All in on Minneapolis: A Q&A with Minneapolis LeadersOctober 8, 2020 by DRG
DRG is all in on Minneapolis! Earlier this week, we hosted a Q&A with three great local leaders: Bill Peterson, Steve Cramer, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
Bill Peterson commands the Minneapolis Police Department’s 1st Precinct. The 1st Precinct serves downtown Minneapolis and is headquarters to patrol officers, precinct investigations, Community Response Team, Community Crime Prevention/SAFE Teams, mounted patrol, and arson units that provide citywide services.
Steve Cramer is the President and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District. The Downtown Improvement District (DID) is a business-led, 501c6 non-profit that leads and collaborates to create a clean, green, safe and vibrant downtown by convening, developing solutions, activating, and continually improving existing programs.
Mayor Jacob Frey is the 48th mayor of the City of Minneapolis.
We got to hear their perspective and insight on the current landscape of Minneapolis and what their leadership teams have planned for the future. DRG is excited to dig our heels in and support our city’s leaders in making Minneapolis a great place to live, both now and in the future.
We wanted to share this great panel discussion with all of you in hopes that we can start a new conversation about the future of Minneapolis for both our citizens and our businesses.
Mayor Frey, can you sum up what you do in 30 seconds?
Mayor Frey: On the one hand, it’s a job that I’m very proud to do on behalf of residents here. It’s for a city that I love.
And undoubtedly, we have had a very, very tough year with one crisis that has been sandwiched on top of the other. From an economic downturn to the global pandemic to the unrest following George Floyd’s killing, there’s been a series of issues that we have had to deal with, have had to think through, have had to find ways to transform.
And so, you know, I do everything from providing direction to advocating for new law positions, to getting yelled at frequently. And it’s all part of the job.
And, you know, Steve was mentioning some of the safety aspects, as well as the aspects of safety beyond policing over at the Downtown Council. And I am a believer of safety beyond policing. And I’m a believer that we need police and law enforcement. And those things are not contradictory. In fact, I think that they can work together. They’re not mutually exclusive. There’s a symbiotic relationship as well. And Inspector Peterson most definitely has.
And so, we’ve been pushing for a number of reforms within the department itself, whether that’s policy changes o, how we respond to 911 calls to make sure that our officers themselves are able to respond to the most significant calls. And, you know, I’ve also been very clear about my position, which is in opposition to the charter amendment that was moving forward, that this push to just get rid of the police.
I don’t think it’s smart. And, you know, and I don’t believe that the vast majority of our city is on that path. I think that the vast majority of our city recognizes the need for deep structural change and recognizes that there are instances, sadly, truly, where you need to call 911 and you need to have a police officer respond to that call.
To be frank, crime is up not just in Minneapolis. Crime is relative for the entire country right now, pretty much every single major city.
It’s good to also focus on the good things that are happening as well. I mean, we had our first Fortune 1000 company moved to downtown Minneapolis in about 20 years. B And that doesn’t happen during a pandemic. That doesn’t happen during good times. And so, it’s not as bad. I mean, there’s a lot of good stuff that’s happening. But even with the pandemic, things are we’re getting through and I think we’re going to get through this together.
Steve, what is it that you do?
Steve Cramer: So, the Downtown Council is a business organization. Our membership, our businesses are part of the small group. We advocate for a stronger, more competitive downtown policy issues. We run some programs and do strategic planning. We also run the nonprofit group. So that’s part operational, the core blocks of downtown. So, on the one hand we advocate a plan, and on the other hand we actually execute programs. And together, those things really add up to a stronger, better downtown.
Lastly, Bill, what do you do?
Bill Peterson: Well, first off, I’d like to thank the Mayor for, from the very beginning, not being on board to get rid of the police department. I’ve been a resident of the city, Minneapolis, for 24 years, and I’ve been on the force for 25 years. So, I’d like to say I have a vested interest in the city’s safety and viability.
I’m the commander of the 1st Precinct, so my official title is Inspector, and I oversee all of downtown. And then there are five precincts. So, day to day life is very busy for me.
What is the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District’s initiatives, some of the grassroots tactics that you guys are taking?
Steve Cramer: Well, I think first and foremost, I think safety is the issue right now for all of us. Kind of restoring confidence in the safety of downtown. Safety from the standpoint of certainly the public health aspect, which many of our employers. I’m sure you all are focused on.
And then on top of that, just the safety from a physical standpoint, what’s it feels like on the street, concerns about safety, the city generally. So that’s really where we’re shining a flashlight. Safety can be many different things. could also bring in active, vibrant strategic design approaches to the physical space that can make our downtown safe as well.
Steve, from your perspective, talk to us about safety and what other businesses are saying about Minneapolis.
Steve Cramer: That’s kind of a tale of two cities, because statistically, crime is actually down from last year. That’s not true for every category, but yes, that’s a true thing. On the other hand, the perception is crime is up. Is it safe to be out on the street, or what’s the feel for downtown for being on the street downtown?
Right now, the streets don’t feel safe, in part because there aren’t as many people as I said earlier, busy streets or safer streets. And right now, most of our streets are not busy in the core because we don’t have the 200,000-plus workers coming into the city. So, some of the elements of urban life that have always been with us are just really more visible.
And sometimes that spills over into not just rowdiness, but really behavior that the first place has to deal with. But we’ve also got outreach programs, had this program for real ambassadors, youth league team, all of them, to try to get with the first precinct. Sure, as long as we have that kind of comprehensive approach to the city. So, it’s a mixed bag. And what I hear from businesses is that a lot of their employees really are concerned about safety in terms of coming back to work.
As far as our police force, I think we’re shrinking again very quickly that we can’t afford that. Now, when we start with a bigger budget, at least a little bit better, we think it’s essential that council support. That doesn’t mean there doesn’t need to be a focus on some reform and trust.
What is the DID trying to do to address these conversations about safety and reform?
Steve Cramer: Well, it’s a challenge because on the one hand, I think we have to be honest about those concerns and speak to them. But we don’t want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy or scare people away either. So, I’ve tried to walk that edge of trying to be so positive to celebrate the successes and also want to compliment the mayor, he’s been extraordinarily accessible on calls with CEOs, managing partners at law firms, or whoever it might be concerned about what’s going on and talk directly about what the city’s approaches and what is good for computers.
And so, I think it’s honest, relentless communication, listening, and empathizing.
Mayor Frey, what is your take on where we are, and where we should go in terms of safety?
Mayor Frey: Steve laid out most of the statistics that we actually have seen a decline in crime, at at least the downtown area over the first several months of year, predominantly due to COVID-19. But if you look at a capital basis, in other words, that number of people that are experiencing downtown on a daily basis, I would imagine that the numbers are vastly different than that. Normally, we see our downtown volume on a daily basis by as much as 40 or 50%.
And that’s a ton of people that are active and engaged and going out to grab a beer after work and go to a Twins game, and now you don’t have that. And with that sort of vacancy, in some instances, you do see a per capita uptick, which I think people are experiencing in other areas of the city, have seen that. So, I think we’ve got to be honest about what the statistics say and where we’re at and how we’re doing.
And then we need to be able to properly respond. And so, there is a number of things that the chief and I have done that we really want to do to make sure that we have the necessary resources within the Police Department.
Bill, what is morale like right now in the Department?
Bill Peterson: It’s tough right now. It’s challenging. And in fact, it’s one of the questions that was posed was ‘What are your three biggest challenges right now?’ and personnel is one of them. Trying to maintain the drive and incentive for people to get out there and do the things that we need to do, because we are certainly challenged numbers-wise.
Additionally, I applaud DRG for doubling down on Minneapolis. We should be doubling down on our city’s businesses and employees. And I think that we have to continue to convey that message to everyone saying, ‘Yes, we are going through some challenging times in the city right now. But city of Minneapolis, it’s a great city and we’ll get through it.
We have to continue to plug away. Steve touched on it earlier and then the Mayor touched on it, that violent crime—or crime—is up in every major city across the entire country right now.
It just is. Crime historically is cyclical, right? It’s up and it goes down. We get tough on crime and then everybody’s like, OK…let’s ease off on the deficit a little bit. And then it starts to spike back up. And then we’re at a point right now where it’s a spike. It’s high and we’re going have to figure out how to navigate through this. And what are some of the things that we’re going to do, not just law enforcement, to impact not only the violent crime, but the perception of our violent livability and perception of crime?
Violent crime is down in downtown Minneapolis. It is up significantly in every other precinct around. And there are factors that play into that. And I could go on and on and on about that. But right now, violent crime is down roughly 7%. So, even though we have challenges, every city has got challenges.
Bill, what would be a great resource that people could look to for more information?
Bill Peterson: I encourage you and your clients to look at the bi-weekly Zoom meetings. They are a great source for people to tune in and hear what’s going on with that. People can also check out our Crime Maps & Dashboards for real-time stats and more.
Mayor Frey: I’ll just add briefly on to the question and answer, which is that one of the things that I really value about Minneapolis is there’s a different kind of accessibility generally to politics. There’s a different kind of accessibility to a council member, your mayor, your inspector, the head of the downtown council, that you don’t necessarily get in other areas.
It’s also a different kind of accessibility to the numbers. So, we have this dashboard that is totally transparent: the good, the bad and the ugly. One of the reasons why we get a lot of bad articles is because they go where they can go to the dashboard and they can see some of the numbers which aren’t always good.
And what I like most is that it’s honest. It’s right there for everybody to see and it helps people push away from just simply the perception to looking at what the numbers are actually showing you.