We sat down with Ward 8 City Councilmember and City Council President Andrea Jenkins, who is running for re-election this year. We talked about her time in office, her vision for George Floyd Square, her views on the Roof Depot project, public safety, housing, and more. This is part of a series of interviews of people running for City Council – if you have any questions or feedback, use the “Add Context” box at the bottom of this piece.
Southwest Voices: How do you think the Council has done since you took over as President in 2022?
Andrea Jenkins: I think we’ve done well. We’ve made historic investments in affordable housing. $17.5 million with a commitment to $18 million next year. We have overhauled our entire government, which is a huge undertaking.
We created the Community Commission on Police Oversight. We’ve been negotiating with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to come up with an enforceable agreement to increase accountability for our police department. We hired a new police chief. We created the Office of Community Safety and Neighborhood Safety, which is a big deal. That combines all our public safety entities into one department. That was a big part of last year’s election. We created a behavioral crisis intervention team to address people having mental health crises instead of sending a police officer.
I think we’ve done some pretty monumental things since I took over the presidency of the Council.
SWV: Why do you think you deserve to be re-elected?
AJ: Many of the things I mentioned are about moving the city forward. We’ve had some deeply challenging times since I’ve been in office. We had a global pandemic. We had a racial uprising. I kind of get the sense that people are like “yeah, that happened, and whatever.” But those were some really significant things that we are still dealing with.
I think I should be re-elected to ensure that we can continue to have a balanced, equitable approach to the challenges that are facing the city of Minneapolis. We need a voice for equity on this Council, and I think I’ve been doing that. We need pragmatic leadership to try to seek a balance between all of the competing interests of the residents of the city of Minneapolis. I believe I bring that to the table.
SWV: How do you feel about this Council’s record on public safety?
AJ: When we shifted the government structure, we really clarified that the role of the mayor is to manage the staff and be the executive of the city. As such, the mayor oversees, appoints, and manages all of the department heads. There is not a role in the direct day-to-day management of public safety for the Council.
That being said, we created this new department, the Office of Community Safety, which brought together all of those entities that support public safety to make it one unit that has a broad approach to public safety beyond policing. The crisis intervention team and Canopy [editor’s note: They run the city’s behavioral crisis response work] is a big part of that. I would say we’ve done a good job on public safety.
SWV: Do you think you’ve done enough work on police reform so far?
AJ: No. I don’t. If you’re aware, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights sued the city. We’re now in negotiations for how to increase accountability and oversight over the police. We need to bring forth new policies and new trainings. So, no, we have not done enough. But that work is in progress. Much of that will be dictated by outside agencies, from the Department of Human Rights to the Department of Justice, which is likely to put in place a consent decree as well.
We hope that will have a positive impact on creating a respectful and Constitutionally-sound Minneapolis Police Department. Some of those things have been underway. The hiring of Dr. Cedric Alexander has been a really positive step on making our public safety more humanistic, more Constitutionally-sound, and more community-based. We still have a lot more work to do.
SWV: What would you like to see happen long-term at George Floyd Square?
AJ: Longer term, I want to see George Floyd Square become a nationally pilgrimage site for social justice. I’d like to see a museum or a center dedicated to anti-racism and lifting up the communities and the issues that lead to murders of Black and Brown people like George Floyd, like Breonna Taylor, like Dante Wright, by police.
38th and Chicago should be a beacon for learning how we overcome these issues. More specifically, it needs to be a monument to the social justice movement and making sure that all of the artifacts and offerings left at the site can be preserved in a place that people can come and learn from and interact with them. We have to have economic development as a centerpiece. We need community ownership at 38th and Chicago.
Much of what I dream about at 38th and Chicago has come out of conversations I’ve had with community members called Thirty-Eighth Street THRIVE. It was created with community prior to the murder of George Floyd. My vision for George Floyd Square, as we renamed it, remains the same. Community ownership. Job training opportunities. A historical nod to the Black community that grew up around 38th and Chicago, and 38th and 4th, and 3rd Avenue.
I’ve been working with the Sabathani Community Center and the Cultural Wellness Center and the folks at Kente Circle and Agape to create an organization called 38th Street United that’s working on economic development and supporting the businesses that are already there as well. We want to inspire and entice new businesses to develop at 38th and Chicago. That’s my dream for 38th and Chicago.
I really want to see, right at 38th and Chicago, pedestrian and transit-only blocks, maybe from 39th Street down to 37th Street, sort of like Nicollet Mall. No cars. This is a historically significant site. It changed the world. It captured the world’s attention. I think we should honor that and never forget what happened there. We have to lean into what happened there in order to make this a safer and more equitable world for all of us.
SWV: You talked a bit about housing at the start. What would you like to see happen next for housing policy in the city?
AJ: I think we need to come up with policies that help keep low-income Black and Brown women with children in their homes. Part of the strategy should include rent stabilization. Part of that strategy has to include subsidies or basic universal income. That has to be a part of it.
We also have to build more housing. I’m proud to say that Ward 8, since I’ve been in office, we have more than 560 new units of affordable housing. It’s probably the biggest housing boom in Ward 8 in the last 50 years. There’s a new deeply affordable project going up at 39th and Chicago [that will be reserved for people that make up to] 30% of the Area Median Income.
We just opened up senior housing at the Sabathani Community Center to help seniors live in the community. The city helped to fund a project at 3030 Nicollet, which was the site of unrest where the old Wells Fargo Bank building was. There will be 100+ units of deeply affordable housing at that site. At 33rd and Nicollet, we opened up an affordable housing site. There are plans for development for another affordable housing site at 33rd and Nicollet, right across the street from the one that just opened.
I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do in Ward 8 in terms of production of housing. I’m working with Project for Pride in Living, Sabathani Community Center, and other housing developers to ensure that we continue to create new housing. That’s got to be a big part of the process. We’ve got to have more housing in the mix.
SWV: What do you think a rent control or rent stabilization policy should look like?
AJ: We can have a 3% cap. But we need to have some carve-outs. Maybe exempting new construction for a few years. Maybe some rent banking could be a part of it. I do think it’s got to be a well-thought out plan. What we don’t want to do is limit housing production.
We’ve got to have more housing if we’re going to address this problem. We have to make sure we’re creating a policy that does not stifle development. I think something like what’s happening across the river in St. Paul has to be a part of how we address rent stabilization in Minneapolis.
SWV: How do you feel about the resolution of the Roof Depot issue as it stands today?
AJ: There is no resolution. We have a court order on the demolition.
I do think the offer on the table does take into account the community’s concerns. It’s a very complex issue. The city’s residents need a new facility to ensure that we can maintain our Public Works infrastructure. The Roof Depot site is also called the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility because we already have Phase 1 of that facility there.
This would be an expansion to create a new water maintenance facility to replace the 100-plus-year-old maintenance facility that was literally constructed when we used horses and buggies to go out and maintain the streets. It is not ADA-accessible to our employees that work there. It is not conducive to the equipment that we need to restore and maintain to keep our Public Works facilities working. Nor is it conducive to maintaining our water system, which serves Minneapolis and eight other communities.
The money that is being used for this project is from the state’s Water Maintenance Fund. It’s a state-created fund that can only be used for water maintenance. The city purchased that site using that fund. If we were to walk away from that project, we have to pay the fund back. That is a part of the challenge.
It really breaks my heart that there is this disinformation out there. I really do understand the deep concerns that the mostly Indigenous people of color that live in East Phillips have that demolishing the building will create an arsenic plume over the neighborhood. The way we are going to demolish it is going to take a month. It’s going to be done meticulously. It’s not like this hasn’t happened already in the Phillips neighborhood or in the arsenic triangle. We have been cleaning it up for many, many years. This would be the last phase of cleaning up that arsenic. We’ve done it successfully. We believe we can do it successfully.
A new Hiawatha Maintenance Facility along with a Public Works employment and training facility will create living-wage jobs for neighborhood residents to help our city continue to move forward and have a workforce that can meet the needs of our growing city. I think it will have a positive impact on the community. The current offer is for three acres, free of charge. You can build an urban farm. We are committed to helping the community create an urban farm. You can create affordable housing, or a community center. All of those things can co-exist.
Personally, I think it would be an enormously positive outcome for a community that’s been disinvested in in the past. I think this meets the goals of the Southside Green Zone. The goal of the Green Zone is to clean up these sites. It doesn’t say leave the sites dirty, and don’t touch them. It says clean up the sites. That’s exactly what we’re doing. I see this as being in-line with the principles of the Green Zone.
Someone asked me at the Council meeting where we voted on this, would I put this in my community? First of all, this is my community. I live in Minneapolis too. But if it was in Ward 8, yes I would. Because I think it will bring benefit to the community, not harm.
But I get it. Urban farms, not toxic harm, that’s a really great bumper sticker. What I just described to you in ten minutes is very hard to put on a bumper sticker.
SWV: The state government is poised to make a big transit investment. How would you like to see the city prioritize that money?
AJ: I think we should continue to fund bus rapid transit projects. I think bus-only lanes are a really positive infrastructure investment. I think we need to really improve our pedestrian walkways, which doesn’t always get the kind of attention that automobile traffic gets. Those are a few things I’d like to see.
SWV: Anything else we didn’t cover that you’d like to talk about?
AJ: I think that we, as a community, have to figure out how we’re going to move forward together. There have been a lot of political groups that have come together, and sometimes create these scenarios which have one-way thinking.
This has become a bad word in national politics and in Minneapolis politics. But we really have to figure out if we are going to be a democracy, how do we compromise? It’s so strange that I struggle to say that, because that’s literally what politics is about. We’ve got 430,000 people that live in this city, and no two people absolutely think the same on every single issue. We have to come together and think about how we do this in a way that everyone can live with it.
Throughout my career, I’ve been a bridge-builder.That’s what I hope to bring to the Minneapolis City Council and the City of Minneapolis.