Our Efforts To Make A Difference
METROPOLITAN COUNCIL REFORM
In 2016, the Citizens League convened a diverse task force to study concerns related to the Metropolitan Council, a regional planning entity. The charge of the task force was to look at the Council’s performance against its goals; learn more about the concerns raised; examine the tensions between counties, cities, and individual Minnesotans; and discuss some of the changes that have been suggested from the starting place of preserving the Council’s regional effectiveness.
The 19-member task force began the six-month study in late September 2015 and completed its final report with recommendations by March in time to inform the 2016 legislative session. Visit the Citizens League’s comprehensive project page for background, meeting minutes, the final report, and links to media mentions. The recommendation made their way into two bills. Unfortunately, the negotiations failed to produce a comprehensive transportation and transit package this session.
The Citizens League will continued to advance these recommendations the 2017 session. The Citizens League also will pursue a new study related to transit funding in 2017, an item that was raised during the Met Council Task Force meetings.
To meet projected workforce demands in light of Minnesota’s changing demographic trends, the Citizens League has been leading and supporting efforts to grow and maintain a skilled workforce. Last year, the Citizens League helped pass the first-ever higher education attainment goal to provide the state with a unified higher education target. As a member of the attainment goal advisory committee led by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, we are excited about this report on baseline estimates.
In 2016, the Citizens League continued to support Students for Education Reform on reimagining remedial education. With millions of dollars spent by college students to get the education they should have received in high school, this continues to be a barrier to completion for many. The Citizens League was also part of a large coalition led by the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Regional Workforce Innovation Network (MSPWin) to get more investments in adult workforce training. Lastly, the Citizens League supported the Civics Education Initiative, which we viewed as critical to having an informed citizenry.
CAPITOL PATHWAYS 2016
During the 2016 legislative session, the Citizens League and the program’s founding members Annie Levenson- Falk, Juventino Meza, Claire Wilson, and Pahoua Yang Hoffman launched the inaugural year of the Capitol Pathways program. The Capitol Pathways program was created to strengthen Minnesota government by making it more representative of the state’s population. Despite growing diversity throughout Minnesota, people of color are largely absent from legislative decision making in the state. The program placed 26 college students of color— freshmen to senior—from 12 two- and four-year higher education institutions.
Of the 26 students, 13 identified as Black or African-American, three identified as Mexican/Mexican-American, one identified as Asian-Indian, one identified as Korean, one identified as Bengali, three identified as Hmong, one identified as Tibetan, one identified as Brazilian, one identified as Nigerian, one identified as Central- American/Honduran/Peruvian, one identified as Cambodian, one identified as Liberian/Lebanese-American, one identified as Latino, and one identified as Ecuadorian. Please note that students were allowed to choose multiple categories. We anticipate a similar makeup of students but extra effort will be used to recruit Native-American students.
From what we know, eight have gone on to pursue policy related jobs/further study. Here are some of their titles:
- Legislative Assistant in the House
- Legislative Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Revenue
- Clerk with the MN Judicial Branch
- Local and Regional Policy Coordinator at the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers
Other policy related pursuits:
- Master of public policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs
- Rangel Fellowship (a fellowship program aimed at preparing people for careers as diplomats in the
Foreign Service of the US Department of State).
In 2017, 34 Capitol Pathways student interns were placed with 33 host organizations.
In 2016, the Citizens League launched Calling Home, an initiative that explores the concept of “home” as a starting place for intergenerational conversations about aging and planning. Along with partners, the Citizens League convened five community conversations around the state: Moose Lake, Suburban Ramsey, Heritage Park (North Minneapolis), Harmony, and the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center also in North Minneapolis. Twin Cities PBS, a partner on the project, followed up with individuals and families who attended the community conversations to see if they would be comfortable being featured in the video shorts. Video production took place August through October. On Thursday, November 17, a small screening of the completed videos so that the individuals, their families, and our funders could see them before they aired on public television the month of December 2016 and January 2017. Work is underway to create a dedicated website to be co-owned by all aging partners who have been a part of the initiative. Here is the link to the beta site: https://pahoua- hoffman.squarespace.com/. The goal of this first phase was to get individuals and families talking and provide appropriate resources in a consumer-friendly manner. For more info about the project: https://citizensleague.org/projects/calling-home/
We have two public projects starting in 2017 that we are managing. Both projects point to our reputation as a neutral convener and highlight our ability to be seen as the go-to organization for unbiased and inclusionary work products.
- CITY OF EDINA We have been hired by the City of Edina to facilitate their Race and Equity Task Force. Throughout 2017, we, along with our subcontractors, will be working with the city to identify areas where change is needed and implement policies and procedures that provide for equal treatment of Edina community members.
- CITY OF ST. PAUL The City of St. Paul hired us to conduct a study to assess whether properties that do not pay property taxes (mostly government and nonprofits) can and/or should pay for some city services they consume, and/or how their civic contributions to the city can be quantified or expanded. Our past experience on municipal and fiscal issues and reputation as an unbiased convener is critical to our selection for this project.
Outreach and Events
In service to our efforts to provide opportunities for unbiased presentations of information, we hosted multiple event series in 2016. Overall, we hosted 29 events throughout the year that were open to our members and the general public.
We continued our Policy and a PintTM series, completing its 10th anniversary year. This series, currently co-hosted with 89.3 The Current and sponsored by Target, takes place in venues where more casual conversation can take place. The series is continuing in 2017, with the addition of the Bush Foundation as a sponsor, specifically to allow for expansion of the series to new audiences and new locations throughout Minnesota. The first of those events was held on the Iron Range, with an upcoming event scheduled in Rochester.
Our Mind Opener series is a members-only opportunity for smaller group discussions on policy issues. The series, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota both in 2016 and 2017, provides for a more in-depth policy discussion time. Recent topics have ranged from educational policy to police training.
We also created a series specifically around elections, to capitalize on the interest that existed. The series, called the Voting Booth Chronicles, was sponsored by Comcast and featured both local and national speakers with topics like how to participate in precinct caucuses, recap of the national political conventions, in-depth information on campaign finance and a post-election recap.
In 2017, also with sponsorship by Comcast and supporting sponsorship from RBC, we have launched a new series called Mind the Gap where we plan to explore issues that seem to have gaps in knowledge or understanding. Our first event was on the judicial selection process and upcoming events will include a session on “Fake News.”
Our 2016 Civic Celebration was sold out for the second year in a row, with record sponsorships and net dollars. The Celebration honored two long-time Citizens League members who died in 2016, Dr. Glen Nelson and Wheelock Whitney. Almost 450 people attended the event.
The 2017 Civic Celebration planning is underway. We will honor trailblazing leaders Dr. Josie Johnson and Susan Kimberly.