Minneapolis City Council resolution addresses unemployment disparity

Minneapolis City Council members say a resolution approved today will help lower the unemployment rate in the city's African American community.

The resolution, which won unanimous support from the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee, calls for the city to consider racial equity when it makes decisions on development projects, policy changes and budget priorities.

The move comes in response to a study that found black Twin Cities residents experienced an unemployment rate of nearly 18 percent last year. That's more than three times the unemployment rate for white in the Twin Cities, and the largest disparity of any major metropolitan area in the country.

Council Member Don Samuels said that employment gap will harm all Minnesotans, because the state is becoming more diverse at the same time its population is aging.

"We will be the least-successful retired people in the history of America," Samuels said. "They'll be cutting everything for us, because there won't be anybody to pay the taxes to support us."

The resolution directs city staff to develop an "Equity Assessment Toolkit" and report back to the committee in October.

Local African American leaders applauded the Minneapolis City Council resolution. Activist and writer Mel Reeves urged the council to pass an ordinance that would give the resolution "teeth."

"There've been a lot of blue ribbon committees. There've been a lot of studies on this. There've been a lot of reports about this. I've even written a story about this myself," Reeves said. "And so now the time for action is upon us. I think you have to push for an ordinance so we actually do something. My experience has been just suggesting things to folks unfortunately doesn't work as well as when you have a hammer hold over their heads."

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