Release Date: August 20,2020
Mayor Horrigan and Council President Sommerville Unveil City of Akron Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce
Community-led group will develop 5-year pro-equity strategic plan and make policy recommendations in various areas
Akron, Ohio, August 20, 2020 —Today, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Council President Margo Sommerville are proud to release the framework for the City of Akron Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce. The Taskforce will consist of an executive committee, with additional subcommittees on specific topics. 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.
The proposed executive committee, to be appointed by the Mayor and Council President and approved by City Council, includes 29 community members from diverse backgrounds and disciplines—joined together by a common commitment to develop a pro-equity agenda for the City of Akron. The Taskforce will be chaired by Bishop F. J. Johnson II, currently serving as Senior Pastor at House of the Lord and Presiding Bishop of the Beth-El Fellowship of Visionary Churches.
“The purpose of this taskforce is to give the grassroots leaders who are actively engaged in the Akron community an opportunity to work together to develop a common understanding of where we are, and where we need to go, to advance racial equity and social justice,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said. “We cannot truly address the challenges we face, unless we all agree on what those challenges are, and the specific steps needed to move our community forward. This will not be a lifeless document that sits on a shelf – but rather a plan of action, with specific benchmarks, that the community can use to hold us accountable for creating real change. I am incredibly grateful to Bishop Johnson for answering the call to serve our community as Chair of this Taskforce, and I look forward to the mark it will leave on Akron for generations to come.”
In addition to the 29 members of the executive committee, additional community members will be invited by the Chair to serve on subcommittees devoted to specific topics. The Taskforce subcommittees will include: Equitable Workforce Development and Job Creation, Criminal Justice System, Health Care/Public Health, Housing, Education, and Communications. The Strategic Plan will include specific policy recommendations, timelines, and funding allocations required to achieve the recommendations. The Taskforce will reconvene annually for five years to issue a status report regarding the Strategic Plan.
While the Taskforce will make direct recommendations to the Mayor and City Council related to City operations and services—as other issues and barriers are identified, the Taskforce may make recommendations to other organizations and private entities within the Greater Akron area. These recommendations will draw worthy attention, elicit a level of accountability, and facilitate those organizations becoming more equitable in their respective areas of influence, as well.
“We are at a turning point in history, both as a community and a nation,” Council President Margo Sommerville said. “Now is the time for Akron to step up, and address some of its most entrenched challenges head on, with open minds and a commitment to change. Under the leadership of Bishop Johnson, this Taskforce will have the opportunity to bring issues to light, and make specific recommendations to make Akron a more equitable and opportunity rich community.”
To ensure collaboration and coordination of efforts, the Chairperson and Taskforce members will be connected with other groups working on equity issues, including Elevate Greater Akron, which is focused on eliminating barriers to economic vitality and increasing economic opportunities for Akron’s Black community.
The legislation creating the Taskforce will be introduced to Akron City Council when it returns to session in early September. Once the Taskforce is formally approved, the group will convene to set specific goals and objectives, formulate subcommittees, and provide information on how the public can engage with this important process. Individuals interested in participating, either with a specific subcommittee or otherwise, are encouraged to email SocialJustice@akronohio.gov.
“I want to thank Mayor Horrigan and Council President Sommerville for taking advantage of this unprecedented moment to demonstrate their concern for all people, through building public trust, by establishing a mechanism for 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,” said Bishop Johnson.
For more information, please visit www.akronohio.gov/equitytaskforce.