FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2021

Contact: 
Peter Leggett
Office of Mayor Melvin Carter
651-307-8603
peter.leggett@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Mayor Melvin Carter Releases
2021 State of Our City Address

SAINT PAUL, MN - Today, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter released the 2021 State of Our City Address.

A video of the address and the full text can be viewed on the City of Saint Paul's website at https://www.stpaul.gov/state-of-our-city

Read the full text of the 2021 State of Our City Address below. 


Mayor Melvin Carter's
2021 STATE OF OUR CITY ADDRESS
Thursday, May 27, 2021

 

Hi, I'm Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.

Thank you for joining us as we examine the state of our city today and envision the way forward.

As we look back at the breadth of trauma that communities across our nation have endured over this past year, it is hard to fathom a set of circumstances that could challenge the very core of our city, state, and nation more than those we've experienced. The journey we've traveled together to make it to this day has been long, hard, and exhausting, as it seems as though we've endured everything fate could possibly throw at us.

The once in a century pandemic from which we are now finally beginning to emerge, has changed our lives, and the entire world as we've known it. This mass impact event will someday be cemented as a part of our past. We will reminisce with others who lived through it, as we forever mourn the friends, relatives, and leaders we have lost. It will be a story we will tell our children and grandchildren.

It will be a chapter in our shared past that will mark a point in the course of modern history, when our global community was engaged in a fight, not for the security or economic stability of warring nations, nor engaged in the fight between competing ideals. This fight has been against a tiny invisible virus that has impacted every facet of our lives, taking more than 3.4 million lives around the world, including over 7,300 Minnesotans and more than 400 of our local Saint Paul neighbors.

Our hearts remain with all those we've lost. And with all those who have lost loved ones during the dark difficult days that we hope are now forever behind us. We are also forever grateful for the tireless efforts of our essential workers who have been on the front lines to ensure our access to health care and services that we've relied upon to get through this pandemic. Day after day, week after week, month after month, they have risked their own health and safety to fight us through.

We are eternally grateful for the public employees who never stopped finding creative new ways to keep our city going. A year ago today, our public library staff was hard at work sewing masks by hand, our parks and recreation staff was delivering food for our families, and our firefighters stopped everything to process emergency aid applications for residents and businesses. And of course, we'll never forget the way our firefighters and police officers ran toward danger in the most harrowing night in our City's history.

Our city servants have stood up for all of us over the past year to expand the ways in which we care for one another. We've seen them stand up for us, we've seen our health care providers stand up for us, we've seen our emergency responders stand up for us. I will tell you I see it every day on the face of my wife, Dr. Sakeena Futrell-Carter, who is a health care provider, who has been part of this fight to see us through.

Even with our shared commitment to follow the public health measures we've all lived with for over a year now, this pandemic has further exposed the ills of our nation that have existed for generations, leading to troubling disparities in health and economic outcomes for far too many, including disproportionately among our communities of color.

Along with every aspect of our global interconnected world, this pandemic has further demonstrated that the very systems, structures, resources and services that have led to more economic stability and prosperity for more people than ever before, contribute to widespread inequity, which has truly resulted in a tale of two pandemics.

While we still have work to do to address the disparities that have been further revealed during this pandemic, thanks to the dedication of our health care workers, the guidance of our public health professionals at the Minnesota Department of Health, and our Saint Paul Ramsey County Public Health Department, the leadership of our governor, and the new administration of President Biden, we are finally beginning to emerge from this fight.

Just as we've responded to the many challenges of this public health crisis, the parallel economic impacts of this pandemic have devastated our local economy. Tens of thousands of Saint Paul residents have applied for unemployment benefits, workers have lost their jobs or seen hours reduced. Businesses have struggled and far too many have closed. This has all led to widespread economic insecurity, housing instability and further disenfranchisement from the stability and prosperity our broader community has to offer.

Early in the pandemic, we launched the Saint Paul Bridge Fund to provide more than $4 million to families and small businesses most vulnerable to the economic impact of these conditions. Efforts like our ongoing Family's First Housing Pilot continue to ensure that families in our St Paul Public Schools can remain stable housed through a monthly rent supplement. Our People’s Prosperity Pilot Program is providing 150 families with $500 in monthly guaranteed income through early 2022 to make sure families with children can make ends meet, amid the ongoing economic challenges we continue to face.

While this pandemic has only further revealed and exposed the disparities that already existed in our community, our work to build a city that truly works for all of us began long before the emergence of this virus. Ensuring everyone can access the prosperity our city has to offer has included raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, investing in an immigrant legal defense fund, eliminating late fines in our libraries, passing our Climate Action and Resilience Plan, creating an Office of Financial Empowerment and launching CollegeBound Saint Paul to get every child born in our city on the pathway to college with $50 in a college savings account.

We've also made landmark investments in our affordable housing trust and ensured the Highland Bridge site includes housing at all ends of the continuum. As we continue responding to this housing crisis, our ongoing dialogue about how to spur development while preventing displacement will remain as vital as ever.

Our big vision for affordable and inclusive housing in Saint Paul means that even in instances where legal arguments against a development have been proven unsuccessful, we must continue to advance housing and economic development opportunities that support our city's continued inclusive growth and vibrancy.

Amid this conversation, and our ongoing efforts to get more of our community fully vaccinated, we are working toward reviving our city's vitality. Like many of you, I look forward to re engaging in the activities that we've been unable to do amid the pandemic.

Together, we are already building this momentum with businesses reopening citywide, a reanimating downtown, students back in the classroom, and electric energy across our city at Saints games, Minnesota United Games, and of course, in the magical season that the Minnesota Wild have had to bring playoff hockey back to our city; all of this ahead of a prolific period of economic expansion right on the horizon.  

While we are almost to the finish line of this pandemic, even as so much of the world has changed around us, so many injustices that existed long before the pandemic, tragically remain the same.

This week we marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. The cries we've heard over and over - no justice, no peace - resonate as much as ever, in Saint Paul, across our state, and in neighborhoods across our country.

No justice, no peace.

While some hear this as a threat, it is in fact a reflection of the facts that too many of our residents experience. Peace is inaccessible to a family that lives in the violence of poverty, homelessness, hunger, or neighborhood violence.

There is no peace for those who live under the knee of generations of racism, discrimination, and disparities that trace their roots all the way back to the founding of this country.

There can be no peace for our neighbors when there is no justice in the face of these types of social and economic violence.  There can be no peace when these injustices perpetuate cycles of despair, and ultimately lead to physical violence that spills out into our streets.

The peace we seek, the safety we seek, the security and stability we seek is only accessible by realizing the justice of sustaining safe, secure, and prosperous neighborhoods for all of our residents. This is why in our city, we've continued our fight towards securing this justice for all our neighbors.

Amid the ongoing cries for justice and peace, our national conversation on reshaping the relationship between our community and law enforcement continues. While this nationwide reckoning has been further unveiled over the course of this past year, we've been engaged in this work in collaboration with our Chief and our Saint Paul Police Department well before this pandemic.

In the first 100 days of my administration, I worked with Chief Axtell and department leaders to revise our use of force policy, which involved a two-month public engagement process. The updates to our policy included directing officers to de-escalate when they can, intervene when they should, and serve all individuals with respect by putting a focus on using time, distance, and teamwork to maximize the safety of everyone involved.

The training policy was revised to better distinguish between passive and aggressive resistance. It also incorporated a new model to replace an outdated use of force continuum and directed officers to use only techniques and tools that are currently trained or authorized by the department's training unit.

The policy was also revised to more clearly define and officers do need to intervene and states the supervisors are required to respond, and document incidents where officers have exercised that duty.

While much work remains amid this ongoing national dialogue, the conviction of the former officer who murdered George Floyd is a critical step toward accountability. We can never bring back the black and brown lives taken at the hands of law enforcement, including the tragic shooting of Daunte Wright, just over a month ago. But the passing of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act in Congress will cement critical reforms at the national level that can bend the arc of our future toward justice.

As we move forward together, the troubling national trends we are seeing in crime are touching our community here in Saint Paul as well. It's no surprise that amid this pandemic, the very conditions that lead people to act out in desperation have been exacerbated. Unfortunately, Saint Paul has not been immune to these trends.

Amid ongoing concerns around neighborhood safety from the many impacts of this public health and economic crisis, in just these past several weeks, we saw a single night of shooting in which more than 150 shots were fired in three different areas. Just this past weekend, we had a shooting in which a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old sustained non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Our Saint Paul Police officers continue their work to respond to these emergencies, and to increase patrols in areas where we've seen increases in crime. Their tireless efforts, alongside the persistence and diligence of our investigators continue to ensure we hold all those who engage in senseless acts of violence accountable for their actions. Among our department's many efforts to respond to our neighborhood safety concerns, our department has taken more than 245 illegal guns off of our streets this year so far.

Even with all of these efforts we know our officers alone can't solve all our neighborhood safety concerns or cure this crime and gun violence public health crisis by themselves.

Even as our officers continue to engage in the policies and practices that are among the most comprehensive and progressive in the nation, we must keep expanding our continuum of response to our public safety needs. Just as we saw through the course of the pandemic, we need an array of strategies that involve immediate responses, intermediate measures, and long-term proactive mitigation.

In the fight against COVID, it has only been through a combination of strategies that we've been able to turn the corner on this pandemic. We've needed immediate responses such as distancing, masking, and minimizing contact. We've needed intermediate measures such as testing and contact tracing to minimize the spread of known infection. And, we've needed, and now have, a vaccine to provide long term proactive mitigation.

Just as we've done amid COVID, curing the cycles of violence that have spread across neighborhoods requires that same type of comprehensive, coordinated, and multifaceted approach.

Over the past year and a half, we've already begun much of this work together to build the most comprehensive, coordinated, and data driven public safety system our city has ever endeavored.

In 2019 after an unusual and unacceptable strain of gun violence, we convened with neighbors from across our community to shape and ultimately launch our Community-First Public Safety framework.

Centered around jobs and resources for youth, housing and mental health supports, and a public health approach to violence prevention, our Community-First Public Safety work also involves implementing restorative justice practices and embedding social workers with first responders to co-respond to persons in crisis.

We've continued to engage our Community-First Public Safety workgroup over the course of this pandemic which includes multiple city departments, community ambassadors, the Downtown Alliance, and our partners at Ramsey County Healing Streets. In collaboration with our police department, this workgroup continues to coordinate our efforts while reviewing crime reports and assessing areas of increased neighborhood crime. It operationalizes our belief that it's all of our jobs to build the safe city our children deserve.

As we look toward the summer months, and toward investments through our city budget, and American Rescue Plan funds, we are poised to continue to expand the impact of this body of work. By doing so we’ll address the systemic long-term cycles of violence that continue to impact our community.

Another critical step in this ongoing work has just been completed by a 48-member task force that we brought together: our Community-First Public Safety Commission. This commission launched late last year and was tasked with re envisioning emergency response in Saint Paul.

The members included a broad array of voices from the public and private sectors, nonprofit, community and neighborhood organizations. Members also came from educational institutions, peace officer associations, city commissions, labor and advocacy organizations, healthcare, philanthropy, and from our neighborhoods.

Led by the incredible work and guidance of the Citizens League, the Commission focused on alternative response models to priority-4 and priority-5 calls which are considered routine and non-emergency calls for service. The commission was also tasked with identifying approaches for ongoing community involvement in our Community-First Public Safety framework, including the consideration of a city-staffed office to drive and integrate this work.

I'd like to thank our entire commission, especially our co-chairs Acooa Ellis and John Marshall for their incredible leadership. We're also grateful for the leadership of those at the Citizens League for ushering this critical body of work forward.

I'd also like to thank the Government Performance Lab at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Robina Institute, who provided collaborative support to the Citizens League and Commission. Lastly this effort would not have been possible without the engagement of staff from an array of our city departments, including our Saint Paul Police Department, along with law enforcement and criminal justice partners from Ramsey County.

From this monumental effort, the Community-First Public Safety Commission's 419-page final report has been delivered to our community.

While there is much work to be done to further develop this body of work, our Community-First Public Safety Commission has helped us take a giant step forward, as we continue to build out the most comprehensive, coordinated, and data-driven public safety system our city has ever endeavored.

Looking ahead to the coming weeks and months, as we continue to emerge from this once in a century pandemic, we are also working to leverage the enormous potential of the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan, which stands to make a historic impact on our city and cities across our country. In addition to providing direct relief to Americans, containing COVID, and rescuing our economy, this $1.9 trillion plan provides $350 billion in much needed emergency funds for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments.

As a part of this plan, in addition to allocations to the State of Minnesota, Ramsey County and our Saint Paul Public Schools, the City of Saint Paul will receive more than $166 million dollars from our federal government partners. With the recent release of guidance from the United States Treasury, we now have the guidelines to shape investments that are responsive to the many needs of our city as we rebuild.

While this massive investment in our city will help support all of us, we know that these funds alone won't solve all the challenges we face, nor is it the only tool we have in our toolbox.

The promise of the American Jobs Plan also brings with it an opportunity to further reimagine and rebuild a new economy, focused on our infrastructure  including investments in roads, bridges, bike lanes and sidewalks; water, power and broadband infrastructure; and housing, all while bolstering jobs across an array of industries.

For our city, this means the potential for ongoing and expanded investments in our public health response, in neighborhood safety, in mental health resources, housing, and support for those experiencing homelessness, and the opportunity to reinvest in our local infrastructure while restoring and modernizing our city services.

We also have an enormous opportunity in the coming months, as I work with my cabinet to develop, our 2022 city budget proposal. While our 2021 city budget included zero city staff layoffs, zero property tax increase, and zero use of our emergency reserve funds, we know that realizing our goals through budget reductions in nearly every single department has created challenges. We also know that with the federal support available to us, we have an enormous opportunity to truly build back better. But we need your help.

Next month we’ll hold a series of virtual city budget engagement conversations to ensure that your voice is a part of this critical conversation. Leveraging the full potential of our 2022 city budget proposal and continuing to build a city that truly works for all of us, means we must all be a part of this work.

At this moment, the state of our city is hopeful. Even amid the darkest days we've endured, as we reflect, remember and honor all those we've lost during these uncertain times, we will continue moving forward. We will continue pushing toward the brighter days ahead, together.

 

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Last Edited: May 27, 2021