Two new Ramsey County Soil and Water Board policies, one aimed at retrofitting multi-unit dwellings and the other at addressing disparities in the district, both introduced by Green Supervisor Lena Buggs on June 1, did not pass on a 2-2 vote.
Typically, there are five board supervisors, so a tie would not happen, but Supervisor Gardner resigned from the board in March and has not been replaced. Though the Soil and Water Board elections are nonpartisan, the current makeup of the board is two DFL supervisors, one Green, and one independent. The two DFL members voted against Buggs' two proposed new policy proposals.
The multi-unit policy was aimed at retrofitting apartment buildings, condominiums and other multi-unit buildings to improve stormwater runoff using current best practices. The racial equity and inclusion policy addressed disparities in hiring practices, contract compliance, education and outreach within the conservation district. Both policies would be in keeping with the district's core mission of protecting soil and water resources.
Supervisor Buggs, the district's first supervisor of color, was subjected to hostility when presenting the equity policy by the faction of DFL board members. Buggs was repeatedly asked if partners were consulted to see if they "liked" the policy.
Supervisor Buggs reminded board members of their elected fiduciary responsibilities -- to write board policies and set the direction of the overall district. She further indicated partnering organizations didn't need to be consulted, as the board writes its own policies and is an independent local office of the state of Minnesota.
"I am saddened by the board's decision not to adopt these policies. Equity and inclusivity should not be viewed as preferential treatment of people of color," Supervisor Buggs said.