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City Commissioners discuss hate crimes legislation, FY20-21 budget, Dine Out Decatur

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City Commissioners discuss hate crimes legislation, FY20-21 budget, Dine Out Decatur

A screen shot of the Decatur City Commission's June 15 meeting.
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Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission during its June 15 meeting discussed the city’s new budget July and a resolution that urges the state of Georgia to adopt hate crimes legislation.

City commissioners also discussed how the city is moving forward with anti-racist training.

Commissioner Kelly Walsh introduced a resolution in support of state hate crimes legislation.

“There’s an opportunity for our state to do something that would put us on the right side of history,” Walsh said.

Georgia is one of five states that currently does not have hate crimes legislation, and the previous hate crimes law was struck down by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2004.

“Failing to protect the vulnerable populations in our local community does not align with the city’s values and beliefs that we should be a just, inclusive, equitable, and welcoming place where anyone can peacefully visit, live, work, worship, and learn,” the resolution reads.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Renae Madison, communications manager for the City of Decatur and staff advisor for the Better Together advisory board, along with Assistant City Manager Linda Harris, presented recommendations for the proposed first steps of anti-racist training, as well as long-term plans.

Many recommendations expand on work the city is already doing, according to Madison. 

The recommendations include joining the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of government organizations working to achieve racial equality, which would allow Decatur access to workshops, webinars, meetings, and training.

The city wants to create a model of anti-racist training that can be implemented no matter what the budget looks like, including community-based training that allows those who have already been trained to train others so that the program can smoothly continue.

Madison also recommended incorporating existing programming, like Decatur 101, into anti-racist training.

“We want this to be a part of our fabric and not seem like we’re being reactive to what’s going on, but incorporate these things into what they’re doing every day,” Madison said. 

For the last year, Madison has also worked with Agnes Scott College as a community partner for their recently-established Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Center, and is looking to move that partnership forward. 

“We have implemented the racial equity workshops and there are a number of people who have already attended [the first phase of] those workshops,” Madison said.

The city also hopes to host a speaker series featuring experts on anti-racism, racial equity and racial justice.

In other business:

During the public hearing on agenda action items, the City Commission was presented with several requests, both of which have been an ongoing theme in recent meetings. Two requests were in support of adding a climate action item to the budget. Another letter asked the city commission to look into a plan being proposed by city commissioners in Athens, Ga., to reduce the size of the police force in Athens-Clarke County by 50 percent over the next ten years. 

“It is time for the community and this country to reimagine what public health and safety look like,” read the email from two Decatur residents. “The funds that are currently going to police should be redirected to cover all human needs. In Decatur that could mean additional funds for affordable housing, transportation, mental health services, and social workers to help meet the needs of all of our citizens.”

 

Before the meeting, Decatur Police Chief Mike Booker held a work session with the City Commission to “alleviate concerns” the public may have about the Police Department.

“What I wanted to talk to y’all about tonight, is just issues … that are going on not only in our country but in our profession and in our city,” Booker said during the work session. “I wanted to try to alleviate some concerns. Over the last few weeks, I’ve received many emails and phone calls from citizens asking a variety of questions about our department as it relates to current events. That’s really why we’re here tonight, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to try to alleviate any concerns and reinforce to all of you who your police department is.”

To see that discussion, click here.

— The Decatur City Commission adopted the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget.

They also adopted a consolidated fee schedule. The fee updates can be found here.

During the adoption of various fund budgets, Commissioner Mayer noted that climate action was a consistent topic of concern from the community. City Manager Andrea Arnold said that there is work being done at the staff level to prepare to create a climate action plan, and that the budget will be revised in six months to see where the city stands financially in the pandemic, and what amendments can be made, including consideration of a climate action plan. 

More detailed information about the city budget, which will go into effect on July 1st, can be found here.

Jeremy Kelly of Sysco gave a presentation about the upcoming Dine Out Decatur event, which will take place on Saturday, June 20.

“This day will be an opportunity for restaurants to open dining areas safely and it will be a day for city of Decatur residents to dine out safely, support their local businesses, and see what the new dine-in experience will look like,” Kelly said. “Dining areas will be sanitized and clean, some will be inside, some will be outside, and some will be a mixture of both. … This is not a festival event, so there will be no set hours so as to promote social distancing and discourage overcrowding. Get out for breakfast, take a walk and get lunch, or have dinner on the Square.”

A list of participating restaurants can be found on dineoutdecatur.com. Kelly hopes that the event will help to familiarize community members with the safety regulations that constitute the “new normal” of dining out.

“Please understand it’s not just going to be our restaurant staff working hard to get food out the door, it’s going to take some work on the community’s part to adapt and support our operators safely,” said Kelly.

Also on the topic of local restaurants, an alcoholic beverage license was granted to Ponko Chicken, a new restaurant that will do business in the former space of Steel City Pops.

– The city commission also approved an application to the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. 

“Membership will reflect the city’s commitment to work with residents to make Decatur an age-friendly place to live,” Decatur Lifelong Community Manager Lee Ann Harvey said. “This will be reflected by meeting the goals of the age-friendly 8 Demands of Livability, which include outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, work and civic engagement, communication and information, and community and health services.”

– Peggy Merriss, the former city manager of Decatur, commended the city commission for the city’s efforts to have the Confederate monument in the Square removed

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