February 16, 2023
Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Approve New Advisory Council on Reparations
Ann Arbor, MI- At their February 15th meeting, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved the establishment of an Advisory Council on Reparations. The Council, aligned with a national trend of the study and repair of systemic and institutional racial injustice, is the next step in an on-going effort by the Board to advance racial equity.
“This is why we have a Racial Equity Office and a Racial Equity Officer” said Commissioner Caroline Sanders (District 4) , Vice Chair of the Board, “This Council will help us to study, systemically, just how harmful County policies and practices have been on Black residents in Washtenaw. They will help us come up with real, practical solutions, not just performative ones, … to close the gaps we know exist here.”
An evolution of an exploratory committee led by the Racial Equity Office, the Advisory Council on Reparations will be a perpetual body of Commissioner appointed subject matter experts representing relevant sectors: Housing and Real Estate, Education K-12, Education Post-Secondary, Workforce Development, Economic Development, Workers Rights, Health, Art, Civil Rights Law, Criminal Legal System, Food Security, Transit, the Faith Based Community, and Environmental Justice. They are tasked with developing recommendations to the Board of Commissioners in the form of a “Washtenaw Reparations Plan”.
“It’s time,” said Commissioner Justin Hodge (District 5), Chair of the Board, “This Board has demonstrated its commitment to equity, and this is a logical next step. It’s time for us to do what communities all over the country are doing. That means looking at the real toll of racism on Black people in our County, our complicity, and doing something about it. San Francisco has taken this bold step. Evanston, IL has taken it. Atlanta, Georgia, Los Angeles and Berkley, CA, St. Louis, MO, Asheville, NC. We have the authority and the desire to repair the systemic wrongs and I look forward to seeing the work that comes out of the Advisory Council on Reparations.”
The Washtenaw Reparations Plan will aim to outline the specific ways that County policies have historically and continually harmed the lives of Black people. It will include specific actions to address redress in the sectors of homeownership and access to other quality affordable housing, increasing business ownership and career opportunities, strategies to grow financial equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice.
“The creation of a Washtenaw County Reparations Council is, in part, an implementation of our County-wide engagement strategy from the 2018 Equity Policy,” shared Ricky Jefferson, Former District 6 Commissioner, “The Council is designed to include a diverse group of leaders from their respective occupations to discover ways that can undo the negative impact of the County caused by systemic discriminatory policies. They will develop recommendations for the Board of Commissioners to deliberate and come to an agreement on how best to target strategic investments. They’ll help the Board craft policies centered on equity which can assist African American residents in receiving reparative, socio-economic justice.”
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is comprised of nine elected officials representing different Washtenaw County communities. The current Board will serve from January 2023 through December 2024.
Click here to find the list of Commissioners by district.
You can stay up to date on the latest from the Board of Commissioners by visiting Washtenaw.org/BOC, or by following them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.