So Minneapolis has had a chief resilience officer. Who knew? That officer has left her post well before its completion date. Should anyone care? Yes, says the departing officer, Kate Knuth (“What I did and what I learned as Minneapolis’ chief resilience officer,” Feb. 20).
After all, it was a “bold step” for the city to accept the “challenge” of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to create the position in the first place.
Such an acceptance would only be a challenge if the initial grant required matching funds. But the details of this grant were not made clear. Presumably, the city is not on the hook financially. So the boldness involved in accepting the cash amounted to what exactly?
Maybe it was an act of boldness to challenge the roles of existing city officials. Or maybe challenge is not quite the right word. Maybe it was simply an exercise in superfluous spending.
The departing officer tells us that she spent a good deal of time listening to city residents. Isn’t that what City Council members are always doing — or supposed to be doing? OK, council members have to deal with daily crises. All the more reason to have a chief resilience officer to look to the future, to think about the big picture, one supposed. Except, isn’t that what city planners are for?
Minneapolis already has one of those. It has a whole department devoted to city planning. More than that, the Community Planning and Economic Development Department has, in addition to the city planner, a “principal city planner,” two “plan examiners” and three “program assistants.” And all of that takes us only through the “B’s” on that department’s website.
Well then, maybe neither elected officials nor city bureaucrats could discover what the erstwhile resilience officer tells us she managed to discover. That would be a “palpable sense” that the city of Minneapolis “is not working for everyone.”
Really? And just how can she be sure? Were folks asked if they thought that the city was or was not working for everybody? And if the great majority thought not, does that amount to a “palpable sense” that they are right? Heck, they probably all said that it couldn’t possibly be working for everyone. How could any city do that?
While we’re at it, what does “working for everyone” actually mean? Does it mean full employment at $15 an hour or better? Does it mean a full-time sense of happiness and well-being? And who decides what it means? Individual citizens (i.e., everybody) or city officials?
The city’s first resilience officer wants Minneapolis to provide safety and affordable housing, while celebrating the “power, vibrancy and diversity” of the city’s neighborhoods. But wait a minute. Let’s go back to that planning department website, where its mission statement can be found. Guess what? Their goal is to “grow a vibrant, livable, safely built city for everyone.”
But will they do so with resilience?
Then again, maybe there are differences between her mission and theirs. Knuth emphasizes “big things” that need to be done. Fair enough. What are they? There is mention of climate change, but no mention, big or little, about what might be done about it. There is a “wouldn’t it be nice” mention of how things would look if every Minneapolis family had a $500 emergency fund. There is no mention of who would pay for such a fund. No doubt debate about this detail could be a “big thing.”
There is mention of our “declining democracy.” This, too, is a big thing. But what is meant by such a warning? And if democracy is declining, what is to be done about it? There was a great deal of interest in the 2017 elections for Minneapolis mayor and City Council. There was lively competition for those offices. Of course, most of the race was a race to the left. Maybe what’s declining is vibrant two-party or multiparty competition in the city.
But somehow one gathers that the departing resilience officer is not alarmed about the city’s turn to the left. She calls for “comprehensive wealth-building targeted to specific communities [where] our systems have made wealth-building difficult.” This call comes in the context of her $500 emergency fund proposal.
One wonders which wealth-inhibiting “systems” she has in mind. If it’s the city bureaucracy, she may have a point. Dealing with it is known to be difficult for entreprenuerially minded folks.
Maybe the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce needs a chief resilience officer to help people start and keep city businesses going in the face of so many challenges. And if it paid for such a post out of its own coffers, well, that would be a bold move indeed.
John C. “Chuck” Chalberg writes from Bloomington and is a senior fellow with the Center of the American Experiment.