Wilsonville aims to hear underrepresented voices
After calls for ending racial injustice and police brutality reached a fever pitch this year, some organizations have looked inward to assess how they could better serve minority communities.
Next month, the Wilsonville government is initiating one of its first steps to do just that. The city is hosting a virtual diversity, equity and inclusion listening session to hear the thoughts and concerns of underrepresented voices at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8.
"I would say this is an outgrowth of stuff we've been thinking about for two years but was accelerated by stuff going on around the country around police issues in larger and smaller cities," City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said.
During the event, community members can share their thoughts and experiences living in town with Wilsonville City Council members and provide insight into how the city is doing as far as welcoming all walks of life. There also will be an opportunity for dialogue between residents and councilors.
The city has hired a consultant to help with DEI efforts, and Cosgrove said a task force likely will form soon that could provide recommendations to the council on how to forward goals.
Right now, an informal group is meeting to discuss plans, which also include the possibility of forming a citizens review committee that would examine allegations of police misconduct. Cosgrove said representatives from Clackamas County Sheriff's Office would attend the listening session.
"He (the consultant) phrased it as we're in a relationship-building phase. Instead of trying to jump to outcomes, first of all we need to get to know each other and figure out what the issues are," Cosgrove said.
The city has stepped up efforts in recent years to include minority groups such as Wilsonville's large Latino population in projects to redevelop the Town Center commercial district and accentuate arts and culture.
"Part of the goal is to hear those voices and make sure we're including them in long-term planning," Cosgrove said. "Beyond that, we've asked folks to reach out to their network. We're not looking to limit the dialogue in any way. We're looking to expand."
He added: "It's a challenge to make sure you're not just working in an echo chamber. You want to make sure you're reaching out and giving the opportunity to make voices heard."
The DEI initiative is in its nascent stage, but Cosgrove is hopeful it eventually will foster significant progress.
"The goal is to do something meaningful and that will have success in the community long-term," Cosgrove said.
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