When Mary-Ann Baldwin, Nicole Stewart, and soon to resign Saige Martin masterminded the elimination of the Citizen Advisory Councils, they offered their reasons for doing so. Their main argument was that the people who historically attended CAC meetings were old and white implying that residents of color and other groups barely participated. In short, they claimed that the CACs lacked diversity.
This was a specious argument.
In 2016/2017 I heard the same accusation from then Council member Baldwin (Mary-Ann Baldwin has been at this for a long time). At that time I compiled the following data on the volunteers who served as Chairs of their CACs.
African American: 9 (47.4%)
White: 10 (52.6%)
Female: 7 (36.8%)
Male: 12 (63.2%)
The Baldwin/Stewart/Martin claim that there was some kind of systemic racism that warranted eliminating support for CACs was completely unfounded. In my District I attended nearly every CAC meeting (note: Baldwin and Stewart rarely, if ever attended CAC meetings) and I can attest that the meetings were well attended by individuals of color, the young, renters, as well as home owners. They were full participants who were fully engaged in the meetings.
I speak out about this now because the election in October really will be a referendum on bringing back the Citizen Advisory Councils. We need the CACs to balance the power and influence buying that is happening in this city.
Eliminating the CACs served only to silence people – particularly people of color – in the service of contractors and developers brought about by a Mayor and Council members who have demonstrated time and time again that they don’t want to hear from ordinary citizens.
But this October we have a chance to change all that. Be prepared to vote because your vote matters more than it ever did.