Chair of stadium authority raises serious questions about past inclusion
Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), who oversees design and construction of the Vikings’ “People’s Stadium,” told Minnesota Public Radio in an interview on February 8 that serious questions have been raised about the Equity Plan implementation passed by the MSFA that same day.
Three City-commissioned studies by two separate research groups support Chairwoman Kelm-Helgen’s observations. The last study was issued on May 15, 2012, by NERA (National Economic Research Associates) at a cost to Minneapolis of $500,000. These studies expose the City’s serious and purposeful noncompliance with Minority and Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) utilization requirements.
NERA’s report provided evidence that supports the investigative reporting in this column for a decade. We appreciate Chairwoman Kelm-Helgen’s KARE-TV interview. We welcome her aboard.
We also welcome Ted Mondale aboard, who stated to us last summer at a closed meeting with the chairwoman that although there was no Equity Plan for Target Field, and that they had no numbers for compliance, it will be different for the Vikings stadium; just give us a chance, he said. NERA’s report will help facilitate preventing future cover-ups and provides an opportunity to stop the misrepresentation of the plight of African Americans in Minneapolis.
Pages 205-208 show just how little inclusion there has been for African Americans in the area of utilization in construction and other aspects of economic opportunity: less than one percent. At page 209 of the October 22, 2010 report we see that on City-funded construction projects for the period 2003-2007, African Americans were awarded and ultimately paid less than one percent of the total.
It took NERA and the National Research Institute of Washington, D.C. an average of six-to-seven years to get the information, statistics, numbers, etc. due to the City stalling, “losing” data, and sending incomplete and false information from the City’s Civil Rights Department in their attempt to hide their noncompliance.
Here are some of many statistics that would have caught the attention of Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and her research department, especially the astonishingly complete lack of trained African Americans in job category after job category, as listed on pages 210 – 232:
• Architectural- and structural-metals manufacturing: 0
• Building exterior contractors: 0
• Building finishing contractors: 0
• Machinery and supply merchants: 0
• Other specialty trade contractors: 0
• General freight trucking: 0
• Utility systems construction: 0
• Engineering construction: 0
• Building equipment contractors: 0
• Highway, street and bridge constructions: 0
• Cement- and concrete-production manufacturing: 0
• Lumber and other construction materials merchant wholesalers: 0
Zero in so many categories — this exposes the true nature of so-called Minneapolis job training programs. Only the size of this new stadium project is exposing the true nature of the Minneapolis condition of purposefully not training African American workers and of hiring minorities defined as not Black.
Claims of certification and hires are false. Despite computers able to collect data, unlike the old paper-and-pencil days, the City cannot authenticate African American hiring for the construction at TCF Stadium, Target Field, Target Center, Fairview Children’s Hospital at the University of MN, or the Minneapolis Public Schools District’s new HQ.
I’m often asked where are the workers we are told are involved by folks who have passed by sites, whether walking or riding, and seen no African Americans, including highway sites. If it were not so sad, the joke about ghost workers might be funny.
People of color need to have the doors of opportunity held open for them, not barricaded shut, to make up for not being allowed to apply. Can something be done?
The opportunity and the timing are still here. There is time, especially if attached to university training programs, to train young men and women of color in apprentice and journeymen programs in time to enable Minnesota workers to get jobs building the stadium.
Without new, legitimate programs, and without changes to other “business as usual,” including financing the stadium, I have heard it said that the opening could be delayed to 2017 or later. That is unacceptable to the Vikings, the NFL and the fans. But at least the Black and White leaders will have maintained the desired status quo: getting away with getting paid to exclude African Americans.
Without African American workers from Minnesota in the stadium employment/contractor mix, there is no hope for the stadium to contribute to getting the African American community back on its feet and once again having a meaningful place at the Minnesota table of economic opportunity.
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his columns, blog, and solution papers for community planning and development, at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. Columns are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm.