Niskayuna names racial equity task force

Task force intended to increase racial equity in town

NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Town Board on Tuesday named 15 residents to serve on a new permanent task force on racial equity issues in town.

The board voted in June to create the Task Force on Racial Equity and Justice to develop a framework for equitable decision-making in the town and establish a plan to address and resolve racial disparities.

Named to the committee were Allan Gadsden, Angela Antikowski, Arinka Abad, Dale Black-Pennington, David Amodeo, Devon Wimberly, Hayward Horton, Elizabeth Paul, Jaime Puccioni, Jillian Margolies, Jon Lemelin, Ketaki Bodhankar, Larry Ritter, Priti Irani and Saundra Griffin.

The criteria set by the Town Board included that 10 of the 15 members must be people of color. Members will serve three-year terms, though some of those named on Tuesday have one- and two-year terms, so that in the future five terms will expire each year.

Councilwoman Rosemarie Perez Jaquith proposed the task force in early June, soon after the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis people. His death has sparked demonstrations for racial justice across the country.

On Tuesday, Perez Jaquith said the task force was conceived before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that municipalities consider police reforms in response to community input, but the task force’s mandate is broad enough to cover that as well as all other town policies.

The town has had its own recent racially charged controversy, with 32-year town comptroller Paul Sebesta retiring in mid-June after being suspended. Sebesta was suspended after photos surfaced of him wearing blackface at a Halloween party several years ago. Some have questioned how the town handled that situation.

The task force was subsequently established at the June 30 Town Board meeting, with Town Board members taking applications until July 10.

“We must recognize that racism and discrimination exist,” Perez Jaquith said when the task force was formed last month. “By listening to the people of color in our community and learning from the work this task force will conduct, we will take concrete steps to do better and be better.”

The goal, according to the resolution that created the task force, is to allow everyone, regardless of skin color, to participate meaningfully in society, with full rights and equal protection, free of discrimination.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Updated 7/30 10:13 AM with the correct spelling of David Amodeo’s name

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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