Replay:Minneapolis Mayor Rybak’s Final State Of City Address

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak delivered his final State of the City address on Wednesday by not looking back, but ahead. He pretended that the year was 2025 and touted the results of investing in mass transit, education and encouraging immigrants to live in the city.

Rybak has decided not to run for another term, setting off a scramble among Minneapolis Democrats to win the DFL party endorsement.

Prepared text of Mayor Rybak’s speech and our live blog of this event.

Welcome to Minneapolis’ 2025 State of the City address, my 24th and final State of the City.

Thank you to Olga Viso and her staff for welcoming me back to the place where I gave my 2013 State of the City 12 years ago.

I want t jump right into the controversy that has, rightfully, attracted so much attention these last few months:

As you know, the issue is where, and how fast, we build a third Northside high school. Patrick Henry and North High are bursting at the seams, in large part because they are at the top of every national ranking. It’s clear that first generation of students who grew up in the Northside Achievement Zone have achieved even beyond our dreams. But Henry and North are also full because of simple math: more people are living in North Minneapolis than we could have imagined a decade ago.

Why are so many families living in North Minneapolis? We started planting the seeds for the population explosion a decade and a half ago. First, we dramatically lowered crime, especially among young people. Our decade-long strategy of moving cops out of cars and onto the street helped us build deep partnerships with neighbors. That was even more effective because — through aggressive recruiting efforts — our police force now finally looks like our city.

Second, we reclaimed neighborhoods that had been devastated by the Great Recession more than a decade ago. During that terrible time, we executed an aggressive strategy to prevent foreclosures and reinvest tens of millions of dollars. We got homes out of the hands of absentee owners and used creative homeownership programs like CityLiving and Minneapolis Advantage to reposition North Minneapolis as one of the most desirable communities and best housing bargains in the metro area.

This work helped keep residents in the neighborhood and brought in new families, who told others, who in turn added tens of millions in new private equity.

Green Homes North brought in the 100 families that bought the houses but also spurred hundreds of others to build nearby with their own funds. This includes the well-paid, green-construction workers who built the Green Homes.

No one can forget that just as we were starting to recover from the Great Recession, which hit the Northside harder than any other part of town, we were rocked with a devastating tornado. Yes, it set us back, but it also steeled our resolve to rebuild an even better Northside.

All that tornado devastation along Penn Avenue inspired us to partner with Hennepin County to create Penn Parkway, that grand boulevard, with walking and bike trails and state-of-the-art bus service to the Bottineau LRT stop on Olson Highway.

In 2012, we started planting flowering trees along Penn and across the Northside, and never let up. Now every spring, tourists from across the Midwest come to North Minneapolis on the anniversary of the tornado when hundreds of flowering trees are at their peak. It’s a beautiful reminder of this remarkable part of town’s fighting spirit of renewal.

The housing boom along Penn was soon followed with another along the Northern Greenway. Once we connected 26th Avenue North across the river to 18th Avenue Northeast on the railroad bridge north of Broadway, we had a greenway that dramatically reshaped the northern half of Minneapolis just as the Midtown Greenway reshaped south Minneapolis.

And just like Midtown, where the population explosion from 2012–2020 created so much new property value that we built the Midtown Streetcar, the housing boom in North Minneapolis continues to fuel the explosion in ridership on our North Washington/West Broadway streetcar.

And Nicollet–Central, the streetcar that started it all, set off a similar boom in Northeast. I especially like to ride the streetcar at evening rush hour when all the employees in the Shoreham Yards Brewing District leave their shifts by the hundreds and spread out to the restaurants and galleries along Central and into downtown.

The Nicollet Central streetcar also set off a development boom along Eat Street to Lake. It’s really an extraordinary experience to ride the streetcar across the Greenway right through the back of what used to be the old K-Mart.

Closing Nicollet was one of the worst planning blunders in Minneapolis history, and reopening it has been one of the best. Now this is one of our hottest neighborhoods, where car-free residents can also take a streetcar down the Midtown Greenway or Bus Rapid Transit from the station on 35W at Lake.

Twelve years ago, few thought that someday a couple living near Powderhorn Park could walk to that 35W transit stop, with one taking bus rapid transit to their job at Best Buy headquarters, and the other a streetcar down Nicollet to their job at Target headquarters. It used to be a dream. Now it happens every day.

Transit has transformed our city. Because 60 percent of the downtown workforce uses transit, our traffic didn’t get worse when Target added their third tower.

I love that new Target tower, and it has a great view of the always active Peavey Plaza on the southern gateway of Nicollet Green. (Remember when we used to call our main street “Nicollet Mall”? Sounds like something out of the classic show “Mad Men.”)

Nicollet Green, of course, is now widely admired as one of the world’s great urban boulevards. Sidewalk cafes and boutique retail come together with office workers, condo residents and bikers in a 10-block urban park that delivers on our vision of connecting the Chain of Lakes to the central riverfront.

The Nicollet–Central streetcar fits perfectly: East Bank condo residents ride to work across the Hennepin Avenue bridge while visitors leave the updated Convention Center and decide whether to have dinner on Eat Street or a drink at Nye’s — or both.

We also want to thank Hennepin County for their innovative partnership that took previously unused steam from the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center to heat the sidewalks and planters on Nicollet Green. On the coldest days of winter, people can comfortably walk down the street.

As we said when we started this effort back in 2013, Minneapolis, a city in the center of a park, now has a park in the center of the city.

Nicollet Green, which emerged from that inspirational 2013 design competition, is one of many green parts of downtown envisioned in the Downtown Council’s 2025 plan. Every downtown street now has more trees and our center city is filled with pocket parks, including the mobile pop-up green zones that we move around the city every day.

Armory Yard, connecting City Hall to the stadium, is just as influential. It has spawned a slew of copycats around the world, but no other public space anywhere has this level of four-season activity: a skate park with half-pipe shaped like a Viking ship, ropes courses that challenge scout troops and kids’ birthday parties, a soccer and lacrosse field, a dog park, croquet pitch, concerts and outdoor movies, ice skating in summer, and snowboarding on mounds that grow each time we plow the streets.

Thousands of housing units have been built near The Yard in the Armory District on what only a decade ago was a bland sea of surface parking lots.

This demand for housing has of course been fueled by the availability of jobs. You can see that in the old Grain Exchange, now known worldwide as the “Brain Exchange.” A building that once housed grain traders who turned Minneapolis into the World’s Milling Capital now houses entrepreneurs who are leading Minneapolis into dominance in high tech, green chemistry and green building materials. Innovators move easily and quickly on bikes and LRT between the Exchange and the University.

Minneapolis is growing. Our population has hit 450,000, and is on track to top half a million by 2040, if not sooner.

We have been able to grow without sacrificing the livability of our strong single-family neighborhoods because we have spent 15 years focused on growing in key areas along transit corridors. I especially want to single out the West Bank, now the critical link between downtown and the U, and the Southwest Corridorstop in the Market District, around the 12-month-a-year Central Farmer’s Market.

We did all this work in order to make Minneapolis more livable, prosperous and sustainable. It turns out this work was more necessary than we could have imagined as many northern cities accommodate growth beyond projections.

Last week’s Census Bureau Report showed in stark numbers that climate change has set off a mass movement from the coasts. Today, Minneapolis is a leader in combating climate change, in adapting to it and accommodating all the people moving here because of it.

With more people in our city, we have been able to keep property taxes down.

Fifteen years ago, all the core services needed in our 60 square miles were paid for by fewer than 400,000 people; but today, those same costs are shared by 450,000 people. In short, more people cost us all less. And the building boom and rising property values in our expanded downtown has shifted more of the burden off neighborhoods.

The other reason we have been able to keep property taxes down is what for the last decade we have called the “Era of Stable Budgets.” Though it now feels like a long time ago, you may remember that during the first 15 years of this century, we tackled one seemingly intractable financial crisis after another — debt, pensions, stadiums — finally knocking off a big one in 2013 when we helped the Legislature reform the State/City fiscal partnership called Local Government Aid.

It’s important to not only note how many people we have, but how different we are now. There is no longer any racial group that dominates our city. Minneapolis has become what used to be called a “majority–minority” city — but today, of course, we just call that “America.”

The waves of immigrants and refugees from East and West Africa, Southwest Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world have slowed because, thankfully, we are no longer a planet torn apart by war and economic injustice. The generations of children that came during those years are adults, contributing and raising families their own. They are joined by African American and Native American youth who once suffered the greatest educational disparities in our schools, gaps that we have closed.

Together, we call them the STEP-UP Generation, the first wave of youth of color that we brought into the workforce through America’s most successful and longest-running summer-jobs program, which started right here in Minneapolis and is now widely imitated nation-wide. They have stepped up into leadership of every company, nonprofit and government office in our city.

The STEP-UP Generation has helped not only themselves, but transformed our whole community into what is now recognized as one of the world’s great global cities. Their language and cultural skills are now being taught to our students in all of schools and to adults in community centers across Minneapolis.

More than two decades ago, Minneapolis faced a critical decision in the wake of 9/11. While many states and cities used that crisis to erect barriers to immigrants, this community built a new Minneapolis where everyone belongs. It was the right thing to do — and it was very, very good for our city’s bottom line. Today, so many years later, cities that shut immigrants out can’t recruit or grow export businesses, while Minneapolis dominates across the globe.

This was told so well in the recent story on the front page of the Economist’s website: “How Minneapolis beat China to become Africa’s best friend.”


At this point it’s probably important to reassure you that I haven’t lost my marbles. I know it’s not 2025.

But I began this way because I thought it would be more interesting to talk about the next 12 years than to get all nostalgic about the last 12. More important, almost everything I just talked about as our vision of the future is dependent on actions that we need to take this year.

If we are to build the Minneapolis in 2025 that I laid out here, we need to work hard in four areas this year:

· Running the City Well;
· Growing the City: More People, More Jobs; Every Person, Every Place;
· Strengthening the Common Ground;
· Building a Path for the Next Generation.

2013 State of the City: Run the City Well

The first thing we need to do this year is what we’ve done for the past decade: focus on the two pillars of running the city well: managing the public’s money well, and making sure every part of Minneapolis is a safe place to call home.

Start with the money.

We should be proud that we are on entering an “era of stable budgets” because we spent more than a decade making tough decisions.

· We paid down $241 million of debt, cut spending — down 16 percent after inflation compared to 2002 — eliminated business lines, merged departments, and partnered with our employees to save healthcare costs without sacrificing quality.
· Against great political odds, we reformed the broken closed-pension system that had unfairly drained millions from taxpayers. This took great political courage, especially from Council Members Betsy Hodges, Elizabeth Glidden and Council President Barbara Johnson.
· We saved taxpayers $5 million a year because we passed a stadium funding package that got Target Center off the property tax rolls.

Had we not taken these steps, property taxes would be 35 percent higher today than they currently are.

Our last great challenge is the broken relationship with State of Minnesota, which from 2002 to 2013 cut a whopping $455 million in Local Government Aid to Minneapolis. This means Minneapolis property-tax payers are picking up a much greater share of our basic city functions.

· In 2003, LGA supplied 40% of General Fund revenue — but in 2013, LGA supplies just 17% of General Fund revenue.
· In 2003, property taxes supplied 29% of General Fund revenue — but in 2013, property taxes supply 45% of General Fund revenue.

Now the good news: Governor Dayton has proposed finally ending the roller-coaster of Local Government Aid cuts. The City Council and I strongly support Governor Dayton’s plan and we will put the full weight our lobbying efforts behind it this session.

The second pillar of running the city well is making Minneapolis a Safe Place to Call Home.

In the past three decades, there was only one year when violent crime was lower than last year: the year before.

This is the result of hard work by our police and our community.

· Our partnership with neighborhoods like Phillips and Ventura Village has led to dramatic declines in violent crime at hot spots.
· Our police have become national leaders in “predictive policing,” using data to head off crime before it occurs.
· And inspirational community leaders have set a national example by partnering with the City for six straight years on our ongoing youth-violence prevention efforts that have to a 59 percent drop in youth involved in violent crime.

Chief Harteau knows that neighborhoods are only truly safe if neighbors and police work closely together. She will continue to get officers out of cars and onto streets where they can build lasting partnerships with the people they serve.

We know also that our department must look like the city that it protects and serves. We are proud that for the first time ever, more than 20 percent of Minneapolis police officers are people of color. This is an important milestone, but nearly 40 percent of Minneapolis residents are now people of color. Chief Harteau and I will continue to aggressively recruit new officers who reflect the community.

A great way to start is our Police Explorers program, which pairs young people with mentoring officers to introduce them to police work and give back to the community. Please welcome one young cadet, Mohamud Jama who grew up in the city and is now in college. I look forward to the day you are sworn into the force, Mohamud.

Serious public safety challenges remain, especially gun violence. Our police are doing a lot but this state and national crisis needs state and national partners:

· We were honored to host President Obama in Minneapolis in February to highlight our success in reducing gun violence.
· We are building on the success of our Midwest Gun Summit in January to increase our cooperation across law enforcement agencies.
· I will also be in Chicago Monday to compare strategies for reducing gun violence with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and with the Joyce Foundation, a national leader in this effort.

We cannot give up this fight. Our nation is gripped by an epidemic of gun violence, and there are far too many illegal guns in our city. We have heard plenty of excuses not to act, but having stood with far too many grieving families for far too long, I say there is no excuse for our Legislature and our Congress to do nothing.

A final word about our police officers. Near the beginning of my time as mayor, we lost Officer Melissa Schmidt, a wonderful officer whose horrible death reminded us how dangerous this job can be.

Last September 27, our officers again put themselves in the line of danger when they responded to the mass murder at Accent Signage. They entered a building with a shooter they thought was at large; they saw horrible things but kept going. But as John Souter lay badly wounded on the floor, thinking he might be dying, he looked up and saw a uniform that read “Minneapolis Police,” and knew he was safe.

John Souter is here today. So is Sami Rahamim, son of Accent founder Reuven Rahamim. Please join them in a big thank-you to our brave police and firefighters.

And join me in promising John, Sami and so many others that we will not stop fighting for a safer city, state and country.

We will keep running the city well. We will also:

2013 State of the City: Grow the City: More people, more jobs — every person, every place

By 2025, we want 450,000 people to live in Minneapolis — about 65,000 more than today. We want to do that without disrupting the character of our strong single-family-home neighborhoods, and without putting a single additional car on the street.

This isn’t a fantasy. In fact the Minneapolis of the future sounds a like the Minneapolis of the past. Minneapolis in 1950 had 130,000 more people than today, and there were far fewer cars on the road because dense urban neighborhoods fanned out in every direction along streetcar lines.

We can dramatically grow our population, which in turn will improve services and lower property-tax burdens for everyone.

We aren’t just waiting for growth to happen. We have a plan to get to the 450,000 residents that we want by 2025. We aren’t planning to tear down a bunch of single family homes for towers. We will grow along targeted transits corridors to make it possible to live in Minneapolis without a car. We want to focus growth:

· Along Central Corridor, on the West Bank and in Prospect Park, where the Cornerstone Group is planning an innovative, mixed-income, mixed-use development project.

· Along the Hiawatha Corridor at the VA Hospital, at 38th St and at Lake Street, where a new mixed-use project will have a permanent home for the Midtown Farmers Market.

· At Lake and Nicollet, where Council Members Lilligren, Tuthill and Glidden join me in trying to finally reopen Nicollet Avenue.

· In the Market District; between the Farmer’s Market and International Market Square around the planned stop on the Southwest LRT line.

If we bring all these people to Minneapolis, we must grow jobs, businesses and housing for them — and must attack disparities in all three areas.

Growing jobs

The motto of our Community Planning and Economic Development Department is “Grow a sustainable city: more people, more jobs.”

To that very clear motto, I would add the following: “Every person, every place.” That means we must eliminate the economic gaps that divide our neighborhoods and our communities — and in particular, the gap between white and African American unemployment, which is the largest of America’s top 50 cities. We are number one on a lot of lists, but this is a list that we must get off of.

We didn’t just wake up to this problem. Although most cities aren’t actively involved in direct job training, we are, and you can expect my last budget to be just like every one of my budgets: we will continue to invest in putting people to work.

Since 2002, we have placed nearly 14,000 hard-to-employ and dislocated workers into good jobs. And in 2012, the trainees in our adult program were 81 percent people of color.

The City has continues to fund the RENEW program, which started with Obama stimulus dollars. RENEW takes people who have been hard to employ and trains them for specialized, high-paying, green jobs — and in 2012, our RENEW trainees were 93 percent people of color.

We also have two remarkable opportunities to get hundreds of Minneapolis residents who have been left behind working in good jobs: on the new stadium and the renovation of Target Center. Our construction workforce goals for these major projects are 32 percent people of color and 6 percent women. We have strong contracting goals as well: 9 percent minority-owned and 11 percent women-owned.

Yes, these are very aggressive targets. But I stood last year with Council President Johnson and Council member Samuels to deliver a very clear message to the State: We will only be involved in this project if there is a rock-solid commitment to put people of color to work. We’ve done that before on big projects like Midtown Exchange, we have set aggressive goals for the stadium and Target Center, and we will meet them. Period.

In addition, we have an exciting new initiative with Minnesota’s Makers Coalition, which includes companies like J.W.Hulme leather goods and AirTex home textiles. The demand for these high-quality, Minnesota-made products is now so strong that the companies are desperate to hire industrial sewers. Minneapolis is helping fund training scholarships for students in Dunwoody’s first sewing class, who will have high-paying jobs the day they graduate.

Today, I am also proposing a new tool in our toolbox to eliminate employment disparities. “Grow North” aims to attract new anchor employers specifically to North Minneapolis, by making available new and existing recruitment tools for businesses that:

· Bring at least 75 jobs to North Minneapolis;
· Offer a significant number of jobs to Northside residents, and
· Pursue a high level of green construction.

Growing businesses

To meet our needs in 2025, we need to grow more jobs for every person and every neighborhood. We also need to grow more businesses, particularly small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Since 2002, the city has made 702 loans to Minneapolis businesses, for a total investment of $43 million. That leveraged $238 million more private investment and created or retained 6,526 jobs.

We invested another $9 million in commercial corridors through our Great Streets program, which leveraged another $64 million in private dollars.

We know when to help — and we also know when to get out of the way. Like:

· Eliminating restrictions on beer sales. We now have six new taprooms and an explosion in the business and culture of beer in Minneapolis
· Eliminating restrictions has led to 57 new food trucks in Minneapolis, with some now bricks-and-mortar restaurants as well.
· Eliminating restrictions on something as arcane as spacing requirements for second-hand goods has led to a doubling in the number of licenses issued.

Just as in employment, we need to eliminate disparities in business ownership. Our new Small Business Technical Assistance Program helps local non-profit business consulting organizations deliver a wide variety of technical assistance to people who want to grow their business in Minneapolis. We expect to serve 650 business owners and entrepreneurs in 2013 alone, and because the majority of the organizations that we’re partnering with are deeply rooted in communities of color, a very large number of the people we serve are entrepreneurs of color.

Growing housing

To meet our needs in 2025, we need to more grow more people, jobs and businesses — for every person in every place. We also need to grow more housing.

We know by 2030, the population of people aged 65 and older in our region will more than double.

This is why CPED is proposing a new Senior Citizen Housing Initiative that aims to build one senior-housing project of at least 35 units in each city ward between now and 2028. I see this as particularly helpful in spurring new development in areas like Camden, Standish Erickson and South Lyndale.

In housing, just like jobs and business ownership, we must close disparities, particularly in North Minneapolis. We will keep fighting: preventing foreclosures when we can, and reinvesting in our housing stock to reposition neighborhoods.

The worst of the foreclosure crisis, while still devastating, is past; now, North Minneapolis is now clearly the best housing value in the metro area. Now that we have brought down crime rates, more people are going to discover how much they can get for their money by moving to North Minneapolis.

Housing is a primarily private market, but it is clear that left to its own devices, the market will not close the Northside housing gap fast enough. We need intentional, aggressive stimulus to build confidence with both new buyers and existing homeowners who will invest more in their property if they know they aren’t alone.

That was what was behind the Green Homes North announcement I made in last year’s State of the City speech. This initiative will build 100 new green homes on City-owned vacant lots in North Minneapolis in the next five years. We are on track to build our first 13 homes this year.

Green Homes North provides buyers newly constructed homes on City-owned vacant lots in North Minneapolis, which are built to high standards for energy-efficient green design. It also:

· Raises the value of every other home on surrounding blocks, helping the families get out from under water, raising the tax base and creating wealth for everyone.
· Spurs private development of green homes in North Minneapolis — a demand that the Hawthorne Eco-Village proves already exists.
· Develops the green workforce and grows the green-product and -service industry.

I also want to reiterate the City’s support for another effort to close disparities in housing: the Homeowner Bill of Rights. Currently at the Legislature, it is a common-sense measure that would end the harmful practice of dual tracking.

A city on the move means more people, more jobs, every person, every place. We will grow by 65,000 people, and we can do it without adding one more car on our streets. In fact, we must — because a city on the move can’t be stuck in traffic. This is why growing the city goes hand in hand with …

Strengthening the Common Ground

Specifically, “strengthening the common ground” that helps us live full lives without being chained to our cars. This will only become more important as my parents’ generation — which defined “freedom” as being able to get in a car and go where ever you want — with my children’s generation — which increasingly defines “freedom” as being able to go where ever you want without getting in a car.

First, let’s look at the progress we have already made.

· Hiawatha LRT is an undeniable success.
· We are a year away from finally opening our second LRT line on the Central Corridor.
· Southwest and Bottineau LRT are in the planning process.

When those four LRT lines are built, we will be done building the LRT lines that can come to downtown.

Fortunately, Minneapolis has been planning for alternatives to LRT so we can keep growing our transit system.

The Marq2 project dramatically reshaped bus service downtown. Marquette and 2nd Avenues, which used to be congested and chaotic during rush hour, now serve fast-moving express buses to the suburbs. Ridership is on Marq2 buses alone is 25 percent higher, now rivaling daily ridership on the Hiawatha LRT,

Marq2 is a major reason why 40 percent of downtown employees come to work on transit. Let’s keep growing bus rapid transit by focusing now on building a station on 35W at Lake St.

Now our most important focus is to build modern streetcars, starting on Nicollet Central. Our competitor cities — Dallas, Portland, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, and Seattle — are well ahead of us, showing that modern streetcars get people out of cars and spur millions in new development. I will do everything possible to deliver a financing plan for Nicollet–Central that this council can pass before the end of the year.

Even after we build streetcars and LRT, about 90 percent of transit routes in Minneapolis are served by buses, and we need to keep upgrading service on them. Penn Avenue through North Minneapolis is a great place to show how great bus service can be when it is connected to a broader, greener vision. We will work with Hennepin County and the Met Council to integrate upgraded bus service, including faster, higher-quality buses and real-time signage in updated bus shelters, to our vision for Penn Avenue.

All this can only happen if we have stable transit funding. That’s why it is imperative that the Legislature pass Governor Dayton’s proposal to fund a comprehensive, metro-wide transit system through the sales tax, as so many other peer, competitor cities like Denver, Seattle and even Cleveland have done successfully. This bold plan, authored by Minneapolis Senator Scott Dibble and Representative Frank Hornstein, is essential to Minneapolis’ future and I will do everything I can to help it pass.

While we continue to implement our vision for transit, we will also continue making Minneapolis America’s best bike city. And this year is going to be a great year for connections across the river.

· We are connecting north and northeast with a bike treatment to the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. Now let’s go upriver and get the right to add bike lanes to the railroad bridge just north of Broadway. That key step will bring together bike planning along 26th Avenue in north Minneapolis and 18th Avenue in Northeast. More importantly, it will show people our vision for a Northern Greenway to mirror the transformational Midtown Greenway.
· We will also add two key connections between the U and downtown: One along a more bike-friendly 10th Av. Bridge and the other on Bluff Street, which will allow a biker to ride from 2nd St. downtown, under the 35W bridge, into Dinkytown and connect to the University trail to the St. Paul campus. That’s how I’m getting to the State Fair.

The Minneapolis of 2025 can be — and I believe will be — a safe, well-run, vibrant city on the move that has finally rid itself of economic disparities. But only if we …

Build a Path for the Next Generation

The year 2025 is 12 years away. Most kids born this year will be in 6th grade. Today’s first graders will be graduating from high school. The 9th graders I talk to this fall about their careers will have been out of high school for nine years. Those who go on to higher education will have graduated five years earlier. Young people who graduate this year will well into of their careers.

By 2025, we will know whether Minneapolis’ next generation will be successful, or we will know whether another generation of Minneapolis will accept a shocking achievement gap that should never have been seen as acceptable.

Of the top 20 metropolitan areas in the country, Minneapolis–Saint Paul has the largest academic achievement gap. We are: DEAD. LAST. Our achievement gap means children of different races in our city have different futures. We would be outraged if we heard about this in another place and we should be even more outraged that it happens in our hometown. It is a social-justice issue. It is a civil-rights issue. It is an issue that is central to our economic future. And it may get worse.

Consider this: Our planners tell us that if we get the growth we want — if our population grows by 65,000 people between now and 2025, that growth will be almost exclusively among people of color. That is also the part of the population — African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos — that is suffering from the greatest disparities in academic achievement. So if we don’t take dramatic action, the achievement gap we should find totally unacceptable today will be dramatically bigger in 2025.

This is a crisis and we have to act like it. When the 35W bridge collapsed, we didn’t spend a few decades admiring the problem and another few decades having polite conversations about a few things we might want to do. But that’s what we have been doing for far too long with the collapse of the future of some of our kids.

There is absolutely nothing in the City Charter that gives the Mayor or this Council responsibility for the children of Minneapolis — but I’m proud that none of us acted that way. We have made major investments of our time and money in helping our kids. As a city and a community, we have:

· Brought down teenage pregnancy rates by 47 percent.
· Brought down the number of youth involved in violent crime by 59 percent.
· Brought down the number of children with elevated lead levels by 73 percent.

We helped lobby successfully for a $28-million Promise Neighborhoods grant from the Obama Administration for the Northside Achievement Zone. Our budgets have also funded the Youth Coordinating Board’s work coordinating out-of-school time.

It is very clear to me that the most significant factors that contribute to the achievement gap happen outside of school — poverty, public and mental health, family success, segregation, discrimination. But it is also an inescapable fact that our schools are not as successful as they must be in closing these gaps. Every elected official, every community leader, everyone in this room and everyone who cares about the future of Minneapolis must be willing to plunge into the challenging issues and politics of making our schools better.

I will continue to support Superintendent Johnson’s goals:

· High-quality teachers and principals in every school building. The single most important school-related factor in student success is the quality of the classroom teacher. We have to do more to place the very best teachers in schools with the most academically challenged students, do more to reward teachers and principals who are effective, and do more to remove those who aren’t.
· More high-quality instructional time, and more high-quality out-of-school time. Minneapolis has historically had one of the shortest school days and school years in the state and nation. This past school year we added four additional days to the school year. This is a start, but we need more.

Improving academic performance for every child in every school presents a significant challenge, but let’s remember that our community has tackled tough issues involving kids before, and succeeded. That has been the case with our work preventing youth violence. And no city in America is doing a better job creating summer jobs and career paths than we are with STEP-UP. Since 2004, we have placed 16,000 youth in high-quality summer jobs, and we are on track to place another 1,900 this summer.

And talk about closing gaps: our STEP-UP youth are 86 percent people of color, 50 percent from immigrant families and 93 percent from households living in poverty. Simply put, STEP-UP is a key strategy for closing both our racial economic gaps and our racial achievement gaps.

To illustrate why STEP-UP is so important allow me to finish today by stepping back into character as Mayor in 2025.


2025 State of the City: Conclusion

As you know, 2025 marks my last State of the City Address. As I’ve said for many years, the best thing this city has done since I got here is STEP-UP, and I felt that even more strongly after last month’s meeting of the STEP-UP Alumni Association.

That Alumni Association had its first meeting in 2014, when nearly all of the 18,000 alums showed up, almost immediately outgrowing the newly renovated Target Center. Today there are 45,000 STEP-UP alums, and within the decade, we will outgrow the football stadium.

Step Up has produced some of the Minnesota’s greatest leaders: General Mills CEO Miles Swammi, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Mariam DeMello, and, of course, Hashim Yonis, the new, democratically-elected president of the peaceful, prosperous nation of Somalia.

Aggressively working the stadium at the most recent meeting were four other alums: Kafia Ahmed, Jerrell Tate, Mohamed Jama and Miguel Sotombo. They have two things in common: they were all were STEP-UP interns in my office, and all of them are running for mayor.

As you can imagine, I will not be taking sides in the 2025 mayoral race. But I know when I look into their eyes that while I may no longer be leading the city, Minneapolis’ future is in very good hands.


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