DRAFT 10 18 22 Report to Council

DRAFT, First draft August 24, Second draft October 12
October 18, 2022
To: Mayor and City Council
From: Precious Yamaguchi and Emily Simon, co-chairs of the Social Equity and Racial Justice Advisory Committee

Re: Report to the City Council

Good evening, Mayor and Council.  We are pleased to be here this evening to speak to you about our work.

We continue to focus on racial equity issues within the City of Ashland and meeting with Community Partners.

In February, we recommended the City Council; 1) create and fund a full-time DEI manager position, 2) implement a culturally competent calendar and 3) to engage with a conciliatory service provider to interface with the DEI manager.

In late April, we received a memo from the City Manager addressing our recommendations.  The memo explained the budget discussions planned for May meetings with the City Council and the lack of funding to create a DEI manager position.  He noted that the internal master calendar includes Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious days of commemoration and celebration.  The use of a conciliatory service provider is no longer included in the responsibilities of SERJAC.  We agree with that change.

We support the City Manager’s decision to conduct an internal DEI assessment; he has invited SERJ to help develop the Scope of Work to be included in Request for Proposals.  We look forward to being a part of that process and we especially look forward to the results of the assessment.  Perhaps it will include a recommendation for a DEI manager!

We also look forward to working with the City Manager on a process to engage the business community and to develop a program to advance Ashland as an open and welcoming community for all individuals.

Both the DEI assessment and the “welcome program” will likely take several months to complete and then to implement but we believe that work will carry the City forward in its goal of greater social and racial equity for all who live, work or visit in the City.

In May, we met with members of the Health and Human Services Committee.  They provided us with a brief overview of their work through a lens of social equity.  They noted the Fair Housing Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing in Ashland (a document required by the Federal Government) includes an action item to provide DEI training for all City departments and elected officials.  This requirement is identified in the list of Public Sector Impediments.  At their June meeting the HHSAC agreed to pass the oversight of providing the required DEI training to SERJ.  Once we know the amount of funds available, we will explore both in-person and online DEI training options. We applaud the Ashland School District’s recent organization-wide DEI training and hope that one day the City of Ashland will allocate funds to do the same for city employees, committee members and elected officials.

In September we met with representatives of the Public Art Commission and learned about their recent efforts to secure the first piece of pubic art by local black artist: Micha Blackfoot.
Several months ago, we made a commitment to celebrate and participate in three holiday events: Juneteenth, Gay Pride Parade, and Indigenous People’s Day. 

In celebration of Indigenous People’s Day and in conjunction with Catalyst, we hosted a First Friday viewing of the work of Indigenous artist Mahlija Florendao.  We also participated in the activities at SOU on October 11, celebrating Indigenous People’s Day.

As an advisory committee, we encourage the City to be more intentional of its celebration of Indigenous People’s Day.  Flying the flags of the ancestral tribes of this area would be an excellent visual reminder to the community of this important holiday.  The Oregon Confederated Tribes of Siletz includes the Shasta, Athapaskan and Takelma tribes who lived in southern Oregon and northern California.  SERJ intends to reach out to the Siletz Tribal Council and work with them to plan a flag raising ceremony for Indigenous People’s Day 2023.  We are hopeful that when the time comes, the City will be willing to purchase the flags that represent these local tribes.

On October 8, several SERJ members proudly marched in the Pride Parade.  We believe that our presence underscores the City’s intention to be welcoming and tolerant of all people.  We are hopeful that one day, the City will allocate seed money so that we can pay for sign making materials and to purchase t-shirts, and a new Main Street banner for Juneteenth and a banner for Indigenous People’s Day.

We recognize that SERJ is the newest City committee and that it was formed after the current budget was created.  Consequently, funds were not budgeted for our committee as they have traditionally been for other committees staffed by other departments. We respectfully request a budget of $1200 be included in the Administration budget to cover the cost of the banners and minor expenses to heighten our visual presence and the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community.
We have transitioned easily from a City commission to a City advisory committee though we lost a few members along the way.  We are committed to actively recruiting new members who share our commitment and passion for diversity, equity and inclusion and we ask the members of the city council to help our recruiting efforts by identifying and encouraging people they know to consider serving on SERJAC.

Thank you for the opportunity serve, we are happy to answer any questions you may have after you hear from my co-chair Emily Simon.

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