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Published July 8th, 2020
Lafayette forms task force; needs community engagement to address systemic racism in city
The newly-formed task force held its first meeting July 1. Screen shot from virtual meeting

Unanimously supported by the Lafayette City Council, three council members held their first task force meeting to brainstorm vision, objectives and to identify strategies to address equity in the city. It quickly became apparent that in order for that to happen and to engage the entire community, a whole lot of listening was going to have to happen first, and that led the newly-formed group to plan a first town hall meeting at the end of the month.
The task force, as yet unnamed, held its virtual meeting July 1 with over 50 members of the public in attendance, many of whom offered practical advice and opinion.
During the June 22 city council meeting, members voted to form the task force with three council members, making it subject to Brown Act rules. Vice Mayor Susan Candell, along with Council Members Cam Burks and Teresa Gerringer were appointed. At the first task force meeting, members voted Candell as chair and Burks as vice chair.
Candell was quick to point out that the task force was certainly going to be a group effort. And as the discussion over vision, objectives and strategies progressed it became clear that a main priority was to have community-wide engagement.
Task force members agreed the best way to accomplish that was by listening. To that end a town hall-style meeting was proposed for the end of July, after the public safety committee's similar town hall meeting on police practices. Notably, despite any overlap in subject, the two committees are remaining distinct from one another at this point - a two-pronged approach to examine both systemic problems within the police, and systemic racism and inequality within the community
Next steps include bringing in implicit bias training for the city council and including school board members, eventually offering such training community-wide, finding a facilitator to help run the town hall meeting and trying to reach out to those affected by systemic racism within the city to have them either speak during the town hall meeting or send in letters telling of their experiences, and not limiting it to Lafayette residents but to include those in Moraga and Orinda and those who visit or work in the city.
Gerringer noted that the meeting was a good first start.
Following the meeting Candell commented that she was thankful for all who attended and gave such good feedback, noting that the task force members needed this input to shape how they move forward. "I honestly believe we can bring real positive change and create an even better community for all," said Candell.
"It was only our first meeting," said Burks after the meeting, "and we have a long way to go on this complex and challenging movement, but if Wednesday night was an indication, I truly believe that the community will come together, representing a `collective task force' embarking on one of the most important and meaningful human-centered advancements in the history of Lafayette. I encourage absolutely everyone to be a part of it."
City Manager Niroop Srivatsa emphasized the need for the public's help and engagement and invited people to send accounts of their experiences to her ahead of the town hall meeting.
Details on how to reach Srivatsa are on the city website at www.lovelafayette.com

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