Kevin Reich is running for a fourth term as the First Ward’s City Council Member; only Lisa Goodman and Cam Gordon have been there longer. But even veteran politicians in City hall have found current conditions challenging.
In a phone interview, Reich said that it’s been a while since the Council has had to work with a smaller budget to solve ever bigger problems. But diminished economic activity and tax revenue isn’t the only impact the pandemic has had on conducting city business. He noted one aspect of how we address human needs: that a lot happens in informal ways when people come together. Problem-solving in City Hall becomes more difficult without human connection, when officials are rarely physically in their offices. Reich suggested that the impact of social separation is a looming health issue.
Reich said he began his work in Northeast Minneapolis “as an environmental activist… because my neighborhood was choking on pollution. Every day it’s clear to me that cleaning up our local environment is a social justice issue. The Mississippi River clean-up is one symbol of our successes, and also a symbol of the work we have yet to do: Despite our best efforts, our community is still surrounded by a legacy of past industries and generational pollution.”
He listed some of the successes: Getting rid of Northern Metals; neighborhood air monitoring projects and their discovery of the effects of pollution; getting GAF to reduce its industrial air pollution; remediation of many polluted properties for further development; a megawatt solar array at Edison High School, and the Columbia Park watershed management projects.
The death of George Floyd and its aftermath brought the emphasis on policing concerns to center stage. Reich said, “My specialty is the built environment, not public safety. But it’s been ‘All hands on deck’ since the event.” He pointed out the need for a 911 emergency mental health crisis response program that meets the needs of residents and trained responders; working with the State legislature for changes in legal standards of accountability to enact effective oversight over police; and looking at violence prevention through a public health lens and recognize the varying and unique factors that contribute to violence in a given neighborhood. Reich noted that the 2nd precinct crime rate is the lowest in the city and has the lowest MPD complaint rate.
Reich also mentioned the example of the city of Camden, New Jersey, which switched its police department from city-led to county-led while instituting a culture of community policing, shifting from a “warrior mentality” to a guardian and community builder.
Reich said people need “multiple ways to move,” including bikes, trains, buses, scooters, and walking, and that conventional street designs are already not keeping up with the transit goals of our modern society and need to adapt quickly. “Public transit needs to be an efficient, reliable and appealing option for all people, not just a last option for those who have no other choice. In addition, walking and bicycling must be promoted as healthy and safe options for the able-bodied.” He added that his commitment is “steadfast” that no one should feel unsafe in transit and no life should be lost.
Reich says he supports leveraging city, state and federal dollars to provide relief to our community-based small businesses. He noted that, with Northeast being the center of the city’s artist community, that artists “should be treated as professionals and assisted as small businesses.”