Changes in Albany’s Social and Economic Justice Commission

Two new members as well as the departure of the Chair and Vice Chair led to a leadership and organization-oriented meeting for Albany’s Social and Economic Justice Commission (SEJC) on September 7th, 2022. The subcommittees of the Commission were reshaped to distribute work evenly, and elections for a new Chair and Vice Chair were held.

The meeting began with Chair KZ Zapata leading a round of introductions for new and old members of the Commission, along with reminding the public that this will be her last meeting for the SEJC.

The new SEJC members are Member Maria Barakat, appointed by Councilmember Aaron Tiedemann, and Member Flor Elizabeth Rios, appointed by Councilmember Peggy McQuaid. Member Barakat is a student at Berkeley studying public policy for her master’s degree, and was a part of a student team last year. The team reportedly conducted in-depth research over five months on crisis response in the city.

“I learned a lot about how Albany works, I learned a little about the community, and I have some insight,” Barakat said, “…on how to support community members through listening to their experiences and their needs and center their voices.”

Member Rios said she came to the Commision to “elevate some of the concerns of the community who identity from hispanic to latino to indigenous, there’s a lot of multiethnic, multicultural, multiracial designations under that large umbrella that we call hispanic and latino members of the community.”

Chair Zapatas continued with a presentation on the Commission’s work plan, their procedures, and the importance of protocol and respect in meetings and overall structure.

Commission members then got the chance to organize themselves into new subcommittee groups, with new members choosing first, under the four existing subcommittees: Housing, Youth Leadership, Mental Health, and Racial Equity and Social Justice. The Housing Subcommittee will be convened by Member Barakat, along with Members Rios and Jeremiah Garrett-Pinguelo. Mental Health will be led by Member Garrett-Pinguelo joined by Members Jim Lindsay and Barakat, and Youth Leadership will be led by Member Lindsay with support from Members Robin Lopez and Garrett-Pinguelo. Finally, the Racial Equity Subcommittee will be convened by Member Rios along with Members Lopez and Barakat.

Elections for Chair and Vice Chair followed. The previous Vice Chair had left in the last meeting, and there had been no one holding the position at the time. After a few quick rounds of nominations and votes, Member Lindsay was elected chair, and Member Rios was elected vice chair. Chair Zapata said she had nominated Member Rios because it was important that a new member be vice chair. That person is sort of a shadow to the chair, she said., and that she would love to see Member Rios pair and work with Member Lindsay on leadership. Both votes concluded with five in favor and one abstaining.

Future agenda items will include a potential discussion or presentation on direct cash transfers, and a presentation from the Berkeley Food Network. Member Barakat suggested either crafting an agenda item or proposing some sort of outreach to the community in order to “grab attention to this commission, to get some community feedback, to hear more voices.”  After some clarification if this would be possible in alignment with the work plan, the Commission agreed with this request.

Member Lopez followed by requesting an agenda item acknowledging and in relation to Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month. After a discussion between Members Barakat and Garrett-Pinguelo, another request was made to have a presentation done by the One Pill Can Kill Campaign, a group with the goal of spreading awareness to especially teens and parents on the dangers of knockoff prescription drugs.

No other topics, resolutions, or content regarding social and economic issues were discussed in this meeting.

–Kesenia G

All League News