Akron’s Racial Equity And Social Justice Taskforce Releases First Quarter Subcommittee Reports
Akron, Ohio, April 27, 2021 — In June of 2020, Akron City Council, with support from Mayor Dan Horrigan, declared racism a public health crisis. That declaration led to the creation of a Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) Taskforce assembled for the purpose of developing a pro-equity strategic plan responsive to this crisis.
The RESJ Taskforce consists of an Executive Committee, with additional Subcommittees on specific topics. The Executive Committee of the RESJ Taskforce, appointed by the Mayor and Council President and approved by City Council, includes 29 community members from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. The Taskforce’s mission is to build public trust in the community by formulating meaningful recommendations of policy change to create a more racially equitable, socially just community and to bridge the racial wealth divide in the City of Akron. These recommendations will be outlined in a five-year Strategic Plan, which will be delivered to the Mayor, City Council, and the community by December 2021.
On April 13, 2021, the Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce Executive Committee was presented with the first of three subcommittee reports. The Q1 reports from the six subcommittees summarize their work during the first quarter of 2021 and act as a tool to facilitate communication between the Subcommittees and Executive Committee. Executive Committee members will review the information contained in the report and provide feedback to the Subcommittees. Each future quarterly report is meant to build on the report before it, ultimately informing the final recommendations to be adopted by the Executive Committee at the end of 2021.
Bishop Joey Johnson, Senior Pastor at the House of the Lord, and Chair of the City's Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce said, “We are on task for helping our City leaders build connections with the community at the speed of trust. We are doing this by gathering people from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, listening respectfully, conversing authentically, and making recommendations that will bring racial equity and social justice for all.”
In the first of the Taskforce’s quarterly subcommittee reports, updates include:
The Subcommittee on Communications is researching the City’s ability and capacity to create opportunities and avenues for two-way communication with the community. The goal is to provide the City with a series of best practice approaches to establish creative channels that will reach the public more effectively.
The Subcommittee on Criminal Justice is focusing almost exclusively on policing, which is the area they feel requires immediate reform in order to address racial inequity and social justice. Areas of focus include police accountability mechanisms like the police auditor or a citizen review board, body-worn camera policy, police hiring and promotion practices, police training and community policing.
The Subcommittee on Education is researching student access, student-centered learning and closing the achievement gap. They are also looking at pandemic recovery as it relates to student achievement, cultural responsiveness and fiscal transparency in the Akron Public Schools.
The Subcommittee on Equitable Workforce Development is looking into ways to increase minority access to jobs that pay prevailing wages and upward mobility opportunities within the city. Additionally, this subcommittee is reviewing how the City can do more for strategic outreach, including programs and tactics, to attract, retain and develop employees within Akron.
The Subcommittee on Public Health is reviewing and evaluating health disparity data and evidence-based policy solutions with a goal to provide the City with suggested policy changes to eliminate structural racism that perpetuate inequalities.
The Subcommittee on Housing is identifying areas of opportunity for policy change to address what has historically been a structurally racist system. These areas include such equity issues as disinvestment, integration, and the wealth gap that exists in the City.
“I am pleased with the progress the RESJ Taskforce is making and thank the community members who have shared their time, experience, and expertise with the Taskforce so far,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “Equity is central to Akron's model for growth and inclusion, and this important work will allow us to intentionally integrate equitable policies and procedures into the City’s structure and eradicate further forms of structural racism.”