Council talks inclusion Sept. 28

The Keizer City Council plans to talk about its efforts toward greater inclusivity at a work session Monday, Sept. 28. 

The meeting begins at 6 p.m., at the Keizer Civic Center, limited public testimony will be permitted toward the end of the meeting and that feedback will be used in a follow-up work session planned for October. Mayor Cathy Clark said there will be at least some discussion regarding a possible inclusivity resolution. 

“I plan to present the structure of what has been included in such resolutions around issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. There are about five key topics these resolutions appear to cover pretty consistently. It is important to build from a foundation of values, perspectives and issues rather than jump straight into drafting a document,” Clark said 

Calls for the city to adopt an inclusivity resolution date back at least two years. The City of Salem and the Salem-Keizer School District have both adopted similar resolutions, but most Keizer leaders have balked at every turn. The only councilor adamantly supporting the issue is Councilor Roland Herrera. 

“It’s frustrating when the city doesn’t make it a high priority,” Herrera said. “We’ve done some good things, but there’s more work to be done and we can’t just keep it on the back burner.”

One of the council’s short term goals is looking at diversity among the employees of the city. 

“The staffing goal to address diversity came from both a desire to have city staff attract and retain employees from the same racial and ethnic background as the people of our community as well as remove barriers in recruiting and retaining talented staff,” said Clark. “Action for the city will likely be around how we add steps to ensure we pause and consider how city policies and practices impact the diverse situations of people in our community.”

In some ways, the city is moving toward a broader lens in how it approaches city services already. Earlier this year, a group of car enthusiasts were meeting at Keizer Station. It became a concern because some attendees were burning out as they left the gathering. Rather than sitting in the parking lot and issuing tickets, which Keizer Police Chief John Teague felt would only trigger animosity, a Keizer police officer tracked down the organizer and discovered he was already attempting to discourage such behavior. 

“We want to take that ‘equity lens’ approach to how we provide services to the people of Keizer and make sure city processes and services are getting the expected benefits for everyone,” Clark said. “Will that specifically address problems with systemic racism? Yes, because people create and change systems. We can do that”

Will this address problems with people behaving in a racist manner toward their neighbor? Partly. By being intentional about considering the diversity of people in our community in how we conduct the business of the city, I hope we send the message that the lives of people of all races and ethnicities matter a great deal.”

City Councilor Laura Reid took part in a National League of Cities online conference and made a point of attending a presentation on how cities can make a meaningful impact on issues of race, diversity and inclusion. 

Reid said the city might be able to make a more concerted effort to “invite local professionals to address civic leaders to help us understand all perspectives, make sure we have equitable economic response and recovery plans for our local businesses, and to look at and gather the Keizer ordinances and policies that are related to this issue and bring them to bear in a concise statement that is easily accessible to the public.”

But, Reid said, demonstrating Keizer’s commitment to issues of equity might pop up in other unlikely areas. 

“We will be looking at our policies surrounding Local Improvement Districts (most notably streetlights and sidewalks) to see if there is a way we can make those more equitable,” Reid said. “Driving all our efforts is the belief that the best approach is to identify what needs to be done and do it and not just do something to make ourselves feel better. By making life fair for our citizens, we make a better Keizer for all of us.”