Minnesota has been highlighted in national and local news, including on these pages, for racial disparities that threaten the health and prosperity of all in our state. We have also been faulted, rightly, for continuous talk, rather than action.
There is recognition at all levels of American society that we must eliminate these disparities. We are in an era of tremendous alignment and focus from government, business, philanthropy and the broader community around the need to create a more equitable country.
What’s at stake ? As described in a report by the national organization PolicyLink, in 2011 Minnesota’s gross domestic product would have been $16.4 billion higher if there had been no racial gaps in income. Compound this economic loss, and impact on our business community, with knowledge that 74 percent of Minnesota’s population growth by 2040 will come from people of color. The Minneapolis City Council agrees, as expressed in our unanimously adopted city goals, that the prosperity and health for all in our city requires focus on equity and eliminating racial disparities
We are working on several initiatives, including efforts to diversify our city workforce. We are reaching out to community partners to prepare and recruit our city’s residents for the large number of city jobs available through the next five to 10 years with baby boomer retirements. These are good jobs that provide excellent wages and benefits, and require a range of skills.
We can’t, however, just focus on the short term. We need a road map for the future, which is the proposed Racial Equity Action Plan. While Minneapolis leaders are described in the news as debating the need for action now vs. creating a plan to address equity and racial disparities, the truth is we desperately need both.
We have plans for transportation (Access Minneapolis), seniors (Minneapolis for a Lifetime), energy and environment (Climate Action Plan) and more. These plans align our interests, help us leverage resources and partnerships, and provide focus to our work over multiple years. Just as for these important functions and initiatives, we need an action plan to drive our work on racial equity.
Yes, we must continue our strong commitment to the basics like providing public safety, inspecting housing and filling potholes. But we also need actionable steps and outcomes to eliminate disparities and provide opportunity.
Elizabeth Glidden is a member of the Minneapolis City Council.