Fourteen months after pledging to work with a church coalition toward equal opportunity for all Minnesotans, Gov. Mark Dayton delivered a progress report on Sunday.
The governor, with several of his commissioners in tow, and Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Susan Haigh spoke to more than 600 civic and faith leaders from 100 congregations who make up the ISAIAH coalition. They gathered in the packed auditorium of Progressive Baptist Church in St. Paul.
ISAIAH includes congregations of various faith traditions from the Twin Cities and St. Cloud areas. The 11-year-old nonprofit group works locally and at the State Capitol to promote racial and economic equity.
In December 2010, Dayton told an ISAIAH convocation, "I share that [vision of equity] with you."
On Sunday, he told them he was inspired as a young man by the vision of America voiced by Sen. Robert Kennedy before his assassination in 1968. "Kennedy said what we need in the United States is love, wisdom and passion for one another and ... for justice for those still suffering in our country," Dayton said.
He recalled the federal Great Society programs to reduce poverty in the 1960s, asserting that "social and economic justice in this country has gone backward" since then. He noted that while average incomes have dropped, the wealthiest 1 percent of citizens have increased their share to 18 percent of the country's assets.
"That is why we are seeking to make them pay their fair share of taxes," Dayton said, alluding to his proposals to increase taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans.
State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger told the group that some of the nation's greatest disparities in longevity, mortality and teen pregnancy between whites and minority groups are found in the Twin Cities. Affordable medical care and health insurance can help reduce such disparities, he said.
Dayton's commissioners work as a team with the Met Council toward "racial and economic equity for all people," Ehlinger said. "It is core to what we do."
Noting Central Corridor light-rail construction underway in St. Paul, Haigh said: "My vision is to have a 21st-century transit system that provides opportunities for all people to get to work and get to school."
Haigh said seeking equity and opportunity for all people "is simple, but it is not easy." Equity goals should include safe, affordable housing and accessible transit so all can reach schools and jobs, she said.
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283