[HPN] Mayor tells it as she sees it!
Fri, 11 Feb 2000 13:57:10 -0500
Star Tribune Newspaper
Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton declared Thursday that she is
troubled" to be presiding over a city in which "horrific" levels of
educational failure and poverty among people of color coexist with
increasing prosperity for many.
Delivering her seventh annual State of the City address to an overflow
audience at Plymouth Congregational Church in south Minneapolis, she began
with a series of upbeat congratulations for a host of successes, describing
1999 as "a great year for Minneapolis."
But then she turned somber.
"I am deeply troubled by the continuing disparity between our booming
economy and the levels of poverty continuing to grip communities of color,"
"Our city has the highest rate of poverty for people of color amongst the
most populous metropolitan areas in the country, and while unemployment in
Minneapolis overall is at an all-time low, unemployment in communities of
color hovers between 14 and 45 percent.
"This is absolutely unacceptable!"
As for the news this week that 40 percent of the American Indian seniors in
the Minneapolis schools and 45 percent of black seniors have yet to pass
state's basic skills test needed for a diploma, she said:
"This is horrific! If these young people can't master basic reading and
skills and graduate, their path to successful adulthood is threatened, and
many of them will fall down."
In an informal session with City Council members earlier this week,
Minneapolis Superintendent Carol Johnson described the same figures as
"devastating" and "scary," though the district does expect a good many of
the students to pass in the next few months.
The mayor depicted the city as one in which some people are doing
beautifully while others, such as those in need of affordable housing, are
experiencing a crisis, with shelters overflowing.
Downtown Minneapolis is in the midst of a $2 billion building boom, she
said, which will draw 34,000 more workers there to eat and shop and which
will yield nearly $8 million annually in taxes. Housing development on the
riverfront "is so hot it's sizzling," she said, with nearly $20 million
worth of projects underway or done even before the Guthrie Theater's
proposed relocation there.
In August, she announced, the famed troupe Cirque du Soleil will bring its
big top to the riverfront for the first time. Not far away, she expects the
state's first light-rail line to open in a few years, leading to "millions
of square feet of new commercial development and at least 50,000 new jobs."
Most important, she said, crime is finally easing up. Reports of serious
crime have dropped to the lowest point since 1979, and the homicide toll is
at its lowest point in more than a decade.
"Five years ago we felt terrorized by the rising tide of gangs, drugs,
assaults and homicide," she said. "We took a bold stand and refused to let
thugs and thieves destroy our quality of life. We fought back -- hard --
together we have turned the tide."
A number of additional things need to happen in the city, she said:
The city needs a new central library. "This will happen," she promised.
"We will do it this time."
Some neighborhoods "continue to be plagued by street-level drug dealing,
theft and violence. We still have a long way to go." One step that needs to
be taken, she said, is for legislators to approve an integrated computer
system for criminal justice so that offenders don't get lost in the
People need to volunteer to help young children learn to read before their
frustrations grow too high. She gave a phone number -- 612-617-7806 -- for
residents to call to get involved.
More affordable housing is needed, and the city is "laying the foundation
to start several new affordable housing projects."
Airport noise plagues parts of the city, and she hopes to work with
citizen groups to find "bold new strategies [to] address long-term airport
Citizens are getting fed up with blighted and graffiti-covered buildings
that no one bothers to fix up. "We must eliminate the blight of problem
properties promptly and aggressively!"