City to share race, equity conversations with other groups

March meetings’ themes cover education, policy and diversity

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Following a string of rallies and discussions on race, equity and inclusion in the past year, City of Sequim staff plan to meet with other municipalities and nonprofits to share themes they heard in recent community conversation sessions.

Last June, Sequim city council passed a resolution condemning discrimination and racism, which led to guided conversations on March 20 and 23 this year, led by mediators Miriame Cherbib, Vicki Lowe and Carlos Osorio.

They mediators also asked four questions:

• How do you feel Sequim is doing as it relates to equity and inclusion?

• What do you envision for our city in 20 years related to equity and inclusion?

• How do we create an even more inclusive city?

• How does our community want to be involved in this work?

Barbara Hanna, Sequim communications and marketing director, said at the May 10 city council meeting that volunteer staff and mediators didn’t record the meeting or take verbatim notes but rather noted general, recurring themes. Those themes included:

• an excitement and gratitude for a conversation that should be sustained by the community

• a desire to celebrate diversity and welcome more

• creating ongoing community education on racism and honor diversity for all age groups

• a denial and absence of recognition that racism exists in the community

• through policy, equalize access to critical services, create more affordable housing, and ask leaders to model sensitivity and represent citizens

• increase safety because some people don’t feel safe in Sequim and that physical, mental and emotional safety is needed

Sequim city councilors directed city staff on May 12 to continue with an Alliance of Institutions to discuss progress on reviewing policies related to the topics, and meet with nonprofits who helped outreach for the community conversations.

Hanna said the alliance was created by former city manager Charlie Bush to discuss conversations at policy levels. It met once and featured representatives from the North Olympic Library System, Clallam County, Sequim School District and Peninsula College.

There was interest from Clallam County Fire District 3, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Olympic Medical Center, Hanna said, with an opportunity for more to be included as the next meeting is set.

She said city staff and volunteers would simply share the themes with the nonprofits that serve the community about the conversations’ themes, too.

Follow-up

City councilor Keith Larkin said Monday he was concerned about the potential message coming from the city that they may want to educate people on race, equity and inclusion.

He and other city councilors preferred engaging other municipalities and/or groups to see if they would help continue conversations.

Hanna said the city’s intent was to engage the public, as directed by city council, and share the themes.

She said organizers didn’t have expectations for the meetings but did see a lot of excitement from participants.

“Hopefully, this is community work, not just city work,” Hanna said. “It’s something the whole community needs to be engaged in.”

City staff recorded 65 people at one meeting and 59 at the other with some people attending both.

Councilor Sarah Kincaid said someone she knows attended both meetings and documented that 19 participants lived in city limits.

City staff said they didn’t record the meeting or take verbatim notes to “create a safe place,” and instead noted general, recurring themes. They also only asked for an email address to register in order to contact participants for follow-up, they said.

IT Program Manager Anthony Martin said he was confused how specific locations could be determined because some people used their names and others phoned in with no name given.

Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said he didn’t care if people live in the city or the region because he felt the conversations were a good thing and he’d like a grassroots approach to continuing them with the city participating and possibly providing facilities.

“These situations will come up again whether you agree or not,” Ferrell said. “I think it’s been a good thing (the conversations) and I’m glad it happened.”

Mayor William Armacost said he liked the meeting remaining anonymous and he agreed with others he’d like other agencies to follow-up with more conversations. He added that organizers did a great job.

Hanna said there are some future options for following up on the meetings’ themes, including a shared position between organizations working on equity and inclusion, providing space for programs, and/or creating a festival or incorporating Sequim’s diversity in local events.

In a phone interview, she said organizers felt good about the discussions.

“They’re not all easy conversations, but we all felt good about the level of participation over two sessions and we had a really good dialogue,” Hanna said.

She said internal work will continue by city staff to evaluate the city’s policies and codes through the lens considering race, equity and inclusion, while continuing to participate in various training opportunities on the topics.

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