The Signal Hill City Council discussed next steps in forming a new Diversity Coalition Committee (DCC) during its Sept. 22 virtual meeting.
Deputy City Manager Scott Charney said the City received 22 applicants for the volunteer committee from among its residents, plus one non-resident business representative.
The City accepted applications from Aug. 8 to Sept. 7, with “interest in this subject matter and passion for community engagement” as the only requirements.
The council began discussing potential systemic racism in the city’s polices after the May 25 killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of that city’s police and subsequent worldwide protesting against police brutality and racism.
The DCC is part of the City’s Race and Equity Framework, which stems from a Standing Up for Equality and Against Racism resolution the council passed in mid-July, championed by Councilmember Edward Wilson.
The DCC’s role will be to “examine the City’s current policies and engage the community on various aspects of race and equity as part of an evolving effort to address systemic racism and bias in the policies and practices of municipal government,” City Manager Hannah Shin-Heydorn said in an Aug. 7 statement.
Specifically, DCC members will work toward increasing awareness among city staff and the community through education, facilitating participation and engagement and recommending guidelines and best practices for improvement.
“A key factor to the success of the committee will be the diversity of its membership, intended to reflect our community as a whole,” the application states.
Charney said the 22 applicants are evenly split between those identifying as female and male.
Nine of the applicants identify themselves as African American or Black; five as Asian, South Asian or Chinese American; four as Hispanic, Latino or Mexican American; two as mixed race; and two as white, Charney said.
He noted that while the applicants are indeed diverse, they don’t align with Signal Hill demographics. For example, 41% of the 22 applicants are Black whereas the resident population is 11% Black, according to 2018 statistics.
And while about 29% of residents are Hispanic and 32% are white, those groups represent 18% and 2% of DCC applicants, respectively.
The proportion of Asian applicants, at 23% of the total, are most comparable with Signal Hill’s Asian population of about 25%.
“Two applicants identified as persons with a disability and one is a member of the LGBTQ community,” Charney added. “Three applicants are current city commissioners.”
City staff recommends that the council allow all 22 applicants to serve on the DCC, given the magnitude and complexity of its purpose, Charney said.
According to the DCC application, while the council will decide whether all applicants will be allowed to serve, everyone interested will be able to participate.
Charney proposed that the council nevertheless interview applicants in October, but the council questioned the necessity of that.
“What was the thinking of going through an interview process if the intention is to appoint everyone interested?” Vice Mayor Tina Hansen asked, adding that the City shouldn’t have indicated that on the application.
Councilmember Lori Woods suggested that if all applicants are allowed to participate, the council wouldn’t have to interview them but instead simply “meet and greet” them.
After discussion, the council agreed to wait on the advice of a yet-to-be-hired consulting facilitator before deciding on the size of the DCC and how the council should approach meeting applicants.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Woods said. “I’d like to take the time to get the consultant in place before we move forward to get the best results for this whole process as possible.”
The City budgeted $25,000 for the facilitator’s services with funds reallocated from police and legal contract-services, according to the staff report.
Shin-Heydorn said she contacted organizations such as the Brotherhood Crusade and Urban League– which she said fight for social equity and inclusion– for recommendations.
She is currently collecting letters of recommendation and references for one individual who once lived in Signal Hill and is currently still in the area, Shin-Heydorn said. The council will consider hiring that candidate at its next meeting on Oct. 14, she added.
Wilson said that while he had previously expressed the need to move quickly in forming the DCC, he agreed it was best to proceed methodically.
He also expressed approval at how many applicants are interested in serving.
“To have that number of people apply is reflective of the people in the community wanting us to look at this issue and address it,” Wilson said.
The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 7pm. To access and participate in the virtual meeting, visit the council’s webpage at www.cityofsignalhill.org/79/City-Council