Why are our “leaders” stonewalling questions about their $26 million payday?

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Last week we saw some political theater at the state capital.

Senator Jeff Hayden faced questions about his alleged involvement in pressuring the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) into signing a $375,000 no-bid contract with the Community Standards Initiative (or CSI for short).

The Senate Ethics Committee, consisting of two Democrats and two Republicans, did not reach a conclusion about Hayden’s potential ethics violations. Instead, they punted the issue to a second hearing set for November 5th.

Between now and then people will be wondering if MPS Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson will finally go on record to confirm the stories that she was bullied by Senators Jeff Hayden and Bobby Champion.

So far she has been evasive about the matter in public. We hope she finds her voice and her courage to tell the truth about what happened. Other women in the black community and beyond will likely applaud if she becomes one of the few to stand up to the old boys club.

CSI Part II

While the original CSI contract is bruising the reputations of leaders at all levels, as BAE reported last week, it’s just the tip of the iceberg in identifying ways in which public dollars meant for ‘the many’ are being distributed into the hands of ‘the few.” While following the money trails, BAE leaders discovered that many of the same individuals, who were involved in CSI, are also involved in what we are calling CSI II.

CSI II, the backroom attempt to draw $26 million of state money to a select group of politically connected godfathers aided by Senators Hayden and Champion, is a clear signal that it is time to rethink who leads us, and how they do it.

One key question that we should be asking as concerned taxpayers is: Why hasn’t the $26 million proposal that was submitted to Governor Dayton’s office been made public?

Some of the designers of the proposal are professional protesters with histories of hijacking processes by claiming community members have not been engaged; so why would they create a plan for the black community without vetting it with the black community and obtaining input?

Now that BAE has raised the issue we’ve been contacted by various “leaders” who wonder why we’re making this all public. They want to talk with us privately to see if we can reach some sort of understanding (even after one of them went on black radio to make incoherent charges about our integrity).

That shows they still don’t get it. We’re not interested in business as usual.

The old leadership model involves a small circle of men, many of who live outside of North Minneapolis and most of who act as gatekeepers for power and they bottleneck the flow of resources aimed at improving the lives of people in North Minneapolis. Women and other leaders who actually live and work in North Minneapolis are expected to sit with a subservient posture in the leadership’s second string, if at all.

They are to be seen, not heard.

No more.

We must remember the fact that underlying conditions for our families and children are not improving under this faulty leadership. Our most vulnerable community members continue to suffer under the weight of oppression through virtually nonexistent economic and employment opportunities, inadequate access to quality education, and police abuse within the city of Minneapolis. CSI and CSI Part II are only the latest episodes after several decades of questionable proposals that were hastily constructed and poorly executed once funded.

Given that history, and the great needs of our community, we can only accept leadership that values community voice, accountability, and transparency. We are ready for a change. We are tired of the status quo. We are the leaders that we have been waiting for.

So who is willing to stand with us?

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