Governor announces commission on Racial Equity and Justice

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Gov. Laura Kelly signed Executive Order No. 20-48 establishing the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice.

The commission is tasked with studying issues of racial equity and justice in Kansas and will begin its work focusing on law enforcement and community relations.

“As Governor, I am committed to ensuring this latest tragedy does not fade into the next news cycle. Communities of color do not have the luxury of time for leaders to address these issues,” Gov. Laura Kelly said.

The commission, which includes law enforcement and advocacy groups, will study racial equity and justice in Kansas, and hold listening sessions with Kansans that have experience and expertise in the topic.

It will also make recommendations to the Gov. Kelly, legislature, and local governments on concrete and immediate steps that can be taken to increase racial equity and justice in Kansas.

The Governor’s Commission will be co-chaired by Dr. Tiffany Anderson, Superintendent of Topeka Public Schools USD 501, and Dr. Shannon Portillo, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs KU Edwards Campus & School of Professional Studies. The remaining members of the task force are:

  • Secretary DeAngela Burns-Wallace, Topeka – Kansas Department of Administration
  • Dr. Brandon Davis, Lawrence, Assistant Professor – University of Kansas
  • Ernestor De La Rosa, Dodge City, Assistant City Manager – City of Dodge City
  • Mark Dupree, Wyandotte, District Attorney – Wyandotte County
  • David Jordan, Hutchinson, President & CEO – United Methodist Health Ministry Fund
  • Dr. Anthony Lewis, Lawrence, Superintendent – USD 497 Lawrence
  • Mark McCormick, Johnson County, Director of Strategic Communications – Kansas ACLU
  • John Nave, Topeka, Executive Vice President – Kansas AFL-CIO
  • Chief Gordon Ramsay, Wichita, Chief of Police – Wichita Police Department
  • Catalina Velarde, Overland Park, Attorney and Adjunct Professor – UMKC School of Law, Johnson County
  • Jackson Winsett, Kansas City, Assistant Vice President – Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
  • A representative of the Native American tribes of Kansas, to be selected by tribal leadership

“Governor Kelly’s commitment to equity for all Kansans is clear as she empowers a diverse group to bring additional voices and recommendations to the Legislature, local and state government. The Governor’s courageous step to address equity through this Commission is a step that further defines Kansas as a leader and turns a moment of national unrest into a movement of progress for us all. It is a privilege as the superintendent of Topeka Public Schools to co-chair the Commission with Dr. Portillo, and I look forward to listening, learning, and working with others to ensure we have more equitable systems in place, serving all Kansas families well.”

Dr. Tiffany Anderson, co-chair of the commission

The commission will meet virtually or in-person as recommended by public health guidance. It will make its initial report to Governor Kelly by December 1, 2020.

“We are seeing a call for systemic change across the country, and I am thrilled that Gov. Kelly has been clear in her response,” said Dr. Shannon Portillo, a co-chair for the commission. “Here in Kansas, we’re going to make real change. I’m honored to work beside the diverse group of experts the Governor has brought together, and I look forward to getting to work, holding listening sessions across our state, and making policy and practice recommendations that address inequities in Kansas.”

Gov. Kelly said she hopes the commission will initiate faster change within communities.

“We must be proactive in the way we approach these issues, as they impact the lives of Kansans every day. By focusing this Commission initially on policing and law enforcement, we aim to make changes that will improve the safety of both citizens and police officers,” Gov. Kelly said.

Executive Order #20-48 can be viewed here, and more information about members of the commission can be viewed here.

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