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Staunton creates survey to gather citizen input on budding Equity and Diversity Commission

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Staunton creates survey to gather citizen input on budding Equity and Diversity Commission

Alison Cutler

| Staunton News Leader

STAUNTON — An Equity and Diversity Commission is in the works for the city and it wants residents to weigh in on what it should look like, and prioritize.

City council had unanimously agreed to pass a resolution that would establish an Equity Commission on Aug. 12, but the commission itself has not been created. On Sept. 23, the city council reviewed a sample resolution that would outline what the commission would focus on, who it would include and what kind of work it would produce.

The formal resolution will be considered at a later date, according to the council, but it asked the staff to put together a way to collect community input on the commission.

Residents can fill out the Equity and Diversity Commission Survey until Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. online. The results of the survey will be shared with the city council at a future meeting, and be included on the city’s official website.

Questions in the survey include the following, and more:

Currently, the council has advised that the commission would consist of seven council-appointed members, all who must be residents to Staunton.

The city council agreed to move toward establishing an equity commission in August following the city council retreat and a speech by Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown and Rebecca ‘Cookie’ Johnson about the importance of establishing the commission. Discussions about bolstering equity positions and commissions for the city date back to the beginning of the year.

The Staunton Equity Coalition spoke to the council in January 2021 about hiring an Equity Officer, which would have been a single individual focusing on Staunton’s equity issues instead of a commission.

“We are looking for more firm and concrete and public commitment because for us, we just don’t see this as something to drag our feet on. It is easy to make a promise now and figure out how you’re going to do it if it’s important to you,” Meghan Kramer, a leadership member of the Staunton Equity Coalition, said to the council in January.

The council didn’t commit to any equity positions or boards until August, although several members did attend the Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE), to give the idea more thought.

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The current draft of the Equity Commission Resolution states that members would be appointed by the Nominations Committee and serve two years upon their date of appointment. The council also voted that Council member Brenda Mead would serve as the Council’s liaison to the commission.

Part of the commission’s responsibility will be to collect data to produce reports for the city regarding social and racial equity in the city. The council will budget so that the commission’s research and data collection is funded through the city. Additionally, the commission will have access to city financial data and other records as needed.

The draft resolution added that the commission would need to conduct at least one public hearing to receive input from residents concerning racial and social equity.

“The Commission shall compile a report for the Council consisting of its analysis of existing data, studies, and reports concerning racial and social equity as well as its own research and data collection efforts on the topic,” the resolution draft said, without including when in 2022 the report would be expected.

The resolution is only a draft and has not been adopted yet. The council will revisit the draft once it receives the results from the community survey.

visit https://www.ci.staunton.va.us/government/city-council/equity-and-diversity-commission to share your thoughts will Staunton about the budding equity commission.

— Alison Cutler (she/her) is the Government Watchdog Reporter at The News Leader. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Contact Alison at acutler@newsleader.com and follow her on Twitter at @alisonjc2.

This content was originally published here.

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