OPINION | Minneapolis Civil Rights Department announces new leadership


Can the new director show us how the Twins stadium brought “hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars” to subcontractors in our Black community?

That question mark reflects the debate and sharp exchange in this newspaper between Booker Hodges in his H.I.T. column and the COBC/AALS (Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit).

Included in the exchange was reference by the COBC/AALS to the hiring compliance of African American community contractors and workers in the construction of the Twins stadium.

On April 6, the mayor announced that Velma Korbel, Minnesota Department of Human Rights director, would accept the appointment as the next director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department (the sixth under Rybak). We urge her to release the Twins stadium hiring compliance figures so we can all be one big happy community family again.

From this debate, can we assume that one of outgoing director Michael Jordan’s last acts must have been to release copies of the two-year monitoring report on the Twins stadium to the COBC/AALS, and thus to the Minneapolis City Council and the Office of the Mayor as well?

We ask because COBC/AALS reported last week in this newspaper that they worked to successfully negotiate with Mortensen Construction to obtain “hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars” for subcontractors and workers in our community.

I’m sure when the new civil rights director releases the report, the debate will end as she clears up how it was done, who did it, and who certified its numbers, not to mention laying to rest the rumor that the department, contrary to law, delegated the compliance report to Mortensen despite the grant of $100,000 to do the study itself. This will answer the naysayers.

How did Mortensen deal with the difficulty of finding qualified minority subcontractors and workers for both the Twins stadium and the Gophers stadium? This knowledge can ensure that there will be qualified Black contractors and workers for the just-announced “biggest highway-construction season in MnDOT history” of “283 construction projects totaling $1.3 billion.”

This will enable the African American community to sing “Happy days are here again.” I look forward to reading the hiring compliance reports on these projects as well.

I appealed to our two African American state representatives to obtain from the University of Minnesota their audited and certified figures with respect to the Gophers stadium (in my November 4, 2009 column). Even though that has not happened yet, we assume such a certification will take place soon. See also my 2010 column of Jan. 13, and my 2009 columns of Feb. 18 (which lists eight other columns), Feb. 25 and Nov. 4.

The praise of Mortensen’s success bringing jobs and contracts to African Americans made by the COBC/AALS at the Minneapolis Public School Board meeting on April 6 must mean the figures for both the Gophers’ and Twins’ stadiums have been audited, authenticated, and certified. Doesn’t their praise mean that the COBC/AALS has in its possession the documentation of the Mortensen diversity compliance success that they praise?

That just makes good sense, my friends. Just think of it: hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to subcontractors and workers in our community. All that is needed to clear up this debate is to release the report showing when the final figures were given to the Civil Rights Department, who audited them, and who certified the accuracy of such numbers as actual hours for skilled and unskilled labor (as opposed to just the number of days on which they worked).

The report should also document the dollar amount paid to minority subcontractors and the dates these minority contractors were certified by the City of Minneapolis as having submitted their own private audits, as required by law.

How wonderful, in these tough economic times, that at least the Twins stadium provided hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars for contractors and workers in our community. Of course, if the documentation is not in place, there are some serious questions and declarations that must be answered to the African American community that allegedly was a part of this success story.

The Fair Employment Practices Act became law in Minnesota on April 15, 1955 (with significant support of Republicans Al Quie, Luther Youngdahl, and Elmer Andersen, who all became governors). When Nellie Stone Johnson first proposed the Fair Employment Practices Act in the 1940s, Black organizations opposed it (e.g., the NAACP at first tabled it).

Why did Black organizations fight Black economic development and economic opportunity then? Why do some still do so? Look around: Thurgood Marshall said to judge “intent” by the results.  We still have poor education, lack of jobs, and poor housing in the inner city.

Welcome aboard, Ms. Korbel.

Stayed tuned.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of key civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com; hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.