Catch up with our council members: January 2018

Minneapolis City Council newcomers Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4) and Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5) were inaugurated this month. North News has invited them to keep in touch with the community through this monthly column in our newspaper.

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First, let me start with a huge “THANK YOU!” from the bottom of my heart for your support and allowing me the honor to serve as our community’s City Council representative!

The biggest thing I heard during the election was how much you wanted a Council Member who engages with you and informs you about what is happening in City Hall. I started this monthly column as one way for me to do just that!

To start, a LOT of work has been happening since Election Day results were announced! I have been meeting with community members and the directors of various City of Minneapolis departments to build relationships and prepare for a smooth transition into office.

Former Ward 4 Council Member Barb Johnson has been incredibly gracious during this transition period. We will continue working together as I settle into the job and get things up and running.

City Council Members and Mayor Jacob Frey were sworn in during a private ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 2, which was required by state statute. Our official inauguration ceremony was on Monday, Jan. 8.

It was a beautiful celebration of our city’s diversity that included: Native American, Muslim and Jewish prayers, a Hmong traditional ceremony, a Northside choir, and an ancient Aztec dance! A video of the event is available at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/tv/minneapolis14. The City Council elected its new President (Lisa Bender, Ward 10), Vice President (Andrea Jenkins, Ward 8), Majority Leader (Andrew Johnson, Ward 12), and Minority Leader (Cam Gordon, Ward 2). The organizational meeting also created the “standing committees.” Full City Council meetings are what often get the most attention, but almost all of the work has already been done in the standing committees prior to these meetings. Committees are key opportunities for me to step up and push the agenda you elected me to enact – a thriving local economy, greater housing accessibility and affordability, improved safety and livability, and much more. This term, I am the Chair of the Public Health, Environment, Engagement, and Civil Rights Committee. This committee is responsible for the oversight of work carried out by the Health, Neighborhood and Community Relations, and Civil Rights Departments as well as the Office of Sustainability. As a hardworking champion for the Northside, I am excited to drive racial, economic, and geographic equity across a wide-range of policies, programs, and initiatives in this role! I am also a member of the Economic Development and Regulatory Services, Public Safety and Emergency Management, and Ways and Means (Budget) committees. These committees are where I will be able to champion Northside entrepreneurs, hold MPD accountable for the service they provide to the 4th Ward, and ensure the City of Minneapolis continues to have structurally sound City budgets that also reflect the values and needs of our community.

This monthly column will be dedicated to updating you on important work happening in City Hall and in the Ward 4 City Council office. Also, please like the Ward 4 Facebook Page at www.Facebook.com/CMCunninghamWard4.

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My first week at City Hall was largely about ceremony. I’ve got to be honest and tell you that it left many of the new Council Members (including me) a little anxious. We raised our right hands, we read oaths and said, “I do.” All of that stuff is important, but mostly I am very excited and eager to get to the work of serving you.

For those who didn’t follow this past year’s local elections, my name is Jeremiah Bey Ellison. I am an artist and organizer. I am your neighbor, born and raised on the Northside. I am also the new Ward 5 City Council Member, and I am proud and honored to represent you at City Hall.

During the campaign, my team and I worked hard to give you a real and honest sense of the issues and always put the ideas and concerns of Northsiders first. Now that I am elected, things will be no different. I want to thank North News for giving me the opportunity to give you a sense of what’s happening at City Hall, what decisions are getting made on your behalf, and how you can amplify your voice in the process. 

Let’s get some basic things out of the way: Jacob Frey is your new mayor, Lisa Bender (Ward 10) is your new Council President, and Andrea Jenkins (Ward 8) is your new Council Vice President. I am one of five new members of the Council, and am excited to work with my new colleagues.

In these first weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about how Minneapolis can be a better place for all residents – Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian American, and white residents, recent immigrants, and, yes, even our undocumented residents. We can make this city a place where working class folks of all backgrounds can thrive. I’m serious about putting that talk into action. 

To that end, let’s talk a little about committees and the roles that I’ve taken on at City Hall. I will be chairing Elections and Rules – where I’ll be fighting to create more access and transparency as it relates to future elections and the creation of new ordinances.

I will vice chair two committees – both are new. One is Housing Policy and Development chaired by Cam Gordon (Ward 2), and the other is Economic Development and Regulatory Services chaired by Lisa Goodman (Ward 7). These two committees used to be one large committee known as Community Development (CD), but with the city’s stated emphasis on creating better housing options for all, and the vast workload of the former CD committee, it felt right to split them up and give both topics the attention they deserve.

Finally, I will be a member on both Zoning and Planning, and Public Safety and Emergency Management. 

All that said, rest assured that my work and updates will not be limited to these committees. As we progress into the year, I’ll be sure to touch on all city business, especially more specific topics affecting the 5th Ward. 

I look forward to giving you another update next month, but most of all, to connecting with you, my neighbors. Collaboration wasn’t just a buzzword of my campaign. I’ll be out in the community regularly, and my team and I are ready to respond to any questions or concerns or ideas, truly whatever you might want to share with us. Just reach out to me or my office – my email is jeremiah.ellison@minneapolismn.gov.

Peace.

Kenzie O'Keefe