Messages from the Council Chair

We need bold action on racial equity

June 2020

Charlie ZelleIn the past two weeks, our community has been reeling from the senseless death of George Floyd. People have been crying out for our institutions to correct the systemic inequities that lead to the horrific and disparate treatment of residents who identify as Black.

Their calls for action are not new. But they have gone unheeded for too long. They have gone unheeded for long enough.

As we have gathered to consider what we should do as an agency, one stark reality is clear: we have failed the people of Minnesota when it comes to equity. In particular, we have failed Black Minnesotans.

We cannot continue to set lofty goals to include people of color and indigenous people in our region’s prosperity by doing things the way we always have. What’s clear about this current crisis in our community, particularly on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, is that there is no acceptable normal to return to.

We must forge a new path. We must change our methods. And if we truly want to address, remove, and eliminate disparities, we need bold, decisive action. We need to push ourselves. We need to expect better or we will be in this same position in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years.

And we cannot afford to be in this same place as we look toward a more prosperous future for all the people of this region.

We are committed to working with our partners in government, in the business community, and in the community at large to find ways to make significant and meaningful investments in our communities to break down the barriers to success that face people of color and indigenous people in this region.

We are committed to acting with greater urgency where we have influence to address regional disparities for people of color and indigenous people.

We are committed to intentionally and authentically including the voices of people who are most affected by the disparities in our region in the decisions that we make.

And we are committed to holding our own agency to a higher standard when we’re spending regional funds in advancing contracting and workforce opportunities for those previously left behind. We’re also anxious to truly rethink how our own processes need to be adjusted and where we can influence other government processes.

We will be developing some specific recommendations in the coming months as we set spending goals and budget for future years. We’ll also be examining how our long-term planning processes — including the regional development guide and the more current work we’re doing to establish a regional economic framework — include stakeholders who bring a different perspective to the table.

We know the power that transportation investments and development can have in communities. Especially when they are intentionally aligned with community-driven development goals and expectations. It’s time we more directly align the power of that investment to address the impacts of decades and decades of marginalization. We need to set priorities around that investment by listening to what communities want and need.

These different perspectives are critical to act differently, to be bolder, and to encourage other government entities to join us in that bold action.

Our work to plan for an equitable, prosperous region has never been more important. We hope you’ll join us in this work as we work to transform our systems.