On Saturday, Austin Weekly News approached the chairs of all task forces to see what they were doing to make their plans a reality. While all task forces have a substantial amount of work to do, some were further along than others.

Below are excerpts from conversations with some of those task force chairs.

Public safety task force

Bradly Johnson, the co-chair of the public safety task force and BUILD’s Director of Core Programs, said that they are already planning to work with BUILD and the Institute for Nonviolence to tackle two major priorities: creating prevention strategies to build a safer Austin and working to help at risk-residents avoid prison though intervention. 

“We are going to start doing training on restorative justice, peace circles,” he said. “We’re going to be working to bring the Restorative Justice Court to Austin.”

The training, he said, is going to be done through Catholic Charities, which recently opened a social service center in a former ABC Bank building. Johnson said that the training will start in January. As for the Restorative Justice Court, he said that the task force is currently expecting to hold a first community meeting on Jan. 12.

Community narrative task force

Kenneth Varner, who co-chairs the community narrative task force, emphasized that improving Austin’s image is something that will happen gradually. He said that the task force will do more outreach to local media outlets, such as Austin Talk and Austin Weekly News.

Beyond that, Varner said, the details haven’t been worked out yet, but he said that the task force currently plans to meet to discuss more details “within the next week or so.”

Community narrative task force

Charles Anderson, co-chair of the education task force and Michele Clark’s principal, said that his task force was in a similar position. Their first priority, he said, was to help Austin schools get into programs designed to improve their curriculum. 

Anderson noted that his own school is currently applying for be part of the International Baccalaureate program, something that is expected to be decided by March. Douglass High School and Nash Elementary School are both applying 

Another near-turn priority, Anderson said, was to help schools increase CPS quality ratings. 

Community development task force

Jerrod Williams, the co-chair of the community development task force, said that they have three strategies that will take highest priority. The task force will be looking to contact “an expert in urban infrastructure” to advise the community about how development proposals might impact them. 

They are also looking to connect residents to workforce development programs and “educate investors and lenders on the commercial opportunities in Austin.” Williams said that the task force is still developing the specifics of the latter two strategies. 

Youth empowerment task force

Carmen Scott-Boria, the chair of youth empowerment task force and director of enrichment programs at BUILD, said that they haven’t settled on how they’ll implement any of the strategies. 

For now, they are looking for activists and organizations that “engage young people.” Anyone interested in being involved, Scott-Boria said, can contact her directly by calling her office at (773) 227-2880.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com    

Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...