Members of Mebane’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee spent half of their meeting Tuesday night castigating members of the city council for not having readily adopted their recommendation that the city pay $1,000 to join the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE). The group describes itself as a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all.
The city council considered the item on its July 10 meeting agenda, where members ultimately voted 4-1 to postpone further consideration of the item. Several white residents spoke out during the public comment period at the meeting, questioning or criticizing outright the potential expenditure for joining such an organization. Only council member Montrena Hadley voted against the motion to postpone.
The four REAC members present Tuesday night, all of whom are black, took turns expressing “surprise,” “frustration,” “disappointment,” “disgust,” and “embarrassment,” by what one member described as the “inquisition” that council members put a spokesman through at that July meeting.
They took particular aim at councilmen Jonathan White and Sean Ewing, and, to a lesser extent, mayor pro tem TimBradley. White sent the members an email prior to their latest meeting, expressing his view that his “concerns about aligning with a national organization like GARE have increased since the last council meeting.”
Ewing was the only council member present for the REAC meeting, and at one point co-chairman Keisha Bluford turned to address Ewing directly to express her dissatisfaction with his and White’s “tone of questions” at the July meeting.
Co-chairman Keisha Bluford said the “tone of attack” at the July council meeting was very disappointing.
REAC members generally took a view that the council should have acted favorably on their recommendation because the advisory committee had made it and that the failure to do so called into question the council’s commitment to racial equity.
Tomeka Ward-Satterfield said she “felt like the current board is not interested in the work of REAC” and that the “majority [of the city council] is not committed to racial equity.”
“We spend $1,000 doing a lot of things,” Ward-Satterfield said, emphasizing that the requested expenditure was not a lot of money in Mebane’s budget.
REAC members began to question whether the time and effort they contribute as members of the committee were worth continuing.
Bluford, expressing her own frustrations with the situation, wondered aloud “What’s the point?” Her daughter, Erika Bluford, another REAC member, said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time.”
Co-chairman Travis Albritton pressed for the city’s liaison, human resources director Beatrice Hunter, to convey to the city that they want the item back on the agenda. Albritton was particularly insistent that the council should formally vote, up or down, on the $1,000 GARE membership issue.
Co-chairman Bluford also pondered how to press their case “without making it appear to be divisive,” one of the charges made by at least one white resident during the July meeting.
Co-chairman Albritton said, “I wonder if the reaction [from the city council] would have been different if people [in favor of the GARE membership] had spoken up.”
Albritton added, “We have influence, too,” suggesting that perhaps a REAC committee member should speak publicly at a city council meeting when the topic comes up again.
In other action, the members ultimately voted, 4-0, to recommend to the city council that REAC member Daniel Velasquez be removed from the REAC committee. Co-chairman Bluford said that he hasn’t come to recent meetings and hasn’t responded to her overtures for any explanation of his absences.
The committee took similar action recommending the removal of another committee member, Daniel Troxler, because of his level of absenteeism. That vote was 4-0, with one abstention at the committee’s May meeting.
The city council has not taken action on removing Troxler or filling that and another vacancy. The REAC committee ostensibly has seven members, but there are only four current participating members.
Read coverage of the city council’s original (July) consideration of the potential membership in the Government Alliance for Race & Equity: https://alamancenews.com/council-delays-decision-on-spending-1000-to-join-race-equity-group/
Read the newspaper’s editorial page views on:
The July city council consideration (July 13): https://alamancenews.com/how-woke-does-mebane-need-to-be/
This week’s criticism from REAC members: https://alamancenews.com/mebanes-reac-committee-living-in-an-alternate-universe/