Hennepin County commits to disparity reduction ‘marathon’

Hires Alex Tittle to lead the charge

News Analysis

When there’s a tough, vitally important job to get done, it is all the more important to call in the right person. This is especially so when the outcome has millions upon millions of dollars at stake, purportedly for the public good, in Minnesota, which is the worst state in the nation at rectifying racial disparity.

Unemployment rates for Minnesotans of color are as much as four times greater than for White residents. Most Minnesota families of color now have median incomes about half those of their White neighbors. Black families are hit hardest, earning annual incomes averaging roughly $33,900 compared to about $81,500 for White families. This glaring social injustice is long entrenched, an inequity that has steadily increased over the past five decades.

Additionally, only 18 percent of African Americans are homeowners as opposed to about 70 percent of White residents. And while 86 percent of Whites in the county can reasonably expect to graduate high school in the customary four years, compare this to 46 percent for Native Americans and 58 percent for Blacks.

Nowhere is it more crucial to concretely address these issues of men, women and children’s quality of life and state of well-being than in Hennepin County with its population of more than one million, more than half of whom are people of color.

In fact, as reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, last year officials calculated that doing away with racial and ethnic disparities in income and employment would foster a full $4.6 billion in economic growth. This is the equivalent of upwards of 17,000 individuals presently without jobs entering the workforce at a time when a vast need for workers is anticipated – some 57,000 within this year and 2019.

Alex Tittle
Alex Tittle, Director of Disparity Reduction Photo courtesy of Hennepin County

 

An unprecedented opportunity is at hand to address the gap that has mired in deprivation people subsisting below the federal level who’ve been looking for a chance to earn a decent living, many unable to earn a living at all. In a move to actually walk the walk instead of just talking the talk, this month Alex Tittle stepped on board at Hennepin County as Director of Disparity Reduction.

The position was created specifically to rectify these wrongs that have become a way of life for too many. Speaking in a conference room high above 300 South 6th Street in the Government Center, he said he has no illusions about what is being asked of him.

Confidently confronting a formidable challenge, he considered the lay of the land, noting the disproportionate state of well-being spreads wide “in a number of areas, from education to economics, everything between. All the areas – education, employment, income, justice, transportation and health.”

Tittle, understated, firmly asserted, “Hennepin County takes leadership, recognizing its own challenges by developing relationships with key stakeholders and representing [the county] in metro and regional disparities.” It will not happen, he realizes, with a quick fix. “No, we can’t expect to add hot water and expect instant success.”

David J. Hough, Hennepin County Administrator, concurred, “These disparities grew over generations and will not change overnight.”

Tittle added, “However, this is something I expect to take not months but years.”

He did not take the job without giving the matter a great deal of thought. Asked whether he went looking for it or was wooed, he answered, “We sort of wooed each other. In the end, I knew I wanted to do this.

“The leadership of David Hough is an example of true courageous and transformative change,” he added. “This initiative he has chosen me to lead is at the root of issues that have plagued the country [as well as] our county, and I am excited to begin the marathon which will be disparity reduction.”

Tittle’s is a proven track record at leveling the field for those historically disenfranchised. He was director for the Office of Civil Rights for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and served as vice president of the Business Connect Program and Corporate Affairs for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.

The objective there was for Super Bowl LII inclusion of minority, women, veteran and LGBT businesses success with the NFL and its contractors. With Tittle at the helm, this program yielded training programs, networking events, and generated over $10 million for the targeted concerns.

As chief consultant for US Bank Stadium’s Equity Program, Tittle’s duty was to oversee mandated compliance with the lawful assigning of money-making opportunities. The project exceeded expectations to the tune of more than $300 million to minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses, achieving 36 percent minority and nine percent women labor hours throughout the $1.1 billion project. “It set,” he said, “a state record.”

According to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Legacy Report, “We had a fantastic approach but needed a fearless leader to see the plan through to completion. Tittle was hired as Equity Director in July of 2013. Since many projects of this magnitude fail due to a lack of implementation, his role was critical.

“Tittle was tasked with the job of making sure all parties understood and delivered on the equity plan goals and criteria. He created a process of success that moved beyond the status quo to encourage and hold people accountable. He worked closely with internal stakeholders, equity partners, contractors, the City of Minneapolis, building trades, Minnesota Department of Human Rights and Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry to ensure compliance on all facets of the project. He got the job done.”

David Hough attests, “We are very pleased to have Tittle join us in guiding this very important work.”

He and a great many others.