DEI Task Force takes shape, Council to evaluate in May
Members of the ad hoc subcommittee of the Lake Oswego City Council charged with creating a task force to analyze issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at a city level met Tuesday to finish hammering out the details of what that task force will look like.
City Councilors Jackie Manz and Theresa Kohlhoff, joined by Mayor Kent Studebaker, Deputy City Manager Megan Phelan, Police Chief Dale Jorgensen and City Management Analyst Charity Taylor, sat around a table in the council chambers to discuss and approve what issues the task force will be asked to tackle, how many members it should include, what groups those members should represent and how the application and interview process will go.
"I'm feeling very good (about the task force)," Manz said. "I think we've put together a good product, but it remains to be seen how robust our applicant pool will be."
The subcommittee met for the first time in March. It was formed after the City announced the creation of a DEI Task Force in January.
At Tuesday's meeting the group approved two assignments for the DEI Task Force, the first being to identify barriers to participation on City boards and commissions as well as to make suggestions on how to reduce or eliminate those barriers. The second charge is to identify methods by which to increase the applicant pool for City job openings.
Much of the discussion that took place Tuesday centered on how the subcommittee would recruit people to apply for the DEI Task Force and who those people might represent.
The subcommittee came up with a list of 10 underrepresented groups that they'd like to hear from including: seniors over the age of 55, disabled persons, young adults age 18-25, women, racial and ethnic minorities, parents of school-age children, the LGBTQ community, business owners, members of religious groups and those who are economically disadvantaged.
The group agreed that most of the task force should be residents of Lake Oswego, but they'd be open to accepting someone who owns a business or leads a religious congregation here, but lives outside Lake Oswego.
Kohlhoff brought up two points in discussing how the application process would work. First, she wanted to know whether it would be okay for the City Council, specifically members of the subcommittee, to reach out to people they think would be productive members of the DEI Task Force. Phelan said that would appropriate, but formally nominating people wouldn't be the correct path and councilors should merely encourage those candidates to apply.
Second, Kohlhoff pointed out that the interview questions for candidates should be uniform as the City has adopted for its boards and commissions interviews.
Those questions would remain open ended to elicit a range of responses from candidates on why they would be a good representative for their group and what perspective they'd bring to the table in analyzing these issues.
The group was in agreement that the same questions — in general, not necessarily word for word — should be used in this recruitment as is done for the new boards and commissions process.
"We need five questions we ask everybody; that will take some thought because it's a wide variety of folks in there, but they need to be at least similar," Kohlhoff said. "I don't want us to get the usual suspects, per se, so that we truly have people who we don't hear from very much to tell us what we need to hear. There are plenty of people always talking; I want to some of those who need a little encouragement to talk."
Manz and Kohlhoff said that they, along with their fellow council members, will be reaching out to groups and organizations within the community to find potential candidates whom they will encourage to apply for the DEI Task Force over the coming weeks.
According to Phelan, the recommendation to move forward with the recruitment process for the task force will be brought to the full City Council for approval in May before recruitment begins and the application goes live on the City's website.