Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan came to the Rondo Neighborhood this past Monday (March 11) to tout the administration’s new budget; one they say is built on equity, equality and inclusion.
According to the governor, $75 million of the 2020-2021 fiscal year’s $1.544 billion budget is earmarked for equity, diversity and inclusion, but some critics say the plan lacks specificity; especially when it comes to spending with the state’s largest ethnic minority group, Blacks/African-Americans.
In a six-page “Budget for One Minnesota” the governor outlined plans for diversity spending, but noticeably missing from the proposed budget spending are the words “Black” or “African-American.” In fact, the plan presented to nearly 70 people at the at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul only mentions one ethnic minority in specificity, the long-overlooked and severely underrepresented indigenous population. Seven specific points of the six-page “Budget for One Minnesota” are indigenous specific. The rest of the document lumps all other ethnic groups together under the “people of color” umbrella.
When pressed on specifics Walz said Black Minnesotan can see immediate representation in his appointments.
“The state needs to be reflective of the community. I’m proud of the diversity of my cabinet, Metropolitan Council and the judicial board (Commission on Judicial Selection),” said Walz. “And I’m proud of this budget. We want to make sure equity and inclusion is in every decision we make; hiring … contracts.”
The Commission on Judicial Selection has 13 people of color as Walz’ appointees; two African-Americans, Sheree Curry, an at large member, and Sharon Van Leer, a Tenth Judicial District memberand three African born members, attorney Maya Sheikh-Salah, Second Judicial District, Hudda Ibrahim, Seventh Judicial District and Dr. Adenuga Atewologun, Third Judicial District. In total, Walz appointed 26 people to the commission.
And while the diversity on the Commission on Judicial Selection is commendable, one area leader says those appointments … and Monday’s community meeting … amount to mere window dressing.
“Those (judicial selection appointments) don’t have a salary attached to them. They don’t have the ability to spend money within the community,” said Tyrone Terrell, president of the African-American Leadership Council of St. Paul. “Commissioners (such as the heads of Education, Transportation, DEED, Human Rights, etc.) have the budgets; they decide where to spend the money and under (former governor) Mark Dayton we had three Black commissioners, now we only have two.”
Under Dayton the commissioners of DEED, Human Rights and Education were African-American. Under Walz the only African-American commissioners are Alice Roberts-Davis, commissioner of Administration and John Harrington, commissioner of Public Safety. Terrell said commissioners spend millions annually and Black businesses receive pennies on the dollar compared to what is spent with white businesses.
Terrell was invited to the March 11 meeting with Walz and Flanagan but declined the invitation. He said thus far, the governor’s words have not been equaled in action.
“Coming to Hallie Q. Brown is nice, but you’re leaving there with no jobs and no contracts,” said Terrell. “We’ve got to stop being happy with just a meeting. I’m hopeful the governor’s words will be matched with action, but so far instead of a ‘Budget for One Minnesota’ I see the same old Minnesota.”