The Occupy Wall Street protests, which have raised important questions about economic equity, are spreading around the country, including Minneapolis tomorrow. Before it starts, I want to make a few points:
- In Minneapolis we have strong opinions, but we also know how to respect each other. We respect the right of people to freely express themselves and we respect the right of people to go about their business without being interrupted.
- We appreciate that local organizers are reaching out to the City. They have met with members of my staff and the Police Department, including Chief Tim Dolan, among other departments. This is a helpful connection that is helping us all understand how we can respect everyone’s rights.
- I don’t know how it will go, but I fully understand why people are angry right now about economic equity. Our economy is especially unequal for people of color, who have slipped further in this recession, and young people, who are coming out of school with too much debt and not enough jobs.
I talked about this last month in my budget speech: while middle-class and working families are still struggling to recover (when they’re not still falling behind), those at the very top are concentrating their wealth in ways that are nothing short of alarming for our economy, our society and our democracy.
We aren’t going to solve all the issues of the global economy in Minneapolis, but we have to do what we can to close the gaps and level the playing field.
- We need to keep investing in our Employment and Training network, which has trained thousands of hard-to-employ people and placed them in jobs.
- We need to keep investing in the Minneapolis Promise, which has included placing 16,000 young people in quality summer jobs since 2004. About 80% these young people are people are color and many of them are now finishing college and getting into good jobs. The Minneapolis Promise, which also involves Career Centers in all our high schools and help on college tuition, is creating a fairer, more equitable economic future for Minneapolis, one young person at a time.
- We need to know that this work, and all the work we have done to attack the foreclosure crisis and rebuild North Minneapolis, isn’t enough. That’s why in next year’s budget, I have added more money for a new effort called One Minneapolis, which will pull together all our efforts with others in the community to attack the gaps that still exist.
Since Minneapolis can’t fix these problems alone, more of us have to get more active in efforts in our state and country.
I strongly support Governor Dayton’s values as he makes the case that those at the very top need to pay a bit more to help us invest in better schools and jobs.
I strongly support President Obama’s values as he makes the case that those who have benefited the most need to invest more to deliver an American Jobs Act that will create tens of thousands of jobs in Minnesota in rebuilding schools, infrastructure and much more.
Most importantly, at a time when so many people are hurting, and we wonder about our economic future, we all have to get up off the sidelines and help bring more fairness back to our state and country. We may not all agree with what we hear, but the good news is that more and more people are unwilling to silently watch the inequity get worse.