LANSING, Mich. — After years of study and polling, the city of Lansing is putting hundreds of thousands of dollars toward a plan that promises to change the way racial disparities are handled and improve racial justice within the city’s workforce.
In a six to two vote on Monday, Lansing City Council voted to allocate $300,000 dollars to Mayor Andy Schor’s Racial Justice Plan.
The plan is the result of studies and polling done within city departments.
“Its going to be used to train, purchase software, purchase training modules for new employees," said City Council President Peter Spadafore, "build capacity so that we can actually have our employees and department heads embrace equity and racial justice work here in the city.”
The city has been looking at ways to address inequality and racial justice and had established separate groups to look at those issues both in 2019 and then again last year.
But not everyone is happy with the plan.
Patricia Spitzley was one of the two council members to vote against the plan because of the way some recommendations were made.
“When you require folks to provide you with non-disclosure agreements to give you recommendations on policies and procedures that not only effect the city of Lansing but the employees of Lansing, that’s a tainted process,” said Spitzley, who is running for mayor against Schor.
She was referencing the fact that members of the mayor's Racial Justice and Equity Alliance were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar also voted against the measure. She is also running for mayor
In an emailed statement, Dunbar said she had concerns about the plan because it failed to mention how complaints would be investigated and resolved and how people in violation would be held accountable.
"I voted against the [Mayor's Racial Justice and Equity Alliance] budget allocation because the plan made no mention of investigating and resolving complaints of racial discrimination in a timely manner, nor did it commit to holding those who perpetuate racial discrimination accountable for their actions," she said.
Dunbar and Spitzley aren’t alone in their criticisms.
Community activist Michael Lynn, a former city firefighter who is suing the city for discrimination, says the plan misses the mark
“They have people in place to do this work. They are being paid. That’s what HR is for. The accountability is the problem. They know where the racism is, they’ve seen it, they’ve done the studies. The problem is they are not willing to hold accountability for the people that are doing the harm,” Lynn said.
Despite those objections, Schor says the plan will be implemented as soon as possible.
“Six votes is good enough to move forward and start doing the work and make sure that our city government is fair and equitable and that we’re able to on-board and explain to people racial sensitivity and other things within our city,” Schor said.
Lansing has about 800 employees. Spadafore said department heads will be trained first.
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