Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins appointed resident James Johnson to the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force at a Sept. 25 City Council meeting, which residents claim is a step in the right direction for the city.
James Johnson – who currently serves on the city’s planning commission – was one of seven applicants for the SCHRTF, a nonpartisan group that works to eliminate discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and socioeconomic status.
Johnson’s appointment to the SCHRTF follows a rally held at Spokane City Hall and several meetings with public testimony from group members of the Spokane Valley Indivisible Progressives, Spokane Community Against Racism and Families Against Bigotry, who repeatedly asked council members to sign a resolution denouncing racism and bigotry.
The request for a resolution was prompted by concerns about Higgins’ attendance at a Northwest Grassroots meeting in July that hosted white nationalist James Allsup.
City Council members passed an anti-discrimination resolution last year, citing that Spokane Valley is an all-inclusive city.
When questioned about his qualifications to serve on the SCHRTF by a resident, Johnson, who grew up in Spokane Valley, said he has family members of color and pledges to uphold the SCHRTF’s mission to eliminate discrimination.
“I agree there are times where I’ve heard stories from those family members filled with fear and that needs to change,” he said. “I’ll be honored to do my very best to make sure that happens.”
Spokane Valley resident Art Zack commended the Spokane Valley City Council on appointing Johnson during public testimony.
“It’s a very positive step forward that makes this ordinance passed a year and a half ago concrete and real,” he said. “I applaud that.”
Spokane Valley resident Leilani DeLong, who organized the rally at City Hall in August, said although there were excellent candidates for Higgins to choose from for the SCHRTF, she’ll remain open-minded about Johnson.
“We are hoping he’ll do a good job,” she said. “I think it’s a step forward.”
Spokane Valley Councilman Sam Wood said he served on a planning commission with Johnson.
“He loves this community, and I have a lot of respect for him,” he said. “I think you made a wonderful choice.”
Councilwoman Linda Thompson said she’s grateful the city will have a representative on the SCHRTF.
“This is part of moving forward as a compassionate city. I am going to support Mr. Johnson,” she said. “I just couldn’t be more happy that we are moving forward with this.”
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