About Mayor Hodges:
Betsy Hodges is the 47th mayor of Minneapolis. In her role as mayor, she focuses on three clear goals: running the city well, growing a great city and increasing equity. Her priorities are ensuring the city works well for everyone and that all people can contribute to - and benefit from - the growth and prosperity of Minneapolis.
Some of Mayor Hodges' initiatives include: her Cradle to K Cabinet, creating a Zero Waste Minneapolis, improving police-community relations and helping small businesses thrive.
Prior to becoming mayor in 2014, Betsy Hodges served on the Minneapolis City Council for eight years as the council member from Ward 13. On the Council, she served as chair of the Ways and Means/Budget Committee and the Intergovernmental Relations Committee. One of her major accomplishments was leading the fight to reform a broken closed-pension system that served neither the pensioners nor taxpayers well, which helped avert a $20-million increase in the property tax levy in 2012.
In her spare time, Mayor Hodges works on staying physically fit, writes, reads poetry and enjoys seasonal viewings of “Die Hard,” her favorite movie. She is known for her extensive collection of Wonder Woman memorabilia. She is an occasional karaoke singer with a very limited vocal range.
A Minnesota native, Mayor Hodges is married to Gary Cunningham, CEO and President of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association and a member of the Metropolitan Council. They have two children, four grandchildren and two cats.
On Racial Equity:
Mayor Hodges responded to our request for an interview and responded to our survey.
Click each question below to read her responses.
+ What are you most proud of having accomplished since January 2014 to advance racial equity in Minneapolis?
I am most proud of the entire DNA change that is taking place in the Minneapolis Police Department. Since Chief Harteau launched MPD 2.0 in February 2013 and I became mayor in January 2014, we are choosing to leading on every initiative that you would want a 21st-century police department to lead on.
First, we are building a department that looks like the community it serves. Our most successful strategy for doing that has been our Community Service Officer program, an alternative pathway for people of color to become officers. Ninety percent of the candidates for the upcoming class are people of color. Last year’s cohort was 61 percent people of color; the year before that, 40 percent. These results are very exciting signs that we are well on our way to building a police department that truly reflects the communities it serves. This strategy is working.
We have changed MPD policy to make the sanctity of life foremost, to emphasize and require de-escalation tactics whenever possible, and to require officers to intervene and report misconduct and excessive use of force. We have also just initiated a new policy to make sure that transgender people are treated with full respect, one that we developed in close consultation with the transgender community.
We are transforming training for police officers: all Minneapolis police officers now receive training in implicit bias, fair and impartial policing, procedural justice, crisis intervention, and de-escalation. Much of this work has happened on the recommendation of our community-based Police Conduct Oversight Commission.
We are building community. I have invested significant resources in community policing so that officers can build trust through building relationships and building community. As I said in my budget speech of August 2016, “community policing is about police officers building trust through building relationships. What this looks like is officers spending more time on calls, really getting to know people and communities, and building real relationships of familiarity, friendship, and trust. The measures of success of community policing are not officers’ making more arrests or writing more tickets. Rather, measures of success are officers’ abilities and track records of community engagement, including the numbers of positive contacts they make.”
We are building transparency. Officer-worn body cameras are now on every Minneapolis police officer: I ran for Mayor on a promise to make this happen, and it has. We are collaborating with the Center for Policing Equity to collect data by race for traffic, bike and other low-level stops, and to make this data public. We have created a new, public portal where people can track complaints against officers.
We are holding officers accountable when necessary. While there is no perfect civilian-review system, Minneapolis’ Office of Police Conduct Review and Police Conduct Review Panel are functioning as well as any in the country. As a result, the discipline recommended by this process that Chief Harteau has imposed is being consistently upheld in arbitration.
I have also undertaken several significant efforts in criminal-justice reform. For juveniles, I ensured that Minneapolis offers a continuum of responses to juveniles who become involved in low-level or status offenses. The continuum includes offering services to our young people and their families who may need support and guidance, knowing that fines and jail time often trigger a cycle of involvement in the criminal-justice system that we all want to avoid. For adults, I have advanced and funded a municipal criminal-justice reform agenda that includes a range of diversion and intervention programs. In addition, Minneapolis is actively participating in the Hennepin County Adult Detention Initiative. I remain committed to reducing the overuse of jails, which is also a priority of the City Attorney and the Police Department. We continue to work to implement changes that hold offenders appropriately accountable while reducing unnecessary harm.
I am especially proud that Minneapolis is one of six progressive police departments that are participating in the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, an initiative of President Obama’s Department of Justice. The National Initiative seeks to improve relationships and trust between the police department and community through focusing on three evidence-based areas: reconciliation, procedural justice, and implicit bias. This groundbreaking work is happening in only a handful of other cities and police departments. As part of this work, Chief Harteau is personally participating in empathy and healing work with community, which includes her apologizing for the historically negative impact the MPD has had in communities of color.
These are only highlights: there is much more happening at the Minneapolis Police Department than I have space to elaborate on here. I am proud of this body of work, which is amounting to a DNA change in the Police Department that is the foundation of the 21st-century police department that everyone in every community deserves. It is my goal that this change will transform the relationship between police and communities of color, where trust has long been frayed.
Some object to this approach. It provokes discomfort in others. I addressed both in this passage from my August 2016 budget speech (http://www.minneapolismn.gov/mayor/news/speeches/WCMSP-184838):
I know that there are those in the community who, rather than have us invest more in policing, even for community policing, instead want us to disinvest in the Police Department.
We need a police department. We are going to have a police department. What we get to have, however, is a 21st-century police department that is rooted in 21st-century policing, built on a foundation of trust and dedicated to transforming police-community relations. This investment in more officers for community policing goes hand in hand with the investments that I propose in enhancing public safety through community collaboration. Indeed, in order to be effective, these strategies require collaboration and true partnership with law enforcement.
I also acknowledge that we in Minneapolis have not always policed in accordance with these principles. I acknowledge that our policing has sometimes done harm and sown mistrust, particularly in communities of color. To acknowledge this is not to single out individual police officers. It is to say that for too long, we allowed a culture of policing to persist that sometimes caused harm. This culture hurt everyone, including police officers.
I also know that these conversations about police-community relations, race, and trust provoke discomfort – more specifically, provoke discomfort among white people. For us white people, these conversations feel stark, new, and raw. I posit that this discomfort – more specifically, the more equal distribution of the discomfort that people of color have disproportionately felt about policing for a long time – is a good sign that we are on track to transform systems and relationships that are in need of transformation, and that we are on track to do it together.
Let me also be clear: Minneapolis is leading the way in this conversation. I have talked to researchers, mayors, law enforcement, youth, and community members from around the country: they assure me that no other city in America is putting more resources on the line, changing more policy, and transforming itself more fundamentally than we are. In Minneapolis, one of our greatest strengths as a people is that we put aside our differences and our fears to come together for the common good. This is why I know that we can have these difficult conversations, feel this discomfort, and come together through it all to find solutions that benefit all of us. Yes, change is hard and yes, there is more to do. But we are sticking with it, for the good and the humanity of all of us. There is no going back.
+ How has the city’s adoption of a racial equity framework impacted both policy-making and the internal practices of the city enterprise?
One of my biggest responsibilities as mayor is putting forward a strong, responsible, and just budget. The budget is one of the most powerful tools a mayor and a city has for making social change. Since becoming mayor three years ago, I have used this tool to full advantage in order to apply a racial-equity lens to our direction as a City. The body of work that has resulted from my “One Minneapolis” vision and equity-focused budgets is as diverse as the departments that make up the enterprise of the City of Minneapolis. It amounts to in significant changes to how we do our work.
For example, I knew that the work of racial equity needed an institutional backbone in order to make a long-lasting impact. For this reason, I created the centralized Office of Equity and Inclusion in the City Coordinator’s Office in my 2015 budget. Its charge is to partner with and guide departments and community to build a results-driven infrastructure through which we can eliminate institutional racism and systemic barriers, institutionalize racial equity throughout our work, and ensure that outcomes and opportunities are no longer predictable by race, income, or zip code.
One of the key steps we took toward meeting this goal was to join the nationally-renowned Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) at the University of California, Berkeley in partnership with the Center for Social Inclusion. GARE has created a learning community of government officials and senior employees in order to continuously develop knowledge and skills around building and sustaining racial equity through municipal policies and practices. We have gained tremendous knowledge and support, as well as strong network of allies with whom we can partner for greater systemic impact, from our involvement with GARE. We have taken advantage of, and implemented, the wisdom of GARE leadership on multiple occasions. We are also working closely with GARE this year to develop a racial-equity action plan to guide our work in the years to come.
In addition, City departments have secured training and other professional-development resources to grow the capacity of their staff to talk about and reflect upon their work through a racial equity lens. City staff are learning to deeply engage all community voices in decision-making processes. We are also taking a hard look at our procurement processes to ensure we remove barriers for women and minority-owned businesses to do business with the City by making infrastructure changes internally and programmatic changes externally.
+ How have hiring practices changed to reflect a racial equity framework since January 2014?
The City of Minneapolis Department of Human Resources, led by Patience Ferguson, has been committed to centering racial equity throughout the entire recruitment, hiring, and retention process. I will share some of the highlights of changes to our hiring practices that are within a racial-equity framework, and some positive results that we have already achieved.
Hiring bias is a significant barrier many people of color face on the path to employment. To address this systemic barrier, applications are reviewed using a blind rating process and City hiring managers receive training to manage unconscious personal and institutional bias in the hiring process.
There has also been a shift in what qualifies as a “qualification” towards a broader definition that includes valuable work experience and skills that qualify candidates to become City employees. Additionally, we are taking steps to identify and remove systemic barriers in required qualifications for City positions. For most positions, the required qualifications can be met by education, experience, or a related combination of both. The City looks at the sum total of a candidate's experience and education, and consider that when evaluating applications. Cultural competency is now listed as a required job skill on all job announcements. Fluency in a second language most prevalent in our City’s communities is listed as a desirable qualification on all direct service-providing job announcements. Knowing that high-quality data is essential to drive culturally-appropriate policies and practices, HR has implemented a new applicant tracking system that facilitates a smoother and more accessible process to apply to City jobs. It also allows for a more inclusive and efficient process for screening applications.
Through the City’s Equal Employment Opportunity Plan, each City department has identified action plans to implement that will impact equal opportunity in hiring. A particular point of pride is the creation of a number of career pathways into City positions. For example, the Public Works Department created the “Public Works Service Worker Trainee” position, which enabled Public Works to maintain the important job requirements for a Service Worker while hiring and training individuals who did not initially meet the minimum qualifications for that position. This change resulted in a 23 percent increase of candidates of color, and in a 59 percent increase in people of color hired for the first cohort. Career pathways now also exist in the Information Technology and Fire Departments, as well as in MPD through the aforementioned Community Service Officer program.
Since 2014, the Human Resources department has hired a dedicated full-time recruiter that leads recruitment strategies and community outreach to ensure that open positions at the City receive more diverse applicant pools.
We are getting results from these concerted efforts. In 2014, 31% of all applicants were people of color, a number that rose to 35% in 2015 and to 42% by September 30, 2016. Similarly, in 2014, 26% of all new hires were people of color, a number that rose to 33% in 2015 and to 36% by September 30, 2016.
This progress has been made possible by many committed City employees and leaders who have relentlessly pushed back on the status quo to write and implement policies that move the dial.
+ How has the city engaged with its marginalized communities around important issues and decision-making?
We often talk about engagement, but we need to go much further: I want to talk about organizing as our model. I have let the senior leadership of the City know that I no longer want to hear or talk about "community engagement plans" that are just about tabling and having meetings in public buildings. Instead, I want to know how we are going to go out and talk to people. I want to hear about doorknocking. I want to hear more about Creative CityMaking (http://www.minneapolismn.gov/cped/heritage/WCMS1P-099112), a terrific initiative that sends artists to meet and connect with people where they are, not where we want them to be. I want to hear about how we can utilize all of the tools available to us to organize around systemic change. Being at events and having public meetings is important to do, but if that is the beginning and the end of a plan to get feedback and input from the community, it's not enough and it’s unacceptable to me.
I am putting resources behind this principle in my 2017 budget proposal: I have proposed $500,000 and technical assistance to work with the community so they can have a say in the collaborative, community-based strategies they would like to pursue to enhance public safety. This means that the City will provide the money and be at the table as a partner, but the solutions will be devised and driven by community.
This strategy is born of one of the ways we've engaged: listening. Community involvement is essential in creating a city that works for everyone, but regardless of how many times I have invited them, there are people who will not sit down with me. There have been times when I've been standing on a stage and have been surrounded by people who have refused an invitation to meet and are shouting at me instead. At those times, I have realized that this might be the only conversation that I get to have with them — so I should listen closely. In those moments, one of the things I've heard loud and clear is that people want to be directly involved in shaping public-safety strategies. I took what I could from those conversations — even if they were as fraught as being surrounded and yelled at on a stage — and did my best to write policy about that. It was a different kind of input than would have been provided if my offer to sit down and meet had been accepted, but it was input nonetheless that I listened to and used.
Additionally, the City’s community-oriented Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) department has adopted a multi-year, equitable-engagement strategy for the City of Minneapolis to connect with community around important issues. This department does the work required to build a sustainable infrastructure of authentic community engagement and implement culturally-appropriate community-engagement practices.
Currently, seven full-time NCR staff members are embedded in marginalized communities to develop relationships, bring forth community issues and concerns, and integrate community into City policies, services, and decision-making. The City of Minneapolis has modified our engagement practices to include and prioritize listening sessions with diverse and often marginalized communities. The listening sessions are designed to meet the community where it is, provide the appropriate cultural context and communication, and to provide language services as needed.
NCR also gets out into the community for community dialogues that are intended to create opportunities for City staff to directly connect with cultural communities on topical issues in a small and intimate setting, so that they may be informed about community issues and priorities and better develop strategies to achieve common goals.
NCR also works with community partners to connect with community. For example, the City partners with Nexus Community Partners to provide training for people of color to serve on the City’s Advisory Boards and Commissions through the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). The BCLI also hosts the “Mi Ciudad, La Raza” radio show, which is a City weekly radio show for residents to learn about City services, programs, and key information in Spanish. The BCLI work has significantly diversified the pool of candidates for the City’s appointed boards and commissions.
Marginalized communities are also engaged through the Latino Engagement Task Force, Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association, and the American Indian Memorandum of Understanding.
Another example of success is the creation of a Workplace Partnership Group that had intentionally diverse representation of low-wage workers and business owners. This group held hearings across Minneapolis that hundreds of people attended, and made recommendations that the City Council and I used to enact the Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance.
+ Has the city adopted policies that have had a negative impact on racial equity? Are there opportunities to advance racial equity that the city has missed?
I’ve taken the liberty of consolidating these two related questions.
On the question of negative impacts, a narrow majority of the City Council did vote to strip some investments in racial equity that I had made in the 2015 budget. I appreciated that community members and advocates did organize to support those investments. As a result, other racial-equity investments that I made stayed in the 2015 budget, such as the Office of Equity and Inclusion I spoke about above, and have been producing good results since then.
The question about missed opportunities is, for us at the City, largely a question about constraints on our action — and we face many. First, Minneapolis, like any city, faces budgetary constraints. It is simply a reality that the need to invest in safety, infrastructure, public health, and other core services and the need to invest in community, sustainability, the arts, and other equity initiatives all compete for a limited pool of dollars. All the investments in our city’s many needs must match our revenues, and must be balanced against managing the impacts on property taxes. This is true regardless of whether our elected leaders are united behind a full racial-equity agenda or not.
We are also constrained at the City because we do not control all the governmental levers that contribute to implementing a comprehensive racial-equity agenda. The Park Board runs Minneapolis parks and the Park Police, not the City of Minneapolis. The Board of Education runs Minneapolis Public Schools, not the City of Minneapolis. Hennepin County administers human services, and the Hennepin County Sheriff runs the jail, not the City of Minneapolis. The Metropolitan Council operates our transit system and the Transit Police, not the City of Minneapolis. This bears repeating because it is not always fully understood.
We are also constrained by the State of Minnesota. Previous governors and the Legislature have in the past made dramatic cuts to our Local Government Aid, which has led to both cuts in service and increases in property taxes. Moreover, state law limits the areas in which cities, including ones like Minneapolis with their own charters, can take action independently. In addition, Minneapolis in particular is often a special political target at the Legislature, which means that much of our engagement with the Legislature is defensive.
It is also worth noting that the project of working on racial equity at the City of Minneapolis is still a new one, for both elected officials and advocates. A majority of Council members are in their first terms. The advocate community is also still learning how to engage effectively with the City and elected leaders over racial equity, including with the elected officials, like me, who were elected on a racial-equity platform. As we learn to work together, we may miss opportunities, but we must also celebrate our progress when we make it.
+ What do you see as the greatest challenges around racial equity in Minneapolis and how do you as a leader work to address these challenges?
Since before I became Mayor, and consistently since I have been Mayor, I have been steadfast in saying that one of the biggest challenges around racial-equity work in Minneapolis is to effectively manage through white resistance. People do not have to have prejudice in their hearts to not like change and to resist it.
I have spoken about this many times. Here is how I addressed it in my most recent State of the City speech in May 2016 (http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/mayor/news/speeches/WCMSP-180227):
The history of race would have us white folks believe that the issues we face as a city — disparities in education and employment, rifts between the police and the community, opportunity for young people — are issues of and about people of color. The history of race often leaves us white people thinking that this isn’t about us.
As a result, when I speak about it — today, or any other day — it is a challenge to speak of it in a way where we white people can see we are in this picture, that this is about us, too.
It is about us. Race and racism is a system that we are part of, like it or not. To carry on in the face of a world set up so differently for us than for people of color, at some level we have had to shut down our awareness of that difference. As a result we are less present to our own humanness, we are less connected to the real web of interconnections that bind us all to each other, and we are diminished as a result. The price of our continued participation will be our children’s futures, and their children’s futures.
Racial equity work is very charged, especially for white people. Historically, the conditioned cultural and bureaucratic instinct has been for people to withdraw from the interaction or to drag their feet to resist change. We now know that this is what perpetuates the status quo and grinds racial equity work nearly to a halt.
One of the ways in which I keep racial equity moving forward despite white resistance and bureaucratic inertia is by appointing leaders at the City who are equipped with the skills to manage through resistance to change, particularly those who can manage through the specially charged nature of racial-equity work.
At the current moment, the senior leadership of the City, all of whom I have appointed or reappointed, is both as diverse in race and gender as it has ever been, and as dedicated to the work of racial equity as it has ever been. In addition, I have made a point of applying the same principles to hiring staff in my own office: we are half people of color, nearly half women, and diverse in sexual orientation and gender expression, and we are working with allies inside and outside City government to infuse equitable practices throughout our entire operations as a City. I hold very high expectations for change and I interrupt the foot-dragging where I can in order to move the dial on equity more rapidly.
+ What are the barriers to this change (political will, public will, business community, etc.)?
Significant barriers are at play in trying to move the dial on racial equity. One of the barriers is that most white people cannot comprehend how racial equity also benefits them. In my 2015 State of the Speech, I invited white people to consider how equity affects the future of all of us (http://minneapolismn.gov/mayor/news/speeches/2015StateoftheCity):
At the beginning of this speech I talked about addressing climate change as foundational to our success as a city. I invite us all to view our city’s gaps between white people and people of color in the same framework, to consider that our current level of inequity jeopardizes our common future and prosperity.
Our common future depends on our ability to sustain a strong economy and strong community. Our common future depends on having a population that is healthy, housed, educated, and contributing to the economy. Our common future depends on no life outcomes being determined by race, class, or zip code. Our common future depends on all of our genius being on the table.
No one escapes the impact of an undereducated workforce. No one escapes the impact of resources poured into social services for preventable conditions. No one escapes mistrust in our institutions of public safety. All of us will prosper when all of us have the opportunity to prosper.
We can leave no genius on the table.
Equity is the future.
Political will is required to make this argument regularly and consistently, and to put actual resources behind it. Racial equity upsets the status quo — and because the status quo is perfectly set up to get the results that it has always gotten, we will continue to get those same results, and not the ones we actually want, unless the political will to move racial equity forward is intentional, focused, and united. Unity, however, is currently lacking: the equity agenda is not shared by all City Council members. While several Council members were elected on racial equity, others remain skeptical of or resistant to the principle that equity is the core business of the City. As a result, moving equity initiatives forward, even seemingly small ones, can be contentious and difficult.
Another barrier is the attention that media, the community, and political leaders often pay to conflict rather than progress. In politics and in governing, we tend to focus on conflict, to who has staked out what side against whom, to who is winning and who is losing. To the extent that conflict and tension are built into our political and governance systems, this is normal. But if conflict and tension are all we focus on, we miss opportunities to celebrate the progress we have made and encourage those — whether community members or elected — who are working to make it. As we move forward, I invite all of us to keep our progress in focus.
On a more personal level, I believe one of the most significant barriers in Minneapolis is that almost the entire leadership of the City of Minneapolis is women and the sexist frame that is used on the leadership we provide is hindering our ability to make progress on equity. I do not mean just myself as Mayor, the Council President, the Council Vice President, the Police Chief, the Public Works director, and the City Attorney. I also mean the Park Board Superintendent, the past and current presidents of the Park Board, the School Board chair, and the head of the regional labor federation. All of us are women. The fact that the good work we are all doing is being framed through a lens of sexism and through the assumptions that we cannot bring leadership to public safety, or that we cannot be the heads of organizations, is hindering our ability to get the work done. Even within the progressive movement, there are many who cannot hear the message that we bring and see the successes we are achieving as women leaders, precisely because we are women leaders.
+ What would you like to communicate to your colleagues at the City?
That the equity agenda is the City’s agenda. Their constituents — all of them — will be better in a city where we have achieved it. They have nothing to lose but potential separation from their neighbors who can’t or won’t get it.
+ What do you need from the community to advance racial equity in Minneapolis?
What I ask for is an assumption of good will, and a willingness to engage in conversations about how to pull the levers of City government to advance a racial-equity agenda. Before stepping into elected office, I was a community advocate and organizer. I ran for office so that I could access an additional set of levers to pull. I’ve been governing for nearly 12 years now: I have knowledge to bring to the table about how to get things done. My invitation remains open to anyone who wants to fight to win and fight for progress: let’s sit down and figure out how we can move our agenda forward together.
Please take the time to review my 2017 budget proposal (see http://www.minneapolismn.gov/mayor/news/WCMSP-184859, http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/documents/webcontent/wcmsp-186559.pdf, or http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/finance/budget/WCMSP-184999). In it, I support the many vital investments in racial equity that are currently in motion at the City of Minneapolis, and others to continue to move this work forward. Please contact my office: my staff and I are happy to answer questions, hear feedback, and engage in dialogues about specific items. I cannot emphasize enough how important the items in this budget proposal are for the sustainability of the crucial racial-equity work at the City of Minneapolis. Please support and organize around these investments, especially around community-based policing.
Thus far, my time as mayor has been devoted to amassing the resources necessary to permanently disrupt the status quo of inequity in systems within and supported by the City of Minneapolis. This is how we can move the dial for real and for good. I ask the community to engage in this process so that community voice is clearly heard. In addition to the budget process, there are lots of other ways to get involved. We ask for folks to consider joining a City board, committee, or commission, or to apply for City jobs that lead to careers with opportunities for growth and professional success.
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