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St. Louis Park leaders aim to expand equity and inclusion work

St. Louis Park is bolstering efforts to advance racial equity at City Hall, with plans to spend a full year training current staff and hiring others for new equity-focused roles .

Over the past year, the board has used its bi-weekly “working sessions” to discuss how to act on key priorities, including mainstreaming racial equity and inclusion into all aspects city ​​work. Board members will present the results of these discussions and plans for the coming year at a meeting on Monday.

St. Louis Park’s director of communications did not make city employees available to discuss the initiative last week.

Just over five years ago, according to U.S. Census data provided by the city, more than 80% of St. Louis Park residents identified as white — now that figure is just over 77%. The city has seen a growth in the proportion of residents who identify as Black, Native, Asian, Hispanic, and other races and ethnicities.

Similar trends are playing out in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, where local leaders are trying to figure out how to serve changing populations and ensure new voices are heard in decision-making. As communities become more diverse, directors of equity and inclusion are becoming the norm in town halls. Training on race, cultural competency and bias for staff, elected officials and police is common. Policy consultants were hired en masse.

Now the cities determine their next moves.

In some communities, public engagement is declining. In Golden Valley, no one attended a wiretapping session days after the city released a report about racism in the police department. A commission focused on police accountability in the western metropolitan city noted a growing sense of redundancy among city commissions, confusion as different groups tackle similar issues and growing meeting fatigue.

St. Louis Park is considering training for staff in all city departments on equity and inclusion, and plans to implement a “learning year” for city staff and elected officials, according to city documents. Monday’s board meeting. The training will aim to provide all municipal officials with an understanding of how to consider equity in their work.

The city also plans to hire two racial equity and inclusion specialists, at salaries between $65,467 and $81,834. These hires are in addition to the current director of racial equity and inclusion, who will soon report directly to the city manager after an administrative reorganization.

According to meeting documents, the new equity staff are expected to do some of the equity and inclusion work in-house that has been outsourced to consultants. The intention is to integrate considerations of race, culture, bias and inclusion into the normal functioning of the city – not just something to be fixed after a crisis, under a short-term contract with an outside consultant.

The expanded Racial Equity Team will also support city staff with suggestions and help address the growing amount of data St. Louis Park collects on race and gender in everything from traffic stops to contracts. municipal.

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