Community members encouraged to ‘push for results’
Minneapolis will soon open a new office in City Hall to advance racial equity goals in City government.
Earlier this month, on December 8, the Minneapolis City Council approved the new Race and Equity Ordinance. It establishes a Division of Race and Equity that will include a city coordinator who will consult with all City departments on their racial equity goals.
Outgoing Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden, who didn’t run for reelection this year, introduced the ordinance. She said in an MSR phone interview that passing it assures that the City’s race equity work will continue when the new administration takes over in January.
It “establishes a very permanent structure that will take seven council members to vote to change it. It creates more specifics on what to expect from departments throughout the City around [race equity] goals and their response to meeting these goals,” such as a Racial Equity Action Plan for all departments, she explained.
Glidden, a former civil rights attorney and the council’s vice president, is well known for her progressive advocacy. Since her first election to the council in 2005, she has worked on several race equity measures, including the establishing of the City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion for supplier diversity and workforce inclusion in 2015, and the $15 minimum wage law among other issues.
Glidden says her race equity ordinance proposal was based on a similar ordinance already in effect in Oakland, California. The new Minneapolis race equity ordinance will “create more accountability,” including an annual reporting process involving the community, Glidden pointed out.
The new Race and Equity coordinator “is not higher than police chief, regulatory services head, health commissioner — they all are on a lateral level, all peers. This is an attempt to ensure complete clarity [of] expectations and accountability for the departments around race equity.”
Voices for Racial Justice (VRJ) was among several local organizations that publicly voiced support for the race equity ordinance, the councilmember said. VRJ Research and Policy Director Brent Grant told the MSR last week that community engagement “has to be at the center” of the new ordinance.
“In order for a way to show true commitment to race equity, and to the ordinance, they [the city council] need to have a strong community engagement component and strong funding,” Grant stressed.
He said that the City must also reach out to such organizations as his, Minneapolis Urban League and others “and not on a one-time basis, but an ongoing commitment to make sure that they are doing their job educating the local community about this ordinance,” said Grant.
“Adequate funding” is very important, Glidden concurred. “We need more resources to do the work properly. I do think that the ordinance has more teeth than what existed before, and a lot of this is because of…the requirement and public reporting of the goals.
“A clear next step that is needed is investment by the City in the work around race equity. I mean dollars, staff positions, and the level of the staff positions,” Glidden stated.
Mayor-elect Jacob Frey announced in a published newspaper report last week that among the new committees he is forming is an “all-encompassing” policy committee that will take public input. The committee, co-chaired by Glidden, will soon begin work and continue into the first half of 2018.
Grant reiterated, “The community is really interested in racial equity in Minneapolis. We just have to maintain stronger relationships between community and the city council to push the mayor in the right direction.”
Glidden said she believes the incoming City Hall administration, along with new council members, will continue the race equity work when they assume their offices next month. “I do feel really positive [about] the new council,” she said of her successor Andrea Jenkins, Jeremiah Ellison, Phillipe Cunningham, “folk who talked about issues of race and racism in their campaign.
“I do feel hopeful. I’m excited to see how they will move it forward with their creativity and their connection to the community.”
As she prepares to leave her elected office, Glidden advised, “It is the job of the public, the media and the policymakers to really review what is recorded and push for results to show progress” in achieving racial equity. The councilmember said she truly believes that community involvement can make a difference.
“My experience at City Hall is [that] things happen when community is heard,” Glidden said. “To hear from community on specifics or general topics, that is going to keep the momentum in getting the work done.”
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.