The city of Brookhaven has created a framework for a “Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission” that aims to improve race relations in the city, which was spurred by the nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
City Planning Commission Vice Chair John Funny presented the framework to City Council during its Sept. 8 work session. He said the commission’s goals will be to have an open dialogue about race, identify issues within the city and recommend strategies or policies to improve the identified issues.
City Manager Christian Sigman said city staff will brief Councilmember Madeleine Simmons, who has spearheaded the creation of the commission with Funny, within the next week. The council will then vote on the creation of the commission. Sigman asked the council for help to find people to participate.
The commission may have about 29 members, Funny said, and have a seven-person executive committee. The members would come from various communities within the city, such the faith, education, business, media and healthcare fields, as well as people from varying age groups. There would also be a member to facilitate the discussions and a member to manage the public engagement portion of the commission.
“Having a commission of this size allows us to establish subcommittees to break out in topical areas so we can address issues simultaneously to accomplish more in a shorter duration of time,” Funny told the council.
Funny said the commission should meet monthly for eight to 12 months. Subcommittees would discuss a certain topic, then go to the full commission for more input and consensus, after which a recommendation may be made to the council based on those decisions.
Outcomes of the commission may include changes to the city charter, policies, procedures or organizational structures, such as evaluating to see if there’s any inherent biases in the city’s purchasing policies, Funny said.
“We don’t know what will evolve from the initial unearthing of what’s on people’s minds,” Funny said. “We have to ask the question. That’s how we find out what’s on the whiteboard that we need to address as part of this commission.”
The idea for the commission started in late June after Simmons and Funny had a town hall to discuss race relations within the city.