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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force members discussed draft work plan, how to proceed

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - The DEI Task Force met for the first time Dec. 18.There are two main focus areas the new Lake Oswego Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force will tackle — and it will not be an easy feat.

During the DEI Task Force's first official meeting Dec. 18, the group kicked off introductions, reviewed a draft work plan and the eleven appointed citizens gathered around a table with council liaison Theresa Kohlhoff and other City staff to set their wheels in motion.

The two main asks the group is tasked with are to look at how to increase minority participation by diversifying people on the City's boards, commissions and committees, and exploring how to reduce barriers for people applying for jobs at the City.

"One of the ways we will do a better job in delivering services to all people is if our workforce actually reflects the complexion of the community and right now I think we can tell you pretty affirmatively that is does not," said City Manager Martha Bennett, adding that they need to look at how to identify the barriers for participation and places where barriers interfere with people of color, younger residents, women, people with disabilities, and other specific groups.

Over the course of six months, the group will collaborate on how to approach the work they've been asked to do, create surveys, participate in potential focus groups to collect qualitative and quantitative data, and formulate a report to give to the City Council.

The group decided to move forward with the draft work plan — a timeline the task force can look back on as they progress through the work — which dedicates January as a foundational month where the group will set ground rules, expectations, engage in an equity training and discuss how to reach out to underrepresented communities.

The task force will then come up with questions to ask the community to engage them in the coming months.

The questions will be drafted in February and the group will decide what methods of outreach to use to engage a diverse array of people throughout the community.

In March and April, the task force will actually reach out to people and dive into the community engagement process — however they decide that will look.

In May and June, the group will compile and analyze the outreach results and then form a report that will be presented to the City Council.

The task force also decided on the use of a facilitator who will help establish ground rules for meetings, efficiency and how to run focus groups if the group wishes to proceed with that.

City staff sent out Requests for Proposals from facilitators and a small group from the task force will help review them.

"I think you're going to do very specific kinds of engagement, very specific subject matter with very unique barriers," Bennett said. "A lot of the issues that we need to tackle are places where you fundamentally have folks who don't trust the government; they don't trust the process and you need to be working with somebody — I don't know how to explain this in a kind way — who understands when you go out and engage folks around the city, what are you really asking them? You're not just asking them to tell you what they think, you're asking them to be vulnerable with you in a way that is deeply uncomfortable. I think you have to have someone who can help you as a group."

Many concerns and questions that arose from task force members surrounded proper methodology to reach all people, privacy surrounding survey and focus group responses, and if action will actually be taken by the council after the presentation of their report.

The group decided to meet twice monthly initially and will reconvene at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, at City Hall.

The 11 appointed citizens to the City's new Diversity Equity and Inclusion Task Force, each representing a wide array of backgrounds and expertise, areEmma Burke, Hazel Chu Lant, Olga Dal, Bill de la Cruz, Diane Grover, Erica Holser, Massene Mboup, Daniel McArdle-Jaimes, Gary Rebello, Anil Shah and Mandrill Taylor.

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