Drawing awareness

Members of CARE (Creating A Real Equality) stand with signs promoting racial equality, Monday in downtown Bryan. From left are Bryan residents John Avina, Kent Hardy, Lori Avina and Ron Slough.

Creating a less racist world is a daunting task but one group of dedicated residents is trying to at least make Bryan a more racially sensitive and aware community.

The group, which calls itself CARE (Creating A Real Equality) has been very visible since it began assembling in June on the northeast side of the downtown square, where members hold signs almost daily in an effort to draw attention to institutional racism.

On Monday, three CARE members spoke to Bryan City Council in an effort to drum up support for a potential town hall-style event.

“In Bryan, a lot of people may not think we have a problem, but we do,” said Kent Hardy, who did the majority of speaking for the group, “But it’s unspoken for the most part.”

Hardy said while the group’s interactions with other members of the public have been mostly positive, there is a contingent that either doesn’t like people of color, doesn’t like people standing up for people of color or simply doesn’t understand why issues of racial disparity and bias remain a topic of concern.

“Yes, our town is mainly white,” said CARE member Lori Avina. “But there are minorities and that is our future. This town will only become more diverse and we should embrace it and we need to do it now.”

Council members were appreciative of the group’s concerns and lauded their dedication to the worthy cause but stopped short of scheduling any kind of event.

Council President John Betts urged CARE to establish some more concrete plans and then contact city officials again.

Some potential ideas included utilizing a spacious outdoor facility like the football field or an online or partially online forum.

Separately during Monday’s meeting, council approved the reclassification of Police Captain Tony Plotts to road patrol, effective Monday.

Plotts was promoted to captain in June but Chief Chris Chapa told council that, following a conversation between him and Plotts on Thursday, the parties mutually agreed the best course of action was for Plotts to return to road patrol.

Council member Mary Leatherman pressed Chapa for more information, asserting that in only four months on the job there’s bound to be a bit of a learning curve.

Chapa attributed the discord to issues with Plotts’ “base of knowledge” and a clash of managerial styles. He said following their conversation, he and Plotts “both saw the writing on the wall” and agreed to the reclassification in order to “not further stress each other out.”

Leatherman asked if Plotts had been “written up” for anything. Chapa said he had, but didn’t get into specifics.

The Bryan Times requested and received the writeup from the city on Monday. The document, called an “Employee Coaching/Training Report” shows that Chapa asked Plotts to make a statement on a particular issue, the specifics of which were redacted in The Times’ copy. Plotts forwarded his statement directly to the city prosecutor’s office instead of first giving it to Chapa to look over, which, according to the report, violates Bryan Police Department policies and procedures.

Leatherman and fellow council member Judy Yahraus voted against the reclassification. Notably, Yahraus and Leatherman were the two council members who voted against Chapa’s promotion to chief in December 2019.

Betts and fellow council member Richard Hupe both said they voted in favor of Chapa’s request since he had said the move was mutual.

In other action Monday, council approved:

• Two final change orders, one increasing the cost of the Mayberry Drive street improvement project by $5,248.89 (to a total of $375,420.30) and another decreasing the cost of the annual pavement marking program by $10,555.49 (to a total cost of $89,897.01).

• Appropriating $296,574.18 to the Local Coronavirus Relief Fund. Officials said this was the third round of relief funding, with all three rounds totaling about $722,000.

• The promotions of Wastewater Department employee Brett Miller, from operator trainee to Class 1 operator, and volunteer firefighter Casey P. Sanders, from probationary to regular employment status.

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