Not a resolution, council proposes values statement

The Keizer City Council might be on the path to formally adopt a “statement of values” regarding the city’s stance on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark proposed a draft of the statement at a city council work session Monday, Oct. 26. (See full text at bottom) The statement addresses issues of protected classes, discriminatory practices, treating others with dignity and respect and “affirms a commitment” ensuring community members are free of acts rooted in fear, ignorance, prejudice and hate.

The statement, if adopted by the council, would differ from other orders of business the councilors typically conduct, said City Attorney Shannon Johnson.

“A resolution for the council is as simple as authorizing the city manager to sign a contract or adopt a policy. In this particular situation, a resolution would have more force because it is voted on by the entire council and it could create a legal cause of action,” Johnson said.

Other city council actions, like adopting proclamations marking Constitution Day, are more symbolic.

“The force and consequences depend on the wording,” Johnson said.

Because of that the statement refers to protected classes documented in state guidelines.

Clark drafted the statement on her own taking cues from the council’s last work session on the matter and other entities that have adopted such a statement.

Councilor Roland Herrera took issue with Clark being the one to create the initial draft, and urged the council to go further.

“What is wrong with denouncing white supremacy. There’s nothing wrong with a strong statement because words matter,” Herrera said.

Later in the meeting, Clark identified herself as one-quarter Latino, one of her grandmothers was Mexican, she said.

Councilor Laura Reid said that a denouncement of white supremacy might be read differently by different audiences.

“I think it means the KKK for some people and for others it’s white privilege that’s subconscious,” Reid said.

Councilor Dan Kohler said some city residents would just as soon place Antifa and Black Lives Matter on the same list of organizations to denounce.

Herrera challenged him on the point with a single question, “Are you comparing Black Lives Matter to white supremacy?”

“No, sir. But it’s a group that some people would feel that need to be included (in such a statement),” Kohler replied. Later in the meeting, he added, “I denounce any white supremacy and any group that thrives in hate or promotes hate and intimidation.”

Councilor Elizabeth Smith found something more balanced, a portion of a resolution proposed by an inclusivity committee in Philomath.

It reads: “Be it further resolved that we hereby affirm our commitment to ensure that all members of the community are free from acts that are rooted in fear, ignorance, prejudice and hate. We will strive to inspire and continually pursue a culture of safety and wellbeing.”

Before taking public input, councilors agreed to take up the values statement in a regular council meeting. The community is invited to offer feedback on the proposal. The methods to do so are still in development.

In public testimony, resident Carol Doerfler thanked the councilors for their work, but urged them to assemble input from outside council chambers.

“My suggestion would be to gather some people of color and other genders and perhaps there are things that need to be added and maybe there’s not,” Doerfler said.

Clark said pandemic guidelines make assembling such a group difficult, but that any statement could be amended.

Resident Carolyn Homan offered suggestions along the same lines.

“If you put it out there you might get some affirmation back and people might suggest changes but it is worth it to see (the statement) as an evolving start,” she said.

Homan also suggested forming a committee to do the legwork of promoting issues of diversity equity and inclusion throughout the city.

The council will discuss inclusivity in regard to housing inequities as it relates to Keizer’s growth conversations at a work session Monday, Nov. 30.

Reporter’s notebook:

Other items of note from the council’s work session on inclusivity.

Bias is defined as how we evaluate and associate one group and its members relative to another.

Implicit bias is how we quickly put people into frames that are shaped by our environment (how we were socialized) and it lives in the subconscious, regardless of whether the bias aligns with reality.

Explicit bias arises as the result of a perceived threat. To use a recent example, a white woman in New York who called 9-1-1 when a black man asked her to leash her dog.

Suppressing biased thought can increase prejudicial thought. To combat it, take time to examine foundational beliefs and spend time with those that do not match your demographic characteristics and thought patterns.

Institutional racism is identified as policies, practices and procedures that benefit white people over communities of color. Institutional racism can be intentional or unintentional.

Structural racism is the history and current reality that institutional racism affects all institutions and combines to negatively impact communities of color.

Keizer Statement of Values Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

a. Whereas All people shall be treated with dignity and respect; and

b. Whereas “All” people includes but is not limited to the Federal and State Definitions of Protected Classes of people:

i. Federal definition – Race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, disability

ii. State of Oregon additions – Source of income, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity; and

c. Whereas equity is both a process and an outcome; and

d. Whereas the City of Keizer recognizes that Federal and State of Oregon practices, policies, laws and regulations have historically resulted in active discrimination and disparity against people based on race, religion, income, gender, and other exclusionary barriers.

f. NOW, THEREFORE, The City of Keizer has taken action and commits to continuing to take action to be a city that welcomes every person of every color and every gender and every mobility/ability.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that We hereby affirm our commitment to ensure that all members of the community are free from acts that are rooted in fear, ignorance, prejudice, and hate. We will strive to inspire and continually pursue a culture of safety and wellbeing;