PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria city council is taking steps toward social justice by trying to target systemic racism in the county.
During its Tuesday night meeting, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota, the council approved 155 members to take part in the city and county’s Joint Commission on Racial Justice & Equity.
Mayor Rita Ali said the idea for the commission was in direct response to Floyd’s murder in 2020 and both the local and national social unrest that soon followed. She said the purpose of the commission is to address areas of racial justice and equity in Peoria.
Both the city and the county approved the charter for the commission in the fall of 2020.
“I’m very proud of Peoria to take this big step in really putting together a commission that actually will work in a lot of different areas to address inequities based upon race,” Ali said.
She said the commission will have a steering committee and eight subcommittees targeting specific areas where she said disparities are the most prominent.
These subcommittees include Child & youth development, Economic development & jobs, Environment & Climate, Health & Human Services, Housing, Information & Technology, Justice System, and Transportation & Mobility.
“This will begin to help to identify policies that we need to scrub, systems that we need to change or improve that will help to address issues of equity so that everyone can be successful in our city,” Ali said.
She said there were more than 200 diverse applicants who applied to take part in the commission and there was a vetting process leading to the final bunch brought before the city council Tuesday night.
“This is probably the most diverse group that we’ve ever seen put together, many different diverse demographics, races, ethnicities, ages, genders,” Ali said. “It’s another launching pad for Peoria moving to greater progress.”
City council members shared their enthusiasm during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“There’s a lot of recognizable names on this list but there’s a lot of names that we don’t recognize and I think that’s the beauty of this to have the unusual suspects apart of this important commission,” Andre Allen, District Four city councilman, said.
“I’m optimistic that it’s going to lead to changes that are well overdue in ending systematic racism,” Beth Jensen, At-large councilwoman said. “I’m particularly interested in the justice reform component and I will be serving as a liaison to that committee.”
Andrew Rand, Peoria County Board chairman said he helped organize the original coalition. He said this new commission will hopefully create a new pathway for those who have been left behind.
“It’s no surprise the African American community in this town has suffered more in the last three decades of our community investment,” Rand said. “The governments are prepared to make their mark in reversing that trend through this charter.”
He said the mission is to remove barriers and provide everyone a seat at the table.
“Our global goal is to have meaningful dialogue and produce programs that improve everyone’s quality of life, every single person’s access to the same educational pathways or financial capacity,” Rand said.
Mayor Ali said the next step is for the county board to approve the members as well before the commission can officially launch. Rand said this will happen during the board’s next meeting in June.