Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges Looks Forward

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mpls mayor hodges looks forward.jpgAfter a sound victory in the Nov. 5

election, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is looking forward to

working on her goals for education, building relationships with the

Native American community in Minneapolis and across the state.

In

an interview, Hodges said she intends on keeping pre-Kindergarten

development a priority as a means to make sure education is ingrained

in children from an early age. “My Cradle to K Initiative,

I’m really excited about. We already do good work here at the city,

working with pregnant mothers and those children in the first couple

years of life to make sure they’re growing in a healthy way and have

good, healthy brain development and seeing what we can do to bring

people together to forward the agenda to expand that program,” she

said. “So I’m excited about that because that’s the first disparity

that a kid faces, are they getting a healthy start, do they have the

brain development that they need?”

As mayor of the largest city in the

state and in the region, Hodges acknowledges the influence her office

brings to education. “I have the largest platform in the region and

the biggest bullhorn in the region and will be using it around these

education issues to pull people around the table and make sure that

we are moving the dial on these outcomes for children of color in

Minneapolis public schools.”

On

tribal issues, the new mayor has admits that she has some catch-up

learning to do, but that she looks forward to building bridges. “I

have not yet forged those relationships but that is part of my

intention, moving forward, meeting with the leadership and talk about

what the needs are. I know the urban offices from the tribes are one

of the places I want to start, knowing that they are the equivalent

of embassies here,” she said. “In knowing that they are the

representatives of the reservations here in the city – where there

are so many urban Native American folks who have their tribal

memberships and look to the urban offices for assistance – and that

is a government-to-government relationship that I’m going to foster.”

Among

the swath of candidates for mayor, the issue of gaming became a

dividing point for some, to the point of entertaining the possibility

of city gaming efforts to drive the local economy. For Hodges, it was

a simple matter of history and law. “For me, there’s not

gaming without the tribes and so holding that perspective as various

proposals move forward is one of the key things I can do as mayor.

The clear decision has been made about the relationship between is

that that is the purview of the tribes in the state of Minnesota and

we need to honor and respect that on all fronts.”

Her

position on gaming and tribal relations are formed by her

understanding of history as well as the realities of that dynamic.

“It’s a shameful history and I think it’s something that

white people are still grappling with, whether we know it or not,

frankly. And that the more we can put it on the table – really talk

about it – really talk about it in context of growth with one

another and looking to the future; knowing that the future is being

shaped by the past and that the present has been shaped by the past

in a way that has been very, very hard on the Native American

community, to put it lightly,” she said. “Acknowledging

that and moving forward from there, and knowing that change continues

to be needed and that we – the non-Native community have to move

the dial ourselves with ourselves – to make sure we are valuing our

neighbors as we ought, creating the opportunities that need

creating.”

Hodges

maintains her existing relationship with the urban Native community

and says she looks forward to addressing the relevant issues in a way

that’s realistic. “There’s so much great work happening in the

Native American community right now with so many great minds and

hearts, building not just the community but building Minneapolis. The

work that’s happening at Little Earth, work that’s happening all

across the city is work that’s building our city and I’m really

excited about it.”

She

continued, “I ran very clearly on a platform of building and

growing the city and doing with, and by, and for everybody. And for

me that clearly and very explicitly includes the Native American

community in Minneapolis. And so I want to make sure I work with the

community to help the community prosper to help our kids grow up

healthy and have great opportunities.” But even with high hopes,

she understands the reality of the situation. “I know those are the

things that people say … but we have to start with what that vision

is. And it is my commitment to operationalizing that in a way that

moves the dial as far as we can. Starting from there and knowing that

some of the key issues that I heard about from the community were

about education, jobs, opportunities and police relationships. And

so, moving forward on those in general for the city is something I’m

going to be doing. But specifically to the Native American community,

knowing that those needs are specific and our solutions have to be

specific as well.”

She keeps the rocky terrain about

police relationships in mind, but said she acknowledges that

improvements can always be made. Specifically, she outlined her work

with Police Chief Janee Harteau. “I think [she] is fantastic, she

and I are forging a very good relationship with one another, I was

very proud to support her; I think she gets it, I think she gets that

community relations are very important and that we’ve been very good

at being a high-tech police dept and we’ve gotten a a lot of great

results that way. But we need to be a high-touch police department,

so that those officers need to be out of the cars, interacting with

people. We need to be fostering those relationships as well so as to

build and rebuild trust between the community and the police

department.”

One of the ways Hodges sees at

building that relationship is fostering trust through the body camera

program that has taken hold in cities like San Francisco. “I found

money in the budget for the body cam program that should we move

forward on that, and I anticipate that we will, that we have the

dollars in place to do it and do it well. Because in other cities,

it’s really transformed the community’s relationship with the police

and vice versa, complaints go down and use of force goes down.”

The mayor said the city draws

strength from its Native community. “I am proud of the fact that we

have the largest urban American Indian population in the country.

That’s a huge asset for our city; the perspective that you bring from

other places, I think it gives you a different vantage point, you’d

bring a different world view to solutions to challenges that we

face.”

To that end, Hodges encourages

members of the Native community to stay involved in city government

as a means to keep her administration informed. “I would encourage

involvement in the Neighborhood & Community Engagement

Commission. That’s one of the things that when we put the NCEC

together, I was the one who put the resolution out there that one of

the things they’re charged with is looking into and telling us how to

better diversify the folks who are applying for city boards and

commissions. I just think that’s crucial and would love increased

participation from the Native comm, I think that would be wonderful.”