Mayor Melvin Carter's  
2024 State of Our City Address

Tuesday, March 11, 2024

Full text of the address

Thank you, Council President Jalali for sharing this opportunity with us.

I want to start by taking a moment to recognize the extraordinary valor and heroism exemplified by our Saint Paul Fire Department. Thank you, Chief Inks and Deputy Chief Mokkoso for being here with us.

On January 3, tragedy struck the Vang family in the most profound way possible. A devastating early-morning fire destroyed their home and stole the lives of four of their beautiful young children.

Pa Cheng Vang was working an overnight shift when his wife, Ker Lor, made that terrified call for help, telling operators that she and her six children were trapped inside by a fire on the first floor of their family home.

Within minutes, five dozen Saint Paul emergency responders arrived on the scene and charged into the house without hesitation, rescuing the seven individuals trapped inside.

Heartbreakingly, in the days that followed, we lost four of the Vang family’s six children. Today, Ker Lor and their 6-year-old son remain hospitalized and fighting for their lives.

The only thing more imaginable than losing a child is losing four at the same time. It’s beyond comprehension. Their loss weighs heavy on our entire community, and on me, and is a reminder of the fragility of life.

The couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Hnub Qub, is back with family and on her journey to recovery. 

The “bright light,” her father shared.

It is because of the swift and courageous actions of our Saint Paul firefighters and emergency responders that the Vang family clings to this hope. 

Each and every day, our firefighters and first responders epitomize the definition of public service by willingly placing the safety and wellbeing of others above their own. In our most vulnerable moments, your promise of protection is resolute. 

Thank you for being guardians of our city.

Today, we honor the exceptional bravery and selflessness of the men and women of our Saint Paul Fire Department. On your behalf, we present Chief Inks and Deputy Chief Mokkoso with our Mayor’s Medal of Honor.

Good afternoon, and welcome to the 2024 State of Our City Address. 

It's a privilege to stand before you today at the Xcel Energy Center, a venue that exemplifies the vibrancy Saint Paul has to offer, alongside our exceptional partners at the Wild, team owner Craig Leipold and CEO Matt Majka.

Thank you for being ALL IN on supporting Saint Paul and the State of Hockey.

Thank you Council President Jalali and members of our City Council for being here and accepting the great responsibility to serve this incredible community.

Your commitment to the success of our community is already self-evident; I look forward to what we’ll achieve together on behalf of our residents.

My sincere gratitude goes to Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher, members of our cabinet and all 3,000-plus employees on Team Saint Paul for working tirelessly each and every day on behalf of our residents.

Your talent and expertise are the reasons why we are able to deliver in an effective and timely manner, the essential city services that we rely on. 

Please stand so we can give you a round of applause. 

I also want to acknowledge my pillars of strength — my incredible wife, First Lady Dr. Sakeena Futrell-Carter and my other family members present today. 

Your wisdom and unending support fuels my spirit and pushes me forward in this critical work of building a city that works for all of us. 

I also want to extend warm wishes to our neighbors and those in attendance today observing Ramadan, which began at sundown yesterday. 

To our Muslim brothers and sisters, may this time of fasting, reflection, and prayer bring you and your family in closer connection with your faith and provide peace and renewal for the year ahead. 

Finally, I’d like to recognize our outstanding partners at Saint Paul Public Schools: Superintendent Joe Gothard and district administration, School Board Chair Halla Henderson and our entire School Board, Saint Paul Federation of Educators President Leah VanDassor and all union members and organizers, and most importantly, our Saint Paul Public School teachers. Your spirit of collaboration and passion for our youth is unwavering.

Together, your ongoing commitment to putting our children first was foundational to securing a tentative contract agreement and avoiding a strike last week.

As mayor, as a Saint Paul Public Schools alumni and parent, I am grateful for your efforts to secure a resolution that keeps our scholars on task and honors the immense talents of our educators.

Superintendent Gothard, Saint Paul is in a better position because of your leadership. 

Through your relentless pursuit of educational equity, our school district is graduating students who are inspired to think critically, pursue their dreams, and change the world. 

While your innovative and bold approach will be deeply missed in Saint Paul, we wish you well and congratulate you on the opportunity to return to the place where it all started and lead your home district in Madison. 

Thank you.

I stand before you today as optimistic and energized as ever about the future we are building together here in Saint Paul.

Our public safety strategies are producing double digit decreases in violent crime rates across the board. 

We’ve seen the return of beloved traditions like Lowertown Sounds, Grand Old Days, the Winter Carnival, and Glow Fest. 

We are hosting more events of global prominence than ever before, like Red Bull Heavy Metal, the NCHC Frozen Faceoff and the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four, a Lollapalooza-esque music festival on Harriet Island and the World Juniors Hockey Championships. 

Development opportunities at Highland Bridge, The Heights, River's Edge, Xcel Energy Center, United Village, and the Sears site are poised to add billions of dollars to our tax base.

Riverboats once again grace our waterways, with the Viking Mississippi luxury cruise liner docking in Saint Paul again this summer.

And here we stand, at the Xcel Energy Center in the energy of state tournament season and last night’s electric overtime win.

By the way: you may not have heard this yet, but we elected an all-woman City Council.

We’ve emerged more capable, more focused, and more resilient, because of the collective efforts of each and every one of you.

And with an unprecedented influx of resources, including sales tax dollars, increased Local Government Aid, and metrowide support for market-rate and affordable housing, we stand at the precipice of transformation.

Saint Paul stands poised to capitalize on a new era of growth and opportunity.

To be clear, a host of critical challenges still loom ahead, and we must meet them with urgent solutions for housing, for downtown and our neighborhood commercials, and for our streetlights, just to name a few. And we will.

My enthusiasm today isn’t due to a lack of challenges, but because I’ve never been more confident in our Saint Paul team, nor our ability to actually work together as a team, than I am today.

Now is our moment to go ALL IN, to double down on the big bets made on our residents, and affirm our conviction to move Saint Paul forward.

Our shared prosperity demands a comprehensive, coordinated, and evidence-based approach to address each of the complex challenges and opportunities ahead.

Our first mission — offering safe spaces for families and businesses to thrive — lays the foundation upon which every other ambition must be built.

We are fortunate to be watched over by one of the most capable teams of first responders on the planet.

Literally no one is better at responding to calls for help than our Saint Paul police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. They prove their commitment and capacity in large and small ways every day. 

Chief Henry and Chief Inks, thank you for your leadership — we are grateful to the women and men of our Saint Paul Police and Fire Departments for their service. 

Emergency response is a necessary and sacred part of our comprehensive public safety framework. And yet, as our last line of defense, our first responders deserve to know we don’t expect them to do it all alone. 

It takes all of us.

That’s why we built our Community-First Public Safety Framework.

Guided by years of public engagement, our framework offers a roadmap for an ALL IN public safety plan that we are literally ALL IN.

We’ve evolved beyond a response-only mindset, to a two-pronged approach that balances optimal emergency and crisis responses with targeted interventions to reduce the chances a crime will occur in the first place.

Our work is making a difference. 

While every city in America, including Saint Paul, experienced increased crime in the wake of the global COVID pandemic, our public safety strategies have produced double-digit reductions over the past year in nearly every category of violent crime, including homicides, shots fired, and aggravated assaults.

Last month, National Public Radio published a story called “How one city took on rising auto thefts,” reporting that while auto thefts rose nationwide by 30% in the last year, our work in Saint Paul produced a 40% decrease.

The story cited positive outlets for youth, “like free youth sports and after-school programming, as well as free rides to school and to mental health appointments” as strategies that are making a difference, and concluded that, in comparison to dozens of cities they examined, “Saint Paul remains an outlier.”

We are leveraging that same ALL IN approach to make Saint Paul an outlier on gun violence.

We launched Project PEACE in 2022, led by our Office of Neighborhood Safety under the leadership of Director Brooke Blakey, in collaboration with our Saint Paul Police Department. 

It’s a methodical, individualized gun violence intervention that connects gun violence-involved individuals with evidence-based community led programming, and wraparound supports. 

This body of work has driven a 25% decrease in firearm incidents since 2022, an indication that our interventions and commitment to addressing the root causes of crime can help move things in the right direction. 

State support has played a crucial role in our ability to invest in public safety. 

I am grateful to Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, and our legislative leaders for sending $13.6 million in state public safety aid to help make strategies like these possible.

While I know our public safety strategies extend beyond the traditions and precedents that many of us are used to, and while change is by definition uncomfortable, I can assure you of this fact: Old thinking cannot produce new results.

My life’s work is built on the question, “why?” Every day, I ask one of you: 

Why are you raising your family here?

Why did you choose to start your business, work, or go to school?

What vision are you working to cultivate in Saint Paul?

Your responses to that question inspire me. The magnitude of dreams we collectively cultivate in this city always amazes me.

That’s why every Cabinet appointment I’ve made has been through a Community Hiring Process.

That’s why we’ve invited you to participate in the community hiring panels we’ve employed to appoint every member of our cabinet, the community budget games we’ve hosted to seek insight on every budget we’ve proposed to the City Council, and the robust and extensive public engagement process we’ve employed to form every major policy we’ve advanced, from raising the minimum wage to crafting the Community-First Public Safety framework I just discussed.

The urgency that our residents, workers, and business leaders feel everyday must translate into urgency in how we lead from City Hall.

At a time when children and families across the world feel as vulnerable as ever, to paraphrase our late Senator Wellstone, our local politics must always stay focused on the improvement of people’s lives.

That’s our goal: the practical, every day improvement of our residents’ lives.

Raising the minimum wage;

Starting every child born in our city with $50 in a college savings account;

Piloting guaranteed income;

Facilitating wealth creation through home ownership;

Helping frontline workers pool their money to buy the business;

Offering fine free libraries and free youth sports; and

Erasing over $110 million in our residents’ medical debt.

Those are just a few of the ways we set out to improve our constituents’ lives.

Our Saint Paul Office of Financial Empowerment serves as the backbone for many of the strategies I just named. 

Our founding Office of Financial Empowerment Director, Muneer Karcher-Ramos, joined our team on a Wednesday in 2019, and sent me a written “weekly report” just two days later.

And it was impressive.

Under Director Karcher-Ramos’ leadership these past five years, OFE has built a hard-earned reputation as a national role model for cities looking to support their residents’ financial wellbeing.

Saint Paul is the first American city to launch a college savings program featuring automatic, universal enrollment at birth. 

Thank you, Craig Leipold and all the members of our Fund for the Future campaign, for your work and investments these past five years to bring that promise into sight.

Saint Paul is the first American city to pilot guaranteed income using public funds; we’ve delivered millions in unconditional, monthly payments to families with young children, and paved the way for five dozen communities across the country to follow, through our national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income network.

The independent, third-party analyses being conducted on our pilots is finally replacing the unfounded tropes we all grew up believing about how and why poverty works in America, with real empirical data.

Study after study shows that low-income Americans know how to manage their money. More than 90% of the dollars distributed through our pilots is spent on necessities like rent, food, and clothes. 

The City of Columbus, South Carolina, targeted single fathers in their pilot, and found that 60% of the dollars went straight to child support.

As the old saying goes, give a man a dollar, and he’ll spend it on his kids.

Study after study shows that low-income Americans take these investments not as an excuse to work less, but as an opportunity to work more. The employment rate among our Saint Paul participants rose from 49% at the start of our pilot to 63% after the 18-month pilot ended.

These results prove the promise of our ALL IN model — when we believe in and bet on our residents, we always get a return.

As we reflect on the achievements of our Office of Financial Empowerment, we bid a heartfelt farewell to Director Karcher-Ramos, and wish him well as he embarks on his next adventure. 

I thank Ikram Koliso, our founding program manager for CollegeBound Saint Paul, for agreeing to step forward as interim director while we conduct a community hiring process to select a new permanent leader.

While our outlook is incredibly bright, we must also acknowledge the critical challenges that must be met with urgency. 

The true measure of our economic well-being lies neither in the scale of our skyline, nor even the stock-prices of our best corporate partners, but in our neighbors’ ability to pay the rent, feed our children, work a good job and live with dignity in Saint Paul. 

We must be thoughtful in our approach to housing investments and policies to ensure secure and stable residences.

And we must appreciate that the climate action is not a distant concern; it intertwines with our daily lives, affecting our streets, food supply, and even our ability to commute during erratic winter weather we’ve experienced these past two years. 

As we think about the future, we must question whether our current approach to all these challenges is aligned with the realities we may face in the future.

This is our chance to invest wisely, to go ALL IN on common sense, and steer Saint Paul towards a future that reflects the strength of its hand.

The road to the vibrant, thriving future we all desire pledges no allegiance to the boundaries of our comfort zone. 

We cannot improve and stay the same at the same time. 

We have to choose.

That concept, the choice between a new future versus an old or familiar path, was at the heart of this address last year, too. 

In the wake of last year’s historic winter, which battered our streets, sidewalks, and bikeways, we together faced a billion-dollar choice: continue decades of disinvestment and disrepair, or invest together now for a more vibrant future?

To me, it was a simple question:

Should we ignore common sense and keep our streets on a 124-year replacement cycle, knowing their average lifespan is only 60 years?

Or should we leverage our common cents — one penny at a time — to fund a billion-dollar historic investment in our citywide infrastructure, parks, and public buildings?

Our Saint Paul legislative delegation were invaluable partners in carrying forward our drive for long term, predictable funding to improve our streets and parks and recreation facilities. 

I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Senator Sandy Pappas, Representative Athena Hollins, and our entire legislative delegation for carrying our Common Cent sales tax proposal through the state legislative approval process.

I want to acknowledge the dedication and work of former and current members of the Saint Paul City Council, as well as the contributions of our former Parks & Recreation and Public Works directors, Mike Hahm and Kathy Lantry.

And I am forever grateful for the countless Saint Paul workers and students, faith leaders and CEOs, frustrated drivers, hopeful cyclists, and everyday neighbors who stood together to answer last year’s ballot question with a resounding ‘yes’ to the future of our city.

Your overwhelming authorization is a testament to the common sense understanding that investing in the core infrastructure of our streets and parks is both a necessity and a shared responsibility for residents, workers, and visitors alike. 

With collection on our citywide one-cent sales tax begins April 1, and we’re wasting no time laying the groundwork to transform our infrastructure, enhance our public spaces, and create job opportunities for Saint Paulites.

We'll breathe new life into our parks system — revitalizing fields, play areas, courts, parking lots, trails, water features, and sidewalks using a significant portion of our sales tax dollars. 

Recognizing the importance of safeguarding the longevity and functionality of our community spaces, we are directing additional funds toward critical deferred capital maintenance needs. 

This includes essential upgrades to HVAC systems, roofs, doors, windows, gyms, and lighting at various park buildings and facilities. 

A transformative investment is earmarked for the first phase of converting the heating system inside the primate building at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory from natural gas to geothermal energy. 

This sustainable initiative aligns with our commitment to environmental stewardship, reducing our ecological footprint while ensuring the long-term resilience and efficiency of this beloved community landmark.

We’re dedicating a portion of these funds to our downtown parks in a bid to enhance the vibrancy of our city center. 

These improvements will make our urban oases more inviting, engaging, and reflective of the dynamic spirit of Saint Paul. 

As we look to the future, sales tax dollars will also advance design work for key projects, including the River Learning Center, River Balcony, and the development of parks and green space at Hillcrest.

Finally, we’ll allocate major funding toward functionality and aesthetics improvements along our iconic Grand Avenue corridor, including the Grand Avenue — Snelling to Fairview Project, Grand at Fairview Signal Project, and the Grand and Snelling Intersection Improvement Project. 

Through these investments, we will create a more accessible and vibrant Grand Avenue that will help our community thrive. 

To our current Parks and Public Works Directors Rodriguez and Kershaw — thank you for your leadership as we move boldly forward with these enormous investments for our community. 

One common refrain from critics of our Common Cent proposal over the last year was the rhetorical question, “Why use these resources to fund new infrastructure, when we have years of catch-up ahead to maintain what we already have?”

The answer is clear: simply spending the next 20 years trading old concrete for new concrete in all the same places we laid roads 100 years ago would position our city for a vibrant and prosperous 1925.

The last time we reconstructed Summit Avenue, William Taft was president, our city’s population was two-thirds our current size, and American car ownership stood at less than 3%.

Rebuilding our streets isn’t enough — our Common Cent plan offers us the opportunity to rethink them for the next generation.

By necessity, that means designing our infrastructure, and everything else we do, to withstand and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis, while facilitating our continued reduction of fossil gas emissions from buildings and transportation.

Throughout my administration, our Saint Paul Chief Resilience Officer Russ Stark has championed policies that ensure we are tackling our most urgent climate challenges head-on. 

Along with our Climate Justice Advisory Board, co-chaired by Alice Wagner-Hemstad and Dominique Diaddigo-Cash, we are well positioned to continue realizing a more resilient city. 

Right-sizing our streets, expanding our network of low- and no-carbon transportation options, and boosting the energy efficiency of city-owned buildings is only the beginning of our next chapter.

We are already leading the way with geothermal heating and cooling systems in progress at Como Zoo and our new North End Community Center, and we’re excited by the possibility of building a district geothermal system as a centerpiece of our goal to build a net-zero carbon community at The Heights, our 112-acre redevelopment site on our city’s East Side.

Two buildings at our Highland Bridge development recently received LEED Certifications, and The Heights development, led by the Saint Paul Port Authority president and CEO Todd Hurley, has been pre-certified as LEED for Communities Platinum — the first such designation in Minnesota.

And we are working with District Energy Saint Paul to pursue decarbonization of our downtown district heating system in the coming years.

Our citywide organized hauling system is evolving too. Informed by the volunteers on our Garbage Advisory Committee — and a significant amount of constituent feedback over the past several years, we are entering negotiations with a single hauler, FCC Environmental, toward a citywide contract that offers options for cart sharing and provisional opt-out to families that demonstrate a sustained commitment to waste reduction.

To ensure quality and consistency, the city will oversee all aspects of billing, customer service and education efforts, and cart maintenance and repair.

Finally, to increase our system wide flexibility, our City Council has approved the purchase of five garbage trucks, which we will use to directly service up to 10% of our citywide routes.

With these changes, we aspire to enhance efficiency, reduce environmental impact, and provide a more equitable service, aligning with our sustainability goals.

In keeping with our administration’s core values of resilience and innovation, our street maintenance crews are currently preparing a new, overhauled snow management strategy — a rotating one-sided winter parking cycle — which holds the potential to offer better service to residential streets, increase predictability for staffing and budgeting purposes, and reduce salt usage all at the same time.

Because weather always proves more volatile than our best attempts to plan for it, our crews are preparing to conduct a limited test on this new approach, potentially as soon as next winter. 

Stay tuned for much more on this work in the coming months.

I am excited to announce that, after 15 long years of effort and investment, we are poised to complete the removal of all city-managed ash trees on boulevards and parklands by the end of this calendar year.

As awe-struck as I am to finally complete a project our city crews commenced in only my second year on the City Council, we are still a far cry from entirely eliminating the nuisance of Emerald Ash Borer from our city.

The need for homeowners to remove ash trees before they become a hazard is every bit as urgent as it is expensive.

Recognizing this urgency, and to protect residents from both injury and property damage, we will offer a low-interest, assessment financed mechanism to help low-income homeowners remove impacted trees from their property.

To be clear, our ultimate goal isn’t to remove trees, but to replace the monocultural urban forest of our past with a more diverse and resilient repopulated urban forest. 

To that end, we are expanding our jobs partnership with Tree Trust to employ nearly 60 youth and young adults to plant and nurture nearly 2,000 new trees on our city streets, symbolizing growth, renewal, and vibrancy.

Traditional models of city building are all about erecting new structures, recruiting new businesses, and attracting new workers to our city. 

Those are important goals, and we work hard to welcome those who find their way to this incredible city.

But equating success with newness can make us miss obvious opportunities to cultivate and grow the under-realized human potential that already flows in our residents.

So, let’s flip the script and hone our ability to not only recruit, but to create new opportunities for current residents to grow, work, and thrive as contributing members of our local economy.

As always, our city government will lead the way, but we need your help.

We have committed to hosting Right Track youth interns in every department — including City Council offices — but that’s not enough. 

Right Track has seen a historic number of youth applicants this year; an accomplishment that becomes a lot less exciting if it ends up only meaning we have to turn more away.

To the public, private and nonprofit leaders of our city, I issue this challenge: let’s work together, starting today, to be a community prepared to offer a job to every young person who wants one. 

Sign up to host an intern at today.

Through Saint Paul Work Now, we are partnering with Listening House to offer zero-barrier job opportunities for residents who have experienced homelessness to help keep our downtown and neighborhood commercial corridors clean. 

Thank you to our Saint Paul Work Now crew for being here today; make sure you wave and say hello when you see them out and about in their signature purple vests.

To ensure city employment is within our residents’ reach, I have directed our Human Resources Department to eliminate degree requirements for 90% of city job titles, hire a local recruiter, and work with our departments to advance more accessible workforce pathways like the ones we’ve already built to invite residents to earn a paycheck from the city while earning the credentials they need to become our next generation of Emergency Medical Technicians, Water Utility workers, Vehicle Technicians, foresters, and commercial drivers.

We are complementing our local hiring focus with a values-based contracting model that offers bonus points in our contracting process to bidders who have a physical footprint in Saint Paul, employ our residents, and those who agree to hire Right Track youth interns. 

To be clear, we will certainly be employing values-based contracting with regard to contracts related to Common Cent projects. 

One billion dollars in road construction projects is $1 billion in economic opportunity for someone — our task is to ensure our residents have every advantage to successfully compete for those opportunities.

With unemployment in Minnesota holding at 2.7%, private sector leaders all over this city continue to report filling vacancies as a critical business constraint.

But unemployment percentages don’t account for those who have given up on the job search because a prior conviction, disability, or current life circumstance makes them feel unwelcome in our job market.

To that end, we will draft and propose a unique pilot to challenge local Saint Paul businesses to expand their capacity by creating job opportunities for Saint Paul residents referred through a host of community serving nonprofits, including Catholic Charities, Face to Face, Listening House, Ujamaa Place, Autism Society of Minnesota, and others.

We will set out to minimize the perceived risk associated with betting on the people others have betted against, through forgivable short-term business loans to cover up to half of a qualifying employee’s wages and benefits for a full year.

One urgent challenge facing every major city today is the future of our downtowns.

Changing work patterns have translated into half-full office buildings and greatly reduced daytime customers for downtown shops and restaurants.

As these challenges impact downtown property values — and the downtown property tax collections that contribute to citywide vitality — residents in cities across the country are understanding anew just how critical a thriving downtown is to a city’s overall health.

Fortunately, our downtown is home to many incredible companies, including Securian and Ecolab, whose CEO’s are ALL IN on Saint Paul.

Chris Hilger and Christophe Beck - thank you for your ongoing investment in the prosperity of our community, for your bold leadership, for your commitment to our city, and for partnering to co-chair our Saint Paul Downtown Alliance. 

Formed in 2019, the Downtown Alliance has convened stakeholders, created a downtown improvement district, commissioned a sharp new “STPL” logo design, hired ambassadors to help keep our downtown clean and welcoming, and programmed hundreds of public activations. 

I could not imagine enduring these past four years without them as a partner.

Most recently, the Downtown Alliance led an extensive, year-long process to craft a Downtown Investment Strategy. 

Steeped in research, market analysis, and public engagement, they recommend three key priorities where coordination across sectors will bolster our efforts to add density and vitality downtown. 

First, implement an office to residential conversion program.

Working with our Housing and Redevelopment Authority Chair, Rebecca Noecker, we’re developing an office-to-residential conversion program to increase density, support our downtown businesses, and make our commercial office market more competitive.

Thank you for your leadership as we work to streamline city processes and identify funding sources to support this key strategy for our downtown.

Second, increase investments in pedestrian oriented street improvements because how our downtown looks and feels is important. 

We are planting trees throughout our city center, beautifying streets, sidewalks, and skyways with locally-curated art and murals, and leveraging our Common Cent toward improvements to Pedro Park and Ecolab Plaza.

And third, accelerate the most strategic redevelopment projects in downtown.

One such opportunity focuses on our world class Xcel Energy Center. 

Throughout the year, the Xcel hosts our Minnesota Wild, the Minnesota Professional Women's Hockey team, concerts, cultural events, rodeos, conventions and conferences, State High School League athletic tournaments, and an ever-growing list of other community events. 

As a concert venue, it has been nominated nine times for the title “Arena of the Year” by leading concert-industry publication Pollstar magazine.

Together, the Xcel Energy Center and Roy Wilkins Auditorium stand as the most prolific drivers of economic activity in Saint Paul, drawing in over 1 million visitors annually. 

To maintain their status as exceptional local and statewide attractions, we are seeking $2 million for planning activities necessary for the predesign and design of updates and improvements to the Xcel Energy Center and the Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

Each year, nearly 20% of visitors travel more than 100 miles to attend events at these two venues. In 2022, they jointly hosted 332 events, drawing in a total of 1.8 million attendees.

The arena complex currently generates $383 million in statewide spending, including lodging, meals, transportation, and other goods and services. 

A renovated arena is anticipated to boost statewide spending to an estimated $493 million, with the renovation project creating approximately 2,300 jobs.

Together, in partnership with the Minnesota Wild, we will reshape this popular venue to not only grow its capacity to host world-class events, but solidifies its status as a premier destination for entertainment and community engagement.

An essential factor to downtown revitalization is public safety. 

We’re proud of the comprehensive work done to reduce crime in our city. 

But facts and data can often seem amorphous. 

We must also feel safe when we travel downtown. 

We hear from residents and businesses that their sense of safety is affected by our unsheltered neighbors and the accompanying encampments.

While none of us want to see our most vulnerable residents in encampments, we must understand that the encampment is not the problem, but a symptom of a greater challenge we face in ensuring no one is ever forced to live outside.

We are facing that challenge head on. 

Our Homeless Assistance Response Team, known as our HART team, is one of our dedicated optimal response teams borne from community engagement around public safety. 

The goal of our HART team is simple: to end unsheltered homelessness in the City of Saint Paul.

In partnership with nonprofit organizations and private partners, and with the invaluable, hands-on leadership of Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher and Ramsey County Board Chair Trista Martinson, our city and county teams have worked together over the last year to help over 100 neighbors successfully transition from encampments and shelter space to permanent housing.

We are pushing hard to add badly needed affordable and supportive housing units across our city through developments like Restoring Waters, Nellie Francis Court and the Lumin in Highland Bridge; our partnership with Sherman Associates at The Heights on the East Side; The Soul on the West Side; Marshall Avenue Flats, Treehouse Senior Housing Project, and our exciting redevelopment of the Hamm’s Brewery with JB Vang as tentative developer.

Additionally, Ashland Apartments and Twelve22, two projects funded by our partnership with the county to support deeply affordable housing with American Rescue Plan funds are now both officially open to tenants

I am excited to announce that, having provided nearly $2.5 million in down payment and home renovation assistance to Saint Paul homeowners since the beginning of 2023, we have met our goal to deplete the funds our Housing & Redevelopment Authority have invested into our Affordable Housing Trust Fund for those purposes.

We are committed to sustaining these programs, designed to facilitate wealth creation through home-ownership, and will ask the HRA utilize the new metro-wide sales tax to commit $1 million in annual funding to down payment assistance programs like the Inheritance Fund on an ongoing basis.

We are excited to propose a transformative project called Familiar Families, in partnership with the Heading Home Ramsey Continuum of Care, Saint Paul Public Schools and Interfaith Action. 

Familiar Families is designed to support families with children who face persistent challenges in traditional shelter settings. 

Prioritizing those who have experienced homelessness for a period of four years or more, and with a history of previous restrictions from shelters, the program offers shelter and trauma-informed wrap-around services to dozens of Saint Paul residents. 

I want to personally thank Dr. Eric Jolly, President and CEO of the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation, and Alfonso Wenker, Vice President of Community Impact, for stepping forward with a $250,000 commitment to support this work in 2025.

The metro wide sales tax passed by the legislature last year will create a new funding stream of $5 to $6 million a year for Saint Paul. While these funds are urgently needed, they create a good opportunity to be thoughtful, and planful, and to engage community stakeholders in the process to determine how those funds can be best leveraged.

Just as I’ve argued with regard to public safety and every other complex challenge, there is no one silver bullet solution to address our housing challenges. The answer lies not in finding the right one policy or investment, but in determining the right portfolio to move our housing goals forward.

Our Community First Public Safety Framework is impactful because over 2,000 Saint Paul community members stepped up to help build it together. 

We will invite our community housing stakeholders again over the coming year to build out an ALL IN Housing Framework, holding our goals for supporting unsheltered neighbors, protecting renters, facilitating ownership, constructing new housing, and rehabilitating our existing stock as all part of the same grand puzzle.

We've been placing big bets on the incredible potential that exists within our young people, workers and families in Saint Paul. 

And I stand before you today with a profound sense of optimism and excitement for the future of our city.

The stakes are high, but so is our determination to create a city where every resident can thrive. As we stand on the cusp of a new beginning, let us remember that our greatest asset is the strength of our unity. 

Together, we will build a city that not only meets the needs of today but paves the way for a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow. 

With more resources and expertise than ever, and the unwavering support of a dedicated city council and an engaged community, we are ready to go ALL IN.

For more information, contact Press Secretary Kamal Baker at

Last Edited: March 13, 2024