EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was edited to include a statement from Erie County Councilman Jim Winarski.
Representatives of Erie County’s 4th District spoke out Sunday regarding the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission said that the removal of commissioners with the support of County Councilman and District 4 Representative Jim Winarski, goes against constituent’s beliefs.
Valerie Perkins said that the disassembly of Diverse Erie is counterproductive to bringing equality to all, specifically black and indigenous people of color, throughout the City of Erie.
In 2020, Erie County established the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission to help address racism, with its creation practically being a declaration of a public health emergency in Erie County.
Since that time, Diverse Erie has seen some dramatic shifts in membership and funding.
Valerie Perkins, a member of the Social Justice Ministry with the Greater Calvary Gull Gospel Baptist Church, said that several elected officials played a role in this process including Erie County Councilman and District 4 Representative Jim Winarski.
“The diversity, equity and inclusion commission, also known as Diverse Erie, was first established because of the inequities in Erie County. In 2017, Erie was rated the worst place in America for Black Americans to live,” said Valerie Perkins of the Social Justice Ministry and Greater Calvary F.G.B.C.
Perkins said that the DEI had $3.5 million in grant funds, that were already approved, withheld from it as well as a second $3.5 million cut from their budget in 2023.
The DEI has also seen dismantling over the past several months.
Perkins said that Winarski’s role in these decisions directly goes against what his constituents support.
“We have four Democrats on the council, and most recently on January 24th, the Democratic party of Erie censured Jim Winarski for consistently voting with the republican party and against his own constituents. That cannot continue to go on. You’re supposed to represent us, so do that,” Perkins said.
“First and foremost — I, and all of us on council, want DEI to succeed,” Winarski said in a statement to JET 24/FOX 66. “There were some issues that we felt needed addressed and are being addressed. This needs to be done correctly so funding can be restored. We are talking a lot of ARPA dollars here. We need to get this right for all of Erie County, not just District 4.”
Perkins has organized a petition to show support for their efforts.