DFL legislators call for GOP support to rebuild Minneapolis, St. Paul businesses damaged by civil unrest

Senate Republicans have so far opposed efforts to use state aid to rebuild after riots.

State Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, speaks at a press conference in front of the rubble of Chicago Furniture Warehouse on Lake Street on Thursday. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

A bevy of DFL lawmakers stood in front of the rubble of a Lake Street furniture store on Thursday calling on Senate Republicans to support a $300 million proposal to rebuild Twin Cities businesses destroyed or damaged by last summer’s civil unrest.

State Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, said Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators are renewing their push to provide state aid to Minneapolis and St. Paul businesses. 

“We made a promise and a commitment that we will never, ever walk away from supporting the small businesses impacted by the civil unrest,” Noor said. “Today, we reaffirm that commitment that we’re going to be standing strong to support those businesses that have been impacted.”

Since last summer, House DFL lawmakers have been stymied by their Senate GOP counterparts who have opposed state aid for rebuilding, criticizing it as a “bailout.”

In recent months, Minneapolis has become city non grata among Republicans in the Minnesota Senate and House, who argue they won’t give money to Minneapolis to rebuild while the city is also considering dismantling its police department and creating a new public safety agency. 

The attacks on Minneapolis have carried over to the debate on state support for law enforcement costs during the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd. They said the Minneapolis City Council’s efforts to “defund” the police have consequences

Noor and other DFL legislators on Thursday hit back, pointing out that Minneapolis pays far more in taxes to the state than it receives in aids and credits, referencing a recent report by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“This is not a bailout,” Noor said of the proposal. 

Abe Demaag, co-owner of Chicago Furniture Warehouse, joined lawmakers who stood steps from his former business. Demaag said the insurance payout for his business covered only a portion of what is needed to clear the remaining debris, rebuild the store and replace its furniture inventory.

“We started this business but the last year was unexpected because of the civil unrest,” he said. “We completely lost everything we have dreamed of, what we worked for.”

State Rep. Fue Lee, DFL-Minneapolis, said the $300 million proposed by the House DFL caucus would not cover the entirety of the financial need to rebuild all the businesses destroyed or damaged last summer. 

Of the $300 million, about $200 million would go to Minneapolis and the remainder to St. Paul, which also saw widespread looting and arson along University Avenue. 

Gov. Tim Walz, meanwhile, has proposed $150 million in his budget to be issued in the form of bonds.

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.