Bright Cities Spotlight on Minneapolis, MN

June 9, 2017
Minneapolis skyline at dusk

Protecting our Babies in Utero and Cradle to K

From the moment I first learned of the Bright Cities program, I knew it would be a great fit for the City of Minneapolis. In 2014, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges instituted the Cradle to K Cabinet program, a major initiative focused on developing a plan to eliminate disparities for children in the City of Minneapolis, prenatally to three years old. With a significant overlap in missions between our city and with HBBF’s Bright Cities, our partnership has proven to be a great opportunity for us to help give babies the best start in life.

I’ve been a health inspector for the City of Minneapolis for more than a decade. I attended the first Bright Cities Charrette (a focused planning meeting) in January 2016 hosted by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) which helped to develop the Bright Cities program. Since that time, our offices have continued to work in partnership with HBBF to launch and implement the program in Minneapolis.  

After completing an in-depth environmental assessment, including environmental data and current policies, the City of Minneapolis and HBBF are moving ahead by focusing on the following five priority actions:

  1. Work with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority to expand smoke-free housing.
  2. Conduct additional water testing after replacement work is completed on or around water mains and service lines. Replacement process for water mains and lines can be disruptive, potentially causing an increase in lead in water.
  3. Implement a program to switch wood stove burning fireplaces to natural gas
  4. Increase our home lead abatement work in houses that do not qualify for current lead grant funding.
  5. Improve the City’s procurement policies related to neurotoxic chemicals in concert with other cities and large purchasers. Leveraging the impact of the City’s collective purchasing power, we plan to take an active role in avoiding the purchase of products made with neurotoxic chemicals, which will help to protect our own citizens and to change the marketplace.

Through Bright Cities, we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with other agencies to work on the common goal of reducing contaminants to protect our most vulnerable residents.  We cannot achieve all of our shared goals solely on a city’s budget.  HBBF has been very helpful in this first year to offer their ideas, share what other cities are doing and assist with connecting agencies to each other. 

We look forward to continuing our great partnership with HBBF.    


Nathan Olson has worked at the City of Minneapolis as a health inspector for almost 12 years investigating lead poisoning cases and performing healthy home inspections.