Catch up with our council members: May 2018

Minneapolis City Council newcomers Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4) and Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5) were inaugurated in January 2018. North News has invited them to keep in touch with the community through this monthly column in our newspaper.

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I promised to get ahead of the summer spike in violence by collaborating across many departments to develop a summer violence prevention plan with a public health approach – incorporating prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry strategies. This approach ensures a more sustainable solution to violence in our community by addressing the root causes of violence while also holding accountable those who cause harm. The work that I am leading focuses on policy changes, prevention, program development, process improvement and outreach.

Here is an overview of some of the work that will be done this summer to address violence: Group Violence Intervention (GVI) brings law enforcement, social services, community members who are considered credible to offenders, offenders’ families, and the community overall together to send a clear, moral message: Violence is unacceptable and must stop immediately. The program has been in action since January 2017 and conducts what are called “call-ins,” which are gatherings of targeted frequent offenders convened by program partners. While no strategy will tackle the problem entirely, it is exciting to see how well it’s working already.

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As the chart below shows, after the GVI call-in on May 15, 2017, gun recoveries increased 21% at the time when violent crime decreased 19%. After the September 21, 2017 call-in, gun recoveries slightly increased over three months at a time when violent crime remained stable until December when it decreased 15 percent. Since GVI has started, record numbers of guns have been collected and people are turning over guns by choice.

Next Step (NS) program is a hospital-based bedside youth violence intervention strategy that interrupts the cycles of trauma and retaliation (the victim becomes the perpetrator) by connecting victims to resources like jobs, housing, and a new community away from crime. Since 2016, the program has been based at Hennepin County Medical Center. Nearly 150 people were served by Next Step in 2017 and only 3 returned with the same or similar injuries: a remarkably low recidivism rate. This year, NS will be expanding to North Memorial. While many Northsiders are served by NS, this partnership will ensure many more in our community who are victims are connected to resources and permanently out of a life of crime.

I’m all in for addressing safety this summer. I personally will be collaborating with MAD DADS to regularly doorknock 5-8 blocks with the highest rates of crime to directly connect with folks, connect them to resources, and begin building trust and relationships to get folks out of a life of crime and increase safety in the neighborhoods overall.

For more information, join me for open community office hours Tuesdays 4-7pm at Corner Coffee Camden and Thursdays 12-3pm at Serendripty Spot. Our next Coffee with CM Cunningham will be May 5th. Check out our FB @CMCunninghamWard4 for details. If you want to connect directly, reach out to me at


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I was once told that the political life of an idea has nothing to do with whether or not that idea is good or bad, and has everything to do with how much support that idea has behind it. That means some really bad ideas get done because they have a base of supporters ready to put pressure on elected officials. And, sadly, it means really good ideas can get left in the dust – no one there to give them strength. This is why you see Council Member Cunningham and I so committed to lifting up your voice, because we genuinely need the resilience and innovation that the Northside has always had. To that end, I hope I will continue to catch all of you at my open office hours, now at Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, every Saturday from 10am-noon.

This past month has continued to be both productive and full of discovery. How do you improve a neighborhood without allowing “the market” to price people out of it? After all, if people have poured their hearts into their homes, their local parks, and schools, why shouldn’t they reap the benefits of a new café, increased business and arts activities? Solving this problem, commonly known as gentrification, is the task of every urban core in America right now, including Minneapolis.

Very smart people in cities like Portland, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, New York, Boston (and the list goes on and on, really) haven’t been able to solve this problem. I say that not to shy away from the challenge, the opposite, in fact. I say all that to point out that there is no lack of ideas. And maybe, more than anything, the best ideas lack the political support they need.

To that end, the Twin Cities has joined a cohort of ten American cities to come up with solutions to prevent displacement caused by gentrification. It’s called the All-In Cities Anti-Displacement Network and it’s organized by PolicyLink, a national organization that supports research and social justice initiatives. Council Member Andrea Jenkins and I are the City’s representatives, and I’m excited to work with her, and others from all over the country.

In City Hall, a lot of things are moving. The Council President and I are working on an ordinance that will strengthen tenant protections, Council Member Cunningham is leading a group of us as we try to create a more equitable Conduct On Premises ordinance, Council Member Andrew Johnson and I are working to join a regional effort of raise the age of tobacco purchasing to 21, and we recently broke ground on the construction of the C-Line, a bus route that will operate at a higher frequency, and have the same shelter amenities as our light rail lines.

On the Northside, a number of community led efforts have kept me inspired, I probably can’t name them all, but to name a few: Shiloh Temple and Masjid An-Nur broke ground on a solar garden they’re collaborating on, and Village Trust Financial Cooperative – a black owned credit union – formally kicked off their funding campaign.

Thank you, and as always, I look forward to seeing you out in the community! Call my office at 612-673-2205 or email me at



Kenzie O'Keefe