PEORIA (WEEK) – Peoria City Councilwoman Rita Ali is one of the city/county leaders spearheading the effort to put action behind words when it comes to racial justice and equity.
In 2019, a 24/7 Wall St report placed Peoria as the 7th worst city in the nation for African Americans. After recent events including the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, calls for racial justice and equity have been louder.
Peoria leaders said they are ready to take on the challenge of righting the ship. The joint commission will be comprised of 18 to 20 community members including at least one city council representative and one county board representative.
County Administrator Scott Sorrel and Ali said there are several goals:
- To establish racially inclusive leadership.
- Promotion of focused discussions on racial equity.
- Creation of a racial justice and equity strategic plan.
- Formation of focused work groups that advance pro-equity policies, procedures, and systems in various areas where racial equities exist (including, but not limited to, the justice system, housing, economic development and jobs, child and youth development, health and human services, information technology, mobility and transportation, environment and climate).
- Delivery of annual and periodic progress reports.
Ali acknowledges there is a learning curve and long path ahead before any issues find resolution. “We know its going to be incremental we know it’s not going to happen overnight. It takes a starting point and this is a starting point,” she said.
The Commission will define ‘equity’ as “Fair and just opportunities and outcomes for all people.”
“We looked at data in terms of unemployment rate for African americans compared to others. we looked at the gaps in home ownership. [..] We want to close these gaps,” explained Ali.
Sorrel said every issue leads to another issue in the community. He pointed to the Peoria County Jail population as an example. “They predominantly come from two zip codes in our community. And that is a direct function of poverty and educational attainment, and homelessness and access to food, and access to housing,” he explained.
The commission will also include around 160 members of the community. Ali said she hopes to have an online application for anyone who lives in Peoria County to be able to reach out to help.
“The commission is going to open to everybody. [..] We want everyday people that have an interest and a heart for this work, who have ideas to apply. And we’re looking at having an online application process,” added Ali.
The Peoria City Council and Peoria County Board will have a joint meeting to vote on the commission. A date for that meeting has not been set. The City Council will received a ‘First Reading’ of the commission during Tuesday’s council meeting.
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