Alternatives to traditional policing were a priority last week as the Minneapolis City Council amended Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed 2024 budget and decided how to spend $19 million in one-time public safety aid from the state. Some of that funding will ultimately lead to investments in downtown neighborhoods.

A public hearing and the final City Council vote on the $1.8 billion budget takes place this evening at City Hall. The council’s adopted budget then goes back to Frey, who has said he’s “optimistic” that he’ll sign it.

Late last week, the council proposed and approved almost 50 amendments to Frey’s budget, many of them unanimously. Those changes amount to roughly $30 million, much of which will come from the $19 million in state public safety aid.

“I am proud to have led the Budget Committee through what has been a historic budget process characterized by communication, collaboration, and consensus,” Ward 11 Councilmember and Budget Chair Emily Koski said in a statement. “As a result, we have an amended 2024 City Budget that reflects and invests in our shared priorities.”

During the budget mark-up process, all 13 councilmembers agreed that $3 million of the one-time state funding should go toward “unarmed public safety personnel” who will patrol Minneapolis’ seven cultural districts and other commercial corridors, including the Mill District and the East Hennepin/St. Anthony Main area. The pilot program will attempt to replicate the success of Minneapolis Downtown Investment District initiatives, whose ambassadors wear neon yellow shirts and help people navigate downtown.  

Through a separate amendment, Ward 3 Councilmember Michael Rainville secured $750,000 from the state public safety aid to continue Warehouse District Live programming downtown next year.

On weekend nights from late May through mid-October, the one-block stretch of 1st Avenue between 5th and 6th streets near Target Center was closed to vehicular traffic and transformed into a pedestrian-only zone with food trucks, public bathrooms and activities, in an effort to curb crime after bar close.

According to Rainville, Warehouse District Live programming resulted in an 80% decrease in gun violence, a 30% reduction in assaults, 22% fewer robberies and a 21% drop in theft over the five-month period.

Several councilmembers expressed their support for Warehouse District Live, including Ward 9 Councilmember Jason Chavez and newly-elected Ward 12 Councilmember Aurin Chowdhury, who said “it’s a good model for other parts of our city.”

In another win for downtown, Ward 6 Councilmember Jamal Osman advocated for $550,000 in funding for the Elliot Park neighborhood. That includes $350,000 for services to help people meet basic needs, like housing and food, plus $200,000 to address increased crime, public intoxication and violence.

In the budget’s first iteration, Frey earmarked $750,000 to support recommendations from the Vibrant Storefronts Work Group, which he convened a year ago to come up with solutions for street and skyway-level retail in the downtown core. Councilmembers ultimately decided to reduce the mayor’s ask by $100,000 to instead be used for snow and ice removal programs.

In total, the council allocated $600,000 for snow removal along Pedestrian Priority Network sidewalks and transit stops, many of which are located downtown.

Tonight’s City Council meeting starts at 6:05 p.m. in room 317 of City Hall, located at 350 S. Fifth St. It will also be broadcast on the City of Minneapolis’ YouTube channel.