Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s first 100 days in office have had him “working like a dog,” he told the MSR.
Frey spoke to us last week prior to his April 23 one-hour appearance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where he reflected on his first three months in office. “We have in place a bunch of measures that will see action in the next several months,” he stressed.
The first-term mayor told the mostly White noontime audience at Cowles Auditorium that there are “three overarching issues that we will be focusing on specifically” – affordable housing, police-community relations, and economic inclusion. This is part of the City’s 14-goals “Minneapolis 2040” comprehensive plan.
“We want to get a lot done,” the mayor stressed. “We’ve started task forces and focus groups. We want to create an action-oriented approach to move from a phase of discussion to get [things] done. We want to restructure how our city government functions, to make sure we tackle these issues directly, precisely and efficiently.”
On affordable housing, “We need affordable housing in every single neighborhood in the city. We have an obligation…that we are doing everything possible to make sure everything is affordable,” Frey pledged.
He added that “deep levels of affordability” are necessary to ensure that all Minneapolis residents can afford housing. “We need affordable housing in North Minneapolis, but we also need it in South Minneapolis, downtown Minneapolis, and Northeast.”
The mayor’s housing proposals include building more affordable housing throughout the city, especially in predominately White neighborhoods, and providing more owner-occupied multi-family housing. His “4d” program, if approved, would offer landlords property tax breaks “if [they are] willing to rent 20 percent of their unit to [persons] at or below area median income,” Frey explained.
“We want to create neighborhoods with a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. You [should] have the ability to live in the neighborhood of your choice,” he pointed out. Asked how this will help tenants in light of rising rents throughout the city, Frey told the MSR, “We have proposals that will directly benefit the renter,” without providing further specifics.
On police-community relations, he said, “We need to rebuild trust where it once was and gain trust where it wasn’t from the beginning,” especially among communities of color. The new body camera policy, which now mandates that Minneapolis police officers turn on their cameras at least two blocks away from the service call, is a start, according to the mayor.
“When cops don’t follow [the new policy], there’s clear discipline ranging from zero to 72 hours without pay to even termination,” he said.
Frey also wants to see changes in the city’s police union: “We have two separate unions – one for administration that hands out discipline, and a second union for receiving the discipline. Our police union right now has rank-and-file officers sitting on the same side of the table as our sergeants and lieutenants,” he explained.
On the first-term mayor’s economic inclusion plans, he said, “We need to make sure our investments are going to communities of color. “We never had a continuous Black-owned financial institution. Now I am pushing for it.”
Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs, locally known for his commentary and research on elections and public policies, was the moderator of last week’s event. He called Frey’s aforementioned plans “pretty ambitious.”
“Yes, I fully anticipate [some backlash],” Frey responded. “If there’s pushback, I’m up for the fight.”
“I see only pushback,” Jacobs afterwards told the MSR. “Every one of these areas – the whole policing agenda or much of it – he will get resistance from the city council.
“He says he’s ready for a fight with Minneapolis communities over his four-plex [plan],” Jacobs said of Frey. “I don’t know if he is going to win that battle. He really doesn’t understand how the city works.”
Bryan Bradford, who lives in the Linden Hills neighborhood, was the only person of color in the audience at last week’s event. He agrees with Jacobs that Mayor Frey “is going to get a lot of pushback from those who aren’t fans of affordable housing” but added that he admires the mayor’s efforts to present his plans outside City Hall.
“It is up to us as citizens to continue to pay attention and hold him accountable,” Bradford said.
Frey pledged that he will use his bully pulpit whenever needed: “We welcome debates and public discourse,” he said. “If that results in people having different perspectives, I think that’s a real good thing.”
Jacobs, however, said of Frey, “He hasn’t yet built an agenda and coalition that [he needs] to win those fights. I’m not hearing yet the kind of preparation for the battles ahead.”
Jacobs said that Frey must now move beyond the “100 days” and start providing more specifics on his plans. “I continue to hear the poetry of campaigning. I don’t yet hear the realness and the toughness of someone ready to fight and win some big battles.”
UPDATE: 5/5/2018 – This story was updated to correct information related to the Mayor Frey’s 4d initiative and to attribute the “Minneapolis 2040” plan to the City of Minneapolis.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.