Minneapolis park commissioners sat down with some of their severest critics Wednesday night to listen to reasons that racially charged issues have dogged board meetings for more than two months.
Most of the stories told by those who spoke up among the roughly 30 people crowded into a room at Bottineau Park came from present and former employees of the park system itself.
Kenny Mosley was among several black park maintenance employees who spoke emotionally about their difficulties making the switch from seasonal work to full-time status.
Mosley said he’s tried repeatedly to get certified for full-time work as an equipment operator but other employees get the jobs despite working fewer hours.
Another worker, Amos Retic, said he’s also been trying to move up to full-time work to support his family.
“I don’t do the bare minimum,” he said. “I do my work with excellence.” He said he’s trained to use almost every piece of equipment his area operates.
Park worker Cynthia Wilson, among those who make frequent appearances before the Park Board to criticize hiring, promotional and disciplinary practices, reminded the board that many issues have been festering for at least five years.
Dissatisfaction among employees was confirmed by an outside consultant in 2011.
Superintendent Jayne Miller provided a rehearing of disciplinary cases but some employees still feel aggrieved. One is Carlos Rodrigo, a former employee of the department responsible for engaging the community in park matters. He said he was made to feel marginalized, and that his job was a figurehead.
Cathy Jones, a Minneapolis NAACP officer and the spouse of a Park Board employee, told commissioners that the stories of black employees are so similar that they represent the epitome of white supremacy within the system.
It was a meeting where even the mundane took on charged meaning.
When Commissioner Liz Wielinski began knitting during the discussion, as she often does in less formal settings, she was excoriated by Donna Pratt, another critic, as disrespectful.
Wielinski stepped down as board president last week, several weeks after apologizing for a shouting match with NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds.
She put away her knitting and later left the meeting without explanation.
She was one of six commissioners who attended from the nine-person board.
“We want to see a timeline for the recommendations we’ve made,” Levy-Pounds said.