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Citizens board created to address racism in Cobb County

By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Cobb County commissioners approved Tuesday the creation of a citizen advisory board to help identify and address racism.

The Cobb County Council for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation will support the Commission’s efforts to promote social and economic equity. The council could, for example, host anti-racist training sessions and educate the community about the importance of equity and inclusion.

The Council’s creation comes three months after commissioners approved a resolution condemning racism amid protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who was in police custody.

The council will report to the county manager, and each county commissioner will be allowed to make one appointment. The Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Kennesaw State University and the Cobb County Bar Association will also have representatives on the council. Its bylaws and charter will be brought back before the Commission for approval in 2021.

County Commissioners Lisa Cupid and Keli Gambrill voted against the resolution, which was introduced by Chairman Mike Boyce. Cupid is challenging Boyce in his bid for a second term in the Nov. 3 general election.

Cupid, the Commission’s only Black member, said she was suspicious of the proposal’s timing since the election is less than two months away.

Cupid said she wants to believe her colleagues are sincere in their concerns about residents affected by systemic racism. However, she said some of her constituents have referred to the idea as election pandering.

She also said the public didn’t have a chance to provide feedback on the resolution creating the council.

“I get tired really of just playing along,” she said.

Gambrill said she shares some of Cupid’s concerns. She also said the approval appears to be giving a group of people the ability to decide what the morals should be for the county. That “shadow board,” she said, could have a direct influence on the policies and practices of future county commissions.

“Truth does not belong to the one who shouts the loudest,” she said.

Commissioner Bob Ott, who will retire at the end of the year, said the proposal wasn’t perfect, but said he could support creating the council.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said she initially had some reservations, but said the issue has been discussed over the summer among the board.

“I don’t see the issue of why we would hold it [back],” she said.

Dr. Ben Williams, president of the Cobb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he looks forward to seeing the Commission addressing and mitigating institutional racism.

“In the thick of all that’s going on in the nation, this board made a decision to step up and step out and to agree that it wanted to be part of the work and the search for solutions that would help to resolve the enormous racial divide in our country,” he said.