“We want to challenge the city of Auburn and the administration to be a place for all ethnicities,” Dowdell said.
The list included 10 specific items, of which he said his ward felt the need to make the council aware.
These requests included the need for more black police and fireman within the city, more black schoolteachers, a predominantly black high school in his ward and a restructuring of the city’s wards to allow for more ethnic diversity on the Council.
“It’s been more than 30 years since we had two blacks on the City Council,” Dowdell said. “We challenge the city to hire more blacks and minorities in these key positions.”
While Dowdell was simply the messenger, the other council members along with surrounding Auburn community members and officials were visibly uncomfortable at the unexpected speech and requests.
Tension in the room increased as Dowdell made the Council aware that one of the members in his ward would be filing a federal lawsuit within the next 30 days that would demand more black representation on the City Council. This demand would ask that the city be redistricted to make these accommodations.
Dowdell added his ward feels steps should be taken to communicate better with the University.
On a racial level, Dowdell mentioned a need for more minority teachers and students. Fiscally, Dowdell encouraged increasing the income of some employees who have dedicated more than 10 years of work.
“I want to see this city live up to its championship status and be champions for all of the citizens: black and white, rich and poor,” Dowdell said.
While many of the council members remained silent following Dowdell’s speech, Councilman Brent Beard spoke up to address the requests.
“Are they (Dowdell’s ward) actually saying that we should hire people based on race?” Beard said.
Dowdell quickly denied this claim, but asked why other cities surrounding Auburn are able to find more black teachers while Auburn, according to him, has less than 15 percent.
“If Loachapoka has found black teachers to hire, why can’t Auburn?” Dowdell said.
Both men acknowledged they do not entirely know about the teacher selection process and agreed their discussion had been positive and nondiscriminatory.
“I just hope that the teachers in Auburn are superior to the teachers elsewhere so that our children can have the best education possible,” Beard said.