The Minneapolis City Council is now reviewing Mayor Jacob Frye's budget proposal, which includes 14 additional police officers, $31 million for affordable housing and the creation of so-called cultural districts. Demonstrators calling for police reform disrupted the beginning of Thursday’s meeting. The mayor then delivered his remarks at times having to speak over protesters. MPR’s Phil Picardi spoke with him about police, housing, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, who attended the meeting.
The police chief says the city needs to add 400 officers by 2025 to improve response times. Protesters at City Hall don't want to see any additional officers. So how did you land on 14 officers?
Well, I support Chief Arradondo’s vision for both culture change and shift within the police department as well as safety, and by the way, these two issues of accountability on one side and safety on the other, they're intrinsically linked. They are not mutually exclusive in any way, shape or form. We’ve got record amounts of money in the budget for affordable housing. We have our group violence intervention program [and] a mental health co-responder program. We're investing heavily in economic inclusion. These safety-beyond-policing mechanisms are in place. But we're a growing city, and we still do need police officers. In fact, the city's population has grown by about 50,000 people over the last 10 years or so while the number of police officers has remained stagnant. If we are actually going to get the kind of police-community relations that we purport to want, if we want officers to have time to engage with the community around them--with the small local businesses, with the kid on the street--then they can't just be running from 9-1-1 call to 9-1-1 call. And as the statistics show, at times, they're not even getting to the 9-1-1 calls in a timely fashion. The statistics are pretty clear that we do need more personnel in order to get the job done.
$31 million for affordable housing in your budget. That's the second highest amount the city has spent behind last year, which was $40 million. Where does that money go?
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It's a good question. The money for affordable housing goes to the four prongs of our affordable housing platform. The first is new production, which is new production of deeply affordable housing as a focus. The second one is retention of naturally occurring affordable housing. The third is homeownership and making sure that communities that have traditionally been left out have access to homeownership. And then the fourth piece is tenants’ rights and advocacy. So there're a number of different mechanisms there that we have the money going towards.
You're calling for the creation of six cultural districts throughout the city. What are these and what additional funding do you think they deserve?
We are creating these cultural districts, and by the way in many instances they've already been created. There are people—our black, indigenous, people of color and immigrant populations—that have made these corridors exceptional through entrepreneurship and great vision. We're making sure that they reap the benefit from the exceptional work that they've already done. So this is one of several tailored strategies that help ensure that communities of color benefit first from development and improvement in their communities, and then they can scale their ideas more quickly. And you know we've designated six of them as you've mentioned on West Broadway, Cedar, Central, East Lake, 38th Street and Franklin. And so we've got a good plan to move forward. We've been working with the council members to make sure that we're all on the same page as we move forward.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar attended your address yesterday. She is in the news after being banned from visiting Israel. You are Jewish—was Israel's decision the wrong one?
It was definitely the wrong decision. I mean even if there are disagreements, you don't hide from those disagreements. You allow people to enter the state, [to] enter the country. You show them the cultural assets and vitality that Israel has to offer. You can't just cut yourself off from the world like that [when] people disagree with you. So I strongly believe that Israel made the wrong decision, and I say that is as a Jewish man.