The Ramsey County Board declared a monthlong state of emergency Monday after the civil unrest, looting and arson following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died last week in Minneapolis police custody.
The declaration, which is in effect until June 30, overlaps the county's other ongoing state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic response.
"Significant threats to the health and safety of Ramsey County residents, first responders and businesses have been present throughout the violence, theft and property damage," according to a county report.
Commissioners unanimously supported the emergency declaration.
"My whole district is really reeling in these times. There is a lot of concern, fear and emotion — all of which is justified," said Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo.
Board Chairwoman Toni Carter had declared an emergency for the past weekend, but board action was required to extend it longer.
Emergency declarations grant county leaders more nimbleness in terms of spending and response. It also makes it possible for the county to seek state and federal aid.
In addition, the declarations are critical for businesses filing insurance claims and other assistance.
County Manager Ryan O'Connor told commissioners the community is facing the biggest health crisis since the flu pandemic of 1918, the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 and the greatest social unrest since the late 1960s.
"We have been working around the clock to ensure the safety of those who want to speak out loudly and vocally about the killing of Mr. George Floyd and also to protect the community," O'Connor said.
The county's response to the protests and violence includes deploying the Sheriff's Office to keep the peace, assisting businesses damaged by looting and fires, and launching a community resiliency project.
The resiliency project includes 18 trusted grassroots community leaders who are speaking with residents to encourage peaceful forms of expression and connect them with resources including food and basic needs.
O'Connor said the county spent $37,000 this past weekend on its response to the civil unrest.
MatasCastillo said the turmoil must be a catalyst for immediate and long-term changes.
"This cannot be as it was before. This was a system that wasn't working," she said.
She added that government stakeholders also must resist the urge to take over or duplicate work to change systems already happening at the grassroots level.
"We did a much better job in St. Paul and Ramsey County and that is because of the work and partnerships we've been building over time," she said.
Ramsey County's criminal justice reforms include shuttering its juvenile correctional facility and eliminating fines and fees for defendants and those serving probation.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037