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Hodges focuses on racial and economic equity in State of City speech

The new Minneapolis mayor vows a more diverse police force and more economic opportunity for all.

Mayor Betsy Hodges
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
Mayor Betsy Hodges

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges focused on economic equity during her first State of the City address at the American Indian Center.

“While we are one great city, we are not a great city for everyone,” said Hodges citing a Metropolitan Council study that equal opportunity in her city and St. Paul would lift 274,000 people out of poverty, add 124,000 jobs, and increase personal income by $31.8 billion. 

“Growth that includes all of us will propel us further than doing what we have always done,” Hodges said. “Doing what we have always done will get us what we’ve always gotten. What we’ve gotten is growth that is thwarted by the biggest disparities in the country between white people and people of color.”

Hodges explained that she measures every issue she and her staff studied by asking three questions. Each initiative must make the city run well, move the city ahead on equality and make growth possible.

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She renewed her call to increase the city population by almost 30 percent adding 107,000 new residents to the current population of 390,000, even though forecasters say it will likely fall tens of thousand short of that.

Hodges also singled out agencies and personnel for praise.

“Our Police Department, with Janee Harteau at the helm, continues its strong work,” said Hodges, noting that violent crime is currently at the lowest level in the last three decades.

“To enhance that work, residents need to see police officers who reflect them and their communities,” said Hodges, adding that this year the Police Department is slated to hire nearly 100 new officers.

She also hit on one of her campaign themes, more attention to children from birth to kindergarten. She announced that Peggy Flanagan, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow, will co-chair the “Cradle-to-K Cabinet.”

Hodges also endorsed transit systems as a tool for creating jobs and economic growth, noting that the Central Corridor line connecting downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis has already generated an estimated $2 billion in new development.

She did not mention the Southwest Light Rail Line, which the city is currently studying. Minneapolis officials have so far withheld municipal consent over co-location of light and freight rail, and a disputed Chain of Lakes tunneling system.

The State of the City address is the mayor’s major policy statement for the year ahead.

“It certainly sent out a blueprint for our staff to be working on and our staff to be taking action on,” Council Member John Quincy said following the speech. “The Mayor’s role is to set the tone, set the message and direct our staff to work on those issues.”

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The next major address by the Mayor is scheduled for August when she will present the proposed 2015 budget.