Mayor Stephanie Miner reflected on some of the city’s most intractable problems she’s had to confront in her almost 8 years as mayor. Issues such as violence, struggling schools, and poverty were among her largest challenges. Her farewell address covered how such problems were faced and critical obstacles that remain.
In her first year as Mayor, Stephanie Miner remembers having to confront the gang-related killing of a 20 month old child. It was one of too many calls she’d get from the police chief, often late Sunday Nights, about street violence. She says she decided to meet it head on. She calls police response alone to be an exercise in futility…so the city got hard evidence and the community involved.
“With our goal being to tackle the hardest cases, with a combination of empathy and resolve, offering assistance if it will be accepted but accountability for brutal behavior. Now gun violence is still horrific; you don’t solve deep-seated community problems overnight. But unfortunately the types of programs that are funded are often stopped because it is often politically advantageous to spin a situation to a partisan advantage.”
She notes the city schools have been on a 10 year improving trend of graduation…but still fall far short of suburban districts. Inherent funding inequities, she says, cement long-standing segregation of race and opportunity.
“The greatest need of course is in poor districts, but wealthy districts are stronger politically. Wealthy district, often largely white, keep getting more and more. And poor districts, largely children of color, can never catch up.”
Such education problems were met with programs such as Say Yes, which helped 2900 students’ go to college … but also added support programs for both children and families. Miner ties in economic opportunity and development as another unequal area – one that is not helping alleviate poverty despite billions in investments.
“…you see, because cities are home to people who compete least effectively for jobs. Traditional economic development or tax-incentive strategies are unlikely to benefit them. Instead strategies that directly address obstacles that prevent city residents from getting good full-time jobs, would be more likely to mitigate poverty.”
One theme throughout the address was not to rely on what she called ‘hot takes’ – quick decisions of residents based on brief social media messages, or policy makers simply reacting to tough problems. Miner’s term as Mayor is up at year’s end.