The creation of a new task force to address issues of racism, equity and bias in Martinez is on temporary hold, after displeasure was expressed last week by City Council members and others that seven of the 11 nominees for the inaugural panel are white.

The City Council could have formally approved the formation of the city’s Anti-Racism & Discrimination and Pro-Inclusion & Equity Task Force this past Wednesday night, and appointed 11 people — nine full members and two alternates — to the task force.

But after several people — including some of the nominated panelists themselves — told the council that the task force was not diverse enough, the council opted to push the matter to their Nov. 4 meeting for further discussion, and for a modified resolution for moving forward.

On July 29, the council approved the concept for such a panel, whose primary charge is to review city policies, programs and procedures for bias, and to help make city committees and commissions more inclusive. The idea was suggested after several incidents in Martinez following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and subsequent public discussions about racism and Black Lives Matter displays in the city.

The city sought applications for prospective panelists, and chose a six-person “community panel” to interview and then select at least nine prospective task force members. Of those 11, only one is Black (two identify as LGBTQ).

Sarah Lombardo, who was nominated to be an alternate panelist, told the council she expected to be part of a task force led and guided by non-white people.

Victoria Adams of the East County NAACP said the nominated task force member makeup is “not representative of the people you say this task force is supposed to represent.”

Willie Mims, another member of East County NAACP, suggested the council redouble its efforts to reach out to Black churches to recruit more members. Mims also said the task force could be expanded to more than nine members.

Council members acknowledged the task force members as nominated are not diverse enough. The city needs to “go back to the drawing board,” as Councilwoman Lara DeLaney stated it, mainly with the recruitment process, before the task force is formally created.

While the council had formally opted to stay out of the recruitment process earlier, fearing the process would get too political, Councilwoman Noralea Gipner said that might have to be revisited. Councilman Mark Ross said several people who addressed the council Wednesday night made good points, and that they perhaps could be asked for counsel.

Several of those people told the council they felt the process thus far has been “rushed,” and DeLaney said a recruiting period longer than two weeks may be needed.