Messages from the Council Chair

The region is making a course change

July 2020

We are living through a historic time. The way we handle the COVID-19 pandemic and the wave of civil unrest that has radiated from Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s murder will be scrutinized and judged for generations to come.

COVID-19 did not cause us to be unprepared for a ­­pandemic of this magnitude, it exposed the weaknesses in our system. Likewise, George Floyd’s murder didn’t create systemic racism. It forced us to contemplate how generations of failure to address it could be summed up in 7 minutes and 46 seconds.

This is the year we were confronted with the reality that our nation needs a course correction and it’s up to us to take new bearings and steer to a better future.

We need to take every opportunity to engage communities in a regional discussion about how we will create equitable opportunities for everyone to prosper. Examining how we build a more equitable region is no longer just one task before the Met Council. It must be part of everything we do. From housing to parks to wastewater pipes, from planning to buses and trains, we have to ask one question about all of our work: How does this make our region a more equitable and inclusive place to live and prosper?

Here’s a solid example of how we’re doing that. We formed a partnership with Greater MSP and the Center for Economic Inclusion to develop a regional economic framework. This is a foundational document that will help our region apply for federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Greater MSP’s mission is to make our region more competitive in a global scale by creating new jobs, attracting talent, and encouraging innovation. The Center for Economic Inclusion is dedicated to building the civic infrastructure to build an inclusive economy that takes full advantage of ALL our region’s people and communities. Of course, the Met Council’s role as the region’s planning body completes the partnership.

The Twin Cities region simply cannot afford to remain at the bottom of national rankings when it comes to the disparity between white people and people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color on measures such as poverty, home ownership, and education. In 20 years, the percentage of people of color in our region will grow from 27% to 40%. Our rankings on racial equity are unconscionable today, and it will be inexcusable if we don’t act now. No region can prosper when 4 out of 10 people do not have the same access to opportunity.

We’re going to be talking about equity a lot, starting with the economic framework. In addition to the regular EDA grant funding that is available to our six-state region, another $226 million in EDA grants will be available to create jobs and stimulate the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we apply for those funds, we need to focus on how we can stimulate job growth and racial equity in our region. And how we include more voices in the process to create that prosperous future.

Right now, a draft of the regional economic framework is available for anyone for review and comment. We need people and our partners to look it over and offer feedback. We cannot build an inclusive system with more equitable outcomes without engaging as many voices as possible.

Our region is embarking on a course change in addressing racial equity. We’re not going to be perfect. But as we search for solutions to difficult problems, we need to be introspective to avoid past mistakes and diligent in our efforts to view our work through an equity lens. Most of all, we need to engage the full range of voices in our region as we learn to celebrate diversity instead of tolerate it. I am humbled by the task ahead, but I believe in a teamwork approach within Met Council and the community at large. Together, we will be drivers for our region’s success.

- Charlie Zelle, Council Chair