By Editorial Board
It’s still four months before the Minneapolis City Council will adopt the 2017 operating and capital budget. But the council’s 13 members should know that a high-profile summit on countering extremism, a gathering convened Thursday at the University of Minnesota, underscored the importance of a line item in Mayor Betsy Hodges’ proposed $1.3 billion spending plan.
Hodges is making a timely push to increase funding for programs serving the Somali-American community’s children and young adults. Alarmingly, these young people are targeted by recruiters from terrorist organizations such as ISIL. A small number of them have fallen prey to these false promises and traveled to the Middle East to wage jihad. Preventing this from happening has become a national security imperative, a reason why the “Diplomacy Begins Here” regional summit was held in the Twin Cities. The program is a partnership of Global Minnesota, the U.S. State Department and Global Ties.
The mayor’s proposed budget calls for a total of $50,000 in 2017, an increase of 40 percent from what she requested in 2016. While that sum pales next to the need, it is nevertheless a substantial addition to the scarce resources available. The federal government, with annual expenditures of nearly $4 trillion, has just $10 million in dedicated grants available nationally this year for programs working with such at-risk youth.
The summit at the U’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs had been underway barely an hour when a Department of Homeland Security official highlighted the need for cities and mayors to help as partners in the fight against global extremism. That Minneapolis has already embraced the cause reflects well on it.
Last year, city funding went at least in part to a partnership with University of Minnesota Extension for a Somali 4-H program that focused on science, technology, and arts education and activities, said a mayoral spokesman. The City Council should support the funding request proposed by Hodges and add to it. Cities around the state with sizable Somali communities should follow its lead. Experts at the summit repeatedly said Minneapolis is ahead of the curve when it comes to countering radicalization. Here’s a chance to build on its laurels, not rest on them.