Roles of Minnesota’s Ethnic Councils to be discussed at Brainerd forum

A discussion of the roles and priorities of Minnesota’s four ethnic councils will be held in Brainerd on Thursday, as state officials seek input in how the councils can better meet community needs.

The four councils, established by the Legislature between 1963 and 1985, are:

  • Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans
  • Council on Black Minnesotans
  • Council on Chicano/Latino Affairs
  • Council on Indian Affairs

The councils came under fire after a March report from the Legislative Auditor raised questions about their efficacy and even their existence. In response, legislators called for state-wide meetings to look for ways to maximize the councils’ work.

The Legislative Auditor’s report said:

Overall, there is little evidence that the state’s four minority councils have been effective advisors or liaisons to state policy makers.

The report noted these problems:

  • The four councils have not been adequately integrated into state policy making.
  • Statutes set forth various duties for the councils — most of which involve advising state policymakers and acting as liaisons, but the councils’ overall purposes are unclear.
  • Over the last few years, the councils have done a poor job setting specific objectives and identifying outcome measures to assess the impact of their activities.
  • Although the councils share similar concerns and duties, there has been little substantive collaboration among them.
  • The governor has not always appointed council members in a timely manner nor in accordance with state law, and members’ attendance at meetings has often been a problem.
  • Communication between the councils and the organizations that work with their constituencies has been inadequate.

And the report suggested options, ranging from revamping the councils to eliminating them and replacing them with more efficient ways of addressing minority concerns.

Thursday’s meeting in Brainerd will start at 7 p.m. at Central Lakes College, 501 West College Dr.

Organizers say it will allow participants to “address your community needs, learn about Minnesota’s ethnic councils and discuss your thoughts on the ideal role, organizational structure and the priorities for the ethnic councils.”

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