Minneapolis City Council calls for more representative leadership on boards and committees

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The Minneapolis City Council called for greater diversity on its boards and commissions last month.

Though the focus is on racial and economic diversity, city officials also said they want to see greater representation of renters and students — two large groups who traditionally aren’t as active in their communities as older homeowners.

“I think there’s an acknowledgement by most council members that if we truly want diversity, something has to change,” said Ward 6 City Councilman Robert Lilligren.

More than 500 Minneapolis residents serve on several dozen city boards and commissions, according to a diversity report prepared by the city.

“Nearly all of our boards and commission members own their home,” the report said, pointing out that about half of all properties in the city are rentals.

Boards and commission members, Lilligren said, also tend to have higher incomes and are more educated than the average city resident.

“I don’t want to get into an area where I’m presuming that someone who fits that demographic can’t represent other perspectives or viewpoints,” he said. “But the idea of participation, I think, is what we value as a city and as an organization.”

Full representation

Only 14 percent of boards and commission members are non-white, according to the survey. This compares to 36 percent of non-white Minneapolis residents, according to Census data.

Howard Blin, community engagement manager for the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations Department, said the Council wants to change this.

“The makeup of many of the boards and commissions does not fully represent the city as a whole,” he said.

Getting young representatives from around the University of Minnesota to engage with the community is a challenge, Blin added.

“Most people in their 20s are busy with a lot of things,” he said. “Those renters tend to [spend] a short duration in those units.”