On Thursday members of the Minneapolis City Council discussed and approved the use of millions of dollars to support public safety initiatives in 2024 that will rely on unarmed civilians in busy corridors of the city.
That effort was one of nearly two dozen amendments which came before the council as they offered amendments to the mayor’s proposed $1.8 billion 2024 budget. The process will continue Friday, as members consider the rest of the total 48 proposed amendments to the budget.
The changes passed on Thursday include a $2 million pilot program to hire unarmed safety ambassadors to patrol parts of the city’s seven designated as cultural districts, as well as areas like Dinkytown, East Hennepin and Uptown.
“The anticipated value of this pilot program will be delivered through increased capacity for the city’s Cultural Districts; coordinated service delivery; highly visible, unarmed, friendly safety presence; reduced calls for service to Minneapolis Police Department; and increased livability along the corridors,” according to the proposal.
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Council Member Elliott Payne told Commissioner of Community Safety Todd Barnette that it’s going to require buy-in from all parts of the city’s government to transform public safety in Minneapolis.
“We’ve been through so much, the murder of George Floyd was so heartbreaking and so traumatic for all of us,” Payne said. “We’ve all been transformed by that life experience, and I’m here to work through it, and make sure that this is the city that the entire world looks to when it comes to what it means to keep each other safe.”
Barnette said he’s enthusiastic about the council and mayor’s commitment to community safety, but that he doesn’t know that the department has the resources and staffing to fully implement the amendment this year.
In a letter to council members earlier this week, Frey said “there are amendments I agree with, some I can live with, and others that I am adamantly opposed to.”
Frey spoke to council members on Thursday afternoon about his position on proposals from the council that reallocate funding from the city’s human resources department, where he said employees are already understaffed and overworked.
“This is not a political thing here,” Frey said. “It makes our city run better. It makes our city run smoothly.”
On an amendment to fund domestic violence navigators, Frey said he’d be willing to make the positions permanent if the council found a different source of funding. Those amendments were delayed until Friday while council members explored other sources of funding.
Other amendments passed on Thursday include $500,000 in funding for an interim safety center in the city’s 3rd Precinct. There hasn’t been a precinct in the neighborhood since the city abandoned the 3rd Precinct building on Lake Street which burned during unrest following George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer in the summer of 2020.
The amendment’s authors said it will be a place for residents to file police reports, get information about city programs and engage with both police and non-police public safety personnel.
The council also allocated $200,000 to a hate crime prevention program that will offer resources to both houses of worship and secular centers that face hate crimes, more staffing for immigration and refugee support, $1.4 million for a 911 operator recruitment program and $750,000 for the Warehouse District Live programming aiming to keep violence lower in downtown.
Other proposals that passed council include $400,000 for traffic calming, $4 million to fund public safety pilot programs in the 3rd Precinct after residents are consulted and $2 million to boost pay among the city’s lowest-paid workers.
The council resumes its work on Friday morning, with an aim of passing a budget by mid-December. Among the amendments still pending are ones to fund the city’s Open Streets festivals, a sidewalk snow and ice removal pilot and job training for residents in the area around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed.
The mayor will have the ability to veto the entire budget passed by the council but can’t veto individual amendments to his proposed budget.