Diversity Commission elects new officers, discusses inclusiveness at first meeting of 2017

New Edmonds Diversity Commission Chair Ed Dorame.

The Edmonds Diversity Commission held its January meeting at the Edmonds Senior Center Wednesday with full attendance of commissioners, representatives of City of Edmonds staff and the city council, and members of the community. The agenda for the meeting ranged from administrative duties to open and frank discussions about defining a work plan that can adjust to the community and how to best create conversations about diversity with a larger portion of the Edmonds population.

The first order of business was the election of a new chair and vice-chair, since leadership terms are limited to one year. Current Vice-Chair Ed Dorame was unanimously elected as chair for 2017, while newly reappointed member Maria Montalvo was nominated and elected as vice-chair. After his election, Dorame thanked the group for the opportunity to continue to serve his community and “work on these very important issues that cross so many members of our population here in Edmonds.”

The Diversity Commission is one of two Edmonds commissions to select its own members (the Arts Commission is the other), and the group reaffirmed its application and appointment process for 2017. Community members and commissioners alike expressed concern over the difficulty notifying all interested residents. The City of Edmonds will expand its attempts to reach applicants by soliciting applications this month via the City website, Facebook, advertising and local news media, other groups within Edmonds, and existing email lists. There is currently one open position on the commission, and the application period will be open for the last three weeks of January.

The meeting transitioned into a review of the group’s successful World Café event in December and initial planning for an upcoming youth event planned for the first half of the year. The commission received community feedback to continue to organize events like the World Café discussion but also to find ways to communicate to new Edmonds stakeholders and organizations, with the goal of widening the conversation with citizens who might not normally choose to attend a diversity event.

Amelia Wood, a local business owner, asked the commission and interested citizens to harness the motivation from learning opportunities like the World Café to take action on an ongoing basis. “We all know the phrase, if you see something, say something,” Wood said, “And in this situation, it can encourage us to do something each day to promote inclusiveness.”

Throughout the meeting, both the community and commissioners questioned how to balance the intention and action implied by the mission statement: to “promote and embrace diversity through action, education, and guidance; foster an understanding that includes, accepts, respects and appreciates each individual member of our community.”

“The more we learn from each other, the better we can address disagreements and differences of opinion,” said outgoing Chair Mario Brown. He also publicly shared the commission’s gratitude to the several citizens who joined and unreservedly participated in Wednesday night meeting. Public participants equaled the number of commissioners for the first time since the commission began its work in 2016.

“We are here for you, for all of us here in Edmonds, and we want to be the commission you want and can be proud of,” Brown said.

The Edmonds Diversity Commission holds its public meetings on the first Wednesday of every month (6-8:00 p.m. at the Edmonds Senior Center). Information about the meetings, city-sponsored and other diversity events in Edmonds, and the application process can be found at the commission’s webpage.

— Report submitted by Maria Montalvo

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