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Lansing OKs Funds For Racial Justice Plan, But Some Question Efficacy

Front of Lansing city hall

The Lansing City Council is setting aside $300,000 for a racial justice plan after a divided vote this week.

Nearly half the money will go to training for city staff. Lansing also plans to create maps tracking inequality citywide.

Councilmembers Kathie Dunbar and Patricia Spitzley voted against the funding allocation. Both are running this year to unseat Mayor Andy Schor and they’ve questioned how substantive the changes will be.

“There’s a lot of stuff in here that is costing a lot of money that could be spent on concrete solutions to the problems,” Dunbar said.

The recommendations came from a group called the Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance. Schor created the panel last year following weeks of protests against racism and police brutality.

But critics, including Spitzley and Dunbar, took issue with the panel meeting privately before presenting public reports. And they criticized the fact that panelists were required to sign non-disclosure agreements about what they discussed in meetings.

“Policies and procedures that affect city employees and city residents have to be done in the light of day so that folks trust the process,” Spitzley said Monday.

Schor says the consultant he hired to oversee the panel asked for the non-disclosure clauses so people would feel comfortable speaking candidly.

“People wanted to be able to openly share their experience with each other without worrying about their comments being in the newspaper or in the press,” Schor said.

Schor originally asked for the $300,000 to be allocated as part of council’s budget approval in May, but council deferred its vote to wait for more details and community input.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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