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Concord postpones racial equity committee vote, citizens still to speak
Concord United Committee

Concord postpones racial equity committee vote, citizens still to speak

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Concord City Council postpones vote

The Concord City Council postponed its vote on the Concord United Committee until the council's February meeting. 

At a Tuesday night work session, the Concord City Council voted to postpone the vote for the racial-equity-focused Concord United Committee until February.

The council had been scheduled to vote on the petition to create the committee at its Jan. 14 meeting. 

Council member Andy Langford, who put forward the petition to create the committee, made a motion to postpone the vote. At the Jan. 12 work session, Langford said that after individual discussions with other council members, he believed the petition needed to be edited before it went to vote.

Mayor Bill Dusch also said it would be best to postpone the vote to give City Manager Lloyd Payne and City Attorney Valerie Kolczynski a chance to work out legal details.

“I support the committee,” the mayor said. “It will be important that we make sure the details are worked out and that we are doing it legally, as allowed by state law, prior to putting this in place.”

The mayor also stressed that Concord residents who signed up to speak at the Jan. 14 meeting about the formation of the committee will still be able to speak. Several council members also stated they looked forward to hearing the comments Thursday.

Before Langford made the motion to postpone, he explained what the purpose of the Concord United Committee will be.

“The title is critical,” Langford said. “This is a city of Concord united committee. This is designed not to divide us, but to unite us, to make sure we are one community in which everybody has their voice heard.”

Langford said the city’s population is about one-third people of color and that the city does not currently have any committees with a similar percentage.

“Not one committee that this council has made is anything other than majority white,” Langford said. “This is an opportunity for our persons of color to have a larger voice to speak truthfully to us.”

Langford also noted that the Cabarrus County Schools system has a majority of students who are people of color and that those numbers show the future of Concord. The Concord United Committee would be an opportunity to shape a future for those students.

“For if we have diverse people who are civil and democratic and moral talking to one another,” Langford said about the committee, “the sky is the limit.”

Council member Terry Crawford seconded Langford’s motion to postpone and gave his support to the committee. But he was clear in his concerns.

“My only concerns are that this committee, once formed, can perform. That is all,” Crawford said.

Crawford also stated that he believes the issues of racial inequity are larger than Concord.

“I think this is bigger than the city of Concord. I think this is a countywide initiative; I think it is all five municipalities within that county’s initiative and I think it covers all citizens within Cabarrus County,” he said.

Langford responded to Crawford’s statement by saying he has not been given the impression by any Cabarrus County Commissioners that this type of committee is something they wish to pursue. Langford also stressed that the committee is meant to aid and help the residents of Concord, which is the only area where the City Council has jurisdiction.

“This committee will focus on what Concord can do,” Langford said. “I hope it will invite members of the county and the other municipalities to join us and then it becomes a much wider issue. But if we wait for everybody else to come on board, it will never happen. Let’s take care of our own house and then invite others.”

After these comments, the discussion devolved into a question of whether the topic of racial equity was a larger initiative than Concord.

Council member John Sweat Jr. said he believed it was.

“It is not just about racism, it is not just about people of color, it is LGBTQ, it is veterans, it is indigenous peoples, it is persons with mental health challenges, it covers a lot of different things in the county and all municipalities,” Sweat said.

He also stated that he worried the Concord United Committee would bring issues forward that the city could not legally handle.

Council member Ella Mae Small responded to Sweat’s concerns by restating the purpose of the Concord United Committee.

“We can only work on issues that pertain to Concord,” Small said. “We cannot do anything about the county for Kannapolis or Mount Pleasant. But we can do our bit. You have to start somewhere. Sometimes you start small and then you enlarge. If the county wants to come in, fine.”

Small also mentioned that the town of Harrisburg has already created its own Racial Equity Task force, so Concord would not be the first in Cabarrus County to do so.

“We can only look at Concord. We cannot do anything else about the other entities because we do not control those,” Small said. “So I suggest that we take a look at Concord and what we can do as a city.”

Council member Langford echoed Small’s point, saying that in the petition to create the committee, it was clear that the committee would only discuss and bring forward issues that the City Council could handle. Some council members also floated the idea of training committee members in the jurisdiction of the City Council to make sure there wasn’t any confusion.

While the vote for the committee will be postponed until next month, the city and the council pledged to continue work on the petition.

Council member Brian King suggested that the council discuss the committee at an open public meeting before the February vote.

While it will not be in that forum, the council will hold a meeting about the petition.

The City Council plans to discuss the Concord United Committee at length during its planning session Jan. 28 in a three-hour block.

The City Council also plans to take citizens’ comments from Thursday’s meeting into consideration.

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