Hodges: Mpls needs to brag more

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April 24, 2014 // UPDATED 9:59 am - May 1, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Mayor Betsy Hodges after her State of the City Address she delivered over the noon hour at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.
Photo by Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
Mayor said the city needs to spread the word about its greatness during her State of the City Address today.

Minneapolis is "militantly modest" and needs to boast more about the city's many strengths to foster more growth, Mayor Betsy Hodges said earlier today during her State of the City Address at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. 

To help encourage more bragging, she's leading efforts for a week of activities dubbed "The Best Week of Bragging About Minneapolis Ever" from July 14–20. She said site selectors who help growing companies decide where to relocate visited Minneapolis a few years ago and told city leaders that few people outside the city know about its assets.

"We could discover cures for 17 kinds of cancer and we would say nothing, and if someone else noticed we would say, 'Yeah, well, thanks. Anyone else would have done the same.' And then we would change the subject to the weather," she said. "... If we are going to grow, if we are going to bring opportunity here, we can’t afford to be modest. We can’t afford to hide our lights under all those bushels. And we sure can’t settle for merely being less modest. We have got to brag, people. Actively, loudly, with more vigor than we know we have we must shout to the rooftops that Minneapolis and our people are the best on Earth."

Hodges said she wants the city to add another 107,000 residents and grow the transportation network so people can get around without a car. "And my vision for growth is that the fruits of that growth are shared by all — people of color and white people; low-income and high; north, south, east, and west," she said.

She also thanked American Indian leaders for agreeing to host her event on the "eve of a historic vote." The City Council votes tomorrow to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day. "This act will recognize and celebrate the native people who still live on this land, and will foster stronger relationships moving forward. I am grateful to the community for organizing to make this a reality, and I very much look forward to signing it when it comes forward, as I promised last summer I would," she said.

Hodges also focused on three questions listed on the whiteboard in her office that guide her work as mayor: how will this make the city run well; how will this move the dial on equity; and how with this move the dial on growing the city?

She said it's critical to focus on eliminating racial disparities to keep the city and region moving in the right direction. She cited a recent Met Council study indicating the Twin Cities would have 274,000 fewer people in poverty, 171,000 more high school diplomas and 124,000 more people employed if the disparities were eliminated. As for economic growth, $31.8 billion in personal income would be generated.

Without finding ways to close the opportunity gap, the region's vitality is at stake, she said, using a baseball metaphor to illustrate her point. 

"In other words, if we bench our entire infield, there is no way we are going to win this game. Some of us are still playing — we have a pitcher, perhaps, and an outfield and we can cobble together some kind of team, but there is no way we are going to the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, if we keep our players on the bench. And if game after game after game, we keep benching more players, we keep falling further and further behind our ability to play at all," Hodges said.

One of the key promises she touted on the campaign trail was a plan to create a Cradle to K cabinet to focus on early childhood education, noting research has shown that early childhood interventions are the best ways to tackle disparities. She announced that Peggy Flanagan, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, and Carolyn Smallwood, executive director of Way to Grow, will serve as co-chairs of the cabinet. 

"Their charge will be to help coordinate and align work to increase the early experiences of all children prenatal to 3 years old and to help create a plan to bridge across silos and sectors so we can maximize a child’s ability to be ready for early-education opportunities," Hodges said. 

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) said she appreciated how Hodges framed her speech. 

"I like how she views every action/ policy through the three lenses. Simplicity is good," she said. 

Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer said Hodges' speech "elaborated on the themes she has articulated consistently since taking office in a helpful way."

"It was great to hear her emphasize the importance of downtown vitality as a key part of her growth agenda. The business community will be very supportive of her focus on running city government well and identifying streamlining opportunities, and will look forward to contributing ideas for consideration," he said.