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Cincinnati created the Racial Equity Task Force in 2020. It's met once

A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag as people march to where Timothy Thomas died 20 years ago
Jason Whitman
On April 7, 2021, people march to where Timothy Thomas died 20 years ago after being shot and killed by then-Cincinnati Police officer Stephen Roach, which led to city-wide civil unrest. The city's Racial Equity Task Force was created to make policy recommendations that would address issues of systemic and institutional racism in the city.

Cincinnati City Council members appointed more than a dozen people to the Racial Equity Task Force in 2020. The group was supposed to make policy recommendations that would address issues of systemic and institutional racism. But COVID-19 and last year's election threw a wrench in those plans. The task force has only met once since then.

Renee Mahaffey Harris, co-chair of the task force, said the election and change of leadership in the city was also a contributing factor in the task force's delayed start.

"I look forward to seeing how we move forward," she says. "I think the conversation was that the Racial Equity Task Force wasn't able to move forward in a progressive way due to COVID-19. Period. And then when it was time to start thinking about, 'How does it get to be moving forward again?' we were having an election and electing new people."

But she's optimistic the city's new leadership under Mayor Aftab Pureval will be productive.

"I know that he has consistently stated that the lens for all of his work is racial equity. And so I look forward to his leadership on these issues and an opportunity to be able to really address the systemic factors that contribute to the gaps that we see in the factors that affect the quality of life for residents of Cincinnati," she said.

Mahaffey Harris said while it hasn't been practical for the task force to meet, she and other members have still been addressing issues of inequity, especially health issues.

Mahaffey Harris is also the president and CEO of The Center for Closing the Health Gap. Melba Moore, the other co-chair, is the city's health commissioner. Both women have and continue to be directly involved in COVID-19 prevention efforts and vaccine distribution, especially for communities of color.

When the group was initially launched, council said its members could make recommendations for "new investment in group prenatal care; mandatory lead-testing and lead-abatement of residential properties at the time of property transfer; conversion of vacant or available property for urban farming and agriculture to eradicate food deserts; and other areas at the task force's own discretion consistent with its mission," according to previous WVXU reporting.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.