Boulder city council sets agenda for special meeting on racism

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Sidewalk art created during the March for Boulder Police Oversight on Sunday. (Photo by Shay Castle / Boulder Beat)

Boulder on Friday released the agenda for a special meeting on racial issues in the city, which council called for in the wake of an incident in which police officers confronted an unarmed black Naropa student picking up trash in front of his apartment.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with an invocation from Rev. Mary Kate Réjouis, of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, and a reading of  “A Poem for My White Friends: I Didn’t Tell You” by Norma Johnson. City Manager Jane Brautigam will also make a statement; no details were provided as to the content.

A public hearing will follow. Speaker sign-ups will open at 4 p.m. the day of the hearing at council chambers. It’s unclear how long the meeting is expected to last — or what, exactly, the city hopes to accomplish.

A release issued last week said the purpose of the meeting was “to have a community conversation about racism, community values and what must be done to improve racial equity for all members of Boulder.”

During council interviews for the Human Relation Commission on Thursday, Mayor Suzanne Jones asked candidates how to “best convene” a “productive” conversation.

It’s important not to take a top-down approach, said Geof Cahoon, but to connect with leaders of color, as Judith Landsman suggested, and let them lead the process.

Because Boulder is so white, “making this a safe space for people of color is going to be incredibly hard,” said Laura Kaplan. “There are going to be people who are going to say very hurtful things. People of color are going to be looking for that; they’re going to be saying who is leading this? It needs to not be the white people in the room.”

Multiple candidates called for a means of anonymous participation, so that people of color can share their experiences and be protected from any backlash. Those calls for anonymity echoed ones made by organizers of Sunday’s March for Boulder Police Oversight, who requested that there be a way to file complaints about cops without attaching a name.

Council should honor those requests, HRC candidates said, plus demands for a civilian oversight board. Follow-through is the best way to prove that the city cares about its residents of color, they said.

City leaders will not sit behind the dais, as is customary at council meetings, but will instead be seated on the floor, level with members of the public, per a request from council. Council members will be joined by Brautigam, Police Chief Greg Testa and City Attorney Tom Carr.

City Council meeting on racism: 6 p.m. Monday, March 18, 1777 Broadway

Author’s note: This article may be updated to include details from a city news release that is due out Friday afternoon.

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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