Government

Marion looks to form working group to address racial equity in city

It's one of the steps sought by Marion Alliance for Racial Equity

A sign near the intersection of 6th Avenue and 12th Street marks the location of Marion City Hall on Oct. 14, 2017. (Lyn
A sign near the intersection of 6th Avenue and 12th Street marks the location of Marion City Hall on Oct. 14, 2017. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)

MARION — The Marion City Council is working on forming a working group to address and find solutions to racial equity issues within the city.

During a work session Tuesday night, the City Council discussed the logistics of forming a group.

On July 23, members of the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity addressed the council, asking the city to stop racial profiling in traffic stops, establish a citizens police review board and make city departments more respectful, welcoming and diverse.

At that meeting, the alliance also recommended forming a working group to meet between council meetings to address racial equity issues with members of the alliance, the mayor, city manager, police chief and a council member.

Discussion at Tuesday’s meeting centered on who would be involved in the working group, such as civil rights commission members or local business owners who could help address racial equity within the workforce.

Council members and city manager Lon Pluckhahn also discussed the size of the group.

“The group (Marion Alliance) has asked that I, the mayor and police chief represent the city in the group,” Pluckhahn said. “I also think we need to make sure the group isn’t so large that we can’t coordinate schedules.”

Ultimately, the council and Pluckhahn decided that 11 to 13 people would work best, and the group should include all sectors of the community they discussed.

Pluckhahn also brought up the importance of avoiding overlap with the city’s civil rights commission.

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“For public information and outreach, that’s the role of the civil rights commission,” Pluckhahn said. “This group has to have a different charter and not discount the role the civil rights commission can play, especially when it comes to making recommendations to the council.”

Pluckhahn told the council that the next step would be to reach out with nominations for the working group.

Marion survey on equity and inclusion

Separately Tuesday, the city announced an online community equity and inclusion survey.

The survey is designed to help community leaders understand the experiences of residents from all walks of life, a news release said.

“Important conversations around race and equity are happening in our community,” Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly said in the release. “This survey is one tool that we are using to better understand individual experiences and hear from a diverse cross-section of our residents.”

The survey, which is open to all residents, asks about issues regarding safety, fairness, respect and how welcome people feel in Marion. Answers are confidential, and the data will be reviewed and analyzed by city staff, community leaders and the civil rights commission.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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