Thank you for this opportunity to speak. The first part of my comments is general in nature and intended to provide clarity about my relationship with the Board. These comments are not new, but are important for any new people in the audience. Following my general comments, I will share information about what the Park Board is doing to engage and involve the communities we serve. It is also a time where we have an opportunity to respond to some of the comments made during Open Time at prior meetings.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jayne Miller and I am the Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. We are working hard to reach out, connect with and serve groups and individuals who use our Parks including those who have traditionally been underserved be they immigrant communities, communities of color, the LGBTQ community, and differently abled members of our community.
As earlier explained by Vice President Erwin, during the open time portion of our regular board meetings and during public hearings this body (both the Board and I) do not respond to public comment because it is not our time to speak. It is your time. Because of this, some of you may think that we are not listening or that we don’t care, when in fact, the opposite is true. In addition to addressing some of the concerns brought up during open time, we also think it is helpful for you to know about some of the important initiatives that we are working on.
Tonight my remarks will focus on our response to the announcement made the day of our last Board meeting, May 17, by the Minneapolis NAACP, and to comments made during Open Time that evening.
In their May 17 press release the Minneapolis Chapter of the NAACP announced that they intend to “boycott” the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and they will be “shutting down” the upcoming City Parks Alliance International Urban Conference: Greater & Greener.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board shared the following statement with media and Park Board employees in response to the Minneapolis NAACP announcement, and I think it is important to share this tonight and with the broader community.
The statement reads:
Our record will show we have made incredible strides in addressing racial equity efforts, and we have no intention of slowing down. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Racial Equity Action Plan outlines our focus areas for 2017-2018. This plan, as well as initiatives implemented over the last several years, is available at www.minneapolisparks.org/racial_equity.
It is unfortunate that a group of individuals is confusing personnel issues with issues of racial equity.
The demands referred to in [the] NAACP announcement center around four employee’s disagreements with disciplinary measures taken by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Three of these employees are no longer employed by the Park Board, and in one case it’s been almost 10 years. These disciplinary measures have been reviewed multiple times internally and externally through the civil service process, court system and/or other investigative agencies. After exploring these matters, some for now almost six years, we consider the matters closed.
End of statement.
For approximately one year we have been responding to allegations raised during Open Time at Board meetings. We have held meetings with the Minneapolis NAACP in an effort to share the outcomes of the racial equity work underway. We have responded to the discipline matters quietly, despite being unfairly publicly attacked, and have expressed our hope that we can work together again with the NAACP in the future.
For years, many employees in our organization have been working on addressing racial equity within the workplace and the park system, and much of our work has been done in collaboration with community members and organizations focused on equity and inclusion. Workforce concerns are being addressed through communications, expanded trainings and initiatives to increase the diversity of our full-time workforce. Throughout the park system we are expanding our efforts to connect with diverse communities through new recreation programs and through thoughtful outreach as we develop park plans, make park improvements and provide fun, safe experiences for park visitors of all ages. Information about much of our racial equity work is available on our website.
Our efforts focus on making this a great place to work for ALL employees and a great organization that serves ALL Minneapolis residents and visitors from across the world.