The newly elected Minneapolis mayor, Jacob Frey, has wrapped up a slew of listening sessions ahead of taking office on Jan 2. According to press materials, the purpose of the listening sessions was to highlight Frey’s commitment to improving police-community relations, increase the city’s affordable housing, and build an inclusive local economy. The events were chaired by Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden and Abou Amara and facilitated by Dave Ellis.
After a virtual listening session on Facebook on December 19, Frey’s policy committee met with community members at the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) in North Minneapolis on Thursday, December 21. “We are in a transition month,” Glidden stated at the meeting. “There are major issues that aren’t being mentioned that we need to bring to the mayor.” Added Amara, “This doesn’t work unless we have you [the community members] feeding into this conversation.”
Some of the questions attendees answered included “What would make Minneapolis a great place to live?” and “What issues do you think need to be addressed?” Many community members at the meeting stated that the most pressing issues were with regards to police-community relations, income inequality, and youth education.
The next listening session was held on Dec. 29 at public housing high-rise Horn Towers at 3121 Pillsbury in South Minneapolis, where over 100 people packed the community room. This listening session included residents of the building who expressed concerns about the complex while welcoming Mayor-elect Frey to the high-rise.
Lisa Anderson, one of the Horn Towers’ 20-year residents, stated that issues such as safety and security are important. “We deserve to live in a safe environment. Violence is a real problem over here. I’m not just speaking up for myself, I’m speaking up for all of us who live here [in Horn Towers].”
Sarah Kuhnen, neighbor of Justine Damond, who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer in July of 2017 after reporting a possible assault, echoed concerns over safety but in a broader sense. “Residents and police experience trauma on a daily basis, and we want them supported better with wellness training. That doesn’t just happen once, but happens annually and semi-annually along with de-escalation training.”
More than a few Somali residents urged Frey to work with immigrants regarding issues of identification. Maria Cisneros, a community organizer who lives in the Central neighborhood, encouraged Frey to focus on safety and was supportive of the Somali residents.
Cisneros shared that she survived a robbery during which she was stabbed. She linked the issue of safety to the call from local immigrant communities to create a municipal I.D. “Immigrants without a state-issued I.D. because of their immigration status do not feel safe calling police,” she said.
Cisneros stressed that immigrants who lack I.D. are often taken advantage of when it comes to housing, as well. “Some living in substandard conditions are afraid to report issues like [pest] infestations,” she said.
At the end of the listening session, Frey stated that he will continue to follow the issues and serve the stated needs of the community. “These issues are important, and as mayor, I intend to see that these concerns are addressed,” he said. Frey has plans to hold town halls in each ward in Minneapolis following his inauguration, which will be held on Monday, Jan. 8 at 9:30 am in the City Hall Rotunda, 350 South Fifth Street in Minneapolis. Visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us for details.
An inauguration party for Mayor Frey and Minneapolis City Council members will take place Jan. 13 at First Avenue in Minneapolis. For more info, visit www.mplsdowntown.com.
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Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org