A call for justice, equity and inclusion in our 2020 special sessions
At FMR, we believe that the Mississippi River belongs to all of us. But, as noted previously in our George Floyd statement, as long as people of color live in fear of police violence and are made to feel unwelcome or unsafe in public spaces, the river does not belong to them. That must change.
State policy and funding decisions must be firmly rooted in anti-racism before people of color in Minnesota can live their lives without fear of being unfairly targeted, harassed and even murdered by law enforcement.
As legislators continue their work during the 2020 Legislative special session, we urge them to listen to communities of color and honor the voices of those most impacted by systematic injustice.
Here are priorities we hope legislators will support. This special session may be brief (possibly ending this Saturday) but we can and should take these first steps to advance a more just Minnesota where the river's benefits flow equitably to all.
Prioritize transformational police reform
Brutality and injustice at the hands of the police is a terrifying and undeniable reality for people of color in America. In Minneapolis, according to the New York Times, Black people make up 19% of the population but are subject to 58% of forced incidents by the police.
As an organization that relies on sound science and facts to shape our work, we can’t ignore the fact that people of color in Minnesota can't feel safe until we have a fundamental, transformational change in our policing and criminal justice systems.
We're not police reform experts. But we stand with communities most impacted by systematic racism and injustice to support priority police reforms as they evolve during this special session (per this letter of support), and we urge our supporters to as well. (ACT NOW)
Invest in neighborhood recovery
More than 1,500 structures across the Twin Cities have been damaged or destroyed, including neighborhoods that our staff and board members call home. These communities need our help to rebuild now.
However, we can’t compound the problem by insufficiently supporting rebuilding, or by supporting rebuilding efforts that further entrench existing racial inequities.
Recovery funding must be:
• Rooted in anti-gentrification and seek to prevent the displacement of lower-income residents, often people of color, from their homes and neighborhoods.
• Inclusive. Legislators should support investments in neighborhood-based recovery efforts that empower local voices, especially voices of color, in plans to rebuild and reshape their neighborhoods. (And unlike projects like the Upper Harbor Terminal, this should be Minneapolis' starting point. ACT NOW)
• Creative. While traditional state bonding can support publicly-owned facilities, community rebuilding efforts will require new approaches to financing a mix of public and private rebuilding efforts.
Prioritize under-resourced communities for COVID-19
COVID-19 is having an immense impact on communities of color, as deaths disproportionately affect Black and brown communities across the nation.
This is amplifying already disturbing disparities in health outcomes, as complications from COVID-19 most frequently affect those with certain chronic health conditions. Again, we may not be public health experts, but we urge legislators to invest in strategies to effectively address these disparities.
Invest in clean water and healthy communities
Every Minnesotan deserves access to clean, safe water. But that's not the case for all communities across the state.
We urge legislators to prioritize under-resourced communities when developing a bonding bill, including investments that help ensure clean, safe water without causing soaring water bills.
Lawmakers need to #FixthePipesMN and pass a comprehensive bonding bill with at least $300 million to replace and improve aging water infrastructure to protect our environment and public health.
We also urge legislators to support:
• the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP),
• the River Learning Center, and
• a standalone measure for the Minnesota-voter-created Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund (ACT NOW).
Moving forward together
FMR’s staff and board are reaching out to and seeking guidance from people of color within our organization and outside of it as well as legislators and our traditional environmental justice allies to understand how we can live up to this moment and become an explicitly anti-racist organization in every aspect of or work.
This is an opportunity Minnesota can't afford to miss. All of us, including state legislators, must take decisive action.
We'll be in touch with FMR River Guardians about opportunities to support our standing priorities as well as potential anti-racist advocacy opportunities during this quickly moving special session.
Become a River Guardian by participating in an action alert above (denoted by "ACT NOW") or by signing up online.