Peoria city council, county board expected to approve racial justice commission

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Addressing racial issues has been a national topic for months, and it’s also a topic Peoria city leaders are hoping to focus on.

The city council and county board will have a joint special zoom meeting, Thursday night, where they’re expected to adopt an ordinance to establish a joint commission on racial justice and equity within the community.

At-large Councilwoman Rita Ali said this is an effort that’s been in place for a while and began to develop after the death of George Floyd in May.

She said, soon after, Mayor Jim Ardis called together a group of stakeholders within the city to address issues in the community.

“We met every Wednesday for about 12 Wednesdays and we tried to identify some quick wins and some long-term strategies,” Ali said.

Ali said the commission is one of those long-term strategies to proactively address racial issues on a regular basis in the community. She said they’ll address issues within the justice system, child & youth development, education & jobs, quality housing, transportation, mobility, health and community services.

She said the Peoria City-County Commission on Racial Justice and Equity would consist of 15-20 diverse individuals as well as sub-committees of about 160 members.

“It will allow us an opportunity to provide citizen engagement in addressing some serious issues that have not been addressed in a very impactful way,” Ali said. “It can’t be addressed solely by a city council of 11 people or a county board of 18. They can be addressed with citizen involvement and engagement.”

Brandy Bryant, a Peoria County Board member, said this commission will target areas where racial inequities are apparent. She said city leaders also want to change the negative reputation Peoria has regarding opportunities for minorities.

“We want to make sure that this becomes, Peoria City County, that this becomes one of the best places for all people to live,” Bryant said. “We’ve had a stigma on us as the worst place for African Americans to live and we want to change that.”

Both Ali and Bryant said people of different ages, races, genders, and social classes are encouraged to go onto the county board’s website and apply to be apart of the commission.

They said it’s volunteer-based with support from both council and county board members to push the effort forward.

The responsibilities of the Joint Commission on Racial Justice and Equity’s are to:

  1. Develop and distribute information about racial justice and equity in the City and County
  2. Promote educational activities that increase the understanding of racial justice and equity in the City and County.
  3. Recommend coordinated strategies for reducing inequity in racial justice and equity in the City and County.
  4. Develop a performance management platform for communicating progress towards achieving racial justice and equity.
  5. Advise the Peoria City Council and Peoria County Board, their executives, and City and County agencies about racial justice and equity in the County, and recommend policies, programs, legislation, or regulations necessary to reduce racial and social justice inequity.
  6. Subject Matter Experts: Engage select subject matter experts to obtain the best possible data and obtain the best possible evaluations of racial justice and equity impact
  7. Citizen Engagement: Engage a variety of citizen groups for the purpose of soliciting community feedback using a variety of techniques including, but not limited to, surveying, town hall meetings, and public forums.
  8. Submit an annual report by December 1 of each year to the Peoria City Council and Peoria County Board on the activities of the Committee.

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