City of Bloomington
Five years ago, the city of Bloomington decided to start taking racial equity seriously. The city council adopted a statement promising to advance racial equity, and two years later hired a full-time coordinator to help craft a racial equity business plan.
Now, the city is in the process of creating racial equity action teams (REATs) in each city department. These are staff-led teams that provide accountability so that staff has a shared understanding of why racial equity is important and how that work can be advanced.
“We are just getting started,” said Maureen O’Brien, an assistant city attorney who chairs one of the REATs. “We hope we will continue to advance until racial equity is simply part of the fabric and ethos of how people do their work here — so that there won’t need to be separate Racial Equity Action Teams anymore.”
The city legal department’s REAT was created in October 2020. Last year, working with Justice Point, an organization dedicated to the promotion of evidence-informed criminal justice programs, it designed and implemented a new diversion program — a voluntary, second-chance program for people in the criminal justice system. It helps them in addressing issues that contributed to their offenses, with the goal of preventing future criminal behavior while also helping them avoid further marks on their records.
The team also created an initiative to diversity the businesses the city uses in its procurement process, and put together a restorative court that is unique to Bloomington. O’Brien’s fellow city assistant attorney Jennifer Cross also helps spearhead these various initiatives.
“The staff involvement is volunteer,” said O’Brien of the legal department REAT. “These staff members are committed to realizing the mission of advancing racial equity in large projects and in each smaller project and assignment each day.”
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