Rybak considers U student for civil rights position

by Drew Geraets

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is looking to reinvigorate the city’s Civil Rights Department with his choice for a new director.

Rybak nominated University psychology student Jayne Baccus Khalifa – the former managing director of St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre – to the post Monday.

“I’m looking forward to working with the mayor and the community Ö people that have an interest in the issues that this department is charged with delivering, particularly in light of the times we’re in,” said Khalifa, who was deputy director of the department from 1973-74.

Khalifa will face a tight budget and a backlog of police misconduct allegations if her nomination is approved.

The Civil Rights Department oversees the Civilian Review Authority – a citizen panel set up to handle complaints against the Minneapolis Police Department.

City Council member Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward, who represents areas surrounding the Minneapolis campus, said he has fought hard to increase funding for the authority.

“There is a backlog, in part, because two years ago the funding was radically scaled down in the mayor’s proposed budget,” he said.

Zerby – who said he expects the City Council to approve Khalifa’s nomination – also sought out a University student to help select the candidate.

University junior Ibanga Umanah served on the 20-member citizen advisory committee that interviewed the four finalists for the position.

St. Paul’s human rights director Tyrone Terrill; lawyer and University General College instructor Jessica Lynn Jackson; and Principal Planning Analyst for Hennepin County’s Children, Family and Adult Services Division Harry Davis Jr. were the other finalists.

“We went through the pros and cons and gave those to the mayor,” Umanah said. “He was very responsive to what I had to say. He was very interested in making this a good person for the job.”

Umanah said he liked Khalifa’s management skills and philosophy of participatory leadership – involving community members and organizations in decision-making processes.

“I liked her a lot,” Umanah said. “When she came into the room she had a clear idea of what she wanted to do. She has 19 years of public service, and she knows the institutions involved.”

Khalifa said she hopes to involve city institutions to improve the department’s effectiveness.

“As we become a more diverse city, the issues that confront people protected under this ordinance have greatly expanded,” Khalifa said. “No one person, no 24 people alone can address the complex issues that face this city.”

The City Council’s Executive Committee and Health and Human Services Committee must approve the mayor’s selection. If passed, the full council will consider the nomination.