Woke comes to the western suburbs

We’ve written frequently about the struggles of Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, to elevate the principles of Race, Equity, and Inclusion (REI) in city government. Now the cause is being taken up by its western suburbs.

The City of St. Louis Park (SLP), an inner-ring Minneapolis suburb of about 50,000, reported a white population of more than 77 percent in the 2020 census, compared to 61 percent for Minneapolis proper.

St. Louis Park is known for its large Jewish population. Its most famous sons include former U.S. Senator Al Franken and the Oscar-winning filmmakers, the Coen brothers.

After the recent Hamas attack on Israel, it was left to one of SLP’s synagogues to host the region’s major pro-Israel gathering in support of the Jewish state.

Last week, a group of nine Jewish members of the state legislature issued a letter condemning the support of Hamas by the local Twin Cities chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (TC DSA). Among the signatories was the state Senator representing St. Louis Park, Ron Latz.

On Oct. 9, the seven-member city council received a presentation from Radious Guess, the city’s director of Race Equity and Inclusion. According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms. Guess has held her current city position for little over a year. She was supported in her presentation by her staff person and the city’s outside REI consultant.

The city has declared REI to be a “strategic priority” with its “unwavering commitment.”

The video can be viewed here. The presentation begins at the 0:45 second mark and runs for 47 minutes. The supporting report can be read here (beginning on page 2 of the PDF, see the agenda packet, pages 1 through 12).

As Guess explains (10:42) to the council, work around the concept of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is evolving in the direction of REI.

The effort is still in its early stages. Definitions have yet to be defined. But you can get a flavor for the direction of this effort in the words appearing in the existing documents. “Structural racism,” “structural transformation” (p. 2), “system racism” (p. 3), and “dismantling bias” (p. 10) all make an appearance.

The city’s REI effort will address racial disparities in policing (p. 6), among other areas.

It’s all pretty standard race/equity stuff. However, these items are being implemented in a city with a unique demographic profile.

In round one of the REI effort, the city undertook a series of conversations, both internally and externally. This statement made it into the REI report presented to the council last week (p. 9),

Cultural Shift and Dismantling Whiteness: Several comments delve into the need for a cultural shift within the organization and the dismantling of systemic biases, especially whiteness, as a fundamental challenge in advancing REI.

The report notes some challenges to implementing REI including,

White Privilege and Lack of Lived Experience: The privilege and lack of lived experience with racial inequities in predominantly white, progressive communities are noted as challenges.

The report also adds (p. 11),

Fear and Resistance: There’s acknowledgment of fear and resistance among some white community members regarding equity initiatives. The collateral damage of this resistance is mentioned.

All of SLP’s council members spoke in favor of the REI process. At-Large member Nadia Mohamed echoes her colleagues’ support (22:50). Her opinion, perhaps, carries more weight than others as Mohamed appears to have been designated as the city’s next mayor.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Mohamed’s day job is working as a DEI specialist for the state Dept. of Human Resources. She previously served in a similar role at a Robbinsdale public school.

Two-term SLP mayor Jake Spano announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t run for a third term.

Mohamed is on the ballot next month for mayor, with the blessing of the outgoing mayor and other local elected officials, past and present. She has been endorsed by the local branch of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party, but several prominent DFL office holders that represent the city are conspicuous by their absence on her list of endorsers.

She has but a single opponent on the ballot, Dale Anderson, a retired banker. With only two candidates for mayor on the November ballot, the city’s Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) system will not be employed. The race for Mohamed’s at-large council seat has attracted three candidates. Another at-large council seat is on the ballot, with the incumbent member running unopposed.

It would appear that in SLP, a DEI professional will be placed in charge of implementing the city’s new REI policy.

Speaking of Robbinsdale and Democratic Socialists, one now serves on the city council. Robbinsdale is another inner-ring suburb of Minneapolis, with a population of about 15,000.

Ward 4 council member Aaron Wagner won his seat last year, knocking off the incumbent member. Pat Backen. Along with Backen, Wagner advanced from the August 9 Ward 4 open primary in which fewer than 600 voters cast ballots. In the November general election, Wagner prevailed by a vote of 809 to 618.

Officially a nonpartisan post, Wagner benefitted from the endorsement of the Twin Cities DSA.

Wagner is the one on the far left, shown above.

Today Robbinsdale, tomorrow the world!