The Martinez City Council has named two members to an ad hoc committee meant to help guide the city in forming an anti-racism and anti-discrimination, pro-inclusion and equity task force after backlash forced the council to change directions.

Councilmembers Lara DeLaney and Mark Ross will lead the search for answers in a community hit hard last summer by protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while in custody in May. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for murder and manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.

The idea of addressing issues of racism and inequity in Martinez arose last July, during nationwide protests over Floyd’s death. There were several incidents in Martinez over the painting of a Black Lives Matter street mural downtown.

Counter protestors painted over the mural, which led to more confrontations — one ending in the arrest of a 30-year-old Martinez man on suspicion of brandishing a loaded gun during an argument. There was also an incident during which someone painted “White Lives matter” on Howe Road in Martinez.

“I would hope that the formation of this ad hoc could head off these kinds of missteps that have been made.”

Councilwoman Lara DeLaney

The council responded by asking community members to apply for a new committee to review city policies, programs and procedures for bias, while also brainstorming how to make city committees and commissions more inclusive.

The first two attempts, with deadlines in September and February, were rejected by many for not being diverse enough. The council also discussed hiring a consultant to run a public forum for discussion, an idea also rejected by many community members.

“I would hope that the formation of this ad hoc could head off these kinds of missteps that have been made,” DeLaney said Wednesday.

The council voted 3-0 Wednesday to create the subcommittee. Ross and Mayor Rob Schroder were absent from the meeting.

Councilmember Brianne Zorn said the community needs dialogue, instead of one-way public commentary during council meetings.

“I hope that the community sees that an ad hoc subcommittee allows for that discussion,” she said.

No date was set for the subcommittee’s first meeting. It is likely that community meetings will follow, City Manager Eric Figueroa said Thursday.