Edina has adopted a plan to treat people of color more equitably, though it leaves out some changes requested by a task force that sought to address police relations.
The multiyear plan, approved last week by the City Council, includes dozens of directives that seek to tackle everything from the training of police officers to the availability of affordable housing and the look of municipal buildings.
But one recommendation left out was the creation of a resident oversight board to review police misconduct complaints. Mayor James Hovland said city officials were wary of the idea.
“There’s been mixed feelings and mixed thoughts about the success of civilian oversight boards in various communities,” Hovland said. “Our city staff, particularly our leadership, had some reservations about that.”
Another recommendation not adopted was prohibiting developers from opting out of the city’s affordable housing policy. Right now, if a developer opts out of affordable housing, they have to pay the city and that money goes to pay for affordable housing projects. Hovland said that the city has raised millions toward low-income projects.
“We’re making it work,” he said.
The plan overall seeks to make city facilities and services more equitable for people of color. It was based on a list of recommendations made in May by a task force formed after police arrested a black man in the suburb almost two years ago.
“We want to make sure that government treats all people fairly,” Hovland said.
Officials will update the city’s affordable housing policy to say it needs to create a diverse population. Edina is 85 percent white, about 10 percent more than Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to U.S. Census numbers.
They also will set specific goals for increasing the number of affordable housing units and buildings that accept Section 8 housing vouchers, and create a database with the number and location of those units sometime next year.
In the first months of 2019, under the plan, the city will hire a manager to oversee the progress it makes on racial equity.
Edina police also will undergo changes next year. The department will begin to collect and analyze demographic data for all police stops, searches and seizures, according to the plan. It will collect information on how the department is perceived, based on race.
Officers will be trained on implicit bias — unconscious assumptions made about certain groups — and microaggressions — everyday behavior that a certain group could view as offensive. The department’s “impartial policing” policy will be reviewed, and a procedure developed for responding to discrimination complaints.
Some of the promised changes are abstract. For instance, the plan asks city officials to “oversee building relationships with all residents, paying particular attention to understand experience of communities of color.”
Others are concrete. The city next year plans to name a public facility after Beverly Claiborne Yancey and Ellen Yancey, a black couple that helped found the Village of Edina in the late 1880s.
Janet Kitui, a black Edina resident and City Council candidate, said she was excited for the city to begin implementing the plan. She was particularly happy that it was looking to improve affordable housing for people of color.
“We know from our history as a nation [that] housing has been the one element that has segregated us,” she said.
At a council meeting last week, City Manager Scott Neal said he hopes the plan helps eliminate race-based disparities within local government.
“This is by no means a statement of ‘Problem solved, let’s move on,’ ” he said. “This document, in many ways, is a statement of aspiration of ... what we want to do going forward.”