Minneapolis City Council members want to use American Rescue Plan funding to solicit feedback on how to develop the former Third Precinct site, buy vans for mobile mental health units, and create a pilot program helping small businesses adapt to new labor laws.
In a meeting Wednesday morning, council members offered their first amendments to Mayor Jacob Frey's proposal for how the city should use its remaining $43 million in federal aid. The mayor's plan calls for Minneapolis to spend millions more on violence prevention, housing, mental health and climate change programs. He's pitched it as part of a larger effort to help the city bounce back from a tumultuous two-year period that was marked by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and George Floyd's murder by police.
The council gave tentative approval Wednesday to four changes. One, proposed by Council Member Robin Wonsley Worlobah, would use $100,000 to contract with a consultant to facilitate discussions for how the city should redevelop the site of the Police Department's former Third Precinct, which burned in the days following Floyd's death.
"This is the opportunity for us to do that work, to do so in a way that acknowledges that there is still lots of racial trauma about that site," Wonsley Worlobah said. "There is still lots of justifiable, you know, distrust about how the city might move forward with that site."
Another proposal, by Council Members Elliott Payne and Emily Koski, would give the city's Behavioral Crisis Response teams an additional $160,000 to purchase two more vans as they work to expand the city's mobile mental health services and eventually offer them seven days a week.
Brian Smith, director of the city's Office of Performance and Innovation, told council members they currently have two used vans. "What we want to do is make sure that as we are scaling up, to get to a point where we can be one van per precinct, that if something happens with our vans, we have a backup," Smith said.
Another proposal from Koski would use $125,000 to set up a pilot program that aims to help small businesses who might not have the resources adapt to new local labor rules. Another, from Aisha Chughtai and Council President Andrea Jenkins, would use $30,000 to encourage businesses licensed by the city to offer gender-neutral restrooms.
Council members are expected to discuss additional amendments Friday. The package is expected to come up for final approval May 26.