St. Paul officials reaffirmed their commitment to reducing economic inequity on Wednesday, when the mayor and City Council agreed to support a set of goals created by the African-American Leadership Forum.
The group created a five-point plan after census data showed that the median income for black households in Minnesota dropped 14 percent from 2013 to 2014, said Jeff Hassan, executive director of the Leadership Forum.
“We realized that we, as leaders in the African-American community, had been asleep at the switch,” Hassan said.
The plan aims to ensure that hiring reflects diverse communities, black businesses are awarded a commensurate share of public and private contracts, state legislation includes strategies to end economic inequality, and a fair percentage of philanthropic and private investments go to black community members. It also states that an annual report card should be published monitoring the status of the efforts.
Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler have supported the plan, Hassan said. Officials from the private sector and philanthropic agencies have also signed on, he said.
The African-American Leadership Forum is still working on details of the report card, Hassan said, but he hopes to complete the first one by the end of the year.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the city has been addressing inequity for a while. St. Paul has gone from awarding about $1 million in contracts to minority-owned businesses in 2009 to awarding more than $35 million in such contracts this year, Coleman said. City staff members are evaluating inequities in operations, from code enforcement to snowplowing to car towing, he said.
But there is a lot of work left, said Coleman, who also called on the Legislature to address the issue.
“We need to get working with all of our partners with a fierce urgency … to really address these inequities,” Coleman said.