Tigard mayor calls out derogatory comment related to hiring bilingual speaker
Impressed with the response Hillsboro's mayor made when a derogatory description of his city was made last year, Tigard Mayor Jason Snider recently addressed comments made via email involving the hiring of a bilingual person for a city position.
In his February online column in Cityscape, the city's newsletter, Snider recalled last year's response by Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway, who called out a man who he said made a racist comment on a bus after both attended a Hops game. The man referred to Callaway's city as "HillsBurrito."
(One quarter of Hillsboro's population is Latino or Hispanic.)
That encouraged Snider to address an email from someone who recently inquired why the City of Tigard was recruiting for a bilingual Spanish-speaking person.
"Why would you give a job to non-speaking English person instead of a citizen who needs a job and speaks English?" read a portion of the email. "Why not just move city offices to Mexico?"
In his column, Snider wrote: "… I want to be perfectly clear that Tigard is a community for everyone. We will stand up to hurtful speech and reinforce our efforts to attract a workforce that is representative of our community and nation."
He went on to point out that anyone who is struggling to understand the value of diversity, equity and inclusion should consider that an estimated one-fifth of Tigard speaks a language other than English, the most common of which is Spanish.
"Having a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce makes us stronger and promotes innovation and positive change," Snider wrote.
Reached Thursday, Snider said not only did he know the story of Callaway responding to the Hops fan's comment last September – Callaway used social media at the time to call out the man's characterization of the city as "offensive" and "racist" -- but also watched him recount the incident during a discussion at the U.S. Conference of Mayors held last month in Washington, D.C.
"It was a big deal," Snider said of Callaway's comments and presence on a national panel. "I tweeted it at the time and I think some others did and I was really proud of him telling the story…"
In addition to remarks from Callaway, the panel included a variety of speakers including Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL.
"(Callaway) told his story and then I came back to this email the staff shared with me," said Snider. "I think our community is at a point where we need to move forward on diversity, equity and inclusion and when we have people making statements like that, it concerns me that not everybody is ready to embrace the future of Tigard."
Snider, who was elected as Tigard's mayor in November, said diversity, equality and inclusion are part of Tigard City Council priorities and that his column generated numerous responses and emails.
"I think every single one of them we received was extremely positive and supportive," he said, adding that the only negative response he saw was a Facebook post asking, "Why wouldn't you hire someone who doesn't speak English? We responded (that) 'bilingual means English and another language.'"
Snider said it's his belief that if you don't call out certain behavior, you're promoting it: "I just wasn't going to sit around and allow that to go by. It's the wrong message."
Kent Wyatt, Tigard's communications manager, said the bilingual employee position advertised has since been filled along with other bilingual positions.
Wyatt said Snider's Cityscape (which has 12,000 subscribers) column, was widely read. While the January "Mayor's Corner" had 466 views the first three days it was up, the February column had 1,861 views for the same time frame.
Here are some of the responses from those who read it:"We should never assume that if someone speaks Spanish, they do not speak English, in addition to other languages. And if an immigrant doesn't speak English just yet, give him or her time." "Jason, this is once again, racism, and hate that is promoted and preached in today's politics. Makes it so hard to believe people can actually be that way." "Thank you for your thoughtful response. We need leaders like you to stand strong for an inclusive and informed community. Welcoming all is a position we as Americans can fully embrace, setting the bar high." "I just want to express my gratitude for your message and philosophy, and for your courage in posting it so articulately."