One Boro is ready to present a proposal for an “equity package,” of steps aimed at ensuring equal treatment and preventing discrimination and related violence, to City Council later this month.
Meanwhile, the mayor and council are also set to receive a draft nondiscrimination ordinance from City Attorney Cain Smith.
City Council adopted a resolution back in March 2017 declaring Statesboro a “safe and inclusive, welcoming city for all people.” But that statement named no prohibited forms of discrimination and included no enforcement provisions.
One Boro, also known as the Statesboro Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, is a city-adopted advocacy and advisory panel made up of volunteers, including voting members appointed by City Council. Members have been developing the more general equity package and discussing ideas for a specific nondiscrimination ordinance since September.
Supreme Court ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling that gay and transgender people are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from workplace discrimination prompted a new local action when Statesboro City Council met the next day. District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum – who has not been involved with One Boro – offered a motion.
“In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on employment discrimination – and I’ve received recently anecdotal stories about discrimination in our rental markets, we’ll just say people not being able to live where they want to live because of who they are – I would like to make a motion to direct our city attorney, if the council approves it, to draft a nondiscrimination ordinance,” Boyum said.
Putting a nondiscrimination ordinance in place, he added, would also put Statesboro “in a leadership position” in Georgia, where only a handful of cities have adopted these local laws. Mayor Jonathan McCollar then said he wanted to “piggyback off of” Boyum’s remarks. It was one instance of emphatic agreement between these two in a long, contentious evening. They had argued, through part of the preceding work session, over when and how the mayor and council members can suggest a new ordinance, any ordinance in general, and direct the city attorney to draft one.
But they agreed that a nondiscrimination ordinance is needed.
“What he’s referring to is the Supreme Court decision in reference to the LGBTQ community, and I think that is the right thing for the council to do if we’re going to be an inclusive city, if we’re going to recognize the genius of God in everyone that’s around us, and I think that is the right thing to do, so I concur with Councilman Boyum,” McCollar said.
At least two council members said, “Second!” at the same time. But District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack was noted by the city clerk as having seconded the motion. It passed 5-0.
The ordinance being developed reportedly is not limited to rules for the city government’s own employment or business practices. It would create a means for hearing and acting on complaints about abuses by other entities, such as businesses and landlords, two council members said Wednesday.
One Boro’s work
The Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, one of three special commissions proposed by McCollar and volunteers during his 2017 campaign for mayor, was formally made an arm of the city government through unanimous approval of City Council in November 2018.
One Boro organized and hosted Statesboro’s Longest Table, a community meal and discussion, last October.
In a June 23 email, OneBoro Chair April M. Schueths, Ph.D., wrote that members identified creating a nondiscrimination ordinance for the city of Statesboro as their “primary goal,” beginning with a meeting of the group on Sept. 16, 2019. This, she said, has now been expanded to the larger equity package.
“We've been doing research, meeting with folks who've had successes with this work in Georgia and beyond and drafting an ordinance ready to share with the City Council next month,” Schueths wrote.
What’s in package?
She and Stacy Smallwood, Ph.D., who chairs One Boro’s subcommittee on the equity package, said it includes four elements apart from the nondiscrimination ordinance:
- A violence prevention task force – “Community members from districts disproportionately impacted by violence,” as well as council members, police, clergy, school personnel and people from organizations related to violence prevention could serve, Schueths said.
- Community programming – The city manager’s office would work with other agencies to make sure that Community Development Block Grants are prioritized to organizations serving communities historically disadvantaged because of racism and discrimination.
- City employee equity training – All city employees would receive annual training on equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Campaign for equity – This would involve measuring and monitoring outcomes of the other efforts, providing “ the data that we need in order to make informed decisions about how to best invest in the city in a way that is equitable,” Smallwood said.
“These are the areas that we are championing,” he said. “These are the areas that we think can really help to move Statesboro to be more equitable and become that inclusive place that was set forth in the inclusive statement that was passed by City Council a few years ago.”
Ninth in Georgia?
Statesboro could be the ninth city in Georgia to enact a nondiscrimination ordinance, Schueths said. Atlanta has had one for about 20 years, now joined by Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Doraville, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and most recently, East Point. Statesboro could also become the first city south of Macon with one, she said.
District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers plans to sponsor the equity package for council action. She served as a member of the One Boro commission from 2018 until she was elected to City Council last November and sworn-in at the beginning of 2020.
Chavers said she believes the package will produce guidelines for increasing equity in “the education system, economic development, the health care system, housing, jobs, criminal justice and transportation” in Statesboro.
“It has become a more progressive city, and we want to continue to move forward, and I think that this is one step in the right direction,” she said.
Chavers and the One Boro leaders hope to have these items presented to the mayor and council during a July 21 work session, at 4 p.m. before the 5:30 p.m. regular meeting. The July 7 meeting is cancelled.
One Boro’s proposal for the nondiscrimination ordinance includes the creation of a human relations commission, a panel that would hear complaints.
“If an employee feels like they’ve been discriminated against on their job, they could voice their concerns to this commission, who will take an objective view of what has transpired on the job,” Chavers said.
One Boro sent copies of its proposals to McCollar and Smith this week, and members plan to discuss these with Smith before the July 21 session, Schueths said.
Phoned Wednesday, Boyum said he prefers the use of a mediator rather than a panel to hear complaints. He said he had not seen One Boro’s proposals and wasn’t thinking about its work when he made his motion, but did so because of the Supreme Court ruling and because residents have asked him more than once to address housing discrimination.
“I don’t know if there’s any kind of systematic problem, but I’ve received anecdotal stories of people being kicked out of their places where they lived for their sexual preference, and I just felt in the light of the Supreme Court ruling that it was appropriate that Statesboro step up and modernize its ordinances,” he said