Reflections from Mayor Frey on his Early Days in Office

Charlie Gers

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey ran for office on a commitment for affordable housing, economic inclusion, improving police/community relations, and reducing racial inequality. Mayor Frey, who graduated with a degree in government from College of William and Mary in Virginia, practiced employment and civil rights law at Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels) and later Halunen Law before taking a role in public office. Frey first became involved in the community in 2011 by organizing the first Big Gay Race, a 5k race to raise money and advocacy against the constitutional amendment that opposed marriage equality and then by being elected for city council in Minneapolis’ Third Ward in 2013. Last November, Frey became the 48th mayor of Minneapolis after defeating incumbent mayor Betsy Hodges.

On April 23, a little over a hundred days into his first term, Frey visited the University of Minnesota for “Reflections from Mayor Frey on His Early Days in Office”, an event hosted by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. Through his relentless good-nature and great orator skills, Frey delivered a one-hour speech addressing the issues facing the city in front of an eager crowd that attracted numerous students as well as non-students. 

Frey commenced his speech by condemning the amount of division that has elevated, “Now more than ever, we must embrace public discourse, welcome debate, and welcome people with different views. We want to make sure that all views are welcome. Difference in strategy doesn’t mean diversion in values.” Frey mentioned the amount of division between the community and police, businesses and activists, and among political parties.

While division has been a prevalent issue in our community, Frey quickly proceeded to address one of the largest issues in the city—affordable housing crisis. According to an article published in City Pages, Minneapolis has lost about 15,000 affordable housing units since 2000 and rents have increased 15 percent in the last two years. Segregation policies, like redlining, have displaced and excluded minorities. 

“We do have an affordable housing crisis. We have the value of properties rising out of control. Communities of people who have made these areas wonderful are being displaced because of gentrification. We have an obligation as a city to make sure areas are affordable. We have a large homeless population who is working but still can’t afford the cost difference, perpetually keeping them homeless. Housing is a right; it costs three times as much to keep a person in a shelter cycling through poverty and hospital stays/jail than just to give them a home. We need to make sure the housing we’re creating is not all in one area—not just all North Minneapolis but also downtown, south, east, all neighborhoods.”
 One of the ways the mayor wants to tackle the housing crisis, and a variety of other issues in the city, is through a comprehensive plan called Minneapolis 2040. The draft of this plan discusses how the city will grow and change in areas such as housing, job access, the design of new buildings, and how we use our streets. The goals of the plan are clear—reduced disparities, more residents and jobs, affordable and accessible housing, high-quality physical environment, complete neighborhoods, clean environment, equitable civic participation system, and more. Minneapolis is growing and through this comprehensive plan, the city will continue to grow and be reshaped by 2040.

Frey reiterated his commitment to economic inclusion, which for him, meant growth while accounting for equity. “That means recognizing that to make gains as a city/region, every individual needs to have access to their hopes and dreams. We are having a workforce shortage—more jobs, less people to fill them. There are 71,000 job vacancies in the Twin Cities region,” Frey stated. Equipping children with technical skills and investing in communities of color and those who have been left behind are some of the steps in the right direction, according to Frey. 

Frey’s visit to the University of Minnesota on Monday afternoon was an opportunity to offer a check-in on his progress as the mayor and on his vision for the future. As the city continues to face challenges, it is essential for residents to be aware of the issues and work together to tackle them as a community because this is the place everyone can call home.