During the July 12, 2021 Town Council meeting, the council voted unanimously in favor of approving the Ordinance Committee’s recommendation to establish a new standing committee: the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The new committee will replace the ad hoc Civil Rights Committee, which has been meeting bi-monthly since September of 2020 [Article].
Prior to the council’s vote, a Public Hearing was held. Comments from the public ranged from supportive to disapproving of the recommendation. Residents in opposition cited “Critical Race Theory” and political motivations as driving forces behind a committee created to focus on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Councilor Penny Jordan said that she had learned a great deal over the past year in, “How much I don’t know. I look at the world through the lens of a person who has grown up here. I don’t have the lens of others and I see this as an opportunity to be educated on viewing the world through other lenses. I really see the need for this type of committee at this point in time and really look forward to what they can bring to our work as a council.”
Chairman Jamie Garvin said that he has been “saddened” that some of the feedback received in opposition to the recommendation has been specifically centered on the subject of race, “Since the beginning of the establishment of the Civil Rights Committee, I have had a much wider view of not only the charge of this committee, but of the issues that need addressing in the community from a larger standpoint. Certainly racial and ethnic diversity is a large part of any group that would be working on something like this, but there are a lot of other things that encompass Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Nowhere within the description, charge or duties of this committee is there any mention of critical race theory.” Garvin suggested the need to consider broadening the language even more to encompass visible and non-visible disabilities; socio-economic diversity; and other groups of people who do not feel appropriately represented within the community. In conclusion, Garvin said, “I would encourage anyone who is not in favor of this to take a wider view of what the role and the charge of this committee is; To be involved, such that you can be a participant in the directing and guiding of the work too.”
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will follow the same process that all other boards and committees follow in advising the council. The Appointments Committee will post committee openings in October. As a new committee, the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Committee will begin with one-year, two-year, and three-year terms for the initial phase in order to establish the standard, rolling three-year terms.