Jayne Miller

Recent Articles

Mpls park board, along with City, addresses inequities

Park board retiree says his former coworkers are running scared
 
By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

A former Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) employee earlier this year emailed all nine park board commissioners, expressing concern about workplace conditions. The MSR received  a copy of the five-page email sent in April titled “Racism issues concerns at the MPRB,” which made reference to the January 2012 investigation report in which top MPRB officials and the commissioners “agreed to address the concerns on the disparities and racism issues, and not to use fear or retaliation [against employees].”

“The work culture has not changed since 2012,” wrote the former MPRB employee, who later spoke on the condition that their name would not be published. The park board workplace can be characterized as an environment of paranoia, and employees are “working in tremendous fear,” while some are scared to talk on fear of retaliation, added Bob Ramphal, a former MPRB recreation center director who retired earlier this year after 46 years and spoke to park board commissioners in April. He recently talked to the MSR and said that he regularly stays in contact with his former colleagues. “Sometimes the employees felt like that they couldn’t trust anyone,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Mpls park board, along with City, addresses inequities

Outreach department works to reconcile cultural differences
 
By Charles Hallman 

Staff Writer

First of a two-part story

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges since her election nearly a year ago has made racial equity a cornerstone of her administration. The City Council earlier this summer approved her agenda, calling for all city departments to reduce racial disparities. Does this also include the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB), which historically has struggled with diversity issues both internally and externally? The MSR first published stories in 2012 on MPRB Black employees’ workplace discrimination investigated by the Minneapolis NAACP. Earlier this year, we received a copy of an email sent by Sixth District Commissioner Brad Bourn “about a morale crisis among many staff” pointed out by a retired employee during a board meeting. Continue Reading →

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The MSR 2013 year in review

The local Black press continues to publish stories “from our own lens”
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

This year, 2013, was historic as well as a year-long full of highs and lows: Two MSR reporters were among the national and international press that covered America’s first Black president’s second inauguration in January. Said Atlanta Daily World reporter Kenya King, a member of the Black press who was covering the Obama inauguration for the second time, “I’m here to capture…the moment of this historic occasion [and] to make sure that the message that should get across, does get across.”

A ‘new Black agenda’ was discussed by the Council on Black Minnesotans and others during the organization’s Lobby Day at the State Capitol on March 19. The MSR asked several Blacks in attendance that day if they felt new voices and perhaps a new message is needed from Black Minnesotans. “I think it is time for new voices to be heard,” believed Greater Friendship Missionary

Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Billy Russell in our March 28 front-page story. The MSR also continued its coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the introduction of MNsure, the state’s new health-insurance exchange program and how the new healthcare law will benefit Blacks. Continue Reading →

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Park Board as ‘hostile workplace’ revisited

 

 

 
MPRB officials, NAACP see positive change; workers still ambivalent
 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The MSR last year published a series of stories on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) about unfair discipline of Black employees and other discriminatory concerns (“Black employees call Mpls Park Board a ‘toxic’ workplace,” Jan. 5, 2012 and “Park Board leaders, NAACP claim progress,” Sept. 13, 2012). The Minneapolis NAACP last summer received numerous complaints from Black MPRB employees, and its investigation later found a history of discriminatory practices there. Recently we asked Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller to provide an update on how things are now at the MPRB. Continue Reading →

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Park Board leaders, NAACP claim progress

Some employees find workplace still hostile 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since MSR’s January 5 exclusive article on racial discrimination against current and former Black Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) employees, MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller, Board President John Erwin, and Minneapolis NAACP President Booker T Hodges have met several times and developed a process to address the issue of “inconsistency” in discipline matters. Whether this process and other measures will satisfy disgruntled employees remains to be seen. The MSR article, “Black employees call Mpls Park Board a ‘toxic’ workplace,” reported that after receiving numerous calls from current and former Park Board employees, Hodges initiated an investigation. The NAACP determined that Park Board supervisors used performance reviews “to systematically target minority employees to terminate them from their jobs” as well as moving longtime Black employees “to less desirable positions.”

Following that investigation and MSR’s story, nearly 80 past and current employees received letters inviting them to set up a time to meet with Miller on their concerns. A MPRB spokesperson explained that these meetings were not “grievance hearings,” but simply “meetings.” Even though the individual could bring anyone they chose to the session, no one else was allowed to speak on their behalf as might be the case in a grievance hearing. Continue Reading →

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Mpls Park Board says ‘climate’ change is underway

 

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Since the MSR’s January 4  article “Black employees call Minneapolis Park Board a ‘toxic workplace,’” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) officials say they have already undertaken significant changes to the organization’s “internal climate” and there is more to come as “we…acknowledge and address our shortcomings.” Some workers fear the changes will be superficial and fail to go far enough. MPRB board and staff recently received an environmental and organizational analysis interim report by a local consulting team. The report, originally scheduled to be completed and released in April, confirms the findings of a six-month Minneapolis NAACP probe into employment conditions at the Park Board among Black employees. “Unfortunately, many of the deficiencies and issues noted are not new but have been present for years,” admits MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller in a January 25 cover letter to the report. The 11-page report identifies current issues that “require immediate attention by everyone in the entire organization… It is not an overreaction to describe the MPRB as demoralized internally — where employees across racial and ethnic lines feel stymied in their ability to effectively meet job responsibilities.”

The reports recommendations include developing strategies to address culture issues, building a strong human relations department, reinstating a diversity council and strengthening and supporting the community outreach department. Continue Reading →

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Park Board, NAACP meet to address worker grievances

 
Meanwhile, complaints continue to surface

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) officials and the Minneapolis NAACP now are meeting to address concerns raisedby Black employees and customers. “I think they are receptive, and I look forward to working with them,” said NAACP President Booker Hodges after his recent meetings with MPRB Superintendent Jayne Miller and Board Chairman John Erwin. The NAACP, who previously investigated “over 60 complaints…and over 100 customers’ complaints,” have recently received an additional 15 complaints from Park Board workers since the MSR January 5 story on employment conditions among MPRB Black employees, said Hodges. “We have been contacted by White employees, too,” he reported. “They say they have the same issues but Blacks have it worse.”

The MSR also received several phone calls and emails from present and former Park Board employees. Continue Reading →

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