An initiative to address issues of race and equity in Eden Prairie is back on track after momentary objections from two city council members.
The objections focused on the cost and purpose of a consultant that the city’s Human Rights and Diversity Commission had sought to hire to help with the initiative, launched following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and subsequent protests and unrest.
The $50,000 contract with DeYoung Consulting Services, of Minneapolis, was delayed by the Eden Prairie City Council on Nov. 17 after council members Brad Aho and Mark Freiberg raised objections during the meeting, which had four of five council members in attendance.
Freiberg questioned whether the $50,000 could be better spent elsewhere, while Aho said the hiring implies that Eden Prairie is racist, which it’s not, he added.
“Really, the premise is that the City of Eden Prairie is systematically racist, and I don’t agree with that,” Aho said at the meeting. He said the money would be better spent on something actionable or helpful in the same area.
But minds changed and the 2-2 deadlock was broken when the city council resumed discussion Dec. 1 and City Manager Rick Getschow outlined in detail the work to be done by the consultant, including a list of each task and the amount of time to be spent, as well as the city’s oversight of that work.
Getschow said the project would be led by the commission and proceed whether or not a consultant was hired, but that some expert support for specific tasks such as organizing and facilitating community conversations would be helpful.
“By filling in the blanks, as you did there, I could go along with that,” Freiberg said. “I just wanted more transparency. I wanted to know more about the purpose, the clarification, what we’re trying to accomplish.”
As a city, Aho said, “We’ve done a great job in trying to make sure we’re not judging anyone by racial standards. I’d rather see that money going to something that is really furthering work with the races that live in Eden Prairie, and developing some concrete things instead of doing consulting.
“But I do understand the Human Rights and Diversity Commission would like to have some leadership in that regard. I’d rather see it spent on something else, but I can go along with it.”
Mayor Ron Case said the consulting contract will help ensure that many different voices are heard. “Depending on the color of your skin, the perspective can be so different,” he stated. “We really need to get the voices of everyone.”
The contract was approved by a 5-0 vote.
Work on the initiative is already in motion, according to city staff, and the community outreach phase will begin in February.
There are two tracks to the initiative. One track will look at how residents access city programs, what they think of the city’s emergency responders, and the hiring and recruitment practices used by the city. The other track will look at whether residents feel connected, what their experiences with race and equity are, and how future community leaders can be developed.