By Charles Hallman
A new executive director for Minnesota’s Council on Black Minnesotans (CBM) will be in place by June, predicts CBM Board Chairman Donavan Bailey. A Rochester resident, Bailey sat down last week at the MSR and discussed during an interview the council’s present and future.
“We are in the process of starting the application process” for the vacant executive director position, he explained. He added another possibility, a “community collaboration” in the search and hiring process.
Not having an executive director is “a little challenging,” admitted Bailey. “It is a paid position. Our council members are not paid — they are appointed by the governor. It’s pretty difficult to go E.D.-less.”
A two-year board member, Bailey is the fourth board chair in less than two years. There are three open spots yet to be filled by the governor; the CBM currently has nine board members.
“The road has been bumpy” since he became chair a month ago, Bailey notes. “There are some internal issues we are working on.”
Despite recent problems such as board members leaving and an open leadership role that must be filled, Bailey maintains that the council still is a viable organization. “We have our legislative agenda. Much of that deals with criminal justice, mental health and education,” he pointed out. He also has met with state legislators and Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsay.
“The Sunset Commission has given us two years to formulate our plan and get ourselves in sync with our operation,” said Bailey. The commission is a legislative group formed in 2011 to, among other things, examine state agencies and recommend retiring (“sunsetting”) those they feel are not functioning effectively. That includes the state’s four ethnic councils.
“We are under the gun,” said Bailey. “They are asking us to toe the line and be streamlined. I think we are unified [as a board], but we are still dealing with some of those residues of what we’ve gone through. If we tweak that, we can get some things done.”
The executive director has been the face of the CBM, and Bailey said, “That’s ideal and makes sense. That person can lead the charge for the board and the organization. I believe it will remain the same, but I am not sure.”
Bailey says he was initially encouraged about being a CBM member, but he soon became discouraged with the “political and personal dynamics” within the board. He said he saw firsthand how certain issues “can hold the council captive for six months, and really cripple us from being effective.”
Bailey gave as an example last year’s State audit that showed overspending of funds and poor oversight, ultimately leading to dismissing the former executive director. “Sometimes those issues can suck up all that we are doing and we lose our legislative focus.”
Now, as board chair, “My goal is to streamline things with the council,” said Bailey, adding that his strength is his ability to see the big picture and look ahead. “We’ve had these problems. Why? Let’s hit the why’s and move forward.
“My hope as chair is [that] if we do what we do legislatively and collaborate with [organizations such as] the Council on Crime and Justice, [State Human Rights] Commissioner [Kevin] Lindsay’s office, the NAACP, the Urban League, and all these different agencies, we could really get some things done.”
The CBM actually is an advocate group for the Black community at the State Capitol, stressed Bailey. Therefore, they need community support as well, such as “more community members” to help decide how best to distribute Legacy funds to qualified projects.
The organization still meets monthly on the second Tuesday of each month; the next two scheduled meetings will be at St. Paul’s Rondo Library. These meetings will include a “community time…a half hour before our official meeting starts for people to get to know each other formally and also some time [set aside] for the community to speak on behalf of what their concerns are,” said Bailey.
Bailey wants it known that the CBM is “a great council. Sometimes it looks like we are not on the street getting things done. But we are commissioned to be lobbying our legislators and the governor’s office, and advising them on issues that are going down on the street.
“We really want to be part of the community, and the community part of us,” he emphasized. “The community needs to feel part of the council. We have some great people on the board who want to do some great things for the community.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokes man-recorder.com.