Olympia City Council set to vote to create Social Justice and Equity Commission next week

New commission would investigate complaints against racism and discrimination



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:

  • Receive, investigate, and mediate complaints against unlawful discrimination.
  • Advise city officials as they draft policies
  • Outreach and community engagement.

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

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • National origin or ancestry
  • Sex
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Familial status
  • Honorably discharged veteran or military status
  • Disability
  • Source of income

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.

Commission members

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:

  • Reside in the city of Olympia
  • Own or work at a business in the city of Olympia
  • Work in the education field in the city of Olympia
  • Commit to regular attendance.

“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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