What should be on the city council agenda but isn't
The next meeting of the Decatur City Council is on June 15. The agenda includes 13 items ranging from demolition of properties to a property lease agreement for a new fire station. In many ways, what is missing from the agenda is more notable than what is on it. Monday’s agenda lacks discussion of the longstanding racial and socioeconomic inequality found in Decatur and the development of solutions to this significant challenge.
Many cities are taking action now. Meanwhile, the Decatur City Council is missing an opportunity. As one example, the Indianapolis city-county council unanimously declared racism a public health crisis as a result of differences between Black and White Americans in COVID-19 infection rates, criminal homicide victims, and likelihood of living in a food desert. As part of their response, the Indianapolis council is planning to study and address racial disparities in the city.
Decatur has been ranked as having among the highest levels of racial disparities in the country. Based on 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, median income for black families was $21,871 (below the poverty threshold for a family of four) compared to $51,662 for white families and black homeownership rates were 36.4% compared to 75.9% for whites. The article outlining the city’s racial disparities first appeared in USA Today in November 2018. Since that time, the Decatur City Council has done little to address these issues.
It is time for the Decatur City Council to facilitate courageous and aspirational action that will create a city that is inclusive, equitable, and safe for all. In June 2019, the city council created seven strategic goals. The council should add another – Fostering equitable relationships. Racial disparities are unacceptable, and the city council should make fostering equitable relationships including racial equity one of its strategic goals. It is certainly a topic worthy of being on the council’s agenda.