The first two steps — presumably the easy ones — are out of the way:
• On March 30, Mark Dayton became the first governor since Rudy Perpich to hold a meeting with black leaders in north Minneapolis. The meeting, the Twin Cities Economic Development Summit, featured leaders of the community addressing specific needs to spur economic growth in long-troubled North Minneapolis.
• Dayton promised at the conclusion of that meeting to report back in nine days to the nearly 400 people who had attended the summit about what he — and the state — could do in response to what he had heard. A 17-page report (PDF) was sent Friday, meaning Dayton and his commissioners had kept the nine-day pledge.
Now comes the hard stuff.
Will the governor be able to follow through on the follow-through? Can the state deliver the sort of resources — training, access to capital, access to state contracts, second chances for felons — that urban leaders say are vital if the huge economic gaps that separate black and white Minnesota are to be closed?
In a cover letter that accompanied his report, Dayton emphasized that everything being done is only a “first step.”
“This document serves as a first response to the issues and recommendations presented at our meeting nine days ago,” Dayton wrote. “Please consider it a first step in what I intend to be an ongoing partnership to move forward together.”
Surely, the arrival of this report in mailboxes throughout North Minneapolis in the coming days will be greeted with a combination of skepticism and hope.
Start with the skepticism.
This initial report to those who attended the summit was put together by Dayton’s assistant chief of staff, Micah Hines, who worked with a number of the governor’s commissioners.
Not surprisingly, it is filled with considerable political boilerplate. For example: “Bringing more jobs to Minnesota is one of our Administration’s top priorities.”
That’s nice. But what does it mean?
The report points out that the administration is pushing a $1 billion bonding bill as a major piece of its effort to immediately create jobs.
The reality is that bonding bill is going nowhere in the Legislature, meaning it will be of NO HELP to the jobless in North Minneapolis or anywhere else in Minnesota.
At the summit, business leaders also said that North Minneapolis is in need of funding “targeted” to the most distressed areas of the city.
The governor’s report notes that any “targeted jobs bill” would require action by the Legislature. In other words, that’s NOT going to happen. This Republican-dominated Legislature is busily taking dollars away from urban areas of the state.
But if there is little chance of any major programs headed to North Minneapolis or any other urban area of the state in the next two years, the report did offer some smaller aids.
For example, a leader of a black-owned construction company pointed out that because of the huge size of many state projects, minority-owned businesses have little chance of landing state projects. He asked the governor to “unbundle” some of the large transportation projects so that smaller construction companies would have a chance to bid on small portions of large projects.
In his report, the governor said that the I-694/U.S. Hwy 10/Snelling Avenue interchange project would be unbundled as a pilot project. The Department of Transportation will put up for bids three contracts separate from the main contract that will give smaller construction companies a chance at part of the highway construction action.
Another specific response to points raised at the summit was a Dayton pledge of $300,000 from the state’s Department of Economic Development to be used to help boost training of 100 unemployed or under-employed residents of North Minneapolis.
But the underlying theme of this report was about the governor’s commitment to affirmative action.
Diversity in state hiring, more diversity in the companies that receive state contracts, blocking the legislative from making huge cuts to the Department of Human Rights are among the goals of the administration.
Those goals, too — not expressed since Perpich — likely inspire equal parts hope and skepticism.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.