Delaware City Manager Tom Homan on July 27 gave City Council a report in response to a July 13 council resolution directing him to evaluate city policies and procedures regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.
That resolution followed a request at council's June 22 meeting from Tamika Vinson-Reid -- speaking on behalf of a consortium of organizations, including the Delaware African American Heritage Council, Second Ward Community Initiative and Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church -- calling for increased diversity in city government.
The city, she said, needs to be "intentional about remediating institutional racism and other structural barriers."
Homan on July 27 told council, "I emphasize this is the first step in a process."
He summarized several points in his written report to council that covered eight pages in the meeting's agenda.
He said he has contacted other cities, such as Dublin, that are undertaking similar initiatives, and most are using consultants to examine their organizations.
"I recommend the city retain a consultant to help us establish a meaningful process to engage our community. ... We believe the subject-matter experts are in the best position to recommend the format for this dialogue and facilitate the conversation," his written report said.
The consultant also would identify areas of improvement in city policies and procedures, the report stated.
Homan and council members have said a resident task force will be part of the overall approach.
He said the group could be established legislatively, using steps taken by other cities as examples.
Among the report's 22 suggestions for future action are a community survey, establishing an internal working group, expanding diversity-based training, reviewing job descriptions to eliminate artificial barriers and cultivating a larger list of disadvantaged businesses in the city's pool of contractors.
Another says the city should focus on efforts to recruit and hire people of color "representative of the community we serve," noting the city government's minority employment was slightly under 3% in 2019 -- lower than the 13% represented in the population.
"The community's engaged right now in a way that I think is productive," Homan said, citing weekly forums at the Second Ward Community Initiative, livestreamed on its Facebook page.
Homan said the city also could consult with diversity efforts at Ohio Wesleyan University and the Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission's recently hired diversity officer, Ralonda Hampton.
Homan and Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said one issue to be resolved is how a resident task force could have more than 10 members attending a meeting, given that Ohio's current COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions limit the size of gatherings. Homan said one option would be to start with remote meetings held via a computer app.
Another question was who should define the task force's goals.
Council member Cory Hoffman said he would like for the task force to provide input on that. Homan said those interested in joining the task force might want details first, such as its goal and time frame.
Comments to council included an email from Vinson-Reid, who cited a need to challenge "recruiting and retention practices that maintains 97% all-white personnel as opposed to seeing human differences as vital assets."
She also said the city must denounce "the self-protective policies that institute artificial barriers as to why Black, indigenous, people-of-color businesses can't compete in city bids and contracting."
In addition, the city needs better public transportation, she said.
Council clerk Elaine McCloskey read Vinson-Reid's email and another from Chris Gherman to council members.
Gherman said police patrols in the southern part of the city are higher than the normal rate, which "stirs unease and feeling of paranoia," and the downtown statue of Delaware native President Rutherford B. Hayes -- who pulled federal troops out of the former Confederacy, beginning the Jim Crow era -- "demonstrates who the city wants to make feel comfortable downtown."
His wife, Whitney Gherman, also spoke to council during the remote meeting, which was livestreamed on Facebook.
Everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from economic prosperity, she said.
"Being more inclusive makes the city stronger and more stable as residents have a chance to improve their quality of life," she said.
Francine Butler also addressed council, saying the city should shop locally for talent to help improve Delaware.
The city has residents who are accustomed to having critical conversations and solving complex issues while interacting with constituents and elected officials, she said. Those engaged in this work can guide council, she said.
The meeting can be viewed online.