11/18/14 Email: Proposed budget investment: running the city well
 
Dear Friend,
 
Earlier this month I shared details with you about my proposed budget investments in health and sustainability.These investments allow us to move the dial on our growth as a city and our effort to reduce disparities.
 
The foundation of creating a city that people choose to invest in, that has the ability for growth, is a city that runs well. Our basic city services are important to everyone, which is why it’s crucial that the city runs well for all people. My budget delivers on my goals of growth and equity, and it also delivers on my goals for running the city well. 
 
Corner Clearing
 
One of the most basic aspects of running the city well is keeping our streets and sidewalks clear. Caring for our streets is a four-season job. We plow the streets in the winter, sweep them in the fall, fill potholes in the spring, and work on road construction in the summer.
 
In addition to plowing the snow off our streets, my budget also proposes more resources for enforcing sidewalk clearing in winter, and for the first time adds resources for clearing corners and bikeways of snow. As plows clear the snow from the streets, they often result in mounds of snow that can block bus stops, street corners, and other busy pedestrian areas. My budget will allow staff to spend more time clearing those areas, in addition to clearing protected bikeways.
 
Downtown Activation
 
Running the city well means smart investments in our neighborhoods and economy. In Minneapolis our downtown is a strength we must continue to build upon. Downtown is growing, with a residential population above 35,000, and as it grows toward 70,000, we need innovative ways to ensure businesses and street life grow with it. My budget continues past investments in our partnership with the Downtown Council.
 
As we continue to wisely invest in our neighborhoods city-wide, the partnership we have with our downtown business community continues to reap dividends for Minneapolis residents and our region-wide visitors, whether through the $25 million private contribution to the re-envisioning of Nicollet Mall, the work being done to create the new commons in Downtown East, or the Downtown Improvement District (DID). The DID, funded by downtown property owners, has proven an unabashed success since its inception in 2008, making downtown safer, cleaner, and more friendly. Now, the Downtown Council is moving forward with new innovations, aimed at providing year-round programming to provide a compelling experience to downtown residents and visitors, including a reimagined Holidazzle Village that should help us embrace winter as a strength. 
 
Community engagement
 
As I mentioned, the city must run well for everyone. Part of that depends on ensuring everyone can participate in the city’s work. To begin, my budget includes an additional position in our elections and voter services, to ensure that we pursue voter outreach, engagement and education initiatives across all communities.
 
To engage everyone, we need to reach everyone. My budget also includes an investment in our Communications Department to boost collaboration with non-English-language media outlets and the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department.
 
Equity outcomes at the City
 
To ensure that the city runs well for everyone, we must begin with our own internal practices. Equity work is ongoing at the City of Minneapolis – I have been convening the Racial Equity Policy Work Group to guide work already underway at the city, including revising our hiring and procurement practices and engagement systems, and providing tools for city leaders to help them better integrate equity considerations into key decisions. 
 
We need to ensure we’re supporting these efforts at the top departmental level. My budget proposes investments in this work with two new positions in the City Coordinator’s office that will focus exclusively on making sure our city work supports the best possible equity outcomes in every department and every division.
 
Arts
 
I know that for Minneapolis to be a thriving, growing city, our arts and our creative culture are key components to our success. My 2015 budget includes funding for new initiatives such as Creative City Making, the completion of a Creative City Index, and funding for a Creative Economy Study and Report. The arts and our creative economy are important to me personally and for the city’s future. These initiatives will support the expansion of the arts in the City in addition to funding for public arts.
 
However, there is the impression that I have ceased supporting public art. Recently, I explained this decision in detail – I invite you to read the full explanation here.
 
Simply put, the City has only utilized a small chunk of the bonding made available to the public art program from previous years. The currently available funding is sufficient to provide for any needed resources through 2015, and likely into 2016 when additional funding is planned to be added to the program. There is a limit to how many bonds the city can issue in any given year. If we authorize but don’t issue bonds this year, we are foregoing other opportunities for public investments that are paid for with bonds, including streets and bridges.
 
Tax Policy
 
We are in a position to make investments today in running the city well, growth, and equity because of efforts in past years to be efficient during the recession and because of our efforts to reform our closed pension funds. We made smart – and tough – decisions, adopting levy increases over and above inflation, while making significant service cuts in the bargain.
 
In recent years, we held the levy flat or below inflation. It was the right thing to do, but it’s important to note that no levy increase at all is a cut to services. Growth to the property-tax base does not inherently mean growth for the City’s coffers. We must increase the amount of money we raise in property taxes to meet this year’s inflation costs, and to make the investments voters asked us to make.
 
For 2015, I have proposed a 2.4% levy increase. Over half of this proposed increase is simply to account for inflation. Even with this modest increase in the property-tax levy, approximately half of Minneapolis’ residential properties will no increase, or will even see a decrease, in the City portion of their property taxes.
 
Something in it for all of us
 
Basic city services are important to everyone. Ensuring that the city runs well for all people is crucial, as is our ability to continue running well as we grow our population. My budget provides investments in all three of these goals – growth, running the city well, and equity.
 
Budgets are not merely a way of indicating our priorities, though they are that. Rather, budgets are a fine-grained, detailed way to show the community that we meant what we said. Budgets are where our money meets our values. The decisions we make about it set the course for our future together as a people.
 
I want to thank all who attended the public meeting on the budget last week, in addition to Council Members John Quincy, Linea Palmisano, and Elizabeth Glidden for co-sponsoring that meeting with me. If you were unable to attend the meeting, please note there are two upcoming public hearings at City Hall, tonight and on December 10. You can find details on those public hearings, as well as submit comment to the public record, here: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/finance/budget/.
 
Sincerely,
Mayor Betsy Hodges
City of Minneapolis

Last updated Nov 18, 2014

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