Minneapolis at 150

Feb 21, 2017 | Blogs by Betsy

How lucky we are to be the people who get to celebrate 150 years of Minneapolis as a city!

I’ve been asked to draw the picture of the city for the future, and I will. But I can’t get to the future until we acknowledge the work of the past to build our great city of the present.

So many people — some of whom we get to remember and celebrate today — have contributed in ways large and small to building our incredible city of today. We simply don’t have enough time to name and thank them all. But look around at what their efforts have amounted to today.

The city of today

They amount to:

  • a thriving city, with a population now north of 410,000 and growing fast;
  • a booming city with cranes in the sky in every direction, where for the fifth year in a row, building permits have topped $1 billion in value;
  • and a safe city that is boldly taking on its challenges, resulting in historically low rates of crime.

They amount to:

  •  a business community with homegrown, Fortune 500 giants and so many others whose prosperity, civic-mindedness, and generosity is unparalleled anywhere, and is the envy of the nation.

They amount to:

  •  a small-business and entrepreneurial community that is brimming with innovation, fueled in large part — it is important to name this right now — by our vital immigrant communities.

They amount to:

  •  artists, cultural institutions, and a cultural and artistic life whose quality, depth, and diversity is unrivaled anywhere — and I mean anywhere.

They amount to:

  •  a city and region that punches way above its weight by supporting six professional sports franchises, and the new, world-class venues where they make their homes.

They amount to:

  •  public amenities like the glorious Mississippi riverfront, the gleaming Downtown East Commons, a redesigned Nicollet Mall, and the #1 parks system in the country.

I could go on and believe me, I would love to.  There’s no better part of the great job of Mayor of Minneapolis than bragging about our incredible city.

Let’s pause for a minute to thank for everyone who contributed to building this city of today. Happy 150th, Minneapolis! You wear it very well.

So, how do we top the city of the present? What is the city for the future, and how do we get there?

The city for the future

The city for the future has three main qualities: it is prosperous, it is vital, and it is safe.

What does a prosperous city for the future look like?

  • It looks like a city that has eliminated needless barriers and is easy to invest in, whether you’re a start-up, a small business, or a corporation looking to expand.
  • It looks like a city where small business success feeds our Fortune 500 corporations — and some of them become Fortune 500 corporations.
  • It looks like a city that attracts, welcomes, and retains talent from around the country and around the world.
  • It looks like a city where employers compete over graduates of Minneapolis Public Schools — the best educated and most sought after around — for every job opening.
  • Fundamentally, it looks like a city where racial inequities are a distant memory, and no one’s race, income, or zip code puts any limit on their ability to prosper and give back.

What does a vital city for the future look like?

  • It looks like a city that has more than a half million residents and is continuing to grow fast, constantly refueled and refreshed by immigrants from every nation and culture.
  • It looks like a city where no resident, worker, visitor, or business is more than a 5-minute walk from a modern transit, bike, or pedestrian option.
  • It looks like a city whose safe, clean, green, and 24-hour downtown is bursting with entertainment, hospitality, retail, housing, and amenities of every kind imaginable — except surface parking lots, because they’ve all been developed.
  • It looks like a city where every neighborhood is a mixed-income neighborhood and everyone can make the home they dream of.
  • Fundamentally, it looks like a city where people of every age, income, nation, race, gender, and sexual orientation feel free and are free to fully express their genius.

What does a safe city for the future look like?

  • It looks like a city where violent crime drops so much lower than the historic lows of recent years that it becomes a virtual non-factor in people’s daily lives.
  • It looks like a city where there are not only innovative treatments for violent crime, but also cures for it, in the form of great education, stable housing, and good jobs for everyone in every neighborhood and community who wants them.
  • Fundamentally, it looks like a city that has shifted the center of gravity on public safety, that has redefined public safety to be more than law enforcement alone, to be the true collaboration of everyone in the community

Getting there from here

The vision of the prosperous, vital, and safe city of the future is a compelling one indeed. I can feel in this room that we all believe we can get there — but exactly how do we get there from here?


Here’s a proposal:

  • We get to a prosperous city for the future when we eliminate every barrier for all our children, starting from before birth all the way to career, and when we practice the truth that the only sustainable growth is inclusive growth.
  • We get to a thriving and vital city for the future when we continue to invest in our amenities, green space, and infrastructure, we nurture our artists, we protect our neighbors when they are under attack, and we hold up our diversity as our greatest strength.
  • We get to a safe city for the future when we continue forward with the work we have done to transform safety and policing for the 21st century, and stick to that path of transformation no matter how hard it may be to hold.

Ultimately, the future is what we make of it. No, we can’t control everything that will happen in the future, but we can control how we react to it and what we create out of it. The example of the people who for 150 years took risks to build the Minneapolis of today teaches us that we, too, have the power to build the city we want for the future we want.

Just like those who came before us, those whose work made it possible for us to celebrate Minneapolis at 150 today, we also get to pay it forward for the next 150 years. There’s no time like the present to get started on the future.

When we here today do this work to get us to the prosperous, vital, and safe city of the future, there will be no limits on the greatness of our city or our people for the next 150 years. None.

Now, I hate to end on a down note, but I do have to share one piece of bad news: unless cryogenics suddenly starts to work and becomes affordable to those of us who aren’t billionaires, or unless theoretical physicists finally figure out time travel, none of us will be here to see the great Minneapolis of 150 years from now. Sorry about that.

But I do have a solution that’s a close second: everyone pick up your glass right now, raise it high, and join me in jump-starting the next big celebration by toasting to Minneapolis’ 300th anniversary! Happy 300th, Minneapolis — here’s looking at you!