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Outline for new committee on diversity and inclusion begins

The Town Council Appointments Committee met on Monday, June 29, 2020 via Zoom video conferencing to begin outlining the details for the creation of a new committee to address racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion in Cape Elizabeth.  School Superintendent Donna Wolfrom and School Board Chair Heather Altenburg, along with approximately 15 community members in attendance, joined in the meeting.

Committee Chair Valerie Deveraux stated that any recommendations stemming from the Appointments Committee's discussion would be presented to the Town Council at the July 13 meeting for consideration and/or approval. 

Among the various goals of the Appointments Committee, members discussed whether the proposed committee should be designated a standing or ad-hoc committee.  A standing committee would indicate that it would be a permanent and regularly occurring committee.  An ad-hoc would indicate that it be temporary.  Committee members Jeremy Gabrielson and Caitlin Jordan suggested that they form an ad-hoc committee which would operate for a maximum of 12 months and provide periodic reports to the Town Council.  At the conclusion of this period, consideration of establishing a standing committee would be given.

The proposed membership of the future committee would include one Town Councilor, one School Board representative/liaison, five community members and two (non-voting) student representatives.  Pending approval by the Town Council on July 13, calls for applications from interested community members would be posted in mid July.  The final committee composition would ideally be settled by mid September.  Community members interested in learning more are encouraged to contact the Town Council via email.

The proposed purpose of the new committee would be to review policies that contribute to systemic racism, make recommendations for policies to promote greater equity and inclusion, draft procedures and provide training that promotes diversity, review the Comprehensive Plan to support diversity in housing and transportation.  Discussion around whether the committee would provide funding of any sort was also mentioned.

The proposed duties of the future committee include:

  1. Interface and explore opportunities for collaboration with a separate committee to be created by the School Board.
  2. Make recommendation on establishment as a standing committee.
  3. Advise the Town Council on issues of potential racism and inequality.  Seek advice on best practices on inclusivity and equity from other communities in the region and from around the country.
  4. Provide report(s) and recommendations for improvement.  Review policies and services that identify racism and anti-racism.
  5. Review and make recommendations to the Town Council on where there are opportunities for policy changes.
  6. Objectively review municipal departments, including housing, working with representatives of those departments, as well as seeking opinions from the community on what needs to be improved or added to every major component of public services.
  7. Explore community outreach to engage the community and receive input on racism and inclusivity.

The final point of discussion surrounded the naming of the committee.  Chair Deveraux suggested using the acronym, "IDEA," for "Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, and Awareness."  Comments from the public and the superintendent recommended changes to show "IDEAA" for "Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism, and Awareness." 

Town Manager Matthew Sturgis and Chair Deveraux concluded the meeting by restating that community involvement is highly encouraged and that extra efforts to attract interested committee applicants would be forthcoming.