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Working to End Racial and Economic Inequality in Minneapolis

I strongly endorse the African American Leadership Forum’s comprehensive 5-Point Plan to Address Economic Inequality for African Americans. For several months, I have been in close communication with AALF, and last month, I wrote a detailed reply in support of the plan, which I’ve posted below.

It is very important to note that my support is not meant to convey, “We are doing all of this already,” but rather, “Here is a foundation of activity from which I hope we can move forward together.” There is much to do, and much to be done differently. I look forward to doing it in partnership with the community.

March 22, 2016

Dear Mr. Hassan and Mr. Belton,

I am writing to endorse the African American Leadership Forum Five Point Plan to End Economic Inequality, to commit myself to doing work at the City to meet those goals, and to commit to meeting with you to talk about where we can go together from here. Ending racial and economic inequity has been, and remains, the foundation of my administration. It is the reason I ran for mayor, and it is imperative for the successful future of Minneapolis.

Your letter and the plan eloquently lay out the biggest threat to Minneapolis’ people and our collective future prosperity: racially-based economic inequities and the systems that support them. When, in a time of overall economic recovery, African American median income falls by 14% in the state of Minnesota, we know that we as a community are in crisis, and that it must be our systems that are failing to serve African American people. When African American students in our public schools face worse outcomes than their peers in Mississippi, we know we have a crisis and that our education system is failing African American young people. The Greater MSP region is on track to be majority people of color by mid-century, Minneapolis sooner than that. If we as a region and a city do not make sure that people of color are prepared well to create and take the jobs of the future, our economy will falter. If we do not make sure that everyone can contribute to and benefit from our growth and prosperity we will stall out economically as well as socially.

I share AALF’s goal not just of change, but of transformation. It has been and will remain the work of my administration to enact policy that will not only change current practice, but to transform how the city does business from the DNA outward. The future of our city and our people depends on it.

I have attached a detailed analysis of work already underway at the City relevant to the points of the plan. In the attached memo, which addresses each of the five points in AALF’s plan, I cover the following areas, among others:

  • The City’s enterprise-wide equity and inclusion work;
  • Our efforts to develop a workforce, both within the City of Minneapolis and the city writ large, that looks like the residents we serve, with a particular focus on youth;
  • Racially and socially responsive recruitment and retention of City employees;
  • Work to expand capacity and opportunity in African American-owned businesses;
  • City support, and my personal support, for legislation and budgets that champion racial equity and African American economic equity in Minneapolis and statewide;
  • Coordination with foundations and the federal government to improve economic opportunities and outcomes for African Americans;
  • The City’s commitment to sharing data for the purpose of advancing economic equity for African Americans.

I know that you are also working with City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden on the Council’s adopting a resolution in support of AALF’s plan. I would be pleased to sign such a resolution and am happy to offer Council Vice President Glidden and you any assistance in this effort.

Please understand that this communication is not meant to convey, “We are already doing all this already,” but rather, “Here is a foundation of activity from which I hope we can move forward together.” I look forward to your feedback on what more we can do, what we can do differently, and how we can do it with more and more intentional partnership with you.

I am grateful to you all for elevating this crisis across sectors, and for holding government and business leaders accountable to address it. I want to thank you for reaching out to me and for all of your work on this urgent need.

My staff will reach out to you to set up a time when we can meet.


Mayor Betsy Hodges

City of Minneapolis

Mayor Betsy Hodges detailed response to AALF Five Point Plan

1. The public and private sectors must institute aggressive hiring that reflects the racial diversity of the state, county, cities and school districts.

A goal of mine is for the City of Minneapolis to become a model on how to increase the recruitment and retention of diverse talent. With colleagues on the City Council, notably Vice President Elizabeth Glidden, I have worked with City staff to increase access for people of color to City jobs as well as create a work environment where employees of color can grow their careers and thrive professionally. This work is showing promise: the percentage of new City hires that are people of color has risen from 23 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2015. We continue to explore policies and practices that will advance racial equity and build our workforce to reflect the communities we serve.

Highlights of our efforts in this area include, but are not limited to:

a. Hiring of two Equity and Inclusion Managers

In my 2015 budget, I allocated resources to create an Office of Equity and Inclusion in the City Coordinator’s Office. Staffing this new office are two Managers of Equity and Inclusion. They lead the City’s racial equity work inside the City enterprise and externally in the Promise Zone. This concrete racial equity work is being done in very few cities around the country.

i. Joy Marsh Stephens manages the City enterprise work. She identifies opportunities to move the dial on racial equity in City policies, practices, and procedures in all levels and areas of City operations. She also works across jurisdictions and with the non-profit and private sectors to share best practices and bring effective strategies to scale for greater regional and statewide impact.

ii. Julianne Leerssen manages the City of Minneapolis’ Promise Zone. This target area encompasses the majority of North Minneapolis. She builds strategic partnerships to address education, public safety, economic development, housing, and employment needs, all through a racial equity lens.

b. Equity and Equal Opportunity Workforce Planning

The City has recently hired a Workforce Planning Manager to identify existing department progress in hiring and promoting people of color.  We are assessing our effectiveness of our efforts and maximizing opportunities to expand them.

c. 21st Century Workforce Development

Addressing the City’s growing workforce needs means investing now in the next generation of employees. The City leads with nationally-recognized internship programs for high school and college students, as well as targeted youth development programs. Each of these programs supports young people of color, invests in their leadership, and introduces them to careers in City government, youth work, and other public service.

Examples include:

i. STEP-UP: STEP-UP is a nationally-recognized youth employment model, in partnership with AchieveMinneapolis, that trains and matches Minneapolis youth ages 14-21 with paid summer internships. Interns gain experience across private sector businesses, public agencies, and nonprofits, which expands their imagination of possibility for their future. Since 2004, STEP-UP has created over 21,000 internships and continues to certify interns in Work Readiness Training through the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In 2015, nearly 2,000 Minneapolis youth participated in the job skills training program, and 727 interns were employed at 147 corporate and organizational partners. Ninety-one percent of participants were youth of color; 62 percent identified as Black; 43 percent were from North Minneapolis. Interns earned a combined $2.6 million in wages. STEP-UP has become the model for City-led youth employment programs and has been replicated in cities across the country.

I have made a pledge that the City of Minneapolis will hire 50 STEP-UP interns throughout the enterprise this summer.

ii. Urban Scholars: Urban Scholars is a City-created professional and leadership-development internship program that provides college students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with distinctive professional experience.Over 70 percent of interns in the program are people of color. The City of Minneapolis has taken significant steps to hire Urban Scholars once they graduate from college, as well. In its fifth year, the program has shown to be effective in creating a pathway for diverse City employees. Fourteen percent of all Urban Scholars are now full-time City employees.

In my 2016 budget, I increased investment in this program by $92,000 to increase cohort size, as well as targeted recruitment.

iii. BUILD Leaders: In my 2016 budget, I also invested $362,000 ongoing to scale a program specifically for the most disenfranchised youth in our community. This is the first of its kind for the City. BUILD Leaders is an innovative job-training program based in the community with wraparound case management for Opportunity Youth ages 18-24. The program is for youth of color experiencing the most systemic barriers, such as not being in school or having a diploma, as well as experiencing unemployment. The participants teach a youth-violence-prevention curriculum to children ages 9-12 through afterschool programs. They complete the program with job experience and multiple certifications that can lead to careers in youth work. The program specifically has cohorts for African Americans in North Minneapolis.

iv. Two EMS Pathway Programs: Becoming a certified Emergency Medical Technician opens the door to many career paths. It is the first step to becoming a Minneapolis Firefighter. According to the National Registry of EMTs, 74 percent of paramedics and EMTs currently serving in the emergency medical workforce are white, and 76 percent are male. This is a rapidly expanding field and as more jobs for EMTs are created it is necessary to fill these positions with qualified candidates that reflect the multilingual and culturally diverse communities they serve.

The Minneapolis Fire Department is partnering with Minneapolis Schools to offer a two year Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and certification for juniors and seniors at Roosevelt and North High School.  This is our second year working with Roosevelt and our first year working with North High School. Ninety percent of students in our classes are from communities traditionally underrepresented in the field.

The EMS Pathways Academy will provide low-income, minority, and female young adults of Minneapolis between the ages of 18-25 free, paid Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training to create a pipeline of diverse candidates for the Minneapolis Fire Department and the emergency medical workforce of our community. Participants receive wraparound supports, as needed. After students graduate with their EMT certification that is recognizable in 32 states, they are eligible for preference points in the firefighters entrance exam.

v. Community Service Officers: The Community Service Officer Program (CSO) serves as an alternative pathway to become a police officer. This program expands the applicant pool to include more candidates from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that reflect of our community.  This program blends training in law enforcement and real-world experience within the Minneapolis Police Department.  In addition to their salary, the CSOs are given the opportunity to participate in an Education Assistance Program where the MPD provides up to education benefits for a law enforcement degree.

In my 2016 budget, I invested $1M ongoing into the CSO program to be a secure pathway for diverse candidates and to ensure officers reflect the communities they serve. The 2015 class was 61 percent people of color.

vi. TechHire: The mission of TechHire, an initiative of Obama White House in which Minneapolis is one of the first participants, is to close the workforce skills gap in the high-tech economy by creating a path for diverse workers to access training, support, and tech jobs. The $350,000 that the City Council and I invested in the City’s 2016 budget is largely focused on women and communities of color, as they have traditionally faced barriers to accessing alternative technology education and training opportunities.

As of February 2016, 285 trainees have completed accelerated programs and 135 graduates have been placed in full-time positions averaging $48,364. So far, graduates are 24 percent people of color, a number which can and must improve. For this reason, an outreach and marketing plan that meets people where they are has been implemented. As a result, 32 percent of applicants for the upcoming women-only class in North Minneapolis are African American.

vii. Earned Sick and Safe Time

In my 2015 State of the City address, I said that we must not only prepare for the equitable workforce of the future, we must also prepare for the equitable workplace of the future. That is why I proposed introducing earned sick and safe time for all workers in Minneapolis, which 42 percent of all Minneapolis workers lack. And here again, we see racial disparities: while 37 percent of white workers lack access to earned sick and safe time, 49 percent of African American workers do. The City Council and I jointly appointed a Workplace Regulations Partnership Group to study the issue. The group held 14 listening sessions around Minneapolis that focused on a wide variety of workers and economic sectors, and has come forward with recommendations ( Access to earned sick and safe time will help create better working conditions for African American workers and their families.

d. Racially and Socially Responsive Recruitment

I recognize that building a diverse workforce requires innovation and responsiveness to the needs of the people we seek to recruit. We cannot build our city’s workforce by waiting for our changing community to adapt to our traditional means. We have started the work of examining ways we can expand access and have taken the following steps:

i. Promote Development of Pathways Programs for City Departments: As a City enterprise, we recognize that systemic barriers faced by people of color make access to education, work experience, and professional networks more difficult. Therefore, many experience greater challenges in competing for traditional City jobs. As a response, departments now collaborate to create pathway programs for well-qualified people of color and other underrepresented groups to gain employment with the City of Minneapolis.

ii. Review Position Descriptions – Remove Artificial Barriers: Related to the Pathways Program effort is the Human Resources Department’s commitment to supporting departments in reviewing job descriptions for barriers to communities of color and other underrepresented groups in the workforce. The objective is to update job specifications to more accurately reflect position responsibilities. Doing so enables us to gain a broader, more diverse applicant pool.

Public Works took up the opportunity to increase diversity in their department by reviewing job descriptions. They discovered they had a less diverse candidate pool for the “Service Worker” position because it required a commercial driver’s license. This requirement disproportionately disqualified potential candidates of color. As a response, Public Works created a new position, “Service Worker 1,” which does not have that requirement. This allows employees to gain paid work experience while they obtain commercial driver’s license. Twenty-nine percent of new hires for this position are African American.

Public Works’ hiring efforts have overall shown remarkable progress. In 2013, they had 36 Black applicants for job positions. They took the lessons learned and improved outreach in 2014, which resulted in a 650-percent increase, to 276 Black applicants.

iii. Review Testing and Selection Procedures: Broadening the applicant pool is just one step in building a more diverse and representative workforce. We act to ensure that our interview selection panel and testing procedures are racially equitable and do not present barriers to people of color gaining employment with the City of Minneapolis. In doing so, we broaden access for well-qualified candidates of color.

As an example, the Minneapolis Police Department shifted their interview panels to include community members to diversify perspectives in the selection process.

iv. Workplace Policy Review: As our workplace policies directly influence the ability of people of color to feel welcome and grow in the employment with the City of Minneapolis, our Human Resources Department targets 25 percent of our workplace policies for review on an annual basis. Where necessary, these policies are amended to ensure we are not inhibiting a diverse workforce. This focus also includes a review of and response to potential state and federal legislative barriers.

v. Implementation of Team Minneapolis (NeoGov): Our new online application system provides a simpler application process. For applicants who seek consideration for multiple positions over time, the system retains essential information, thereby expediting application for future positions.

Additionally, our IT Department takes laptops out into the community to facilitate the job application process with people who may otherwise face barriers in applying. They are leading the City’s work to close the digital divide in Minneapolis.

e. Racially Inclusive Workplace Culture Promotion

i. Cultural Intelligence & IDI Training/Coaching: Professional and leadership development programs are offered to City employees and supervisors that include cultural intelligence and implicit bias training. An intentional focus in these areas enables us to invest in our senior leaders and City employees who play a direct role in hiring decisions. These individuals are then able to promote the importance of a racially equitable culture within the workplace and in hiring, promotion, and retention decisions. To date, over 100 employees and supervisors have gone through the programs and we expect 60 more to do so by the end of 2016. In addition, all sworn Minneapolis police officers have participated in mandated implicit bias training.

ii. Enterprise Collaboration on Racial Equity: A key component of our Enterprise Equity and Inclusion work is providing City staff with space to build their capacity and skillset relating to racial equity. In 2016, the Office of Equity and Inclusion began introducing enterprise engagement opportunities that give employees the space and time to work with colleagues across the enterprise and deepen our culture of racial equity in the City. Employees already report an increase in collaboration to address issues if equity within and between departments.

iii. Department-Level Equity & Inclusion Teams: In 2008, City Council Resolution 2008-184 created the Equity in Employment Task Force. In that time, as a response to the disparities our community faces, various City departments began developing internal-facing teams to build their racial-equity capacities. The success of these teams has become the foundation for this next stage of the City’s equity and inclusion work. These teams have been the source of significant innovation in how City employees and teams can strive to advance racial equity in hiring, purchasing, and community-engagement decisions.

2. African American businesses in Minnesota must be awarded a share of public and private contracts commensurate with their representation among Minnesota businesses.

Estimates based in the best available data are that African American-owned business are only 10.4 percent of all businesses in Minneapolis. At the same time, data show that both nationally and locally, businesses owned by people of color are growing at a significantly higher pace than white-owned businesses. Like our efforts in hiring and retention, City leaders and staff have established goals aimed at increasing contracting opportunities for minority business across the enterprise.

Some highlights include:

a. Disparity Study

The City of Minneapolis is conducting a new Disparity Study that will be completed in 2017.  This study determines whether an agency, either in the past or currently, engages in exclusionary practices in the solicitation and award of contracts to minority‐ and women‐owned businesses. Knowing the vital information this study will produce, I invested $300,000 in it over two years.

The most recent City of Minneapolis Disparity Study thoroughly examined the City’s procurement process, as well as the locations and ownership of companies that do business with the city. The study also analyzed the overall marketplace and experiences of women-owned and minority-owned businesses that seek contracts in both the public and private sector. This information is being used to drive targeted policies and investments to close disparities facing many business owners from underserved communities.

b. Small and Underutilized Business Program

The City adopted a Small and Underutilized Business Program (SUBP) in 2005 and subsequently adopted aspirational goals for contracting in 2011 at 25 percent for all minority and women-owned small businesses. There has been progress, but we are still not at our goal: the City achieved 19 percent in 2014 and 22 percent in 2015. Aggressive efforts continue to push forward on these goals to ensure economic growth is achieved throughout all of our communities.

c. Supplier Diversity Work Plan

Earlier this year, City staff led by the City Coordinator’s Office moved forward a comprehensive one- and five-year work plan to more actively push forward our supplier diversity efforts.

Among the efforts expected to be completed are:

  • Comprehensive data analysis of historic spending and definition of commodity categories to better identify available opportunities for vendors within each category.
  • Implementation of additional certification options to broaden the ability of qualified small and minority vendors/firms to work within the City of Minneapolis.
  • Development and implementation of a target-market program aimed at enhancing contracting opportunities for all small businesses.
  • Expansion of technology strategies to include alerts to interested vendors, as well as a purchasing portal by which vendors can more easily access and submit bid documents and information electronically.

d. Expansion of Business Technical Assistance Program

The City of Minneapolis’ Business Technical Assistance Program (known as “B-TAP”) has been a very successful tool in helping new and small businesses start and grow in the City of Minneapolis.  Created in 2012, B-Tap contracts with non-profit organizations that focus on entrepreneur training and economic development in communities of color to provide technical assistance to businesses on matters such as business planning, marketing, loan proposals, and leasing space. This year, I included an additional $350,000 in my budget proposal for B-TAP to provide bonus payments to its service providers that assist disadvantaged business owners in obtaining DBE certification. B-TAP can further assist disadvantaged businesses in helping them compete for new business once their certification is in place. Seventy-seven percent of the 144 beneficiaries of this program are people of color, out of which 20% are African American. B-TAP can claim to have helped create more than 40 new businesses and 140 jobs. These numbers speak to the need of continuing to promote entrepreneurship in communities of color.

e. Minority and Women-Owned Business Opportunities Fair

In 2015, the City hosted its first Minority and Women-Owned Business Opportunities Fair where small and medium-sized businesses had an opportunity to meet with City departments across the enterprise and find out more about possible contracting and service openings within each individual department. With over 330 registered participants, the Opportunities Fair was a huge success, and we are already planning the next networking event.

f. GARE Best Practices in Certification Committee

As one of the founding partners in the Government Alliance for Race and Equity, the City of Minneapolis convenes with jurisdictional partners from across the Midwest on a variety of topics including equitable procurement strategies. A Best Practices in Certification Committee was formed last year among leaders at the Metropolitan Council, the City of Saint Paul, and the City of Minneapolis to discuss how to increase contracting opportunities for certified businesses. We are exploring collaborative regional opportunities that may further our efforts even more.

g. Business Made Simple

If we conduct business as usual without taking into consideration the needs that entrepreneurs have as they invest in the City, we are halting economic growth — and this is especially true for entrepreneurs of color. When I took office, I asked City Attorney Susan Segal conduct a review of the City business regulations, with a view to identifying strategies that can simplify the process entrepreneurs go through as they invest in the city. After meeting with entrepreneurs from all across the city, recommendations were made to: simplify and streamline regulations, but also to provide special assistance for small businesses; make things easier and faster; improve coordination and eliminate consistence within and between departments; and deliver better customer service with continuous improvement.

Since the implementation of Business Made Simple, Business Licensing and Consumer Services has modernized, updated or eliminated approximately 39 ordinances. At the same time, the City is working on modernizing its land management system that will provide consolidated data for all the departments engaged in the development review and business licensing, enforcement and inspections. The new system will be ready by the end of 2016. An interface for entrepreneurs to easily navigate the City’s process is expected to be launched in 2017.

3. The Minnesota legislature must pass and the governor sign comprehensive legislation comprised of strategies of both proven and innovative approaches to end economic inequality.

The City of Minneapolis annually adopts legislative policy positions and agenda. The positions include numerous policies in a variety of areas. We have adopted policies related to equity and have included them in the 2016 Legislative Agenda.

Initially adopted in 2013 and revised annually the Fostering Equity policies support state level policy and funding that are intended to eliminate racial disparities.  The policies address early childhood education; public health; housing; building wealth; workforce development; employment access and workplace policies; capital investments; and certification, procurement and business development.

Alongside other public and private entities, we advocate for legislation to accomplish our City goals. A successful collaborative effort was with the “ban the box” legislation, which now prohibits employers to request information regarding criminal history as part of the initial application for employment. Additionally, the City has been successful in securing State funding for youth and adult employment and training programs.

On a personal level, I applaud Governor Dayton’s proposal to invest $100 million in equity. I appreciate Senator Champion’s leadership in bringing people to the Capitol to testify about what policies and programs could help achieve increased racial and economic equality.

 4. Minnesota-based philanthropies, private, corporate and community foundations must make investments in the African American community commensurate with our representation in the population.

I firmly believe partnerships with philanthropy, as well as the public, private, and non-profit sectors, are essential to address the economic and racial disparities we face as a community. I have increased my efforts to partner with national and local funders to support the work we are doing in many of our affected neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

Highlights of existing work include:

a. Minneapolis Promise Zone

In 2015, a large portion of North Minneapolis was designated a 10-year, federal Promise Zone through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. I spent significant time and effort lobbying the Obama administration to win this designation, which allows the City to leverage preference points for certain competitive federal grant programs and for technical assistance from participating federal agencies. As the result, Minneapolis has already won a $3.4M grant to remove harmful lead from homes in low-income communities, including North Minneapolis, and another grant for $400,000 for increasing access to healthy food in North Minneapolis. Our community-driven plan within the Minneapolis Promise Zone includes six goals, including increased job creation and economic development. Additional information on our Promise Zone efforts can be found at

b. Minneapolis Innovation Team

In 2015, the City won a three-year, $2.7M grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to fund the creation of an exciting in-house consultant team within the City. The Minneapolis Innovation Team works with departments to dig into how our policies, services and service-delivery mechanisms contribute to racial and place-based disparities. They then develop strategies and responsive new interventions to fix these problems and deliver measurable results. Currently focused on rental housing initiatives, the Innovation Team is expected to take on issues relating to spurring equitable economic growth and development as their next challenge later this year.

c. Northside Funders Group and Living Cities

Last year the City joined the partnership efforts led by the Northside Funders Group and sponsored by Living Cities that are aimed at developing targeted strategies for economic and workforce development in North Minneapolis.  Bringing together public, private, philanthropic and community-based partners, the group has formed a collective Opportunity Neighborhoods for Regional Prosperity agenda that will use quantitative and qualitative indicators to address issues such as the employment gap, capital investments in North Minneapolis, and commercial and workforce growth.

d. My Brother’s Keeper

In 2014, I, along with Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Trista Harris, CEO/President of Minnesota Council on Foundations, were among the first to sign onto President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. It is an initiative focused to improve life outcomes for boys and young men of color. With the City of Saint Paul and Minnesota Council on Foundations, I have focused local efforts on the goal areas of ready-for-K, high school graduation, employment, and safe and second chance. My office leads the MBK Data Task Force, which focuses on making boys and young men of color visible in the data to ensure the adoption of culturally-specific strategies and practices.

What is unique to our local community action plan is that it focuses on inputs. Twin Cities My Brother’s Keeper puts boys and young men of color at the core as assets to our community and seeks to change systems to reflect that.

5. Public, private and philanthropic enterprises in partnership with African American organizations must publish an Annual Report Card on the status of efforts to achieve these results.

I fully support efforts to use data in monitoring, tracking, and evaluating the success of public, private and philanthropic initiatives. The City strives to be a leader in innovation and data transparency.  Results Minneapolisis the primary management tool we use to systematically track performance toward achieving the City’s vision, values, goals, and strategic directions. We also recently added another tool that aligns performance measurement with community priorities.  Our new City Goal Results Minneapolis consists of cross-sector reports that assess our progress towards City goals through community indicators. The City goals were developed through a year-long process with input of over 1,500 community members. Additional information on our Results Management work can be found at

Additionally, initiatives are currently underway to better track our workforce diversity efforts, our contracting efforts, and our progress towards meeting our additional racial equity goals, including the establishment of a website focused on our racial-equity efforts expected to be online later this year.

I am willing to work with you to make sure City data are available for this project.