By Beth Treffeisen
Special to the Gazette
The City Council voted unanimously to re-establish the Special Committee on Civil Rights at a hearing on Feb. 8. Jamaica Plain City Councilor Matt O’Malley will sit on the committee.
City Councilor Josh Zakim of District 8 will chair the special committee. He has previously chaired the discontinued Human Rights and Civil Rights Committee in the 2014 to 2015 term.
“I think there is a lot that needs to be accomplished,” said Zakim. “Our civil rights are under attack in our country from Washington and it is important for our cities and states to look for solutions.”
In the meantime, Zakim said it’s important to maintain the civil rights that are already in place and strengthen them within our community.
The purpose of the special committee will be to concern itself with matters relating to civil rights for all residents of Boston and visitors to the city. This will include matters relating to equal access to education, housing, employment, and health care services.
The committee will have jurisdiction over matters relating to city, state, and federal laws prohibiting discrimination.
“I think it’s an incredible time to come together and have these conversations, which are often happening in the community and across the city of Boston with various stake holders,” said City Councilor Andrea Campbell of District 4, who will vice chair the committee.
The Human Rights and Civil Rights Committee was discontinued last year after not receiving many assignments. Most of the issues involving civil rights already had other policy committees involved in them.
City Councilor President Michelle Wu said that at the end of last year she really wanted each City Council member to have one committee to best focus his or her resources.
“Really every committee’s charge is to focus on protecting our residents and fighting discrimination,” said Wu. “But, the world has changed in the last two weeks and we’ve heard a lot from our residents and they really expect and want the City to be stepping up on these issues.”
The creation of a new committee required an affirmative two-thirds majority vote of the Council to pass.
Later in the meeting, Councilors voted to approve a separate order filed by President Wu, which assigned the new committee to host a policy briefing series focused on civil rights.
Councilor Zakim said that he looks forward to the policy briefings that will give an opportunity for people who have already been working on these important issues a chance to participate.
“Historically, the Boston community always is on the right side of history,” said Zakim at the hearing. “This will provide a place to help organize.”
He hopes the policy briefings will provide a place to allow people to talk together, come up with good ideas, and help support any policy or legislation moving forward.
“In the City of Boston we want to make sure to keep civil rights in the forefront of the agenda and make sure it continues,” said Zakim.
In addition to Committee Chair Josh Zakim, the voting members of the Committee will include Vice Chair Andrea Campbell, as well as Councilors Annissa Essaibi George, Sal LaMattina, and Matt O’Malley.
Zakim said, “This will continue the tradition of Boston with the American Revolution, abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement to stand up and stay true to who we are.”