Mpls continues its fairy tales of compliance

Only painful sanctions will make
these tales come true

by Ron Edwards

“There they go again” — what more can we say about Minneapolis as the City again demonstrates its fairy tale that it meets its own compliance laws? In reality, it continues to deny African Americans equal access and equal job opportunity.

Despite the April 18, 2010 “Diversity Study” (“The State of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise: Evidence from Minneapolis”) presented to the city council on November 4 (see my November 17 and 24, 2010 columns), the City is essentially still saying “No.”

The key conclusion of the Diversity Study was made very clear: “Minneapolis currently does not monitor compliance during performance.” The historic Minneapolis formula: Promise to comply, and then don’t.

The Diversity Study counter-formula recommendation: Commit to compliance; monitor to show compliance; pay severe penalties if compliance is not done.

No one has made the City do so before. Without sanctions, it won’t. The new “Oversight Committee” of the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) District seems to say that no one but the African American community cares, and who cares about them?

The community cares and has stepped up by putting a “Community Benefits Agreement” for compliance on the table of the committee appointed two months ago to oversee the construction of the new MPS Education Services Center.

The irony is that this committee, the Minority, Women and Diverse Business Participation Oversight Committee (MWD-POC), includes, as one of the individuals to continue the tradition of noncompliance, Velma Korbel, director of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

The City’s director of diversity and Mortenson’s director of community affairs announced the MPS’s very ambitious goal: 25 percent minority participation, with all the traditional gobbledygook of statements about intent to do right by the community. There were plenty of clues showing they don’t mean it.

First clue: making community input hard. Don Allen, another city journalist, and myself made unsuccessful inquiries about when the Oversight Committee would meet. Finally, the District’s Media Relations Pubic Affairs Office sent out on December 2 an announcement of an Oversight Committee meeting to receive public input, to be held at the District’s 807 E. Broadway building on December 7 at 8:30 am, with speakers limited to three minutes each.

Second clue: Eleven people showed up besides the committee, five being from the community, of whom three spoke. It was as if the Oversight Committee didn’t want community input and was surprised people showed up. The meeting: 90 minutes. Community input: nine minutes.

Third clue: No one who actually lives in North Minneapolis is on the oversight committee.

Fourth clue: the shock and dismay on the faces of the committee when Don Allen, a media and communications consultant, presented them with a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that reflected the recommendations of the Diversity Study, including sanctions if monitoring shows noncompliance.

Proposed on page seven of the CBA: Put up a $25 million bond before construction, to be forfeited to the African American Educational Trust Fund if the diversity goals are not met on the new MPS Educational Services Building (see my columns of May 5 and 26, 2010).

The Agreement follows the successful template of the CBA used in Los Angeles on behalf of the community regarding the construction of the LA Airport expansion.

The individuals who brought forward this CBA have clearly followed the advice of Booker T Hodges, president of the local branch of the NAACP: Cut out the traditional hustlers who purport to be leaders of the African American community but who, in reality, rip it off.

Page 17 of the Diversity Study recommendations states: “It is critical that these commitments be monitored and that these sanctions for noncompliance be available.” In other words, there will never be compliance with any goal so long as there are no penalties, sanctions or consequences for not meeting stated goals.

As Mr. Hodges pointed out in this paper two weeks ago, if we allow the traditional fixers to be involved, compliance won’t happen. This CBA is the property of the African American community, not the fixers. It should be treated as a national treasure, not to be abused nor betrayed. The community understands and justly demands that penalties and sanctions be in place.

White corporate America does this all the time. For example, with foreclosures, banks and lending institutions tell people of color that if they don’t meet their obligations they will lose their homes. We don’t think it should be any different in the quest for construction job compliance in Minneapolis, a city that has become legendary and notorious for noncompliance in supporting the interests and the franchise of the African American.
Stay tuned.

<i>Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at Hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at</i>