My Turn, Karen Alexander; Doing what is right, moving forward together

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Salisbury community has been through a difficult couple of months, and especially the last week.

Communities across our country have been facing multiple challenges lately, just as we have. Not only are we dealing with COVID-19, resulting economic challenges and unemployment, but also protests following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

What happened to him is despicable and followed the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. These recent deaths have brought about a range of feelings, emotions and tears that need to be visible. African-Americans in this country have endured racial injustices for far too long. It’s time we recognize the need for systemic changes throughout our institutions, judicial systems and governmental entities to make it clear that Black Lives Matter.

The city of Salisbury has history.

That history has not always been fair to people of color and we acknowledge that. It has taken time and, while we’re not perfect, we are making strides to right the wrongs as a governmental entity.

During my years serving on City Council, we have had council members with different perspectives and positions on issues, including how their thoughts and opinions are expressed or even reactions to events. Some in our community won’t agree with individual positions on issues. That’s OK. It is part of representing a diverse community.  We can agree to disagree, respectfully. If you look at council’s record over many terms, the majority of votes are unanimous.    

Collectively as a council, what we do support and agree on is supporting policies that encourage being inclusive of all cultures and backgrounds within our city departments and enterprises. Council has supported our City Manager Lane Bailey and staff as they have implemented a number of programs, policies and initiatives over recent years that specifically address equality, equity and inclusion.    

Following are examples:

• Lane is a member of Racial Equity Rowan and has required members of the management team to attend the daylong training and participate in the ongoing implementation plan from the Racial Equity Institute.   Each council member will have the opportunity to attend once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.    

• The city leadership team and Salisbury Police Department now reflect the community we serve. This change has been implemented over the last five years, and the current team is top-notch. We have the right people in the right position, making a difference in our community.

• Chief Jerry Stokes is one of the only candidates who addressed 21st Century Policing during his hiring process. Part of that policing policy is implicit bias training, which a number of our officers have attended. Council voted for the 2016 tax increase to support the police department and their de-escalation training, proper use of department issue weapons, proper tactics and community policing.

• The city of Salisbury suggested and is the sole financial sponsor of the Minority Business Council through the Rowan Chamber of Commerce. We also have staff representation from the city of Salisbury on that council. This is but one way in which we are directly supporting minority- and women-owned businesses in the City.

• Salisbury’s human relations manager is a recent position created to work with communities and residents in Salisbury on issues affecting marginalized communities. Anne Little, a Salisbury native, supports the work of our 13-member Human Relations Council.

• Diversity/cultural competence/equity has been added to Salisbury employee performance reviews. As part of their evaluations, we want to ensure that our employees work effectively with people from all backgrounds, perspectives and interests and uses these differences to an advantage in the achievement of work unity and/or organization objectives.

While our community has several important challenges to solve in the near future, I am convinced that if we come to the table with a commitment to create solutions that will unify our community and refocus our energy to learn, do what is right, we can move forward together.     

Karen Alexander is mayor of Salisbury.