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Race and Culture Task Force wouldn’t meet with activist group. Here’s why.

The local grassroots coalition United Fort Worth tried several times to make a presentation to the Race and Culture Task Force but was not allowed.

Task force co-chair Rabbi Andrew Bloom said during the monthly meeting that the group “slandered us publicly” when another member asked why the activist group was not permitted to meet with the task force.

The task force met Monday to review public feedback it received on its latest round of recommendations for the City Council.

Each member of the task force was given a copy of all the public comments, including an eight-page statement from United Fort Worth that details what the group believes are problems with the structure of the task force, issues with specific recommendations and resolutions to them.

Upon reviewing the document, the chairman of the economic development and governance subcommittees, Charles Boswell, asked the co-chairs if it was true that United Fort Worth was denied the opportunity to meet with the co-chairs and to give a presentation to the greater task force at a monthly meeting about immigration policies like Senate Bill 4 (SB4) and 287(g).

“This systemic exclusion truly reflects the experience of average Fort Worth residents who try to engage with the City’s leaders and municipal services and find only closed doors,” the statement from United Fort Worth reads.

Presiding co-chair of the task force, Rosa Navejar, told Boswell that the co-chairs reviewed the request and decided against it because there wasn’t enough time to fit in United Fort Worth with the other presentations from city and county officials and departments.

Bloom then added that United Fort Worth requested a meeting after “slandering” the task force co-chairs at a city council meeting in December. Bloom declined to speak to the Star-Telegram on the matter and deferred to Navejar, who said she could not speak to Bloom’s comments.

“I can tell you personally that I had to go look up in a dictionary what they called me,” Bloom said to Boswell. “They went out and slandered us publicly and then asked for a meeting, so sometimes ... it would have been easier if they said they wanted dialogue.”

Bloom was referring to a presentation at a City Council meeting by Mindia Whittier, a leading member of United Fort Worth, on Dec. 12, 2017. Whittier, who said she was not speaking on behalf of the organization that evening, criticized how the council appointed the task force’s co-chairs.

“You appointed three citizens from communities of color who have figured out how to successfully operate in Fort Worth’s anglo-dominant power structure,” Whittier told the council. “And one Caucasian who has a penchant for ‘whitesplaining’ and a seeming lack of grasp on the very real existence of racial oppression.”

Navejar later explained to the Star-Telegram that the co-chairs decided from the beginning that the monthly task force meetings would not be open for public comment. Instead, citizens were encouraged to attend town halls, community conversation meetings and submit their comments online.

Whittier sent five emails to the task force’s co-chairs starting on Dec. 1, 2017, requesting to meet with them or give a presentation to the larger task force.

She said that after the initial request, Navejar called Whittier to tell her that the task force would not be able to accommodate the group’s request for scheduling reasons and that United Fort Worth would have the opportunity to make a presentation to a task force subcommittee. Navejar confirmed that the conversation took place.

The emails were reviewed by the Star-Telegram and show that United Fort Worth repeatedly requested a meeting and was denied the opportunity nearly two weeks before Whittier made the Dec. 12, 2017 presentation to City Council.

Whittier sent follow-up emails on Dec. 5, 7, and 11 requesting that the co-chairs reconsider their decision not to meet with United Fort Worth or allow members of the group to make a presentation at a monthly task force meeting. She sent a final request on May 18, 2018, which did not receive a response from any of the task force co-chairs.

The Race and Culture Task Force meets every third Monday of the month. The third draft of recommendations will be finalized and voted on in November and presented to the City Council in December.

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