Agendas and Minutes

Social Equity and Racial Justice Advisory Committee (View All)

Social Equity and Racial Justice Committee

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Social Equity and Racial Justice Committee

June 1, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.
Remote Meeting via Zoom
1. Call to Order: 5:00

Attendance: Yamaguchi, Simon, Geraghty, Santiago, Decker, Seltzer (staff liaison), DuQuenne (council liaison, Mayor Tonya Graham, City Manager Joe Lessard, Interim City Attorney Doug McGeary.

Absent: Chacon

Simon recognized Angela Decker who will be leaving the committee and asked her to read the Land Acknowledgement
2. Approval of Minutes of May 4, 2023

M/S Yamagushi/Geraghty, motion passed unanimously.
3. Public Input:


4. Labor Acknowledgement:

Co-chair Emily Simon explained the purpose of and a brief history of a Labor Acknowledgment (LA). She shared her proposed LA for SERJ consideration and adoption.Simon also expressed her hope that the City Council and other City entities will adopt this LA to be read prior to meetings.
Motion: I move this committee adopt the proposed Labor Acknowledgment to be read following the reading of the Land Acknowledgment and recommend the City Council also adopt and read the Labor Acknowledgment and requite that it be read at all city public meetings.
M/S Decker/Juan motion passes unanimously.
5. Review of Resolution 2023-06 regarding City council Advisory Committees (Interim City Attorney Doug McGeary:

McGeary explained that City Administration will be presenting an overview of the functioning of public meetings for all City committees, and this is the first presentation.A public meeting is a convening of public officials for which a quorum is required to make decisions or to deliberate. There are rules around public meetings. The committee members represent the City, and are agents of the City.

Committee members must be responsible for the statements and actions they take in the course of their committee functions.At the meeting on they must stick to the agenda items, and it is the chairperson’s reasonability to keep the members on track.The actions and statements that are made are subject to public record. McGeary reminded members that the use of their personal computers or phones for committee business is subject to public meeting law and encouraged members to keep their city work separate from their personal work.Members should avoid back and forth emails with one another; don’t deliberate on a subject matter that is sensitive, avoid polling, don’t do email strings which could be considered serial meetings.Discussion must happen within the public meeting session.The recent change to committees, Resolution 2023-06, sets forth the generalized procedures. Essentially committees are advisory bodies to the City Council on issues the council does not have the time or the expertise to study. Council relies on committees to dive into subject matter and to bring a recommendation to the council.Committees may research an issue, but the research is voluntary.The research is not a compulsory means to collect information.

SERJ can reasonably ask itself “what can we do” to assist the city with encouraging and understanding, recommending, gathering information, and discerning where the community is and then bring recommendations to the council for any city actions or to interact with other organizations.
No questions were asked of McGeary.
6. Mayor Tonya Graham:

Graham noted that the City went through a change to committees last year and the council continues to refine the relationship between the city council and the committees and the council’s need of each committee.The council and administration have been working together to determine committee structure in general and how the committees and the council come together with a shared scope of work.The council wants to make the best use of committee time.
The Mayor explained that the council wants committees to develop a work plan for the upcoming year that reflects the committees’ responsibilities and the council’s priorities and interests.
Mayor Graham noted the following focus areas for SERJ:
  • Research what the City of Ashland has done to help and interfere with civil rights of different groups of people (Black, Indigenous, Chinese, etc.). This research will be the starting point for identifying reparations that the City of Ashland can put in place to address the actions by the body in the past - and to celebrate good work that has been done.
  • Work with local partners (Chamber of Commerce, etc.) to develop a DEI training program for local businesses and their staff so that Ashland can move forward in its goal to be authentically welcoming to all people. 
  • Assist the City in public support activities for SERJ related holidays and community events. This includes helping the City identify which events to participate in and recommending ways in which to participate in these holidays and events.
  • Support efforts within the City's operations to train staff and ensure that our internal practices and protocols help us move forward with our DEI goals. 
  • Support other Committees in their work as it intersects with the goals of the SERJ Advisory Committee. 
Simon framed the discussion: We are a different committee than the one that first started this work in 2021. It is important that the current SERJ members understand the history of the committee, its accomplishments to date and to learn about the financial constraints and opportunities. She asks Seltzer and Lessard to provide this information at the next meeting.
Simon noted the organization Ashland Together, a group committed to the Sunrise project.  She suggested the Mayor convene a meeting with all the people currently working on this project to discuss the project resources and how the City of Ashland and SERJ can further their work. Having the Mayor’s office behind this project lets people know that the City is committed to this work.  Simon noted that she and Seltzer attended a meeting or two with the group and while neither is able to actively work on the project there maybe a SERJ member who is interested and available to work with the group.

She asks that when McGeary and the Mayor are making these presentations to other committees they encourage those groups to stay in touch with SERJ.

Simon noted that Yamaguchi is working with the Chamber of Commerce on the ‘Ashland for Everyone’ project and that may be the entry to begin discussion regarding training for local businesses. 

Yamaguchi noted that SERJ needs more members to do the committee work both long and short term.  While it is important to identify and acknowledge the historical events and to commemorate them, in some circumstances, commemorating those events can be frightening to people of color.

Once we understand the history, then the pathways to address it will be more obvious. What is an appropriate life affirming way to acknowledge the past in order to move forward?  The Mayor reminded the group that while it is important to know and to understand what happened across the valley we mostly need to know what the city did and its history so that we can take responsibility more formally as a body for what it has done in the past.

DuQuenne noted that Ashland Together is hosting a four week Zoom training in the fall on the history of racism in southern Oregon.  She will invite Hilary Larson to the next SERJ meeting.
McGeary noted that he is the president of Southern Oregon Historical Society which has a lot of history of black pioneers and is a good resource.  He also noted the work of Jeff LeLande, local istorian and SOU professor and his work and writings on the presence of the Klu Klux Klan in Ashland during the 1920s and 1930s.

The Mayor noted that SERJ needs to understand the scope of the DEI internal assessment.  When the recommendations from the consultant come forward we may need to put them into tiers to address over time.  Sometimes what is needed doesn’t fit in the current preconceived budget.

The Mayor wants committees to be on an annual work plan. The City will likely host another town hall early next year and it will be important to say to the community this is what our committees are working on.  At the end of the year tell us what you have worked on and what you plan to work on next year. The Mayor will send her notes to Simon with the five points she addressed. She noted that the council updated its policy on banners and flags regarding important holidays that the city recognizes and participate in. 
Seltzer noted that Asian Heritage month is missing from the resolution re flags and banners and pennants.
7. Update from Council and Staff Liaisons
  • DuQuenne reported on Juneteenth events.
  • Seltzer noted that she submitted a proclamation for Juneteenth for the Mayor to read and the new banner Juneteenth banner will be hung on June 12 and remain in place for two weeks. 
8. Update from members
  • Geraghty is interested in the economic opportunities for marginalized people and is also interested in the historic project particularly interviewing people if that is a part of the project.
  • Santiago is also interested in displaying the history of racial inequities of southern Oregon.
  • Yamaguchi thanked members for attending the Asian Heritage event. 
9. Upcoming items
  • Simon thanked Decker for her contributions to SERJ and Chacon for his time on SERJ.
  • Meetings during the summer are postponed until September 7.
  • Yamaguchi asked that members send her information about potential new members.
  • SERJ is scheduled to give its annual presentation to the City Council on August 15.
  • Decker expressed her willingness to help in the work of SERJ. 
10. Meeting adjourned at 6:40

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