Governor Jay Nixon has announced the creation of a new office that he says will work with Missourians and help find “policy solutions for challenges facing low-income and minority communities.”
Nixon signed an executive order creating the Office of Community Engagement and appointed former state senator Maida Coleman as its director. Former St. Louis Municipal Judge Marvin Teer will serve as deputy director and general counsel.
The announcement follows criticism, particularly from black Democrats, of Nixon’s handling of racial issues, especially the tension and rioting in Ferguson following the Michael Brown shooting.
In a statement, Nixon writes, “Across our state, Missouri communities are facing serious issues involving race, educational and economic opportunities, and poverty. The Office of Community Engagement will be responsible for facilitating meaningful communication about these issues that will yield concrete results. Maida and Marvin will get to work immediately to listen, learn, and assess the challenges facing minority and low-income communities across the state, and help to develop specific policies to address them.”
The new office will be part of the Office of Administration. Nixon’s office says it will “be responsible for engaging communities, public and private sector leaders, clergy and citizens across he state in communication regarding critical issues affecting Missouri communities.”
The new office’s creation is being praised by Congressman William Lacy Clay (D). In a statement, Clay writes, “I am hopeful that this new office will engage citizens at the grass roots level in Ferguson, and across our state, to begin the long-overdue, difficult conversation about the very real disparities based on race and poverty which have produced a lack of jobs and opportunity and unequal treatment by the judicial system.”