The Human Rights Commission is aiming to have minority membership on Northfield boards and commissions reflect the city’s demographic. Currently, 11.2% of the city’s population are minorities.
The goal is part of many the HRC is looking to pursue as part of strategic priorities set in May 2018.
“We are mindful that the small sizes of most boards and commissions may not make this possible or practicable for every board and commission, but we note that increased minority membership on several boards and commissions, in particular some areas such as Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Library Board, Arts and Culture Commission, Economic Development Authority would be desirable,” the HRC stated in city documents.
“As a secondary strategy, the City Council should strive to build bridges to Northfield’s minority communities by appointing members who can serve as liaisons, whether through their knowledge of and/or connections to certain communities, linguistic abilities and other connections.”
The HRC is recommending the city increase the number of bilingual staff at City Hall, the Safety Center and school district. The commission advises the city have at least one bilingual (Spanish-English) staff member in every major office/department building, with specific targets/priorities set in consulting with appropriate staff and officials.
“As a secondary strategy, evaluate alternative options such as language line for city services, interpreters or other strategies to offer bilingual and sign language alternatives for communication for the public,” the HRC stated.
The HRC wants the city to increase youth participation and parent involvement/board membership. They are suggesting that to do so, the HRC invite representatives from Northfield athletic clubs, art organizations and other groups to attend HRC meetings to share information and inclusion strategies.
Other ideas the HRC is looking to pursue include:
• Increase the cultural competence of white Northfield residents, which could include additional public awareness events and programs (Northfield Reads, Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities), or establishing a sister city relationship with a suitable city in a different country or cultural context.
• Continue work (especially by youth HRC members) with the Northfield school district on human rights issues as it impacts curriculum, school policy and the campus climate at all schools.
• Work toward equitable housing. The HRC says that includes the cost of living, sustainability and environmental issues surrounding the issue.
• Boost prominence of HRC youth members. The board suggests the city manages a specific event, like Day of Peace.
The HRC hopes to discuss putting some of those goals into action in the next few months.
Program Director Beth Kallestad noted the goals came after the city set its strategic plan.
“It’s a way that they can support the city’s strategic plan,” Kallestad said of the HRC.
To her, the plan’s end goals revolve around making community members feel more welcome by increasing equity in city operations.
“When people feel that they are welcome, they are more likely to participate,” she said.
The city will offer a pilot program early next year with the University of Minnesota Extension Service for people looking to serve on boards and commissions. The focus will be on underrepresented residents.