What’s the Answer?

Whats the answer blog postBy David Feehan

These have been particularly sad and disheartening days for me. I am a native of Minneapolis, Minn., a city that has always prided itself on being enlightened when it comes to race. I owned a house just off Lake Street, where the burning and looking occurred. My nephew knew George Floyd from the club where he worked. In the 1970s, I directed a Model City program in this neighborhood that sought to encourage better communication among a very diverse group of residents. I thought my hometown was working hard to improve communities and race relations. Then George Floyd was murdered, and cities around the world exploded.

What can parking professionals, city officials, and other concerned citizens take away from the ongoing protests? We would be well advised to listen to what the protesters are saying.

Any examination of police policies, practices, and training is a must. Obviously, some cities have made greater progress in this area than others. Apparently, Minneapolis has not been a leader in this regard. But most parking facilities use either private security officers or municipal police. How prepared are we for incidents like some of the recent tragic killings in the Twin Cities and elsewhere? Most of these incidents have included an automobile.

The parking industry has made strides in hiring and promoting people of color. IPMI has worked to increase diversity, but even IPMI’s board and staff are not as representative of the employee base of most our members as they could be.

I am part of an online public policy discussion forum. I noted as we have discussed the George Floyd incident and subsequent protests that only one of our forum members is a person of color, and he is Hispanic. I questioned how many members of our group have personal friends who are African American, with whom they could have a heart-to-heart conversation concerning race relations. I’m sure most of us have Black colleagues with whom we work, but have we ever invited them to our homes? The answer to our current dilemma begins with understanding, and my guess that understanding that leads to positive change is in short supply these days.

I have a great fear that our downtowns and community business districts (all of which depend on parking) are in great jeopardy because of the COVID crisis. We don’t need to see boarded-up buildings or burned shells as we work to recover. I don’t have all the answers, but I know recovery has to begin with communication and understanding. Let’s get started.

David Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.