One of the Metropolitan Council’s major responsibilities is to prepare a Regional Development Framework for the seven-county metropolitan area.  The Regional Development Framework is the story of who we want to be over the next 30 years.  The Met Council has the power to shape a story that draws people together and creates a better community.

“Shaping the Future with Hope” summit on February 12, 2012. Alfred Babington-Johnson, President and CEO of His Works United/Stairstep Foundation; Susan Haig, Chair of the Metropolitan Council; Governor Mark Dayton; Rev. Grant Stevensen, Past President of ISAIAH.

In March, ISAIAH was one of a select few community organizations invited to present testimony to the council while it works to develop the plan.  We received this invitation because of the leadership we demonstrated, during our February “Facing the Future with Hope” summit, in encouraging the Met Council to make sure that racial and economic equity becomes a priority in its plans and decisions.

The work for racial and economic equity is vital for the future prosperity of our region.  In 2010, people of color comprised 24 percent of the regional population. By 2040, projections suggest that 43 percent of residents will be persons of color, according to a preliminary forecast by the Metropolitan Council.  The Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Twin Cities Business Vitality Index, released in April, shows that our region ranks last in measures of workforce equity between blacks and whites and second from last between Latinos and whites.  The index compares the 13-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area against a peer group of eight similar metro areas.

Here are the key points to our testimony to the Met Council on the Regional Development Framework:

Creating racial and economic equity in our region is paramount to our future shared prosperity.

In 30 years, over 45% of residents will be people of color.  Yet Minnesota is among worst in the nation in racial disparities.  How can we grow and prosper, when so many are denied access to opportunity?      

We need a race-conscious, pro-integrative housing policy, as is required under Federal law.  We need the Met Council to use all the leverage it has, and coordinate with MN Housing to create balanced, open communities.  We also need the Council to honestly name the impediments to achieving Fair Housing.

To create equity, we must examine our assumptions, practices and policies.

Human beings and our institutions created inequities. We can reverse them.

Principles that shape the path to healthy, equitable, livable communities:

  • Restorative investment in the most marginalized communities.  (The last shall be first – target resources to those communities who have been left behind.)
  • Opening access to opportunity, cultivating all human potential.  (Fair housing, transit, cluster job sites so workers can access them)
  • Growing together, integrating and connecting communities.  (Align authorities and integrate investments to achieve equity outcomes across housing, transportation, and land-use.)

Equity must be “baked into” everything the Council does.  In designing the Regional Development Framework, or any policy, you should ask these questions:

  • What outcomes do we want?
  • Will the policies reinforce disparities (perhaps unintentionally)? Or will the policies intentionally reduce disparities?
  • Who will benefit? And who will not?
  • Who gets a voice in making the decisions?  How can we make sure that those who have been left out are included?
  • How should decision-makers be held accountable for achieving racial equity?

What we measure is what we value

We cannot eliminate racial disparities unless we acknowledge that they exist, set benchmarks for promoting integration and ending racial inequities, and regularly measuring our progress.  We urge the Council to work with community members, especially people of color, to identify meaningful goals and benchmarks that illuminate the barriers behind the racial disparities we experience today.