Dear GMA members:
As leaders of the Georgia Municipal Association, we join the many who have struggled to find the right words to express our sincere feelings and emotions. We acknowledge there are no right words, but we also believe silence can be deafening. We believe that for any society to truly prosper and remain free, it must be firmly committed to the principles of justice, equality and fairness. These are not partisan ideals but ones that are essential values that must be rooted in in the hearts and minds of all people—from government, to the marketplace, the boardroom and the education system.
Sadly, too many of our residents, community partners, loved ones and fellow leaders of color are denied the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and aspirations as a result of racial injustice and prejudice. The events of the past few weeks have served as a jarring wake-up call that brings to light that deep and systemic inequities still exist and must be confronted. To ignore them any longer threatens the very fabric of life as we know it. Change is needed now, and it is leaders on the local, state, and national level that must listen and support those we know have suffered from inequality and those we have never met.
To solve a problem, we must first acknowledge that the problem exists. Then we must embrace it and discuss it openly, honestly and earnestly. In doing so, we recognize that all views deserve to be heard, including those we might disagree with, not fully understand, or ones that make us uncomfortable. To that end, in the coming weeks and months, GMA will provide a platform for transparent and honest conversations through Town Hall-style discussions and the creation of a Task Force. The citizens we serve deserve to know that as city leaders, we are willing to discuss these difficult issues and seek meaningful and lasting solutions.
Throughout this process, it is our fervent hope that each of us will demonstrate our commitment to justice by practicing acts of awareness, kindness, love and understanding as we listen thoughtfully and dialogue constructively.
GMA members, we come to you today with the following charge to help us harness the power of 538 cities to transform words and thoughts into action:
- Join GMA’s Statewide Town Hall. As you read this message, we are diligently working to organize this transformational discussion, which will begin the dialogue to finding solutions and advancing policies that drive social impact. It all starts with engagement and conversation. Stay tuned for more information.
- Support Hate Crimes Legislation. We urge you to consider reaching out to members of the General Assembly to ask for swift adoption of legislation that aligns our state’s laws with our core beliefs and values.
- Encourage Open and Honest discussion Within Your City. In times such as these, we must engage in conversation and allow citizens to express their feelings, fears, concerns, and hopes. In the coming weeks, GMA will be appointing a Task Force of city officials from across the state to spend the time necessary to identify ways to have an impact and effect real change in Georgia.
- Participate in Diversity/Sensitivity Training. In partnership with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, GMA is developing diversity/sensitivity training programs for municipal elected officials and staff to be offered beginning this summer. Stay tuned for more information.
We are confident that these action items will foster sustainable changes in human minds and human hearts that empower us to embrace and see the value in each other. We ask today that you join us in this effort. As Cities United, we can make a difference, and with a commitment to openness, transparency, and compassion, we will make our cities and our state a better place for everyone.
Phil Best, President
Vince Williams, 1st Vice-President
Jim Thornton, 2nd Vice-President
Julie Smith, 3rd Vice-President
Linda Blechinger, Immediate Past-President
Larry Hanson, Executive Director