equity agenda

New support bolsters racial disparities bills, but opposition looms

K.B. Brown is a father of two, engaged to be married, a lifelong Minneapolitan and co-owner of a small business in Northeast called Wolf Pack Promotionals. He dreams of being the largest promotional printer in the state and of starting a youth internship program in the Twin Cities. Along with everything else, he advocates for small business owners.

“My vision for this business is to be the No. 1 printer for the nonprofits and small businesses in the state. I’ll start with the state. The country? I’d be okay with that. But I’ll start with the state. Let’s affect my community first. I believe change is beautiful, I believe change can happen and will happen, but I believe it starts with my community first, everyone else second,” Brown said.

He, and thousands of people like him, are hoping the Minnesota Legislature takes real action this year on Minnesota’s startling racial and economic disparities. At the same time, community groups are working to develop policies, frameworks and priorities that center racial justice as their core objective for the legislature to address. Continue Reading

Three Minnesota bills addressing racial disparities you need to follow

The recession might be over, but not for Black Minnesotans. In 2014, the incomes of Black Minnesotans were the lowest they had been since 2008. With the average salary for Black Minnesotans at $27,000 per year, the rate is nothing compared to Minnesota’s average income for all residents at nearly $68,000 annually, said the Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower who recently presented at the Legislative Working Group on Economic Disparities.

And according to a memo by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion at that same working group, about 9 percent of Black students and almost 11 percent of Latino students dropped out of Minnesota high schools last year. Further, almost 24,000 Black adults in Minnesota have not earned a high school diploma or equivalence.

Even though these statistics have persisted in some form for years, they finally have the attention of the Minnesota Legislature. In an effort to decrease these and others of Minnesota’s startling racial and economic disparities, the state legislature has introduced several proposals that they hope might be a first step towards equity for all Minnesotans. Continue Reading

House 60B candidate Ilhan Omar challenges notions of what politicians can be

It is the morning after her campaign launch when Ilhan Omar, candidate for state representative in Minneapolis’ House District 60B, and I sit down. Omar is still visibly glowing from the success of the Nov. 11 launch at Mixed Blood Theater.

“My sister said it felt like a victory party, not a kick off party. Because we’re used to the 20-40 people in a room for a kickoff. I guess that’s what I also expected, but to be in a room with over 250 people felt almost surreal,” Omar said. Continue Reading

Hey Minnesota House: there are privacy concerns with license plate readers

On average, less than one percent of plates paired up with a hotlist/watchlist, and even fewer lead to an arrest, according to the data I have received in data requests. So the question is why should we be keeping data on innocent and law-abiding people for any length of time 30 days, 60 days, three months. I oppose collection of license plate reader data on innocent people. Continue Reading

MN GOP introduces bill to allow discrimination against same-sex couples

At a press conference on Thursday morning, Sen. Paul Gazelka, a Republican from Nisswa, unveiled a Freedom of Conscience bill aimed at allowing businesses and individuals to discriminate against same-sex couples. According to the Pioneer Press, Gazelka is promoting the bill, in part, because a business in his district was fined after it refused service to a same-sex couple. “I was one of the legislators who opposed gay marriage but even then I said that gays and lesbians should be able to live as they choose,” Gazelka said. “I’m simply asking that Christians and people of faith be allowed to live as they choose without… threat of punishment.”

The bill has not yet been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature but is expected to drop in the next few days. It likely won’t receive any action with only days left in the legislative session, but because it was introduced in the first year of the biennium, it will be in play in 2016. Continue Reading