Mayor Frey’s 2020 Budget Falls Short, Locks Out Community
In what can only be described as deeply ironic, Mayor Frey stated at one point during his mayoral budget address yesterday “We know that Black, Indigenous, Immigrant, People of Color were locked out of opportunities...” A line that was delivered to a room full of community members, largely of color, that the city had intended to keep locked out of the budget hearing. Over 80% of the seating in the room had been reserved for city employees, who were largely not present, with only 15 chairs reserved for the public.
The tone of the room was already tense before Frey had a chance to make an appearance. At one point, noticing a city clerk laughing at the public’s indignation at having been shut out of the room, Irma Burns — mother of Minneapolis citizen Jamar Clark who was killed by police in 2015 — burst into tears, shouting “We’ve lost our loved one’s in this community and y’all’s laughing! It’s not a joke!” Highlighting the pain and frustration felt by many at the city’s ongoing treatment of minority communities.
These palpable tensions reflect the broader tone of city government’s relationship with the community coming into the 2020 budget session. After years of back to back shootings by police, demands for fewer officers and better community driven solutions for safety have gotten louder and more pressing. Despite community demands, Mayor Frey proposed a budget that would fund the Minneapolis Police Department’s hiring of 14 additional sworn officers. This proposal stands in stark contrast to the budget proposed by Mayor Carter of neighboring St. Paul, which reduces the number of sworn officers by five.
Mayor Frey continued delivering his speech over the protests of the community members in the gallery, apparently determined not to break stride despite the clear disapproval being voiced by those in attendance. At one point, Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins announced a recess and asked security to clear the room. When it became apparent that no one was going to move, Frey continued his remarks without waiting for Jenkins to call the session back to order.
Another moment of irony in Mayor Frey’s speech came when he stated that minorities are a central priority in the 2020 budget. The room erupted into a call and response chant of “Jamar Clark” that drowned out the mayor. Again, a plainly exasperated Jenkins attempted to have security clear the room to no avail. It’s hard to see how a budget that increases police presence in direct opposition to the demands of the minority community can be seen to make them a central priority.
Reclaim The Block lays out a clear argument for prioritizing funding away from police: “When we continuously allocate enormous amounts of money to police at the expense of other departments, programs, and proven safety initiatives, we prevent ourselves from forging a smarter path to safety.” Their demands, paired with that of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, lay out an entirely different vision for Minneapolis than that of Mayor Frey.
One moment in the mayor’s speech did manage to please the crowd, however, when he announced plans for a $500,000 investment in Village Financial Cooperative, a black-owned financial group that has been steadily growing in North Minneapolis. Village, which has managed to collect over 1,900 pledged members so far, describes itself as a Black-led Credit Union coming to North Minneapolis with a mission to “pave a way towards prosperity for all people.”
Despite the few crumbs thrown to communities of color in the mayor’s 2020 budget proposal, it’s clear that the document will not meet community demands, and over-all represents policies from an era it’s high time we leave behind. Minneapolis has an opportunity to reach for a smarter path into the future as we enter the next decade, the question remains whether the city government will see fit to grasp it.