Following the 2020 protests after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, The Olympia City Council asked the General Government Committee to explore establishing a new commission to address social justice and equity issues.
In a presentation to the General Government Committee, Olympia Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Olivia Salazar De Breaux discussed the proposal to establish a Social Justice and Equity Commission on Wed., Oct. 27. She shared that the commission will support the city in dismantling institutional racism and all forms of oppression.
The new commission will be responsible in three key areas. They include:
The General Government Committee formed a Founding Member Work Group made up of individuals from historically marginalized communities to start the process. The group held discussions with community members in recent months and researched different models to recommend for the new commission.
Complaints and investigation
Megan Matthews, one of four members of the founding workgroup, shared that the commission will serve as a “welcoming place to file a complaint as a response to unlawful discrimination.” These include discrimination based on
Advising the city regarding policy
Anthony Markland, a member of the workgroup, shared that the city would provide regular counsel on equity and social justice policies. They would also provide guidance in helping the city to respond to national events and issues.
Joslyn Nelson, a member of the workgroup, said that the new commission would have 11 members. She explained, “We settled on 11 just because of the outline and the depths that the commission will be looking into when it comes to invest[tigation] and media[tion].” She continued, “So we figure 11 would be the best number to be able to handle that type of workload for commissioners.”
Qualifications for appointment to the commission are:
“We want to encourage everybody to be on the commission regardless of background,” Nelson added.
Markland shared, “this commission will help us in reassessing how we react to things.” He concluded, “It would be Olympia’s version of actual protest...because if we keep treating this disease of racism and discrimination the same way…the community trust for city and leadership plummets.”
The Olympia City Council is scheduled to vote for the approval of the Social Justice and Equity Commission on Tue., Nov. 9.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that the General Government Committee recommended to the City Council the establishment of this a new commission. We regret the error.
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