An update to our plans for taking bolder action around equity

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When we opened up a conversation among Metropolitan Council staff following the killing of George Floyd and the associated community outrage and unrest, we expected deeply personal conversations with calls to action from our staff.


Today, we are moved by your candor, vulnerability, passion, and pragmatism. We’re so grateful for your constructive and honest feedback.


I’m writing on behalf of the Metropolitan Council executive team to address the feedback we’ve heard from staff about critical next steps related to our equity work and commitment to being anti-racist.


We have received this feedback in several townhall meetings across the Met Council, via submissions to the anonymous online form, and by direct appeals to leaders, including a letter signed by about 200 current and former staff. All of this input is valuable. We are considering each submission with the care it deserves, and all of this input presents important choices to weigh.


We’ve heard about how we need to re-examine how equitably we provide services to the region, and we’ve been challenged to foster a healthier, more transparent organizational culture for our employees.


We have work to do to actively break down barriers to our region’s progress toward equity. We need to conscientiously address systemic barriers. We need to create more accessible and transparent processes for our customers, stakeholders, and for you.

Government agencies, including ours, have a trust problem with some constituencies, and particularly with individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Addressing inequities has only recently become a focus of governmental institutions like our own and although we’ve tried, we’ve also often failed to meet needs identified by communities of color and to be transparent about our actions.


We don’t have all the answers, but we strongly feel and are taking on the responsibility to be responsive and accountable. This is the beginning of an ongoing conversation, with Met Council staff as a critical partner to progress and integral contributors to successful and lasting change.


Work already underway

You have asked for some specific plans, so here’s what we can tell you today about efforts already underway:

  • Alternatives to policing on our transit system, administrative citations. Beginning with the 2019 legislative session, we advocated for the ability to shift away from having only sworn law enforcement officers checking fares and to create an administrative citation, both to change who is enforcing fares and to reduce both the cost and impact by removing the criminal penalty. This is our top legislative priority, and we’ll continue advocating for it as the legislature convenes this year, and in future sessions.
  • Investing in critical transit corridors. We are committed to high amenity, rapid transit investments in areas that exhibit high transit use but also could benefit from faster trips and an improved customer experience. Investments like bus rapid transit supports better transit in communities reliant on transit, but also fosters economic benefits. We know one of the best investments is in bus rapid transit lines like the proposed METRO D Line and B Line in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as other prioritized corridors throughout the region. We need some additional state funding to make sure these lines become a reality, and we’re continuing to advocate for this investment.
  • Council-wide, baseline equity training. Staff throughout the Met Council have been working to create a baseline training about equity for all employees. Not only will this training focus on the equitable application of our services, it will also empower us to thrive internally with a workplace culture centered on equity and respect. This training is in a pilot phase now. When it’s ready, we will support full implementation of this effort and subsequent development opportunities, and we hope to begin sometime later this year. Council members and executives have also begun the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) process to measure cultural competence and identify areas for growth and development.
  • Investing public dollars in the communities we serve. Through the leadership of our Office of Equal Opportunity and Procurement Department, we have expanded our ability to purchase goods and services through the Metropolitan Council Underutilized Business program so we’re intentionally spending regional funds in a way that benefits businesses not historically included in government contracts and purchasing arrangements. Staff are setting goals for market penetration and reporting progress periodically throughout the year. The Met Council also recently voted to expand prevailing wage requirements to all construction projects over $175,000 regardless of how they are funded. Our Council members have set some ambitious goals that we are invested in finding new avenues to extend the impact of the dollars we spend in the region. We’re committed to going beyond what’s required to impact what we can.
  • Creating a more inclusive vision for the region’s economy. For the past several months, staff and leaders have been working on a Regional Economic Framework that creates a shared vision for inclusive economic growth by welcoming all voices, empowering talent, and igniting innovation. It is a collaborative effort with Greater MSP and the Center for Economic Inclusion, which will help position the region and its communities to tangibly address disparities. The Metropolitan Council will consider this plan for approval in August. It is also creating an important foundation for the regional planning work that will become the 2050 update to Thrive MSP 2040.
  • Serving people experiencing homelessness. For a few years now, we’ve had a dedicated team applying the resources we have to helping remove and overcome barriers to stable housing that people in our region are experiencing. Our systems often don’t provide sufficient solutions to address the complex needs of people in the region who are experiencing homelessness, a situation that disproportionately affects individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. We have worked to get additional housing vouchers and to provide emergency support during the recent unrest, and we have advocated for a different approach to our partners that balances day-to-day emergent needs with the strategic, systemic questions that must be addressed. Our tangible investments include 200 HRA housing vouchers to serve people using transit as shelter, with more than 105 now being used as a result of Metro Transit Police Department Homeless Action Team (HAT) referrals and partnership with our Metro HRA Outreach Team. Though our Metro Transit police are a critical part of this team and they have worked to provide connections to resources, we agree that a more robust non-law enforcement approach, with partners in social service agencies, is needed to truly address the issues that people experiencing homelessness face. There is much work left to do and we can say with confidence that our HAT team and their partnerships are an example of the kind of collaborative, appropriately trained police force we all hope to see in our communities.
  • Townhall meetings, staff conversations, and shared problem solving. The recent townhall-style meetings have started an important staff conversation about change and review. We truly appreciate your participation and your willingness to provide concrete, clear examples of how we can address inequities and racism in our systems. We plan to continue to sponsor these conversations. We’re anxious for your feedback on other contexts that might be helpful moving forward, particularly if smaller group conversations would be helpful, or how we can engage equity change teams and similar staff groups. We’re committed to continuing to elevate these conversations to a Council-wide level.


Future work plans

We are also committed to addressing other longer-term aspects of our work that will address the critical need for changing how we do things:

  • Review of the Metro Transit Police Department. Plans are moving forward to initiate the review of the policies, practices, and relationships of the Metro Transit Police Department. We have a growing list of considerations for this review, including the items submitted by staff. We’re currently investigating potential partners to help us conduct this review, beginning with an intentional, authentic community engagement process. Our Council members are also providing significant leadership to this conversation and are interested in posing questions related to the role the Council members should play in accountability for and guidance to the police department. Deputy Regional Administrator Mary Bogie will be coordinating this work.
  • Refocusing budget priorities and values. For the past several years, we have been reworking the ongoing budgeting processes to align with the values and outcomes articulated in Thrive MSP 2040. Late last year, the Council members also created some specific goals that include how we budget and the values that we highlight in our budgeting. We will also plan to publish more information about budgets for clarity and transparency for our 2021 budget. Moving forward, we will continue to place equity work and values more at the center of our budgeting process.
  • Hiring, retention, and advancement metrics. We agree that the best way to understand the patterns of hiring, retention, and promotion is to set some metrics and report in on a regular basis. We also agree that numbers only tell part of the story. The Met Council set aside funds for the 2020 budget to analyze and assess potential areas for improvement. Human Resources is beginning the process of providing data to help operating areas – particularly at Metro Transit – better understand and change the composition of the workforce. Council members have expressed keen interest in determining how we make progress toward a diverse and inclusive workplace. Previous reports on workforce diversity can be found in the Management Committee agendas.
  • Focusing our work on customer experiences. Metro Transit has reorganized and refocused engagement activities to strengthen relationships that transcend specific projects and improve overall responsiveness to constituencies participating in engagement activities. Beginning this summer, engagement staff will lead an effort to convene and listen to our riders and community members about how recent situations have affected them – from the pandemic and our level of operations during a time of crisis, to our involvement with the community response to the murder of George Floyd, and the important services we provide to the region. A critical audience in this work are constituencies who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. The focus will primarily be on their needs and expectations regarding transit and establishing a longer-term conversation and relationship. We’re also prioritizing system improvements that relate to the customer experience, including the Better Bus Stops work and the Transit Assistance Program that provides transit-related assistance to low-income people. From a Council-wide perspective, we’re using engagement opportunities to ensure we’re focusing our work in the experiences of the people of the region. We’re working on putting some tools in place to better reach people during these times of social distancing and also better measure, across the Met Council, who we’re engaging and how that engagement is changing and influencing the decisions that get made. Council members will also play a role in shaping the relationships we form during efforts to reach our customers throughout the region.


Continuing the conversation

We also recognize that there are some suggestions that are outside the Met Council’s direct control or authorities, but we can help convene partners and help elevate issues to a regional audience. We are putting our values into action, and we will work to directly address historic disparities in our communities.


And we know that we have intense and critical work to do on our organizational culture. While many of the projects underway feel external, we need to turn our critical eyes to our own processes that haven’t produced the results our employees, customers, and the region’s stakeholders expect. To be bold, we need to act and create the environment for others to act in different ways, and reward those behaviors.


We’ve heard many other things from you, and we’re anxious to provide space to capture these ideas and display progress – perhaps a dashboard or some kind of crowdsourcing tool that allows us to communicate how things will move forward. We’re still working on that tool, but we’ll provide you additional information as we assess the best way to assure you all have access to the information.


Your ideas are an important starting point, and we expect this to be a longer-term conversation. We’d like to collaboratively create a shared understanding of the root problems so we can prioritize action to address them. We recognize it is challenging to more authentically engage without deepening trauma, and to balance transparency with protecting confidentiality. And as we deal with budget realities, including lost revenue, how do we make changes that are equitable.  Again, we’re not sure the best format for this work, but we’re committed to this partnership so we can directly address issues and move forward with intention.


Our goal is to more intentionally center equity in the Met Council’s work – from our long-range planning activities, to day-to-day transit operations, to the way we recruit and hire to serve the communities of today and the future. We’re confident that we can find a way forward that gives our Council members and organization’s leaders the opportunity to make critical decisions, engages our customers and stakeholders better, and brings real, lasting change to the services we provide this region in order to make a difference in this region.


And we need to continue to hear from you. As noted above, we expect this to be an ongoing conversation. We invite you to and support you to continue showing up and helping shape this process. Please tell us when we’re not living up to the expectations you have. And embody the leaders you are – you don’t need positional power to influence decisions. If there’s a pressure point we need to address, be active in creating new paths forward.


You can always use the anonymous form for your ideas, but if there’s another venue for these ideas, we’re open to suggestions, as well.


We are committed to being intentionally anti-racist, to changing how we center our work in equity to be more meaningful in making a difference in the region, and to leading a cultural shift that reflects and supports that work. Thank you for your participation in this work. While this isn’t new work, we are in a new moment, with renewed urgency. We will need the skills, expertise, input, and creativity of all our employees to build this stronger future for our organization and region.


Charlie Zelle

Metropolitan Council Chair

on behalf of the executive team