Mayor Coleman's 2016 State of the City Address - Remarks As Prepared

Thank you to Council President Stark for that introduction and for your leadership. I value our partnership and your deep commitment to focusing on equity to make Saint Paul a great city for all of our residents.

Many Thanks to Sarah Bellamy for your help and partnership in bringing today’s event to fruition. The Penumbra Theater has been in our backyard since its founding in 1976, and has launched the careers of many prominent artists including two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner, August Wilson. Today, it is one of only three African American theater companies in the nation that presents a full season of performances, and each year it employs more artists of color than all other Minnesota theater companies combined. Long under the leadership of founder Lou Bellamy, the Penumbra is now transitioning to Sarah’s leadership – who is an accomplished playwright, director and educator in her own right.

Thanks also to Sanford Moore for helping coordinate and execute the music portions of the event. Thanks, of course to all the performers for sharing your talents with us. And finally, thanks to the entire staff and board of the Penumbra for not only hosting today’s performance, but for building a national treasure in this historic neighborhood.

INSERT SCENE ONE: Boy Willie from The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (Pages 93-94)


Thanks to actor Terry Bellamy who will be bringing noted playwright August Wilson’s work to life for us today, beginning with that powerful piece from The Piano Lesson. 

August Wilson, although born and raised in Pittsburgh, adopted Saint Paul as his hometown in 1978. Welcomed by a community that included Lou Bellamy and Claude Purdy (and Purdy’s wife, Saint Paul Jobs and Training staffer Jacqui Shoholm)—and plenty of coffee shops and taverns where he could work—Wilson found in Saint Paul a perch from which to write about the African American experience. 

Writing a cycle of ten plays, each one play focusing on a different decade of the 20th century, Wilson went far beyond teaching us history. His gift was dialogue and character development.  And his characters from Aunt Ester to Troy Maxson made us feel the pride, exuberance and gut-wrenching pain of what it means to be Black in the United States. Wilson drew us into relationship with the people who lived that experience. He would later reflect that his characters were able to say things in the theater that he wouldn’t be allowed to say out on the street. Things all of us need to hear and understand.



So much has changed in Saint Paul since my first address 11 years ago. You know the list of exciting developments: the Green Line, CHS Field, new bars, restaurants and brew pubs across the city, the Penfield, the Lofts at Farmers Market, senior housing along University, the new A Line coming this summer, the new Mississippi Market on East 7th Street. Adding to the list, people are now living in Custom House thanks to the tenacity of Jim Stoplestad and his team at Exeter.  Ramsey County has paved the way for redevelopment of the old West Publishing buildings. Ford has worked diligently to clear the site of the old assembly line to make way for this generation’s most important development opportunity in the region. Ryan Companies, via the Vintage, has brought new housing to Snelling and Selby. We are working with the Port Authority on the East Side’s Beacon Bluff redevelopment. And later this year, we will welcome Little Mekong Plaza.  

And with our historic rise in population has come a dramatic change in demographics – with approximately 40 percent of the city’s population now people of color, compared to 33 percent in 2009. That change necessitates a focus on equity so that our city is great for all who call Saint Paul home.

Indeed, even as our national politics are gridlocked at a time of great need, this city, our cities, continue to push forward. As Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute points out in his book, The Metropolitan Revolution, "cities and metros ... are responding with pragmatism, energy and ambition to get things done." In fact, by some estimates, the 100 biggest metro areas generate 75 percent of GDP. Cities are the driving engines of our economy. For us, gridlock just isn’t an option.

And while it is a shock to most mayors that we don’t rule the world, we do understand the power of local elected leaders setting a bold vision for their communities, working side by side with key community partners and neighbors and creating the kind of communities we are proud to be a part of.

I am proud to work with a great City Council on behalf of our community. We also have strong champions in Congresswoman Betty McCollum, our two U.S. Senators, our Governor and our Saint Paul legislative delegation.

Our city’s champions are not just elected officials. Over nearly two decades, there has been no better partner than Mike Newman, from Traveler’s.  Mike has been critical to our education work, including providing key financial support for the education director in my office.  Mike recently announced his retirement by quoting from a favorite children’s book, Marvin K. Mooney, Won’t You Please Go Now, “The time had come…so Marvin went.”  While I don’t believe it is time for Mike to go, I certainly do know it is time to thank him for all he has done for Saint Paul.

Because of our focus on equity, with Mike’s support, and the support of the Wilder Foundation, especially President MayKao Hang, we have built up the Promise Neighborhood initiative in the Frogtown and Summit-University communities. As many of you know, this was an offshoot of President Obama’s national work to try and duplicate the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone. While we received federal planning grants to support the early stages of the work, we were disappointed when we did not receive nearly $25 million in implementation dollars. While that set us back, it did not deter us. Instead, in true Saint Paul fashion, we rolled up our sleeves, went to work and built up a powerful network of support for children and families in two of our most impoverished neighborhoods.

Today, the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood is hitting its fifth year, using education and family stability as tools to end multigenerational poverty and close the achievement gap. It’s reaching more kids with deeper impact. In its first summer, SPPN reached 127 kids, now the initiative reaches over 2,000 kids each year. We started with two elementary school partners (Jackson and Maxfield), then added Saint Paul City School, and just launched efforts in a fourth school, Benjamin E. Mays Elementary, immediately adjacent to this theater.

And in addition to our in-school efforts, we continue to identify culturally based approaches that support year round learning. The Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood coordinates a number of highly effective summer programs to stem summer learning loss. Over 90 percent of children who participated in these programs maintained or improved their reading scores over the past four summers. Based on this track record of success, the Promise Neighborhood is launching a Hmong dual language program this summer.

I’m pleased to be joined today by Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood parent council participant Arviance Bryant and the Executive Director of our Promise Neighborhood initiative, Muneer Karcher Ramos. Thank you both for being here, and Muneer, thank you for your bold vision as you carry forward this important work. I also want to thank the members of the Partnership Council of Promise Neighborhoods, including its two chairs, Ann Mulholland and Paul Williams.

Because we are focused on equity, we continue to invest in Sprockets – our nationally recognized out of school time network, dedicated to ensuring more children have access to strong afterschool programs, so they can keep learning even when they're not in school.

This has been a stalwart of my administration. Through the work of Sprockets, afterschool programs in our libraries and parks and in Saint Paul nonprofits can now use data to better understand how they're helping youth. I’m pleased to introduce you all to Sprockets’ new director, Erik Skold. Erik has served as deputy director of Sprockets since 2011 and will now direct its work, providing coaching and data sharing to more than 90 organizations across the city that serve more than 50,000 young people.




In my over ten years as Mayor, I have had many opportunities to think about three words that anchored my first inaugural address: Cooperation, Responsibility and Respect. I have seen how cooperation across many sectors of our community has made fundamental changes in the work we have done.  I could not have envisioned the work of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative in the form that it took.  But I knew that the Green Line had to be built in a way that brought people together. Nearly two years after opening the line, that work has paid off. Businesses in the Little Mekong District near Western are thriving, Project for Pride in Living has completed a critical affordable housing project at the Hamline stop, and artists continue their work at Raymond.

And, of course, this is in sharp contrast to the way we built 94 – which destroyed the historic Rondo community we are gathered in today. You see, in addition to evaluating current government policy and practices to ensure we are working for everyone, apologizing for past wrongs – and asking for forgiveness – is key to moving forward as a community. I had the opportunity to apologize to the Rondo community for the government’s role in uprooting their families and destroying their livelihood. And we are building on that apology by cooperating with community leaders to build a Rondo Commemorative Plaza and Garden, having provided $250,000 in my 2016 budget to get it started.

One of my favorite recent examples of cooperation in our community can be seen on the East Side at Cook. Getting their start as owners of a food truck, owners Charlie Cook and Eddie Wu now invite up-and-coming chefs and food truck vendors to take over Cook’s kitchen for the now wildly popular Friday night pop-ups. As a result, emerging entrepreneurs can gain valuable in-restaurant experience while restaurant goers get to try some of the best food in town.  I want to thank Eddie Wu, Charlie Cook and chef Tailyn Lang for their investment in the East Side.



Responsibility comes in many forms as well. In my inaugural address, I spoke of the broad responsibility that we all share to tackle some of the largest challenges we face as a city. But sometimes, responsibility comes in the daily acts of one individual toward another in this community.  There is no finer example of individual responsibility than that of Jason Englund, an employee in our Parks and Recreation department.

A few weeks ago, Jason was traveling across the Smith Avenue High Bridge as part of his normal work routine. He noticed several vehicles stopped and a man standing over the barrier, staring down at the river below. Jason stopped his car, got out and engaged the man in conversation. He was not only able to keep this man from jumping, but Jason was able to get him away from the edge and into his truck until first responders were able to arrive. There is no doubt that Jason's actions saved a man's life that day and I want to recognize Jason’s act of courage because he stepped in when he didn’t have to. 

There are many in this City for whom acts of courage are in their job description. I’m reminded of the tragic situation last year when 4-year-old Ntshialiag Yang died after a fire broke out in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. Firefighter Mike Smith and his crew crawled across the floor of that home, desperate to find her. They did rescue her, and in spite of their heroic efforts performing CPR at the scene and all the way to the hospital, she couldn’t recover from the damage of the fire.

And of course, every day our police officers leave their loved ones to head off to work, pulling on their bullet proof vests and facing the challenges of policing in a large urban environment where guns are far too prevalent and everything from routine traffic stops to incidents involving domestic violence can turn volatile without a moment’s notice.

The national dialogue about policing, particularly in communities of color, has put our officers under intense scrutiny. And because we are focused on equity, we haven’t run from that conversation.

One concern raised by the community during the past year and a half is the practice and structure of the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC) – which examines incidents of alleged officer misconduct and makes a disciplinary recommendation to the Chief of Police. At my request, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking conducted an audit of the PCIARC and City Attorney Sammy Clark led numerous community conversations about their recommendations. He is now working with City Council and others to pursue a set of administrative changes in the immediate short term and I will make further recommendations for city ordinance changes by the end of the summer – including clarifying the role police officers and civilians should play on the commission.

We don’t always get it right. But we do so much more right here in Saint Paul. Under the leadership of Chief Smith and with hundreds of committed uniformed officers, our department is setting the national standard for true community policing. I want to take a moment to thank the Chief for his incredible service over these past six years. And I’d like to extend that gratitude to his entire senior command, including Assistant Chiefs Kathy Wuorinen, Todd Axtell and Bill Martinez – who is retiring after 28 years with the city.

We continue to reach kids through the East and West African Junior Police Academy and our Police Athletic League. And Safe Summer Nights brings out thousands of residents to parks across the city to meet our officers, share a bite to eat, and get to know each other on a first name basis. At Arlington Hills Community Center, old lines of youth vs. cops are breaking down. Last year, before a Safe Summer Nights event at Arlington Hills, officers and kids together canvassed the neighborhood, passing out fliers to promote the event.

During various protests throughout the past year, the Saint Paul Police Department has worked to ensure everyone’s safety. Time and again, they have performed this work with grace, with professionalism and with the very essence of what it means to be a Saint Paul police officer. I want to thank Assistant Chief Todd Axtell and his Senior Commanders Paul Iovino, Matt Toupal and Jeff Winger for their leadership through many of these events. They truly set the tone for how these matters should be handled in Saint Paul and across the nation.

Because we are committed to equity in Saint Paul, it is important to remain in dialogue and truly hear the voices – raised over generations – of those who question police actions. We grieve every time a life is lost in our city. Our goal with every police encounter must be to make sure that the public and our officers are safe.

One area of focus for us is to ensure the best response for those suffering from severe mental illness. Our police officers and policy makers are having those conversations here in Saint Paul, talking with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota, Ramsey County Mental Health and other partners to evaluate how to get to the best possible response. Commander Mary Nash is leading much of this work in our police department – including exploring crisis response models across the country, such as co-responder models that pair mental health practitioners with officers. We have already begun working with our Emergency Communications Center to ensure mental health experts are engaged when related 911 calls come in.

Training is also key. Over the next several years, all patrol officers will go through Crisis Intervention Training, which is a hugely positive step. Our officers across the country are asking for this kind of training and we simply have to provide it. I want to thank Governor Dayton for his support of increased funding for police officers in the state to receive additional training for working with people who are suffering from a mental health crisis.

This past week, we have seen an explosion in gun violence across the City. Two young people are dead, others are lying in hospital beds. The perpetrators of this violence will be heading to prison. Too many lives lost. Too many parents grieving. Too many families shattered. While we have worked hard to stem this increase in violence, we need to increase our efforts to prevent it. While the best long-term strategy continues to be our investment in the education of our children, we must also meet this challenge with a strong and immediate police response.  

Our work is supported by strong community partners. Within minutes of the shooting this weekend in Indian Mounds Park, members of the African American Leadership Council, The God Squad and the Black Ministerial Alliance were on the scene helping out. Their actions put themselves in a dangerous situation. But they came because they know they need to be a part of the solution. I want to thank Reverend Spence and Tyrone Terrell and the leaders in the African American community for their assistance.  

Tomorrow, I will join Chief Tom Smith and leaders of the African American Community to stand together and call for an end to the gun violence that is plaguing our neighborhoods and parks. Immediately we will identify and prosecute the people who are indiscriminately shooting in our city.  Ongoing, we will continue our work to get guns off the street and out of the hands of criminals. And as we do in Saint Paul, we will come together to mend the fabric of our community that is torn when there is this kind of violence. On Thursday night, our wonderful volunteer committee that leads the Safe Summer Nights effort is working with our Police and Parks Departments to have an impromptu gathering at Mounds Park – the site of Sunday’s shootings. I invite you all to join us for dinner from 5-7 p.m., and to stand together against gun violence.


Because of our focus on equity, we must also be mindful to create economic opportunity for everyone in our community. As a child, my neighborhood was filled with folks who had good paying jobs in at the Ford plant or Schmidt Brewery. They worked as mechanics at Northwest Airlines, as cops and as firefighters. They had good jobs that paid good wages. While there certainly continues to be opportunities for folks, it seems to get harder and harder to make ends meet and that opportunity is not shared equitably.

With our colleagues on the Workforce Investment Board and the Ramsey County Board, we launched a Blue Ribbon Commission on Employment Disparities in 2011. At the conclusion of that report, a broad collaborative came together to pursue the recommendations made by the Commission. Everybody In was launched in 2012. While it took a while to hit its stride, Everybody In is led today by a steering committee that includes State Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, Kiskaskia Engineering Vice President Keith Baker and Executive Director Sam Grant – people for whom this work is a matter of both professional commitment and personal passion. They are not a new bureaucracy but, in their words, “a super connector for change.” 

But economic opportunity remains elusive for too many in our community – particularly people of color. Ramsey County has the highest rate of people living in poverty of any county in the state. Unemployment rates for African Americans are the lowest of any group and close to four times the rate for whites. What’s more, when it comes to median household income, African Americans earn the least – making only $.39 for every $1.00 earned by the highest earning group, non-Hispanic Whites. We must do all we can to create opportunity, especially in our most economically distressed neighborhoods. This includes redeveloping the 34.5 acres at Snelling and University to include a new soccer stadium.

INSERT SCENE TWO:  Old Joe from Radio Golf by August Wilson (Pages 21-22)

August Wilson’s words give voice to the many people in our community who don’t feel “the machine” works for them.  We need to change that – not just in perception but in reality.  No matter if you are a poor person struggling to make ends meet, a person of color facing daily barriers to moving ahead or a recent immigrant to our city, you should feel that Saint Paul works as well for you as it does for me and for my family.

We start with hiring practices in the city’s own work force.  Our nearly 3,000 employees must be as diverse as the city itself.  Currently, 19.5 percent of full-time city employees are people of color – compared to approximately 40 percent of Saint Paul residents. This is not acceptable. And it won’t just change by itself.

Our ultimate goal is that city employees reflect the community we serve. So as city employees retire, our goal is to increase full time employees to 40 percent people of color. But this will be incremental change. By the end of 2017, I commit to ensuring 23 percent of people working in city government will be people of color. To increase 3.5 percent over the next 21 months, we are building on departmental pipelines that include Right Track and our EMS academy, while creating new partnerships like the one between our police department and AVID, as well as our junior police academies – which both endeavor to get kids of color interested in careers in law enforcement.

And because of our focus on equity, in my 2017 budget, I will be proposing more resources for recruiting candidates of color, and have required all city department directors to increase departmental level recruitment efforts.

It’s also important that we provide adequate opportunities for growth and insight among our current employees – including a commitment to having courageous conversations about race and bias in our work and in our workplace. We have provided foundational training to more than 2,400 city employees – and all employees will have received this training by the end of next year.

And we need to make sure we are using data to both identify barriers to equity and to inform policy agendas. Gathering and analyzing data can help us ensure equitable delivery of city services. And we will not hoard this data and information. I am pleased to announce today that we are launching an open data portal on Included in my 2016 budget and fully supported by City Council, our Innovations team is leading the work. Thanks to a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities, we have had access to some of the best open data consultants in the country from the reputable Sunlight Foundation. While we aren’t the first city to launch an open data portal, the Sunlight Foundation will tell you that we are leapfrogging ahead of what other communities have done. The portal we are creating will be dynamic, relevant and user-friendly and will include charts, graphs, maps and interactive data. And we are committed to aggressively building it out over the next year.

We are blessed to live in a region and state that has a very strong and diverse economy.  But the strength must touch every part of our region, including our Center Cities. Years ago, William Norris, from Control Data, and a good Saint Paul resident, began locating his operations in some of this country’s most challenged neighborhoods. And while he was ahead of his time, his goal was exactly right. 

That is why we are working closely with Greater MSP to launch the Center Cities Initiative. Partnering with Minneapolis, Ramsey and Hennepin Counties, the McKnight Foundation, and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, we are working on shared strategies to get more capital investment in distressed neighborhoods across our cities.  We need more jobs in our communities. By working together, we will lift up all of our communities and address the persistent and pernicious inequity in employment for people of color.



Throughout much of my adult life, I have walked down stretches of University Avenue and wondered what it would take to really transform the avenue - to ensure it is as vibrant as the people living in the neighborhoods that envelop it.

Because we are focused on equity, before the Green Line went in, we gathered as a community to create blueprints for redeveloping the areas adjacent to every single stop along the line. The intersection at Snelling and University was the subject of just such a plan. Additionally, the 12 block, 34.5-acre area at Snelling and University– owned by RK Midway and the Metropolitan Council – were the subject of additional study and planning in 2014.

In both cases, we confirmed that there was no easy solution for redeveloping the area and ensuring its highest use. To really ignite the sort of transformation we needed to create a transit-oriented development, with mixed use retail and residential space, density and green space, we needed to either secure a private sector partner or face public costs that were just too great.

Enter Major League Soccer and Minnesota United FC.

You have all seen the proposed stadium design. It is beautiful and global in its feel – fitting given that soccer is the most popular sport in the world and the fastest growing sport in Minnesota. And it’s no wonder. Just think about the possibility of soccer. While other sports require significant investment by players in equipment and training, I have heard stories about kids on the other side of the world playing soccer on a parched patch of earth with nothing more than a rolled up t-shirt. Soccer is a sport that is open to everyone. It is truly an equitable sport.

The construction of the stadium will bring 1,900 short term construction jobs – and the team has agreed to ensure the people doing that construction reflect the city’s workforce inclusion goals, in addition to meeting our contracting requirements for vendor outreach. There will also be hundreds of permanent jobs at the site.

Of course, the promise for Snelling and University is about much more than a stadium. A privately financed $150 million stadium in the Midway – between our two downtowns, adjacent to 94 and the Green Line – means that the redevelopment of the 22+ acres immediately around it can advance. When fully built out, this 12-block area will create vibrant places and spaces for our community and yield up to 10 times the current taxable value. And in my mind, that is why this opportunity is so transformative. Property owner Rick Birdoff is all in. Minnesota United FC owner Dr. Bill McGuire is all in. And thanks to the work of the Community Advisory Committee – and the years of work and public input that has gone into envisioning redevelopment of this area – the City Council will hold public hearings and consider a final master plan for the area in August.


So we stand here today, in the Penumbra Theater, which has been led by two generations of Bellamys. We experience the words of August Wilson. We take time to reflect on the timelessness of our challenges and the infinite possibilities for our future.

The state of the city is strong, but we have work to do to become better. We will reach our full potential when everyone within the city reaches theirs.

I’d like to introduce musicians Dennis Spears, Yolande Bruce and Sanford Moore.