The Clayton Board of Aldermen has established a Community Equity Commission for the city.
At their Sept. 24 meeting, the aldermen approved the new seven member commission with a unanimous vote. The commission, according to the ordinance establishing it, exists “to assist the city in promoting and enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion and the quality of life throughout the city.” It will serve in an advisory capacity to the mayor and aldermen.
Mayor Michelle Harris said that the language establishing the commission took into account recommendations from a consultant, 21st Century Police Solutions LLC (21CP). The city had hired 21CP following a July 2018 incident in which Clayton Police responded to an IHOP at the corner of Brentwood and Clayton roads for a reported “dine and dash” incident. Police stopped a group of black Washington University students who were walking on Brentwood and escorted them back to the restaurant, where it was determined that the students were not involved.
The handling of the situation drew complaints and concerns from student families and from the university.
Harris said that discussion of the commission had gone on for approximately a year and that it will be a “critical commission for the city that will take strong leadership and hard work to get started.”
The seven members of the commission will include two residents from each of the city’s three wards, plus one additional resident. The city manager will serve as the staff liaison to the commission.
The decision to form the commission drew positive comments from several audience members including former Mayor Ben Uchitelle, who for several years has supported establishing such a group and had previously suggested it to the board.
“I commend you for this. It won’t solve all of the problems, but it is a terrific first step. There is a school board, several universities and a big community (that will benefit) from the good work,” said Uchitelle.
Lily Raymond, a member of the Clayton School District Board of Education, was also in attendance and spoke on the matter.
“I want to express my appreciation to you for working on this and taking a lead in addressing something important,” Raymond said. “This is an amazing community that will want to contribute.”
Raymond suggested that it would be beneficial for the new commission develop a relationship with the school board. Alderman Bridget McAndrew agreed, saying that it would be important for the groups to work together.
Interim City Manager Janet Watson spoke to getting the commission started.
“The board is very focused on this, so I think they would request applicants ... immediately and then fill the commission as soon as they appoint qualified applicants,” she said, adding that the process could take several months.