REAC to BI council: Take another look at Hall

Two steps forward, and one step back.

Bainbridge Island’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee welcomed two new members July 7, but also made reference to a third one who wasn’t approved by the City Council.

Renni Bispham, who along with Savanna Rovelstad was elected co-chair, welcomed Clarissa San Diego and Francis Jacobson to the committee, which also includes Deanna Martinez, Eric Stahl, Peggi Erickson and Jing Fong.

While the consensus was they were excited to get new people on board with new ideas, they did not like that nominee Olivia Hall was not also added to REAC.

Bispham said he thought that REAC should draft a recommendation to the council for it to reconsider its vote on Hall. She was not appointed because three councilmembers felt it was a possible conflict of interest that Councilmember Brenda Fantroy-Johnson did not disclose that Hall worked on her political campaign.

“REAC is concerned about the nomination,” Bispham said.

At a council meeting following that vote, about two dozen community members spoke out that Hall should have been appointed to REAC, despite the nondisclosure.

“The community made their view very clear,” Bispham said. “REAC’s view is very much in line” with the Hall supporters who spoke at that meeting.

“Upon reflection,” he added, before we make a recommendation to the council to appoint Hall anyway, let’s give the city a chance to change its decision. So let’s table that for now.

The members also discussed criticism regarding the council having REAC represented in the Planning Commission nomination process, along with questions for nominees that had to deal with racial equity.

Erickson pointed out that REAC was invited to the table regarding both.

Martinez said she wishes there was a video and the process was public so people would know the facts.

Stahl said he’s not interested in a “he said, she said” discussion because that seems like “middle school.”

Rovelstad talked about a public comment that views don’t seem to matter if they don’t come from a person of color.

“They’ve told us all those things our entire lives,” she said, adding people of color should have been part of the conversation from the beginning.

Rovelstad said people have made decisions, and now that REAC has come in and looked at things through an equity lens, “People are not happy about it.

“I don’t care. I’ve never excluded white people. I’ve only been excluded by white people,” she said, adding people of color cannot be racist.

Also at the meeting, REAC discussed racial equity input regarding the new police-court facility in the former Harrison Medical Center building. Last month, REAC members walked through the building and looked at the remodel plans.

Fong shared some concerns: Americans with Disabilities Act access; the small size of the lobbies; public art; and monitor and security booths that have a “watchtower” effect, to name a few.

“We may know what we want the feeling to be, but we’re not architects,” she said. So, rather than coming up with solutions, the better tactic would be to ask the experts: “We want a welcoming space where I feel safe. How would you do that?”

REAC also named Fong secretary, with Stahl helping her. Members were also named to committees, such as finance, events and outreach, and strategic and work plan. The climate change committee was disbanded in favor of a liaison.

“It’s a brave new world,” Rovelstad said.