Wilton Manors’s definition of diversity needs some more work.
At the Nov. 24 city commission meeting, the community affairs advisory board (CAAB) presented a memorandum on how to recruit and maintain diversity on city boards and committees. The memo failed to include many groups covered by the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, said resident and former commissioner Julie Carson.
“I really recommend bringing in an expert to consult on these very important matters so that we can move our community forward in a more representative way,” Carson said during the meeting’s public comments portion. “I’m happy to fund the cost for this.”
CAAB Chairman Michael Sansevero read the memo to the commission.
“Diversity is a recognition of all those differences that make us unique, and includes, but is not limited to race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, education, religion, gender, socio-economic status, age and physical or mental ability,” Sansevero said. “We recognize that individuals can affiliate as such in one or more ways. The goal is to create an environment by which any individual or group can feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued in order to fully participate.”
Carson noted CAAB’s diversity definition left out gender identity and gender expression. The board’s recommended outreach also failed to include transgender groups, the NAACP, aging groups, independent living facilities, Kids in Distress and synagogues and churches.
Vice Mayor Paul Rolli commended the board’s work and said the list of diversity groups was a “living document” meant for additions and subtractions.
“We can tweak it if we need to,” Rolli said.
Mayor Scott Newton echoed Rolli: “I think you did a great job,” Newton said. “You can get too far if you really get into this. We could probably add 200 groups. I think everything that he put into this covers everyone if you look and each and every word that you put in there.”
Sansevero said best practice for achieving diversity in the city encompasses attitudes, opinions, approaches and strategies to ensure no groups are excluded because of their differences or by implicit bias. Fair procedures and processes are important to eliminate barriers that prevented full participation in the past, Sansevero said.
Setting term limits for boards and committees are recommended, Sansevero said.
Commissioner Gary Resnick said the city’s current boards and committees have a “heaviness to lawyers and accountants.”
Resnick said he wouldn’t reach out to synagogues and churches with the exception of the JCC and Congregation Etz Chaim.
Commissioner Mike Bracchi asked CAAB to identify barriers to participation. “We need to understand what the problem is and one of them is people just aren’t applying.”
Direct outreach over the phone and building self-esteem and understanding in potential applicants is a key strategy, said Commissioner Chris Caputo.
“It’s going to be a growing and living document,” Caputo said. “A lot of this is being able to see themselves in the role and reflecting the diverse nature of the community.”
After a lengthy discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to have staff bring a draft policy based on CAAB’s diversity and inclusion memo to its January meeting.