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About Council Member Andrew Johnson:

Andrew Johnson was elected November 5th, 2013 and is the first millennial to serve on the Minneapolis City Council. He brings a unique perspective as the first IT professional to serve on the council, with eight years of experience as a systems engineer at Target Corporation. Andrew is also a small business owner, through which he works for an education non-profit that helps empower teachers via technology in the classroom.

Andrew understands the importance of neighborhood engagement and dialogue. During his time as Longfellow Community Council President, Andrew actively led many initiatives, including revitalization efforts on East Lake Street, implementing a new website, greater resident engagement on the Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction project, and helped establish the first community hops garden in the nation.

Andrew believes in the importance of a transparent, responsive government. Nationally he pioneered the concept of a federal taxpayer receipt, a concept which was later implemented by the Obama Administration. He will be working with his colleagues on open data to ensure government information is more accessible to the public.

Andrew owns a home in the Howe neighborhood. For fun, Andrew likes to rock climb, take his dog Rosie to the Minnehaha off-leash area, bicycle around the city’s great trails, read (mostly non-fiction), and spend time with friends.

On Racial Equity:

Council Member Andrew Johnson responded to both our survey and our request for an interview.


+ How has the city’s adoption of a racial equity framework impacted both policy-making and the internal practices of the city enterprise?

I have seen mixed results.

For example, when I first came into office, the class of new police officers being sworn-in was 16 white men out of 17 total officers (a failure on many levels). I organized a meeting with MPD, HR, Legal, and CM Yang and pushed for greater diversity and accountability for hiring. The Chief implemented a new recruitment program and the latest class was mostly people of color and more women in a class than anyone had seen. This was the right approach, as to offset a lack of diversity among the pool of employees, we need to hire heavily diverse classes (i.e. even if all new officers are POC in a class of 20, when added to a pool of 850 employees they barely skew the demographics), and also because our city is increasingly diverse, so we need to hire to be representative of where we're headed, not where we are. We need to focus on hiring police from the community, who look like the community they serve, and who bring needed skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and relationship building.

However, I also see examples of failure to advance racial equity. A recent one is what happened with the East Phillips Water Yard. None of the enterprise policies were explicitly racist, but the outcomes of these policies were to perpetuate environmental injustice in a community that has experienced much trauma. The inability or indifference of so many to see this was alarming. To give you another example as well, the Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee, which prioritizes hundreds of millions of dollars in community investments, meets downtown during weekdays over lunch and therefore remains inaccessible to most residents except for predominantly those employed downtown with privileged positions which give them the flexibility to have extended time away from their offices (in other words, generally older white men); I have pushed to change this, but have yet to get the needed support.

Finally, I am very data and outcomes oriented, and have not seen a lot of clarity on what specifically are the metrics that will be indicators of success. This is why I was the chief author of a staff directive for the 2016 budget to create a website for increased transparency and accountability of racial equity initiatives. I think that any policy measures that have been passed, such as the recent ordinance that I co-authored with Council Member Frey to decriminalize marijuana, are because policy makers are taking it on of their own initiative, not because a full agenda has been laid out. I personally would still be working on these issues whether or not the City adopted a racial equity framework.

+ How have hiring practices changed to reflect a racial equity framework since January 2014?

See my answer above as related to MPD.

I also worked to bring 33 IT jobs back in-house, with one of the goals being to create entry-level jobs for people of color in IT (an industry highly-lacking in racial diversity) so that they can gain experience and move up into great-paying jobs. In addition, greater recruitment efforts have taken place, but HR still remains fairly opaque, which is why I have pushed for a report on demographics for job applicants and their outcomes as they move through the various hiring stages to help identify breakdowns in the system where people of color may be dropped at disproportionate rates.

Not shocking, but I have noted signs of resistance to diversifying our departments, as the number of employees refusing to answer demographics information on race has skyrocketed and appears to be mostly white employees; this form of protest hurts our ability to track progress, but also highlights the cultural barriers within the enterprise when it comes to race which need to be addressed.

I have also been pushing the Coordinator's Office to develop a hiring program for people of color with criminal records, to embed them in departments, pay them a living wage, and help train them, help them build networks, and build the job experience and distance from their criminal records needed to be competitive job candidates in our city. This is a huge need since people of color are disproportionately cited/arrested/charged for crimes (and yes, we need serious criminal justice reform on top of this). Such a hiring program also helps employees and leadership confront their own stereotypes and biases against those with criminal records.

+ How has the city engaged with its marginalized communities around important issues and decision-making?

I can give you a few examples of when I think it has worked well and been authentic. When I recently worked with Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC) this past fall to do a complete overhaul of the MACC ordinance, there were some culturally specific stakeholders, especially around the issue of chickens. As my office worked with Regulatory Services staff, we made sure to have a handful of participatory meetings in different parts of the city where residents can give feedback and input, and to have Spanish and Hmong translation at the meetings where there those communities were most likely to attend. This is one small example.

Along with Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, I serve on the Transgender Issues Workgroup, which engaged directly with the trans and gender nonconforming communities at meetings and conferences to see what issues were most important at the City level. The Neighborhood and Community Relations Department is often tasked with being the bridge to communicate with marginalized communities, but I think that is shortsighted. There can be a more holistic, thoughtful approach where any communication or input opportunity at the City can be leveraged in a way that is more culturally accessible, transparent, and easy to understand. This is often framed as a matter of resources, but I think if we do some enterprise wide training, specifically of communications staff within each department, it can be normative to think about translation of materials, how to have public meetings that allow for multiple ways of engaging, where to have meetings, or what time of day, as starters.

+ What are you most proud of having accomplished since January 2014 to advance racial equity in Minneapolis?

In addition the the efforts and actions mentioned in previous answers...

  • I hired a woman of color, my friend Ilhan Omar, as my Senior Policy Aide and helped her develop as a leader, gain experience, grow her network, and ultimately launch her campaign for the MN House. We need more women of color in office and I am so proud of her and honored to have had this opportunity to help her along her path!

  • Brought forward to my colleagues the idea of requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for all employees, led on this initiative, and am an author of the ordinance

  • Led the Restorative Justice expansion, including working with the Mayor to triple funding via the 2016 budget, completing a study, and hosting a city-wide forum

  • Passed an ordinance allowing temporary extended business hours to accommodate Muslim residents and Muslim business owners over Ramadan

  • Co-authored 2016 budget amendment to fast-track implicit bias and procedural justice training for police officers

  • Fought during 2015 budget process for equity office positions, One Minneapolis Fund, and Clean Energy funding

  • Co-hosted Northside forum with CM Yang in the aftermath of Ferguson to examine community/police relationships

  • Appointed to Department of Justice subcommittee on improving Minneapolis community/police relationships (recommendations currently being developed)

  • Co-authored Indigenous Peoples Day resolution

  • Co-authored Green Zones Resolution, forming a task force to bring forward recommendations addressing the disproportionate impact of pollution on communities of color

  • Co-authored resolution calling on Washington to change their NFL team name

  • Stood with the community after Jamar Clark was killed and called for an independent investigation