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Published on Jun 16, 2020

Supporting cities, supporting change

Contact: Peter King

If life were proceeding as “normal,” I would be seeing roughly 400 mayors, councilmembers, and staff in Kennewick next week for the AWC Annual Conference. However, this spring has been anything but normal and we have moved our Annual Conference online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been more than three months since our communities started reeling from the onset of COVID-19 and more than three weeks since the start of widespread reaction to the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis law enforcement. George Floyd’s death sparked a heightened awareness of the injustices towards people of color, which have taken place for far, far too long.

The lack of justice in our communities is, rightfully, being challenged and long overdue calls for change are fierce, as they should be. Our integrity, as leaders, will be determined by our response.

Some of you may ask, what is AWC doing to help Washington’s elected officials and all cities advance racial equity and eliminate systemic oppression?

AWC is a member-led organization focused – at our core – on education, advocacy, and services. I believe we can effect lasting change by refocusing and taking intentional steps to put tools in the hands of all city officials in Washington and encouraging their use locally. Through AWC Board leadership discussions, education of elected officials, advocacy efforts, and sharing city stories, we have taken steps to raise awareness and support our members addressing race and equity issues in their communities, and we will continue to do more.

Here are just a few things you can expect from us:

Advancing racial equity, Annual Conference online session – Hear from a panel of city leaders as they engage in an honest conversation about systemic racism, policing, and how different communities are taking action. Register for the online Annual Conference and join this session on Thursday, June 25 from 3 to 4:30 pm.

Partnership with the National League of Cities Race Equity and Leadership (NLC REAL) – For more than five years the NLC REAL has provided resources, technical assistance, toolkits, and information to local leaders on how to create more equitable and safe cities for all Americans. We heard from Leon Andrews, NLC REAL project director, as a keynote at our Annual Conference in Spokane last year. Many Washington officials attending NLC’s national conferences have benefited from REAL sessions. We will be partnering with NLC to bring this training to Washington’s elected officials.

AWC resources and Washington city stories on race and equity – AWC’s Cityvision magazine and educational forums have featured Washington cities over the years as they tell their own stories about confronting racism and embracing diversity in their communities and within city halls. These resources are compiled on our website and made available to you.

Equity Workgroup – In adopting the new AWC strategic plan, the AWC Board created an Equity Workgroup to review programs and initiatives to ensure equitable access by members and to provide direction to Board and staff on how to best support our members in their own equity and inclusion work. This workgroup will meet throughout fall 2020 and bring recommendations to the AWC Board.

Diversity, equity and inclusion as a core principle – While our Statement of Policy has included such language previously, for the most recent version it is proposed that diversity, equity, and inclusion become one of our six “core principles.” The Statement of Policy guides our advocacy work and adding a core principle makes our intentions and commitment crystal clear.

I hear city officials throughout the state asking for solutions to implement real and lasting changes. As a member-driven organization, we hear you and are dedicated to supporting this work to inspire and bring about lasting changes in Washington’s cities.

If you have thoughts on how AWC can be most responsive to your needs, please call me.

Sincerely,

Peter B. King

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