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MN Senate Hearing on Ethnic Councils Ends in Positive Note

by CHAI Team

The Senate hearing on the future of the Ethnic Councils ended in a positive note.

Senator Patricia Torres Ray presented her plan for the future of the ethnic councils and was supported by Reva Chamblis, Jettie Ann, Bauz Nengchu, Ruby Lee and Emilia Gonzales Avalos. Ruby Lee  of CLUES, situated the need for a strong ALANA presence in the policy infrastructure of Minnesota given the stark disparities and achievement gaps at many levels.

Representatives of the Asian, Latino and Black Councils shared their perspectives too asking to retain the current councils. Hector Garcia of the Chicano Latino Affairs Council called for a trilateral approach that connects the legislature and the executive branches with the community. Sia Her of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans expressed the need for the current structure to be in place as it empowered the community. Edward McDonald of the Council on Black Minnesotans also supported the existing structure and called for increasing its effectiveness. Other speakers such as Adeel Lari appreciated the role of a strong executive director protected from political retribution through a six year term in SF 1823.

Many speakers spoke about the model on restructuring the Councils offered by Senator Pappas and Representative Laine and discussed in the House on March 17, 2015.

There was a brief discussion by Senators. Senator Dave Thompson expressed concerns about creating a new state agency to which Senator Torres Ray responded that she developed this system in order to make sure the voice of the councils were given the proper attention within the state system. She was open to the form this new agency could take. There was a motion offered by Senator Thompson to table the bill which was defeated.

Dr. Bruce Corrie, a community economist encouraged the legislators to view the ethnic communities as economic assets symbolized by buying power over $12 billion dollars and posed the question: Who is representing these economic interests? He stated that the Judicial Commission on Redistricting had received the testimony of OneMN.org on a similar question and responded with legislative boundaries that maximized the possibilities for representation of these interests in the state. That is why the decision on the structure of the councils was so important as they would help bring cultural intelligence and diversity to Minnesota’s policies, personnel, programs and institutions.

Dr. Corrie, shared some core principles that legislators were encouraged to keep in mind (listed below) as they crafted the shape of the councils.

Before the committee voted on the proposals, Senator Pappas, President of the Minnesota Senate made an eloquent speech on how she greatly appreciated the voices of people who cared enough and came out to participate in the hearing. She saw great talent and potential in the ALANA communities and hoped she would see more ALANA people running for elected office. She spoke about the many bills she is authoring because of the ALANA community members visiting and engaging with her on policy issues. She expressed commitment to keep the dialogue open on developing a shared vision on the future of the councils. SF 1823 was voted to move on the committee process.

Community leaders were seen engaged in deep conversations after the hearing.

Principles and Framework for Ethnic Councils

 

Integrates the diversity of experience, immigration status and economic status of the ALANA community in Minnesota.

Integrated into the executive and legislative branches of government to help bring cultural intelligence into the policy infrastructure of the state.

Funded to adequately conduct their duties

Independence  to be able to articulate the voice of the community without fear of political retribution

Develops a strategic long term plan and commitment to grow the assets of the ALANA community in consultation with the community

Develops annual list of priorities of the community after state-wide hearings and works with legislators, Governor and state agencies to implement these priorities.

Produce nonpartisan and timely data, policy briefs, testimony to the executive, legislative and community on critical issues facing the ALANA community

Provides an annual report to the legislature, Governor and the Community on effectiveness in achieving annual priorities established.

Has a board that has technical expertise and community connectedness that provides support and strategic guidance to the executive director (s) and engage effectively with all branches of government.

Selection of board and staff on the ability to execute the above vision

Bruce P. Corrie, PhD

The above principles were developed after conversations with many community members on the future of the councils and the ideas they offered. These include comments by Brett Buckner, Ruby Lee, Tera Cole, Jeff Martin, Reva Chamblis, Terri Thao, Thaomee Xiong, Mukhtar Thakur, Adeel Lari, Sia Her, Edward McDonald, Hector Garcia, Jean Lee, Bauz Nengchu, Shanti Shah, Silvy Un, Shoua Lee, Nick Ngo, Diane Tran, Ananda Liyanapathiranage, Fartun Weli, Dr. Cheryl Chatman, Dr. Sam Myers, Jr., Rebecca Sedarski and Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, including forums hosted by Senator Torres Ray and the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL). .