Athens City Council members declared racism a public health crisis Monday, following weeks of nationwide unrest over police brutality and systemic racism.

Cities across the U.S. have passed similar resolutions in the midst of widespread protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Athens has consequently seen protests and calls to action over police brutality.

Council members urged the Ohio Senate to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, which declares racism a public health crisis and asks Gov. Mike DeWine to establish a working group to promote racial equality. 

Council members condemned discriminatory health policies and lending practices that lead to lower life expectancy for Black Americans as well as racial disparity in incarceration rates.

The resolution asks Athens Mayor Steve Patterson to establish a working group to promote racial equity in Athens as well as promoting equitable hiring and promotions of employees. It also suggests providing training to all elected officials, employees and staff on workplace biases.

Council also committed to reviewing all of Athens City Code and reviewing all internal practices, such as hiring, leadership appointments and funding, with a racial equity lens. 

Patterson suggested pulling existing boards and commissions together in order to effectively take action over that issue, including the Joint Police Advisory Council, Athens Affordable Housing Commission and Athens Community Relations Commission.

@kyraleckrone

kl290617@ohio.edu