will help more types of people – from age 8 to age 80 – riding a bike in our
city for transportation. This is how the
best bicycling cities in the world have achieved their current successes, like
having a third of all trips on bike.
Protected bikeways, and supporting bicycling in general, is
a piece of a broad shift we’re trying to make away from using cars for every
trip, and towards walking, biking, transit, car sharing and more. Public Works staff are currently working on a
plan for exactly where we should build these 30 miles of new protected
bikeways. Now it’s time to put our money
where our plans are, because we don’t build anything without resources. That’s why both our Bicycle Advisory
Committee and our Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee supported dedicating
these dollars to building protected bikeways.
I find it odd that any of my colleagues who voted for the Climate Action
Plan would oppose this funding; it seems like an admission that people should
ignore the plans that we adopt, because we don’t necessarily mean them.
I’m proud to have helped start the conversation about
protected bikeways in Minneapolis years ago by bringing up the “Copenhagenmodel” way back in 2007, and that my office helped shape the Climate Action Plan. I’m proud of Mayor Hodges for including this
funding for protected bikeways in her budget.
And I will be proud to vote for protected bikeways this December.
I believe that the people of Minneapolis agree. I have heard loud and clear from my
constituents that they want a more bikeable city. When the Mayor gave her budget address, the
funding for protected bikeways got more positive attention than any other
single proposal. And I believe that a
majority of my colleagues agree.
We currently burn a lot of compostable material in the
downtown garbage burner. This doesn’t
make any sense. We could be diverting
this resource back into the soil, to build the soil fertility that will grow
This is another strategy that was called out in the Climate
Action Plan. We have had a series of
very successful pilot programs in different parts of our city, and they indicate
that a certain number of people will participate in the composting program even
without much community engagement by the City.
We have received a very informative report from a company called Foth
that indicates that we can divert a large amount of organic waste from the
garbage burner for a reasonable monthly fee to our utility ratepayers. Other cities – San Francisco, Seattle and
Portland, to name just a few – have created very successful organic composting
collection systems that divert huge amounts of waste into reuse. And by creating this system, it becomes more
possible to address some of the single-use packaging and bags that account for
so much of our waste stream.
I’m proud that my office, working with the City’s Community Environmental
Advisory Commission, helped raise this issue.
I’m proud of the Mayor for including it in her budget. I will be proud to vote for composting in
I believe that the people of Minneapolis agree. I can’t count how many times I've heard from my constituents that they want the composting pilots expanded, that they want this
service at their house. At the Zero
Waste forum earlier this year, many of my colleagues and I heard from more than
a hundred residents about their desire for our city to move towards zero waste,
with composting as the next clear step.
The people of Minneapolis understand that there are better things to do
with our coffee grounds and potato peelings than burning them. And I believe that a majority of my
Now, there are some things I’m open to changing. I think we could continue to put capital
dollars into public art funding, even though they have a large amount of
unspent bonding capacity. I think that
we could start a conversation about how best to get the Public Housing
Authority the resources they need, possibly through giving them their own
bonding authority again. I think that we
could be clearer with our neighborhood organizations about what we’re doing with
the funds from the consolidated TIF district when they exceed projections – and
I have scheduled that conversation to occur in the Health, Environment and
Community Engagement committee on November 17.
I think that we could put more into the Affordable Housing Trust
Fund. I would support ways to achieve
these goals if they didn't damage the above priorities.
There are also changes that others have suggested that I don’t
personally support. For example, I think
that the funding increase for public safety is sufficient. I really just don’t understand how any of my
colleagues can argue that the budget “does nothing” meaningful to expand either
the Police Department or the Fire Department.
Let’s just look at the numbers quoted by the Star Tribune. The proposed budget raises the levy by $6.7
million. The same proposal raises
funding for the Police and Fire Departments by $6.6 million. That’s not “nothing.” That’s nearly everything. That comes
within $100,000 of spending the entire levy increase on public safety.
I believe that the levy increase is very reasonable. Most households will see a reduction in the property tax bill, even with this increase, due to the growth of the overall tax base.
Though I would tweak some things, and though I wish we could have had a full and open conversation with our neighborhood groups about our plans for the consolidated TIF districts prior to this budget cycle, for the most part I am very, very supportive of the biggest items in the mayor's budget. I may support some changes, but I intend to work very hard to make certain that the relatively modest investments to support equity, protected bikeways and curbside composting are preserved.