Minneapolis mayor speaks at mosque to reassure Muslims she stands with them
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges gave a wide-ranging State of the City speech Tuesday at a mosque in north Minneapolis, covering everything from Nicollet Mall and President Donald Trump to affordable housing and workforce development.
Running for re-election in November, Hodges said the city must embrace the discomfort of transformation, a theme of her campaign, and work tirelessly to create “One Minneapolis” that “works for everyone,” and where everyone contributes to making the city work for everyone else.
She invoked the metaphor of the seed, breaking apart to make way for new life, to describe what’s happening in Minnesota’s largest city.
“Minneapolis, our shell is cracked. And from that will come the full flower of our potential, whatever we are destined to be,” Hodges said. “To some, who can only see this moment, it may indeed look like complete destruction. In reality, it is transformation.”
In the mayoral campaign, Hodges faces several competitors, including DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Council Member Jacob Frey, Tom Hoch and Aswar Rahman.
She made a point of giving the annual speech at Masjid An-Nur (Mosque of the Light) at 1729 Lyndale Av. N., in an effort to reassure the city’s Muslim community that she and the city stand with them despite the antagonism of Muslims by the Trump administration.
Unlike past State of the City speeches, Hodges’ address wasn’t an official City Council meeting, after officials determined it would be best to avoid First Amendment concerns over holding city proceedings at a place of worship. Still, seven of 13 council members attended the speech, along with about 125 others who removed their shoes before entering the place of worship.
Standing on a podium in white ankle socks, Hodges spoke for 45 minutes, ticking off initiatives and accomplishments.
“The state of our city is strong. We are growing,” she said. “We are increasingly known for what is great about us and for the strong, creative ways we are tackling our biggest challenges.”
Each of the past five years, more than $1 billion in construction has been permitted in the city, and “the cranes are still rising.” The city has added about 5,300 private sector jobs each of the past three years, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
On Nicollet Mall, which is still under construction, Hodges said that while patience is running thin, “the finish line is actually in sight” for a transformation that “will be good for all of us.”
Speaking less than a mile from the spot where a man was shot to death in a car on West Broadway the night before, Hodges spoke at length on public safety.
“Gun violence in any and all parts of our city must end, and can end,” Hodges said, but building trust between police and residents is of central importance to her.
She said all officers responding to 911 calls are now wearing body cameras. Residents along West Broadway and in Little Earth are designing public safety strategies for themselves with the help of $500,000 in city funding, a project Hodges cited as “a daring, first-of-its-kind effort” to build trust.
“We can only have true public safety with public trust,” she said.
Hodges repeated her commitment to resist Trump and stand in the way of his “attack and unfairly targeted policy” against Muslims.
“When Donald Trump comes after any part of our community, he’ll find 419,000 Minneapolitans and me standing squarely in his way,” she said. “That’s the kind of wall I can support.”
The mayor called for land-use policies that encourage density in order to maintain housing affordability, asked the city to join the global battle against climate change, lauded the city’s “civically engaged, forward-thinking corporate leadership,” and said it’s important for the city to help ensure businesses have the workforce they need.
“To be more than just a great city, to be a new city: shining as a beacon brightly enough to show our nation and the world that when we come together as a people, in government and in community, it is possible to be transformed,” she said.
Dehn, one of Hodges’ chief challengers in November’s city elections and a Northsider himself, said he was glad Hodges delivered her speech from Masjid An-Nur. But he said she was “justifying change as progress,” and needs to listen better and change course.
“We need to acknowledge that many of our approaches are wrong,” Dehn said. “When the people most harmed by systemic inequity are opposed to the created solutions, we need a better, more inclusive approach that invites communities affected and co-creates remedies.”
Levy-Pounds said she found places to agree with Hodges when it comes to public safety, but she thought the speech missed the mark.
“I thought it was excessively lengthy and somewhat convoluted and it really just rehashed a lot of what we’ve been hearing from Betsy over the last year, but doesn’t really get to the root of what needs to happen to move us forward,” Levy-Pounds said. “It reads more like a manifesto for why we should re-elect Betsy Hodges, as opposed to a living, breathing document that inspires hope in the future of our city and what we can become.”
Hoch and Frey declined to respond to Hodges’ speech. The DFL’s citywide convention, at which delegates will try to endorse one of the candidates for mayor, is July 8. The election is Nov. 7.
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