County Manager Column from June 2, 2020

This column was originally published as a "From the County Manager" column on our employee intranet.

Taking stock following a painful, historic week

We’ve never had a time like this. We’re facing the biggest health crisis since the flu pandemic of 1918, the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression and now the most widespread social unrest since the late 1960s.

Last week, following the horrific killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, Chair Carter, our Racial and Health Equity Administrators Sara Hollie and Price Corbett and I have shared messages with our organization. We all realize that words do not go far if not matched by action, but it is important for our organization to be unequivocal on where it stands and what it values during these uncertain times.

Late last week, peaceful protests turned violent and destructive in several of our Ramsey County communities. Buildings were burned and shops were looted, but thankfully there was no further loss of life as a result. And then through the weekend the people of our communities began rebuilding. Staff across this organization were called upon and stepped up to serve in many ways -

Sheriff’s deputies, Emergency Call Center dispatchers and telecommunicators, and others in public safety worked to respond to calls, support those out on the street protesting injustice and racism, and keep the peace.

With news of possible danger to those staying at the outdoor encampment near the Capitol, quick action by a cross-functional team resulted in the relocation of a number of individuals without homes or permanent shelter safely into hotel rooms and out of potential harm’s way.

Another group of staff were busy mobilizing support in partnership with community, providing resources for food and basic needs, purchasing materials for protecting businesses, working to get people out of protests safely and to de-escalate emerging threats of violence. This immediate and urgent work from this past weekend planted the seeds of a longer-term rebuilding initiative that will now be with us for the month ahead.

Yesterday, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners met in an emergency meeting to continue the local state of emergency declared on May 28 through June 30. This allows us to continue our response and recovery and to request state and federal assistance as needed throughout the emergency period. At this meeting, I shared some of the early work referenced above and laid out a framework to work with and support community during the challenging weeks ahead.

Watch the video of the meeting

Our emergency response effort has three basic components: First, we’ll continue supporting community hubs that are providing food and basic needs with materials and logistical support, while also expanding our home delivery of meals and groceries (work that was already in flight as a part of our COVID-19 response). Second, we’ll be working with partners to support and ensure small business clean-up and recovery. Third, we’re building on our Public Health department’s Healing Streets initiative to provide connections and counsel around de-escalation, violence prevention and long-term community healing and support. This will be undertaken working in collaboration and partnership with a group of 18 neighborhood change agents with strong ties into community so that efforts are relevant, authentic and attuned to what the community wants and needs in this moment of urgency.

These are uncertain times, and we haven’t known and won’t know what each day will bring. We can expect new developments each day, and we need to be prepared and flexible to meet them head on. As I wrote in the opening, the challenges are multiple, overlapping and historic – we’ve never faced anything quite like this and I believe that our children and children’s children will read about this moment and how we responded in history books (or whatever replaces books).

We can and must continue to work with community and lean into our work to address immediate needs and rebuild. We must root out racism, inequality and the perpetuation of structural inequities without fear or looking backward. If we don’t take bold action will have more days like some of our those we recently experienced, and I know that isn’t the future any of us wish for ourselves, our loved ones or the next generation. It is on us as individuals and as a collective to build the future we desire.

I am so proud to be a part of this organization that even in the wake of enormous pain, stands up to represent the best in all of us. I am better because I work with each of you, and I hope you feel the same way coming to work in service every day.

Thanks for all you do. Please stay healthy and well.