Reparations committee formed
The St. Paul City Council June 16 appointed its Reparations Legislative Advisory Committee.
In January, the city Council issued an apology for its role in institutional racism and committed to racial healing through the exploration of reparations for American descendants of chattel slavery living in the city. The council cited several historic injustices when passing the resolution, and also called for the establishment of a committee to study reparations.
The appointments were announced to coincide with Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas in 1865.
More than 60 people applied to be on the committee, said Ward Seven Council Member Jane Prince. The group will discuss what kinds of reparations can be made. One goal is to push for reparations funding at the state and federal level. But Prince and other council members have said they’re looking at various ways to provide reparations.
The committee will study issues and prepare a report, which will focus on but not be limited to strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, close the gaps in home ownership, health care, education, employment and pay, and look at fairness within criminal justice among the American descendants of chattel slavery.
Trahern Crews, a St. Paul resident who has led calls for the reparations study, thanked the council. “This is not charity,” he said. “This is justice. This is economic justice.”
Committee conveners are Crews, Veronica Burt and Yohuru Williams. Committee members are Theresa Cunningham, Lynette Harris, Amber Jones, Benjamin Mchie, Nick Muhammad, Jessica Nickrand, Jose Perez, Khulia Pringle, Vic Rosenthal and Jerry Thomas.
The council also set a $50 per meeting stipend for those on the committee. It can meet for up to one year, which is how long city legislative advisory committee are set. Its report to the City Council is due by June 15, 2022.
Help on the way for EAB
St. Paul’s crisis situation with the destructive emerald ash borer has reached a turning point. The city council June 9 unveiled an agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority. It will issue $18 million in bonds to help the city’s forestry division and create a jobs program.
Approval will launch activities including equipment purchases as well as hiring, so that the stepped-up tree work can start in 2022. The agreement will allow St. Paul forestry staff to remove, stump and replant the city’s remaining boulevard ash trees by the end of 2026. That’s an improvement from a worst case scenario end date of 2034 or later.
The bond proceeds will also allow for forestry workers to catch up on a massive backlog of stumping, tree replanting and tree trimming needs unrelated to the spread of emerald ash borer. Tree trimming, which had been on a 15-year cycle, has been relegated to complaint or emergency status. The funds allow for the planting of an additional 2,000 trees per year.
The city will have to replace 13,000 boulevard ash trees.
Creation of a forestry jobs program is another outcome of the bond issue and city-Port Authority partnership. At past meetings, Port and city officials have said the funds will create a gateway for young people to get into forestry careers.
“This is a really big day,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm. “We certainly could not do this without the partnership of the St. Paul Port Authority and the Office of Financial Services.” Bonds will be repaid through the Port Authority levy.
“It’s (emerald ash borer) been taking over forestry’s lives,” he said.
St. Paul’s situation with emerald ash borer is considered critical. The green iridescent beetles, which are native to Asia, have spread throughout the United States. The nation’s first infestation was found in Michigan in 2002.
Minnesota’s first infestation was found in 2009 in St. Paul’s South St. Anthony Park neighborhood, although it’s believe the pests were here as soon as 2004. The insects are now in every neighborhood of the city, and in cities and counties throughout the state.
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