Suburb populations, workforces growing apart as communities become more diverse
This article is the first in a three-part series. Part two will focus on community members and city officials’ thoughts, and part three will focus on what city governments are doing – or not doing – about the demographic discrepancies outlined above.
Part 1 of 3: Some city leaders see a need to reflect community, but challenges arise
“I tell people that white guys are very well represented,” Lunde said, candidly. “The white guys’ viewpoint is covered. We’ve got that.”
At the city’s council meetings, the white mayor is flanked by six white men, two each from the city’s three districts. Their average age, according to city data, is 56 years old.
Related: Column: Here’s why we’re looking at city demographics
I used to speak Spanish somewhat well, right up until I tried to learn Icelandic. I’m no doctor, but I think the two languages cancelled each other out in my big, dumb brain, and now I’m back to just speaking Midwestern-style English, ya know?
This may sound silly, but how much longer will it make sense for Sun Newspapers to have reporters, like me, who only speak English? Or, at least, don’t speak Spanish? Or Bachema? Or Hmong? A quick, informal survey of our newsroom showed a smattering of experience in Spanish, and not much more. Nobody felt even remotely comfortable saying they were fluent – or close to fluent – in a non-English language. A similarly quick glance around the office shows that, as diverse as the cities we cover are, Sun Newspapers’ editorial department is distinctly monochromatic and disproportionately male.
So, in a similar vein, how much longer will city governments be able to get away with being demographically distinct from the cities they actually serve and represent? Brooklyn Park, for instance, is a “minority majority” city – meaning non-whites account for more than 50 percent of its population – but it has an all-white, all-male city council, all of whom are north of 35 years old.