Hennepin County Board Chair Mike Opat called these “bleak times” for all public institutions in Minnesota — but especially for those with many low-income residents — in his State of the County speech Thursday.
“The good news is that we have been preparing for it,” he said. “The state of Hennepin County is challenged, but not imperiled. We must cope with a painful condition, but not shrink from our obligations to carry out core programs, manage our affairs prudently, and continue to lead and innovate in new ways and new directions.”
And Opat offered three new initiatives:
- A framework for the county to award up to $2 million each year in capital grants for youth activities in Hennepin, as part of the ballpark project.
- An Urban Lakes Initiative that would address the water quality of badly impaired lakes in the county’s inner-ring suburbs. Opat cited recent water-quality tests that gave either a “D” or “F” to 25 lakes in the county, and proposed partnering with cities and water management groups to seek grants and make major improvements.
- A crime lab workgroup that would examine crime lab services in the county. A group of public safety experts would study options for combining the crime lab services of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Minneapolis Police Department and make recommendations this fall to the Hennepin County Board.
He mentioned the new Twins ballpark, too, which the county is funding with a new 0.15 percent sales and use tax.
“I am proud that we are building this important public amenity at a time when jobs are crucial,” he said. “It’s the first of many investments on the new edge of downtown Minneapolis, and will pay many dividends into the future.”