“We can make this the renaissance of Lake Street.”
Those are the words of Eduardo Barrera, general manager of Mercado Central, a bustling Latino marketplace of 35 small businesses that opened its doors in 1997. Envisioned as a resource to build economic power and promote economic opportunity, Mercado Central is one of 1,500 businesses that sustained property damage after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Mr. Barrera spoke at a June 30 public meeting hosted by the Minnesota House Jobs and Economic Development Division at Plaza Verde, a similar market across the street from Mercado Central. Community members and business owners who live, work and are raising families in this neighborhood shared heartbreaking stories with state lawmakers that day.
One young Midway business owner told us about his mother who is 66 years old and works in a nursing home. She’s delaying her retirement because she loaned her son the money he needed to follow his dreams. Now, his shop is destroyed and it was not fully insured.
Mr. Barrera sees hope where others see despair. He sees opportunity where others see destruction. This is exactly why the Minnesotans who built and sustain the vibrant corridors at Lake, Midway and Broadway should be in charge of shaping their own futures — not the highest bidders or developers that will pursue gentrification. Entrepreneurs who made investments and put their entire heart and soul into their neighborhoods deserve the opportunity to return, grow and thrive and be better than before.
On June 19, the Minnesota House approved the Promise Act — a comprehensive plan to help businesses rebuild and recover guided by the input and stories of Barrera and many others like him. “Promise” stands for Providing Resources, Opportunity and Maximizing Investments in Striving Entrepreneurs.
In the short-term, the Promise Act creates a special panel to review cases and provide direct compensation to impacted individuals. It uses partnerships between the state, cities and community organizations to create economic relief programs, prevent gentrification and assist with filing insurance claims. Sales taxes on construction materials purchased for rebuilding are eliminated, and we cut property taxes and give flexibility on lease payments to eligible residential and commercial properties.
In the long-term, the Promise Act creates a Metropolitan Area Redevelopment Corporation as a new political subdivision of the state to drive redevelopment plans and to make grants to nonprofit organizations led by people of color and Indigenous people that are participating in the rebuilding process. In addition, it provides for metropolitan-wide planning and grants for redevelopment that addresses long-term racial disparities. All of this would be paid for via a 0.125% sales and use tax limited to the seven-county metro area.
Everyone has been asking how multiple days of civil unrest and destruction could happen in Minnesota’s two largest cities. It’s an important question to ask and one that deserves an answer as soon as possible. In the Republican-controlled Senate, we’ve seen partisan oversight hearings in recent days and little to no explanation from Majority Leader Paul Gazelka about who gets to participate and how.
The Promise Act establishes a neutral, nonpartisan commission to review the actions, choices, orders and responses of local government, police and military authorities, and elected officials involved in the response to property destruction. The 10-member panel would be appointed by Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea. This is the fair and transparent approach that we Minnesotans deserve as we seek the truth about how the civil unrest unfolded.
Barrera and many others like him are running out of time. Senate Republicans missed an opportunity to send the Promise Act to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk during the June 2020 special session. Now, as legislators hold another special session, they have another opportunity to let the people who made Lake, Midway and Broadway so special determine their own futures.
Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, is Minnesota House majority leader. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, is a member of the Minnesota House and chief author of the Promise Act.