Arrowhead Legislators Graded on Their Work, Votes for Racial Equity

By KBJR News 1

February 16, 2012 Updated Feb 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - While the "Un-fair campaign" with billboards and posters across Duluth has been controversial, the issues of racial equity behind the campaign are all too real.

Racial disparities in Minnesota have increased to a point to where Minnesota has among the highest statistics on racial inequality in the country.

There is a program putting pressure on state legislators to make changes.

For years Minnesota has had a reputation of having great education, job opportunities and health.

"Now we are in reverse," said community leader, Archie Davis.

Poverty for people of color is almost five times that of caucasions.

People of color are over represented in prisons, and under represented in the workplace.

On top of that, Minnesota has one of the largest education achievement gaps in the country.

"Until we get equity in our community, racism is going to continue," said Davis.

The Organizing Apprenticeship Project, or OAP, is hoping to make racial equity a focus in the Minnesota state legislature.

"The OAP started releasing the racial equity report card about six years ago. It's starting to get really popular. The legislators are really starting to pay attention to it, said Jodi Broadwell of Community Action Duluth.

The annual report grades lawmakers based on improvements in their voting records and works to develop bills that will help close the gaps between whites and people of color.

"The legislature this year did pretty bad," said Broadwell.

Of 28 bills that would have brought more racial equity in 2011, only eight became law - giving the legislature as a whole a 'D'.

Those bills would have done things like increase access to early childhood education, help repair tornado damage in North Minneapolis, and prohibit employers from firing or not hiring someone because of an expunged record.

The legislative budget decisions were given an 'F', but there is a silver-lining.

"Our Duluth legislators are doing pretty good," said Broadwell.

Reports for 2011 showed, Kerry Gauthier got an 'A', Thomas Huntley, a 'B', Roger Reinert, a 'C', Mary Murphy, a 'B', and on the Range, Carly Melin got an 'A', and David Tomassoni, a 'B'.

Senator Reinert, whose grade had dropped, said he doesn't completely agree with the grading process because it only follows certain bills and doesn't take into account all the work legislators do.

"I tried to tell him, don't be too bummed out, you know, you've done really well in the past, you're going to continue to do well," said Broadwell.

"So it's tough, but if we don't try to understand those dynamics of what is going on. We're never going to get to the bottom or grassroots of the problem to change what we see going on," said Davis.

OAP also created a legislative agenda priorities for the 2012 including adding jobs for

Of the eight racial equity bills that did pass, what was in them.

The bills were on a range of topics from helping children achieve third grade reading literacy, to supporting job training, and allowing access to culturally appropriate health and human services, just to name a few.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike