REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Racial Justice Council
December 15, 2020
Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to our final meeting of 2020!
This year has been a journey full of unexpected pitfalls and catastrophes. One of my greatest regrets is that it took a global pandemic and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others in quick succession to assemble this group of people.
This year I have learned and listened a lot – which is a welcome change for me, since it’s usually my job to speak.
I’m very excited to check in on the status of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee Bill. We’ll get the chance to revisit the conversations we had last meeting, and provide additional feedback and guidance to Committee co-leads.
But before we jump into that discussion, I want to take this moment at the end of a tumultuous, momentous, and taxing year to reflect on our vision for the future of this body.
From the beginning I have asked the question: how should we institutionalize the RJC?
I think it’s very clear by the magnitude of the problems that we face and the sheer column of recommendations from each committee, that the answer is yes.
I don’t need to tell any of you, but systemic racism is not just a 2020 problem. That’s why we call it a system and not something easier to squash or dismantle. So, by that same logic, it seems more than likely that the work of the RJC will be relevant and necessary in 2021, 2022, and long after I’ve finished my term as governor.
I think it’s clear where I stand on this issue, but I want to know how you all think we could mobilize this group to do the most good.
Cementing the RJC into statute will open these meetings to the public, which can build public will to make more real and lasting change for the people of our state who have been made vulnerable by systemic racism and colonialism.
Put simply: racial justice in Oregon should not depend on the will of the governor, but the power of the people. Racial justice should be a value baked into our state’s very governing structures, so that they cannot operate without it.
The RJC is a relatively new group, but we have incredible political power right now. How do we continue this momentum in a way that makes sense for the next Governor? And who are the legislative champions we can count on to support the RJC moving forward?
We should also discuss the value for keeping the RJC under the umbrella of the executive branch.
It may be beneficial to consistently have the ear of the governor, especially as budget season rolls around. But it does have the potential to limit the scope of the council or make it vulnerable to devaluation by an RJC-hostile administration.
I’m very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic as we make plans for the long session early next year.
And with that, I’ll hand over to Constantin and Jeff, Committee co-leads of the Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability Committee.