Members of the Minneapolis City Council have verbally sparred with each other during tense exchanges on the dais at times this year, however, the tone during this year’s budget mark-up of the mayor’s proposed 2024 budget was mostly cooperative and at times jovial.
Before she ended Friday’s meeting, council Budget Committee chair Emily Koski pointed out that nearly all of the amendments passed unanimously. She also noted that the council kept 99 percent of the items proposed by mayor Frey and just “moved around $30 million.”
“This is not about what we’re most divided on; this is where we come together,” Koski said. “This has just been an amazing experience of collaboration, communication and I think it really shows you how the city council can come together and make sure that we’re making investments in our communities that not only are you going to see, but you’re going to feel.”
The council worked through four dozen amendments to the budget in a process that began Thursday morning and wrapped up Friday afternoon. However, the committee left one amendment to be taken up on Tuesday just a few hours before the full council is scheduled to vote on the budget as amended at an evening meeting.
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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has five days to act on the budget after it passes. Frey said he hasn’t had time to go through all the provisions, but that he’s “optimistic.”
He noted the “record-setting investments in public housing,” agreement with the parks on water quality, expansion of the city’s Behavioral Crisis Unit and expanded funding for affordable housing.
“So much of this work is a lot like a marathon,’ Frey said. “It’s tough, you get bruised along the way, portions of it certainly don’t tickle, but when you look back at the work that happened, it’s impressive and it will help constituents in our city.”
The amendments amounted to more than $30 million, including technical amendments and amendments requested by the mayor. Much of the council’s focus was on public safety, and specifically alternatives to armed police. A $3 million proposal to hire unarmed “ambassadors” to patrol some of the city’s neighborhoods passed unanimously.
Much of the funding for new proposals came from $19 million in state public safety aid. But Frey and members of his cabinet warned the council before the vote that some of the amendments shifting resources from departments like human resources could damage the city’s ability to get day-to-day business done.
In many cases, Frey and the council were able to compromise. The funding source for a proposal to fund and hire domestic violence navigators by Koski was adjusted after the mayor expressed opposition.
The mayor said in committee that instead of relying on human resources department funding, it will now come from open civilian positions at the Minneapolis Police Department, which will be backfilled by some of the $19 million in state public safety aid at the city’s disposal.
Council Member Lisa Goodman, who will leave office at the end of this term, said people are often too focused on disagreements on the council, rather than the vast majority of things they agree on.
“What I’ve learned from many years of being on the city council is that government and politics is the art of compromise,” Goodman said. “I just feel really good as I’m leaving that we have this strong group of leaders with Mayor Frey as well as a whole bunch of new, diverse young women and men who understand that to get to unanimity, we need to work together.”
Another $4 million in state public safety aid would be set aside to fund unspecified pilot programs at the city’s planned Community Safety Center in the 3rd Precinct. The council has already approved the purchase and renovation of a building at 2633 Minnehaha Avenue that will serve as both a police precinct and a headquarters for the city’s community safety efforts.
Council members also allocated $500,000 towards the creation of an interim safety center in the city’s 3rd Precinct while the new building is renovated. They said the center will be a place where residents can file police reports, get information about public safety and engage with both police and non-police public safety personnel.
Council Member Robin Wonsley represents part of the area covering the precinct and said she wanted to be sure that the Community Safety Center that’s planned for the area was actually funded and that the process was led by residents.
“Residents of the 3rd Precinct have been asking the city to talk to us, ‘Here are our ideas, the varieties of proposals that we would like to see go into a safety center in the 3rd Precinct boundary,’ and making sure it doesn’t just represent the outdated model of policing that led to George Floyd in the first place,” Wonsley said.
Frey said the Office of Community Safety’s priority is to implement the recommendations in the Safe and Thriving Communities report.
“Regardless of the amount of money that’s been invested for some of these other aspects, that’s the priority,” Frey said. “Not all this they’re going to be able to get done.”
Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw authored a provision that would set aside $1.4 million in state aid for incentives to keep and recruit 911 operators.
Council members also chose to spend $750,000 of the state aid to fund Warehouse District Live programming to reduce violence in downtown, $600,000 to provide resources to residents and business owners in areas of south and north Minneapolis that experience high rates of gun violence and funding for community safety on Lake Street and in Elliot Park.
The council also focused on programs serving the city’s most vulnerable residents, including the creation of a hate crime prevention program, funding of a refugee and immigrant support program and $2 million in raises for some of the city’s lowest-paid employees.
They allocated funding for opioid response, renter relocation assistance and the Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) program, which helps provide care for people who get in legal trouble due to untreated mental health, homelessness or poverty.
Transportation and livability were other priorities for council members. They passed $250,000 in funding for the city’s popular Open Streets festivals, $400,000 for traffic calming and $600,000 for sidewalk snow removal pilot projects.
The council also set aside $5.4 million of state public safety funds for the council’s future use.