What’s the future of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department?


by Nelima Kerré March 11, 2009 • Here’s an issue that many of you should follow and participate in. Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak is proposing to cut one of the three units of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. He says that the duties of that unit are also done, by the MN Department of Human Rights and should not be replicated. Gov. Pawlenty says that the state is capable of handling the workload even though he’s proposed budget cuts to the MN Department of Human Rights as well.

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Rybak has in the past said that the Civil Rights Department has been dysfunctional for a few years and new staff from the unit that could be chopped concurs, but argue that the gains made in the year that they have been hired should be noted. It has also been argued that the Civil Rights Department has never been well supported or funded and in essence set up to fail. You can read more in this article I wrote for the TC Daily Planet.

In the supplemental budget, Rybak notes the consequences should his proposal go through;

The reductions, in the budget areas specified, will have the general impact of reducing the level of visibility of the Department of Civil Rights. For example, presence at certain annual, community events, such as the Urban League Family Day or Juneteenth will be reduced. Secondly, participation at such events as the Urban League Annual Meeting, the Minnesota Justice Foundation annual meeting and the Minnesota Bar Association annual meeting, Employment Bar Division, will be reduced. Third, advertising support in community newspapers (e.g. Minnesota Spokesman, Insight News and Asian Papers), which was primarily for the purpose of communicating hiring opportunities will be reduced. Fourth, partnering with community agencies and/or other governmental agencies to conduct training sessions or other community building opportunities would be severally curtailed. An example of such an opportunity would be the recently cancelled schedule of activities, hosted by Minneapolis and Hennepin County, for Black History Month. Finally, attendance at national “industry” related events, and the hiring of certain content-specific experts, to enhance the skill/knowledge of our management staff will be reduced, or perhaps eliminated.

The impact and/or resultant outcome of these actions is difficult to quantify. However, there will be a qualitative impact, as community groups and other organizations experience a diminished level of participation, involvement and, perhaps, perceived support and interest, from the Department. In the short term, these potential perceptions should not affect quantitative aspects of the Department’s duties, such as complaints filed, investigated or closed or the number of small underutilized businesses that are used on construction sites. Impacts may result in reduced confidence on the part of community and/or organization leaders with whom we have “partnered” in the past. In the long term, they may well result in quantitatively negative outcomes.

You can read the full supplemental budget here .

If you’d like to keep abreast with community plans on this issue you can join the Opposing Mayor Rybak’s Cut of Civil Rights facebook page or regularly check the Minneapolis Urban League calendar.