A new Wilsonville committee's journey toward shepherding a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community has officially begun.
The Wilsonville government's DEI committee gathered for the first time Tuesday, July 13 at the Wilsonville Community Center to meet each other, discuss thorny issues like how to interact with those who are resistant to addressing and acknowledging inequities, and clarify their role with the city.
The committee, which was created amid widespread reexaminations of social inequalities in 2020, will serve in an advisory role to Wilsonville City Council and any recommendation it makes will need to be approved by the elected body. It is made up of 13 members from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about this topic.
The group plans to meet once a month and the first couple months will be a feeling-out process before members begin to advance initiatives. Patience was emphasized by multiple people at the meeting.
Bill de la Cruz, who has worked with the city of Lake Oswego as well as many municipalities, school districts and organizations on DEI issues, was hired by Wilsonville as a consultant to guide the process. He said he wanted to support the group in fostering deep conversations that avoid dehumanization.
"It's amazing to me where we are in 2021 with this conversation," he said. "Your work will support the city of Wilsonville as it continues to grow and progress."
Committee member Rudyane Rivera-Lindstrom, who is the director of DEI for the state of Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Commission, felt that the group should not try to become "The Avengers of equity in Wilsonville" but instead connect with people through universal values.
De la Cruz agreed and added that they also want to identify areas within the city where there are barriers to engagement and factors that lead to marginalization. The committee would then create recommendations designed to quell those issues.
"Our job is to do good work for the council that's fair-minded and well-structured," committee member Jay Edwards said.
Each member wrote down their hopes and fears about the process. Some wishes they jotted included more minority-owned businesses in town, cultural support centers, affordable and diverse housing options, unity, acceptance and greater accountability. Some fears, however, were that the community would not provide support or would react aggressively against their work, as well as burnout and regression.
When asked what the committee should do, they said they should positively contribute to society, listen to the community to find out where there are equity gaps, establish open dialogue and provide opportunities for residents to learn and grow.
Jeanna Troha, the assistant city manager, said that staff members are always there to help the committee and are "incredibly excited" about this process.
For more information on the committee, visit www.ci.wilsonville.or.us/bc-diversity.
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