Dayton aims to level minority gap

Minneapolis has the worst economic disparity in the nation.

by Michael Zittlow

Gov. Mark Dayton laid out his plans Friday to boost employment and education for minorities after attending a north Minneapolis economic summit.
A 17-page report outlines his plan to close the economic gap for minorities. There are three times more unemployed blacks in Minnesota than whites âÄî the worst disparity in the nation.
The report comes after an economic summit where Dayton promised community leaders he would issue a written report of his plans to combat the huge problems facing black Minnesotans, who make up more than 5 percent of the stateâÄôs population, according to recent census findings.
One hundred unemployed and underemployed people in north Minneapolis will receive preparatory training for jobs or college through a âÄúFastTracâÄù program Dayton launched in his report. The state Department of Employment and Economic Development is funding the $300,000 program and will cover the costs of summer camps for ninth- and 10th-graders in north Minneapolis.
The Urban Initiatives Board, designed to encourage and support small business in minority-populated areas, is being relaunched in the governorâÄôs report. The board will also oversee a working capital fund that provides loans to create jobs in low-income and minority areas.
Still, there are few immediate actions like âÄúFastTracâÄù and the Urban Initiatives Board in the governorâÄôs report. Many of the initiatives mentioned include a disclaimer that support from the Legislature would be needed, including DaytonâÄôs hopes to continue a tax credit for employers who hire minorities and for a job-creating bonding bill.
The governor admits in his report that the Legislature has refused to fund many of the services outlined in his budget that are geared toward helping minorities.
The governorâÄôs plans have drawn limited applause and some criticism from black leaders.
Louis King, head of the Summit Academy in north Minneapolis, who was at the summit when Dayton issued his promise, called the report âÄúa start.âÄù
King said while the report doesnâÄôt totally combat issues facing black Minnesotans, he is encouraged that Dayton kept his word and brought to light some of the issues facing north Minneapolis, where much of the cityâÄôs black population lives.
Still, King would like to see the governor work to support MinnesotaâÄôs Department of Human Rights, which faces a 65 percent budget decrease in the state RepublicansâÄô spending plan. King said the agency, which looks into discrimination claims, is vital in supporting a healthy minority population.
King acknowledges that the political situation for Dayton is grim. DaytonâÄôs policies face roadblocks from the opposing party at the Capitol.
While King feels Dayton and his commissioners have shown support for the black community, he hasnâÄôt felt the same willingness to listen from the Republican majority.
Still, King said he believes in Dayton.
âÄúThe governor has demonstrated heâÄôs his own man,âÄù King said. âÄúI have faith that âĦ Dayton will deliver.âÄù