The city of Lakeland’s June 29 community forum on race relations is starting to take shape. The city plans to invite a small handful of community leaders to make presentations at the 6 p.m. town hall meeting and will then open it to anybody who wants to comment.

“We see this as an opportunity to listen and to understand,” City Manager Tony Delgado said when asked about plans for the forum during today’s City Commission meeting.

City commissioners have been asked to submit names for possible speakers. Delgado said he envisions hearing from groups that have already worked on race relations in Lakeland. Those might include Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk, the NAACP, Parker Street Ministries or AL Lewis, who organized a forum last week on improving relations between city government and the black community, he said.

The event will be held at the RP Funding Center’s Youkey Theater. With the city keeping the auditorium to 50 percent capacity because of coronavirus, there would still be room to seat 1,100 people, Delgado said.

Commissioner Scott Franklin asked if the event might last longer than the two hours that have been scheduled.

“We’ve scheduled the Youkey Theater for as long as you need it,” Delgado said.

Comments from members of the public will likely be held to three or five minutes each.

Commissioners tentatively plan to discuss the event further during a virtual meeting called for 8 a.m. on June 24 to decide on a recruitment firm to help identify applicants to become the next city manager. Delgado, 59, has announced he will retire at the end of September.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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