OLYMPIA –– The Olympia City Council approved the creation of a new social justice & equity commission on Tuesday night in an attempt to uplift marginalized voices in the community.
After recent conversations with the community, Olivia Salazar de Breaux, the city’s equity and inclusion coordinator, spoke to the presence of civil unrest and broken trust within the community. City officials planned to listen and engage in dialogue with people from diverse communities, particularly from people who have been impacted by social and institutional injustice.
“Black and Brown voices are not being represented and the commission should be made up of individuals that are usually a part of these conversations,” said Breaux.
During the discussion, city hall staff voiced that they believe advances on racial justice should be composed of actions that involve the community and that “the government should not tell people what they need.”
“The primary outcome is to establish an advisory commission which is tailored to our community needs, and define make up of commission members where certain positions will be held for marginalised groups,” said Stacey Ray, strategic planning and performance manager for the city.
According to city documents, the committee will be established in four phases, which starts with the city council hosting a series of virtual community conversations and online opportunities for members to engage in dialogue and learn from one another.
Phase II will consist of prioritizing needs in the community that speak to racial and social justice and Phase III will see the recruitment of commission members, as well as defining the role of the commission so that it accurately reflects the desires of the community. The last phase will begin work with the city’s equity and inclusion coordinator to start implementing the commission’s priorities.
Once approved by the city council, the commission will launch their first year of work on April 1, 2021. The city council approved approximately $60,000 to fund the commission’s work.
“The primary area of focus for this budget request is meeting design and facilitation and to create safe spaces,” said Ray. “We need to have representation from a person of color leading dialogue and having the right facilitator is critical. We want facilitators that are connected and part of our community and someone who can immediately understand and help us capture what is being shared by our marginalized community members.”
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