Reaching each and every resident across bands of difference is crucial to our mission as a democracy, a government by-and-for all people. We cannot shirk from challenging discussion as we seek to be open to those that have been historically marginalized.
Creation of Inclusion Office. As a Commissioner, I advocated for the creation of the Inclusion Office, and brought it into being in my first year as Mayor. This allows us to ask the difficult questions about how we can operate effectively for all Athenians, particularly those that have been historically marginalized. Our Inclusion Office examines both the internal needs of ACC as an organization, and our relationship with those in the community to ensure that all have a seat at the table. We have now taken the additional step of creating a Human Relations Commission to serve as an ongoing advisory body to the Inclusion Office and to the Mayor and Commission. Related to this, a Disparity Study will allow us to bolster opportunities for woman-owned and minority-owned businesses to be a partner in County projects.
Local Civil Rights Ordinance. For residents that have faced discrimination in housing, the workplace and the commercial sphere, we have implemented a local Civil Rights Ordinance to create an environment that demands dignity for all. We have also encouraged humane practices in our police department, who will no longer arrest immigrant residents without a driver’s license so long as they can provide another means of identification such as a passport.
Acknowledging and repairing past wrongs. The ACC Mayor and Commission have acknowledged the damage that was done to multiple neighborhoods such as Linnentown, The Bottom and Lickskillet through the former City of Athens’ participation in the federal Urban Renewal projects. Having honest conversations about these mistakes of the past allows us to move to asking how we can create material gains for Black Athenians and other marginalized groups in the present. While state and local funding streams are hampered by state constitutional measures, we have a unique opportunity with new federal funds to create a housing stability or down payment fund for those residents whose homes were taken from them in the past. Similarly, with our redevelopment work, we are conscious of taking steps distinct from those that led to residential displacement in the past.
Honoring history and culture. We will work with community partners to support the creation of a Black History and Culture Center, providing space in the downtown Costa Building as a first step.
Strengthening homeownership opportunities. We will leverage federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for a downpayment assistance and home repair fund for Black Athenians, as Evanston IL has done.