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NYC Racial Justice Commission proposes ballot measures

December 10, 2021 Deepti Hajela, Associated Press
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New York City voters would be asked to decide if there should be a citywide racial equity plan as part of a proposal put forward Thursday by a charter review commission convened in the wake of last year’s racial justice protests.

The Racial Justice Commission at its next-to-last meeting voted on measures that would be on the ballot in November pending approval of their final language, which also include having a Racial Equity Office and the creation of a tool to measure the real cost of living in New York City.

The measures “set a foundation for racial equity that would propel the city” forward, providing “access and opportunity for everyone,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and chair of the commission.

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The charter is the city’s constitution, spelling out how it’s organized and how it functions. A review commission’s role is to come up with any relevant amendments, which are put on the general election ballot for voters to deny or accept.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the commission in March, with the directive that it examine the city’s charter from a racial equity perspective and come up with recommendations.

At the time, de Blasio said, “Our mission is to root out systemic racism across New York City. The Racial Justice Commission has the power to put forth permanent, transformative ideas for our government and our city. This moment demands nothing less.”

The measures in the resolution voted on in Thursday’s meeting will be put in final ballot language form and submitted to the commission for approval next week, after which they will be given to the city clerk to be voted on in November.

The city equity plan would come out every two years, in coordination with the city budget, and outline the priorities and goals for getting to racial equity.

Over the past months, the commission held public hearings and heard from a range of figures in trying to determine what would be part of its recommendations.

At the start of Thursday’s meeting, Jones Austin alluded to ideas and issues that were not included as ballot measures, either because they were outside of the city’s powers or their scope was larger than the current commission’s purview, like the call for a larger truth and reconciliation commission process or the push for reparations.

Those and other ideas are instead being included in a racial justice roadmap that would be presented as something for future mayoral administrations or charter review commissions to consider.


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