City of Saline Mayor Brian Marl issued the following statement the city's ongoing efforts to root-out institutional racism while speaking at the March 2 city council meeting:
I want to take a moment and provide a community update regarding the City's ongoing efforts to root-out institutional racism and promote diversity and inclusion in the greater Saline community.
First, as many are aware, the City of Saline co-hosted a community listening session on February 9th, with Washtenaw County Commissioners Felicia Brabec and Shannon Beeman - the purpose of the event was to acknowledge and witness the wrongs created by individual/systemic racism and to better understand the personal experiences of the residents we serve. Overall, I believe the February event was successful, and I’ve reached out to Commissioners Brabec and Beeman to organize a follow-up event, which will likely be scheduled for late March or early April.
This subsequent event will include facilitated breakout sessions, with a primary focus on solutions and outcomes, ie, what steps/actions should we take as a community to ensure that our area is a safe and comfortable place for residents and visitors alike.
Further, I have spoken to a number of individuals, with varied backgrounds, who have agreed to help facilitate small group discussions at this forthcoming event. As such, I have no doubt that what we’re planning will be meaningful, and more importantly, beneficial to the community as we move forward on these important issues.
Additionally, my colleagues and I have met with a variety of groups and individuals to discuss strategies that promote diversity and equity – some of these individuals include; Judge Cedric Simpson, Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert, and Alize Asberry Payne, the County’s Racial Equity Officer. Tomorrow, I have lunch scheduled with William Hampton, President of the Ann Arbor Chapter of the NAACP, he and I have spoken by phone previously, and I believe he will be a tremendous asset to us in the future
Also, my office continues to vet individuals/organizations capable of conducting multiple DEI Trainings, (diversity, equity, & inclusion) here at Saline City Hall. These trainings will be mandatory for staff, and will include Council members and other community stakeholders. Two weeks ago, I spoke with Co-Directors, Roger Fisher and Donna Kaplowitz, of the Program on Intergroup Relations at the University of Michigan, it was an excellent conversation, and they subsequently referred me to Mr. Dionardo Pizana, a DEI Instructor, employed by MSU Extension with over 18 years of relevant experience. Mr. Pizana and I spoke by phone late last week, and I have a follow-up meeting scheduled with him, Police Chief Hart, Parks & Recreation Director Scruggs, and Assistant City Manager Greene for this Thursday morning. At this juncture, I am very optimistic that Mr. Pizana will be able to provide the services we require. Accordingly, I hope to have more to report in the very near future.
Apart from DEI, I have also spoken with Mark Fancher, Staff Attorney with the Racial Justice Project at ACLU of Michigan, regarding a RESTORE Symposium, which is something I’d like to schedule for the very near future. RESTORE (Racial Emergency Solutions, Tools, Opportunities, Resources and Education) is a collaborative of Michigan-based organizations committed to ensuring that communities troubled by racial, ethnic, and religious conflict have access to remedial assistance needed to develop positive relationships. Again, much like DEI, I hope to have more information to share in the coming weeks.
Additionally, I’m a strong proponent of Saline becoming more involved and visible in county-wide, regional events, especially those that focus on diversity, unity and inclusion. This past Friday, representatives from the City of Saline and Saline Area Schools attended the 67th Annual Brotherhood Banquet at EMU, organized by Brown Chapel, AME Church in Ypsilanti – the theme of this year’s banquet was “Time for Racial Healing” – it was both timely and appropriate. The Saline delegation was warmly received at the event, and as previously stated, we will continue to attend and actively participate in these events in the ensuing years.
Also, as my colleagues will recall, Councilman Ceo lead a working group a few years back that evaluated the benefits and potential ramification of a Police Advisory Board - recently, Chief Hart spoke to his counterpart in Ypsilanti about this matter, and I discussed it directly with Sheriff Clayton during our recent meeting, (like Ypsilanti, the WCSO also utilizes a citizens advisory board) In light of recent events, we are evaluating this issue again, and I will be engaging my colleagues in the coming weeks to solicit your ideas and feedback.
Last, City leadership recently met with administrative staff from the Saline Area Schools to coordinate efforts and discuss shared objectives. We support and encourage public participation in the school’s upcoming listening sessions, and I’ve committed to Superintendent Graden that the City would not schedule events until after their sessions have concluded. We look forward to meeting with SAS staff in the coming weeks to review material gathered at their listening sessions, and to see what the City can do to support their ongoing efforts.
In conclusion, I have had numerous conversations-meetings with residents and community stakeholders regarding these topics, and there seems to be an overwhelming desire to organize future events that highlight a diverse array of cultures and customs. I think this is an outstanding idea, and I want to make it clear, that the City will support and assist any and all groups tasked with this initiative.
I will provide additional updates in the future, and I’m happy to address any questions or concerns from my Council colleagues.