Presley

Palestine Mayor Steve Presley 

Give the Palestine City Council and administration credit for proposing a much-needed advisory diversity committee. To be effective, however, the committee must truly reflect the community's needs and viewpoints, including those of young and working people.

Council members will discuss the Diversity Equity Alliance (IDEA) Committee next Monday, including whether it will become an official city committee or a more informal ad hoc committee.

Either way, the committee has a lot of work to do. Like any U.S. city, Palestine struggles with making its community equitable and inclusive.

Palestine has not, thank God, had an incident like the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Still, the city's police department, with only a handful of officers of color, doesn't reflect a community that is about one-half African American and Latino. Palestine's business and civic organizations are equally unrepresentative of the community.

An advisory diversity committee should elevate local discussions about race relations, equal opportunity, access for people with disabilities, and other issues the city must face before moving forward together.

Mayor Steve Presley is on point in hoping the new committee will recommend ways to expand opportunities for low-income workers, including housing, living-wage jobs, and vocational training.

Whatever issue it tackles, advisory committee members must be outspoken and assertive. The seven-member committee also needs at least one person under 25 years old.

City leaders need to know not only about the lack of activities for young people but also what it will take to keep them here. The council also must start cultivating the next generation of leaders.

Finally, a predominately working-class city needs someone to represent those interests, whether he or she works on the floor at Walmart, the line at Sanderson Farms, or at another blue-collar job.

Those wanting to serve on the committee should contact their city council representative this week.

Establishing a diversity committee is, potentially, a big step forward. Much depends, however, on whether the city council appoints members who will really reflect the community's diverse interests and vigorously advocate for them.

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