IDEA committee on track to meet in December

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group

A new community group for diversity, equity and inclusion in New Albany is slated to meet in December.

The Inclusive Diversity Equity Action committee, or IDEA, for short, was established by New Albany City Council in September and includes eight residents and representatives from Plain Township, the New Albany Community Foundation, the New Albany-Plain Local Joint Parks District, Healthy New Albany, the New Albany branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the New Albany Chamber of Commerce and the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, said council member Marlene Brisk.

New Albany is contracting with Lisa White of Integrated Leadership Systems, who will moderate Inclusive Diversity Equity Action committee discussions.

Mayor Sloan Spalding and Brisk will serve as council representatives on the committee.

Brisk said the community needs to ensure everyone feels welcomed and included.

“I am really excited to see the ideas that will come out of this,” she said.

She said the city is contracting with Lisa White of Integrated Leadership Systems, who will moderate the committee discussions.

City spokesman Scott McAfee said White’s fee is $1,500 per month.

All the committee meetings will be open to the public, but the group’s size might dictate that the first meeting be held virtually, Spalding said. When event details, including a date, are finalized, information will be shared on the city's website, newalbanyohio.org, and social-media channels, he said.  

Brisk said the committee had its origins in discussions had with residents in summer 2019 during the Engage New Albany process. In those workshops, residents could share feedback as the city worked to update its strategic plan.

During the process, city leaders began hearing from residents, predominantly people of color, who shared that they did not feel connected to or engaged with the community, Spalding said. The feedback gave way to a conversation within the city about how to expand its outreach.

The death of George Floyd in May refocused the discussion of systemic racism, Spalding said.

Spalding said results from a survey of residents confirmed what they leaders had heard anecdotally from residents.

The survey was planned this year to follow a survey conducted in 2018, McAfee said. Given recent global and national events, city officials thought it would be prudent to ask residents about both the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and diversity, equity and inclusion, he said.

A random sample of 302 New Albany residents was surveyed via phone calls.

According to results from the survey, administered by Saperstein Associates, 88% of those surveyed believe it is important for the people of New Albany and local government to focus on creating a diverse, inclusive and fair city. A total of 56% agreed with the statement that New Albany is a diverse community.

A total of 92% of those surveyed agreed that New Albany is welcoming to people of all ages, and 83% of people agreed that the city is welcoming to people of all physical abilities. Meanwhile, 80% agreed that the city is welcoming to people of all religions, and 70% said the same regarding sexual orientation.

When it came to race and ethnicity, 72% of people agreed the city was welcoming.

A total of 239 white residents responded to the statement that New Albany is welcoming to people of all races and ethnicities, and 182, or 76%, agreed. A total of 26 Asian residents responded, and 19, or 74%, agreed. A total of 22 Black residents responded, and 8, or 36%, agreed.

McAfee said survey results for smaller groups are less reliable than larger groups. Survey results relating to diversity, equity and inclusion will be shared with the IDEA committee, he said. 

Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed agreed that they trust local law enforcement to treat them and people like them fairly, and 75% agreed that they trusted law enforcement to treat people different from themselves fairly.

Asking these questions creates a benchmark in which to compare data from future surveys, McAfee said. The city plans to include similar diversity questions on its survey in 2022, he said.

Although the city needs two or three years of survey data to effectively show trends, the goal is to be proactive in making improvements to create positive trends where diversity, equity and inclusion are concerned, Spalding said.

He said he is eager to get started.  

“It’s not going to happen overnight," Spalding said. "These are complex issues."

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah