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Mayor Frey lays out 2023 priorities on public safety, economy

Minneapolis still faces a number of challenges this year, including the looming DOJ investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.

MINNEAPOLIS — Under the new strong-mayor system in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey has more influence over city government during his second term than any mayor in recent memory. On Wednesday afternoon, he sat down with KARE 11's Danny Spewak to discuss priorities for 2023, the status of various investigations into the Minneapolis Police Department, and his vision for the economy and affordable housing.

Below is a transcript of that conversation, with some light edits for clarification.

FREY: The new government structure is what has allowed us to really plan ahead like we never have before. For the first time, we're able to set up the priorities right at the beginning of the year, direct staff out on those priorities, control some of the programming and direction we go, and ultimately it's going to have a positive result for our constituents because we're going to have well-thought-out, more efficient government that quite simply makes people's lives a little bit better. 

We've laid out five priorities, recognizing that you can do a whole lot of things mediocre, or you can prioritize, and do a few things really well. So the priorities are: 1) Public safety and police accountability 2) Affordable housing 3) Economic inclusion and the recovery following the global pandemic 4) Climate 5) Government structure — providing more efficient and better services to the people that need them.

Q: Starting with the first one, what's happening with Operation Endeavor? Do you plan to continue that through the winter into the spring?

FREY: Obviously, there have been some major successes coming out of Operation Endeavor. While there are many reasons for increases in crime and many causes of a decrease in crime, Operation Endeavor has been really effective. And over those last several months, of 2022, we saw crime go down 20 and 30 percent. Sixty-four percent for carjackings. We're making some really significant progress. 

Obviously, I'm going to listen to the experts, our Commissioner of Public Safety and our Chief of Police in Brian O'Hara, and I have a feeling that what's going to happen is some of the parts of Operation Endeavor that have worked really well, can kind of be baked in going forward. And then we'll continue to evolve and learn from what we're experiencing. But the bottom line is, we are moving in the right direction right now. Crime is going down; we need it to go down further. We're going to keep our nose to the grindstone here because we've got a whole lot of work left to do.

Q: You've still got the two investigations and the consent decrees that are coming. Do you have an update on where that stands?

FREY: We do. We've got a consent decree with the federal government coming down the pike, as well as the agreement with MDHR (Minnesota Department of Human Rights). And, what this is about is not just passing a policy. We've passed tons of policies, tons of reform items. It's making sure the culture shift that we need to see, happens. It's making sure those policies are actually carried out in full. 

And, it's both holding officers accountable when they need to be held accountable, and uplifting the community-minded officers that are doing a really good job for our city. It's recognizing all of those things at the same time, and the work is going to be extensive. It will be ongoing for years, probably, and we're not quitting.

Q: During the budget process, you and the chief were concerned about having enough money to pay for those consent decrees. Does the budget, as it stands right now, give you the tools you need to implement that change?

FREY: Probably not. The truth is, we're going to need personnel to be able to do this work really well, to be able to carry out major endeavors like the consent decree. We're gonna need more people to be able to get that done.

Q: On to affordable housing. Rent control has been in the news. And a lot of people are worried about rising rents across the country. What are you doing to make sure people have a place to live in this city?

FREY: Right now, we are producing five times the amount of deeply affordable, low-income housing that we used to see, on an annual basis. We're putting up five times the unit of low-income, deeply affordable housing. We need to do even more. Because we know people in our city, in our state, do not have that safe place to go home to at the end of the night. We need to provide that foundation for which people can rise. Our investments are clearly making a difference. If you look at our numbers, we're making significant progress and we need to go even further. 

That's what this is about. It's about doubling down on low-income, deeply affordable housing even further. It's going further on Stable Homes Stable Schools, which has provided over 3,300 kids in our Minneapolis Public School system a place to live. You get a kid a place to live, hopefully within a certain radius of their school, that makes all the difference for that kid and makes a big difference for that school. If we can roll that program out for more schools, helping more kids, that benefits the whole city. So that's the direction we're going on there. 

And we want to do more around public housing. We have a significant public housing stock in the city that has a whole lot of deferred maintenance. That's something we need to step up and help on because deferred maintenance ain't going away. It's just getting more expensive.

Q: On a similar topic, there's been a lot of talk lately in north Minneapolis about the Aldi that closed... What is your administration doing to make sure that the Northside, economically, does not get left out?

FREY: On that particular issue, we just met with our internal staff, plus the owner of the building yesterday. We're going to have a really aggressive plan to get a grocer back in that space. Can I tell you any names at this point? No, I can't... I'm not going to overpromise here and underdeliver, but, look, the Northside has long been a food desert where people do not have access to fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and things you should have access to. We take this very seriously and we're going to be working hard to get a new grocer in there.

Q: Getting back to policing and public safety, how are (recruitment) efforts going and how confident are you that can get to a point where this force has enough people on it?

FREY: We need more police officers. I've said that regardless of who I am talking to. We need to make sure they're both valued and appreciated, that we're holding them accountable but also uplifting them when they're doing good work. Yeah, of course, we need to pay police officers more — that's something that I think is undeniable. They've been doing a very tough job.

We're going to make sure they have the right incentives to come in, both in terms of working for great leadership in our chief and our commissioner, that's making sure they've got wellness baked into everything they're doing. It's a tough job and we want to make sure that they are the best versions of self. And, we're going to run a really aggressive recruitment campaign. There has been money placed in the budget to be pushing this message out, not just that you can enter this department and that you can enter this noble profession and be the change in Minneapolis that we need to see, but also more broadly nationwide. This is work we think is important and we're going to make sure we put our money and our time and efforts where our mouth is.

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