Dublin task force and advisory group's goals are to promote diversity, tolerance

SARAH SOLE
ssole@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Two new city groups focused on promoting diversity and combating injustice, inequity and intolerance could start meeting as early as September.

Dublin City Council on Aug. 10 approved members for Dublin's community task force and an advisory committee for the police chief. The groups resulted from a resolution council members approved June 22.

Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel said he hopes to hold meetings for both groups early next month. Like the rest of the city's public meetings, the gatherings likely would be held online, with the opportunity to submit public comment.

McDaniel said he also hopes in September to begin scheduling events to promote community dialogues about diversity, such as a speaker series, interactive forums or online facilitated discussion groups.

The discussions, he said, could help inform and perhaps even drive initiatives the community task force and advisory committee develop.

McDaniel said he's looking forward to hearing ideas and suggestions.

"It's just going to make us a better community," he said. Although the city did not conduct a formal application process for the task force or advisory committee, about 40 people expressed interest in the groups, McDaniel said. Many were people who had not been active in city groups previously.

McDaniel said he and police Chief Justin Paez also reached out to people, including those in the Indian, Japanese and Chinese communities, as well as various religious groups.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the representation that we'll have on both the task force and the chief's advisory committee," McDaniel said.

Paez said his advisory committee will give people a chance to have critical dialogue concerning the protection, service and public-safety needs for Dublin.

The police department had an informal advisory committee in the past, but it was focused on recruiting minority police officers, he said.

The city created the advisory committee and the task force in response to conversations in Dublin that mirrored national dialogue in the wake of George Floyd's death, Paez said.

"Dublin residents have expressed interest in engaging more with their police department, asking to learn about the agency's policies," Paez said.

Yanling Yin, a 48-year-old Dublin resident of Chinese ethnicity, said she wanted to participate in the chief's advisory committee to help the Chinese community and the police department better understand each other and build a stronger community.

"Our police department is doing a great job protecting our safety," Yin said. "The Asian community could have (a) misconception culturally about what the police can help and support and how they are doing their job."

A graduate of the Dublin Citizen Police Academy, Yin said, she has been engaged with the police department through a community panel for Dublin Police Academy training, as well as other initiatives.

She said Paez reached out to her about the prospect of joining the advisory committee.

Yin said she would like to see a more diverse recruiting effort and workforce for the police department, as well as community education about law enforcement and safety, community activities and enhanced communication.

Efficient communication is something Dublin resident Isao Shoji said he also strives for.

Shoji, 44, was born in Taiwan and raised in Japan until he was 13 years old.

He is past president and a current board member for the Japan-America Society of Central Ohio, and it was through involvement in that group that he heard about the task force and advisory committee. He will serve on both groups.

"When these opportunities presented themselves, I saw them as a way to make a meaningful difference for not only those who live and work in Dublin today but for the future generations that will call Dublin home," he said.

In addition to listening and learning about others' opinions about the Dublin community, Shoji said, he hopes the groups can identify ways the city and the police can better connect with ethnic groups that live and work in Dublin.

"The city and the police already have done a fantastic job making Dublin an attractive destination for these groups," he said.

"The next opportunity is to help them explore how to communicate in ways that are more native to these groups -- perhaps not always in the languages that are used, but more so in the cultural mindset that is unique to each."

Shoji said he believes Dublin has an opportunity to better bring different races and ethnicities together, to avoid isolated pockets of different ethnicities throughout the city.

"The more opportunities for interactions and exchanges between these groups, and with the more general Dublin population, the stronger the fabric of diversity in Dublin becomes," he said.

Lynette Mercado, who is a member of the community advisory committee, said she would like to see more empathy, understanding and thoughtful planning come out of the initiative.

Mercado, a 46-year-old Plain City resident of Puerto Rican ethnicity, had reached out to Dublin Schools Superintendent Todd Hoadley after the DearDublinOhio Instagram page began.

DearDublinOhio is an Instagram page on which Dublin students anonymously have shared their experiences of racism in the district.

After exchanging emails, Hoadley asked Mercado if she would be interested in joining the community task force, Mercado said.

After speaking with McDaniel, she decided it would be a worthy cause of which to be to be a part.

"My background in civic work in Chicago as a commissioner, as well as a community leader, has taught me that dialogue and inclusivity is a great way to take great ideas and initiatives and bring them to fruition in the manner intended," she said.

Mercado said she hopes to learn more about how civic leaders operate while also sharing experiences she and her children have had to serve as an opportunity for growth, both for her and those around her.

"There are so many experiences that if not lived, are difficult to comprehend," she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah