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St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter wants to extend and expand the city's guaranteed income pilot program, doubling the number of recipients receiving the monthly payments.

The mayor, during his State of Our City address Tuesday morning, announced his intention to propose a second phase of the  People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot. Paid for with federal American Rescue Plan funds, the expansion would see 300 St. Paul families receive the unconditional monthly cash payments for two years, Carter said.

These payments, the mayor argued, can spark "game-changing outcomes" for families in need across the city, allowing parents to buy winter clothes for their children or take educational courses that allowed access to higher-paying jobs. 

"Our initial findings demonstrate that the majority of the payments were spent on immediate needs like rent, groceries, gas, bills and baby supplies," Carter said Tuesday. 

The initial run of the pilot program has seen 150 low-income families receive $500 a month for 18 months, and is set to end in April of this year. The mayor said funds were also spent on things like kids' winter clothes, and a software coding course that helped a parent find a better job.

"A healthy economy must work for those who work it," the mayor said. "Still, too many roadblocks exist for too many families to achieve their full economic potential."

St. Paul was one of the first two major American cities to establish a guaranteed basic income pilot.

Mayor proposes new gun safety measures

Carter also used his State of Our City time to discuss gun violence, specifically referencing the mass shooting at Seventh Street Truck Park in the early hours of Oct. 10. Marquisha D. Wiley, 27, was killed in the shooting. Fourteen others were injured.

While noting a lack of action by the state Legislature on gun safety measures such as background checks, Carter said the city itself "must take every action we can to reduce the number of illegal guns in our community."

The mayor specifically wants to target gun storage, and is calling on the city council to pass an ordinance that would require gun owners to store their firearms in a locked space, unloaded and kept separate from ammunition. Carter even suggested using American Rescue Plan funds to buy gun safes and trigger locks for lawful gun owners in the city.

"While firearms that are safely stored are less likely to end up in the wrong hands or being used in the commission of a crime, research by Johns Hopkins University has found that fewer than 50% of American firearm owners lock their guns securely," Carter said, before laying out the high percentage of gun crimes that involve a stolen firearm.

"Addressing root causes means our justice system must prove itself capable of holding accountable those who pull a trigger, alongside every individual and company that profits from making guns so readily accessible to them," Carter said.

Police and public safety

The St. Paul Police Department and the future of public safety in the city received quite a bit of attention from Carter.

"While some still see reimagining public safety as oppositional to police, our Saint Paul frame is about serving our residents, our officers and our entire community better at the same time, by finally building systems that are designed to keep us all safe," the mayor said.

"While some still see reimagining public safety as oppositional to police, our Saint Paul frame is about serving our

Carter made the case for improvement from the city's police department, noting officers decreased 911 response times, fewer use of force incidents, a higher percentage of arrests in violent crime cases, and a 10-year low for legal settlements related to officer misconduct.

He also highlighted a significant reduction in K9 bites, which went from 55 over a two-year period to zero in 2021 following an audit.

The police department, meanwhile, will get 55 new officers later this week, when the city graduates the largest police academy class in its history, Carter said. He also gave the green light for a second police academy to start this spring.

Who will lead the police department? Carter said that's to be determined. 

Current Chief Todd Axtell will leave his post in June, at the end of his first and only term. The mayor said the city will take its time selecting a replacement, calling it "foolhardy ... to suggest that speed should be the ultimate priority" in the process."

"Few decisions are of greater consequence than selecting a Chief of Police," the mayor said, later continuing: "We will allow the time necessary to engage our community, to perform our due diligence, and to select the most fitting candidate to lead our department through the next six years."

Where rent control stands

In November, St. Paul voters approved one of the strictest rent control policies in the country, capping residential rent increases to a maximum of 3% annually. The measure included no exceptions for new housing or smaller landlords, and as Axios noted last month, several developers hit pause on St. Paul projects over the ordinance.

On Tuesday, Mayor Carter said his office has drafted a policy that would exempt new housing (meaning less than 15 years old) from the new rules. That includes larger developers and a neighbor hoping to build a duplex, he said. 

"This draft ordinance will be sent to the City Council before the close of business today, and I will sign it into law as soon as they are ready to take action," the mayor said.

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