Diversity commission suggests ‘bold’ policy changes to ensure Edmonds becomes more inclusive

Diversity Commission Vice Chair Donnie Griffin and Chair Diana White speak to the Edmonds City Council Oct. 16
Diversity Commission Vice Chair Donnie Griffin and Chair Diana White speak to the Edmonds City Council Oct. 16.

With the goal of making the city more welcoming to all, the Edmonds Diversity Commission presented a list of policy recommendations to the Edmonds City Council during the council’s Tuesday, Oct. 16 business meeting.

The work was inspired by two key components of the diversity commission’s mandate: First, to recommend to the mayor and city council diversity opportunities to promote programs, and provide guidance to assure an accessible, safe, welcoming and inclusive government and community. And second, to support, challenge and guide government and the community to eliminate and prevent all forms of discrimination.

The first task was to get a better understanding of city government and its leadership, said Commission Vice Chair Donnie Griffin, who led the presentation, accompanied by Chair Diana White. To that end, the commission’s Policy Committee interviewed seven city department heads, two city councilmembers and the mayor.

The four-member committee collectively spent 100 hours during the past 15 months conducting interviews to engage city representatives in meaningful conversations. The exercise provided insight into how the city runs. “It was very powerful,” Griffin said.

In sharing the commission’s policy recommendations based on the committee’s work, Griffin started by pointing to “several discriminatory incidents” that have occurred in Edmonds in recent years, including a noose found at a Point Edwards construction site, swatiskas painted on cars, racist grafitti at Madrona K-8 School and a parent’s concern that a Meadowdale Elementary homework assignment perpetuated segregation.

In addition, there was a racist incident reported at the recent Edmonds Write on the Sound conference, he said. According to City Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty, who provides staff support for the commission, a Write on the Sound attendee reported in an email that on Saturday, Oct. 6, a Caucasian man “leaned out of his royal blue car and loudly yelled the ‘ N” word at me” as she was walking toward the Edmonds Theatre. The woman said that “due to safety concerns,” she left immediately and did not return to the conference on Sunday.

The latest report illustrates that “these incidents really don’t go away,” Griffin said. “It’s just a matter of, when people come to our community or they come to work for us, how do they feel? Do they feel we are in an inclusive community, a community that cares about them, a community that will root out discriminatory and bias-related information?”

Griffin then shared the following five committee recommendations:

1. The first recommendation states that Edmonds should do “all that we can to create visibility of a caring community which embraces inclusiveness, equity and diversity.” The key word, he added, is visibility. It’s important to highlight as a community value throughout Edmonds “that we seek to be free of discrimination, recognizing that all people are unique, respected and embraced in their differences,” he said.

To accomplish this, “we really have to be creative,” Griffin said. Among the commission’s ideas: Developing stickers and signs using the Diversity Commission logo and passing them out to local businesses and installing diversity flags on light poles citywide and at city boundaries, to show inclusiveness to all who live and visit here. This include reaching out to neighborhoods beyond the Edmonds Bowl, which comprises less than one-fifth of the city’s population, he noted. In addition, the city could install “Diversity is Embraced Here” signs at entryways to the city.

“We have all the signs that say ‘Hey, Rotary Club, Hey, Exchange Club,'” Griffin said. “What if we also had something that said ‘We’re a diverse community and you’re welcome here.'”

2. Describing the second recommendation, Griffin noted that some of the city department heads and other employees interviewed provided examples of inappropriate, bias-related behaviors and interactions in various city departments. To minimize the chance of such incidents being repeated, the commission recommends it partner with the city’s employee wellness committee. “This partnership would allow the diversity commission to introduce diversity education as part of the city’s existing health and wellness program,” he said.

This partnership would give the diversity commission an opportunity to reach many employees and their families, many of whom may not have had an opportunity to engage in this issue. Implicit and explicit bias education should be included in each employee orientation, and the department directors who make hiring decisions should also be required to attend such training, he added. The commission also recommends that the city’s human resources director work with the commission’s Partnership Committee to ensure the city is attracting a diverse range of applicants.

3. The third recommendation is to affirm to citizens and city employees that Edmonds is committed to following through on discriminatory and/or hate crime reports, from first report to resolution. “It is imperative to have in place transparent, accessible, and safe and secure protocols,” he said. As an example of why this is important, he pointed to the Feb. 4, 2018 incident at Harvey’s Lounge. A 45-year-old female employee of the Highway 99 bar was arrested on malicious harassment charges connected to racially motivated threats involving two African American teenagers.

“What we don’t know today is how that matter got rectified,”Griffin said. “Many folks have moved on except for the family involved in that situation. And when she called to ask what happened, I don’t know who has an answer for her. I certainly don’t.”

(Since the arrest, My Edmonds News has been following up regularly with the Snohomish County Prosecutors Office regarding whether a decision has been made to charge the Harvey’s employee in this case. Responding to an email Oct. 17, a prosecutor’s office paralegal said the case “is still pending for a charging decision.”)

Making sure that these outcomes related to discrimination/hate crimes are communicated will assure the public that such incidents “will be appropriately handled in a result-specific, transparent and impartial manner,” Griffin told the council.

4. The fourth recommendation is creation of a task force to review existing policies and procedures and make recommendations for changes to the mayor and city council, with an annual review. The goal is to ensure that reporting and follow through is “timely, visible, accessible, results-specific, transparent and impartial,” he said.

5. As the demographics of the city change, the commission and city council should engage in a leadership vision and regular dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion, including at the city council retreat, Griffin said in describing the fifth recommendation. An outside consultant should be hired to review city diversity, equity and inclusion policies, and commission is also requesting increased staff support for the Diversity Commission and its programs and activities.

The goal is to inspire conversations and work to make the city more welcoming, Griffin said.

“Working around diversity, equity and inclusion is really hard stuff, as our committee has learned,” added White, who then noted that the Edmonds City Council has already tackled some tough social issues, including a plastic bag ban and requirements for safe gun storage.

“We really feel like, in order to make an impact, we need the council to take a bold step,” she said.

“Great recommendations — you’ve given us a lot to think about,” responded Councilmember Tom Mesaros, who thanked the commission for “challenging our thinking.” Following up on the commission’s second recommendation to work with the city’s wellness committee, Mesaros suggested also working with the wellness committee at the Edmonds Senior Center.

Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked White and Griffin whether the commission has considered working with the city’s newly formed Youth Commission, noting that during a presentation last year female students at Edmonds-Woodway High School reported being victims of sexual harassment.

Griffin replied that while the commission hasn’t yet done Youth Commission outreach, he added that the most common type of discrimination reported among City of Edmonds employees “was around gender.”

“We have lots of work to do in that area,” he added. “If we had greater bandwidth, I think we could get a lot done.”

Also following up on recommendation 2, Council President Mike Nelson and Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Diane Buckshnis suggested the council should investigate the incidents of bias-related behavior that the policy committee discovered during their city interviews.

Griffin replied that the purpose of the interviews was not to try “to find incidents,” but rather to learn from department heads regarding “how they do their jobs.” The ultimate goal is to develop a competency among employees and supervisors on how to address bias-related behavior on the job, he said.

“People don’t know what they don’t know,” White added. “And some of this is completely unintentional. I think what we are trying to bring here is a set of recommendations on how we can learn to do more, and do better. Our intent is really not to get anybody in trouble.”

“This is a lesson for all of us. We need to speak the same language in diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said.

— By Teresa Wippel

23 Replies to “Diversity commission suggests ‘bold’ policy changes to ensure Edmonds becomes more inclusive”

  1. Community input is great and it sounds like the diversity commission did a great job of bringing possible solutions to the city council. I am leery of Councilmember Teitzel’s redirect to sexual harrassment. Not because it’s not an issue, but because the more you deflect from the purpose of the diversity commission and suggest other routes of “committees”, you tend to lose momentum for progress. I hope the council will take action. “A little less conversation, a little more action.” ~Elvis Presley


  2. This is a totally one-sided discussion. Of course, most whites are afraid to speak out for fear of revenge. I once complained about a landscaping job, the crew chief was a white guy, but the crew was all blacks. They cut down four of my magnolias, down to within inches from the ground, instead of pruning them. I complained in writing to HQ. The following night, at 3 a.m., I got several phone calls from the sweet black crew threatening me with violence, the typical foul language, etc. But since I am white, I am just supposed to put up with it? I had mostly very good experiences with Mexican landscapers, window washers, roof cleaners, janitorial, and they always get a generous tip from me. I don’t agree with Trump, “the wall” is a crazy idea, and I believe that you need to get along with your neighbors, whether you like them or not. I am also pro-choice and an independent voter. I have several Asian friends. While I was living in Europe, I also had some black friends, or at least I thought they were friends, until they wanted money…. I’ve had horrible experiences working in offices with ethnic minorities, when I was the only white person in one of those offices, one of them said I was “too white and too skinny.” If I had said that about her, I probably would have lost my job. But there is a double standard. They mouth off, demonstrate in downtown Seattle, destroy what they may think is white people’s property. Those small shops often belong to Pakistanis selling jewelry, or Greeks selling baklava, or other “whites” who just happen to have a business in that neighborhood. Anyway, I am not a Republican nor Democrat, but vote as an independent. I don’t like Trump or Sanders or Rossi. I don’t believe Trump’s tariffs will bring good results; that’s been tried before and has failed; history repeats itself. My earlier contribution was erased, probably because you don’t agree with my view. Never judge until you have walked a mile in my moccasins! This is a harsh country to live in, but I believe it’s especially difficult for white people, those who have achieved some wealth due to decades of hard work and persevering, smart money management, keeping a high FICO score and clean criminal (or civil) record. I didn’t grow up poor, my dad was a CEO. But I was poor when I came to America, had to pull myself up by my boot strings every morning, joined the Army to keep a roof over my head, learn a new skill, get benefits and citizenship. Got attacked by black females who pulled my hair and put deep fissures into my pretty face with their fingernails. My hair tossed on the tile floor in the latrine at 6 a.m. looked like sage brush in the wind in the Yakima desert. But it healed, I was still pretty. They tried to gouge out my eyes, too. I can still see. What I see is ugliness all around, brought on my this diversity thing that’s being pushed. Most whites won’t talk about it, but I talk to other whites about it and they all feel exactly the same as I do. Lots of land all over the globe, at one time or another, was conquered by foreign people and settled, and natives were driven out or had to make do. Example: The city of London was first a Roman military outpost when the ancient Romans conquered what they called “Britannia.” Look at London today, a global financial hub, one of the major capitals in the world. The English language, in large part, is based on Latin. Does that mean the British hate the Italians? I doubt it. I am sick and tired of all the hatred certain ethnic minorities spread. You have it a lot better than you think; try living in Africa, travel to the Congo, battle the Ebola virus, then you’ll be happy to return to white country U. S. A. The Jews on Wall Street brought the Great Recession upon us in 2008, it started with the collapse of Bear Stearns. Make no mistake, it was the Jews on Wall Street who almost brought down a country of more than 300 mill. I had 3 mortgages in Sep. 2008, couldn’t raise rents for years because I didn’t want to lose my good tenants. I made it through, but many didn’t. The tiny country of Iceland went bankrupt; I felt so sorry for the Icelanders, good people, clean-cut, peaceful, intelligent. Maybe the Jews on Wall Street were hoping to cause bigger countries, like Germany, to collapse; maybe that was behind the enormous greed. Like termites in your house. The Dept. of Licensing is run by Jews. The health-care dept. as well. I worked in an office on Capitol Hill where I was the only white person. It was two years of hell! I have to write it down once in a while, to be able to deal with the PTSD I am still experiencing. They elbowed me in the breast, the Chinese slave driver who was the supervisor didn’t flush the co-ed toilet we had, without a window. We couldn’t open any of the windows and the A/C had quit working, the building manager didn’t clean the filters, I guess. I started coughing violently, and after two years had a form of COPD that lasted for many years after I transferred out. The Hindu in the office was the worst backstabber. One of the blacks, an older woman from Alabama, got arrested by the FBI for running a prostitution ring using minors and for selling counterfeit IDs @ $200 a pop. We had a dress code, no big pieces of jewelry, but she was exempt based on her ethnicity. Why? Aren’t we all supposed to be. treated equally? Of course, that only counts when it pertains to the socalled ethnic minorities, who by now constitute such a large segment of American society, all taken together, that if it weren’t for rural America, we would all be dancing to their tune, i. e. we would do all the work and they would do all the mouthing off and carrying the whip. One thing the above diversity crowd does not understand is that when “they” take over, “they” will not do whites all the favors whites have done “them” over the years. Whites in this country have bent over backwards, so-to-speak, to give “them” all they ask for. We have nothing else to give! We had a black president. We had a black chief-of-staff. I am reading a biography of Condoleeza Rice, whom I find exemplary. What’s the problem here? I will treat people with consideration for their dignity IF, and only IF, they treat me likewise. What goes around comes around! There is a profound reason why Trump was elected, and Mexicans were not the reason. Let’s see if my “free speech” will be tossed out again. That won’t stop me! Please don’t burn down my house or my duplex or my condo or the other duplex, I don’t own that one any longer, those were good tenants….


    1. The fact that you would even put your name of the hate that you spew really let’s me know you aren’t right in the head. But at least when “they” come after you, they will know where to go.


    2. YIKES! This rant is so full of the word “I” that it is easy to hear the unfulfilled entitlements this person feels they have been cheated out of. She states that ‘they’ have to treat her nicely before she will return the feelings. There are too many anecdotal incidents to support every person’s perceived right to hate, but the real question is, who will be the first to put those aside in order to be the person with the greater humanity, integrity, and hope for future healing?


    3. “You” are a “racist”.

      See, putting quotes around it doesn’t make it better. You are exactly the reason this commission is needed, and I feel sorry for every “socalled ethnic minority” who has ever had put up with your hate-filled BS.

      Edmonds is changing. The US is changing. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Have a great day!


    4. Elena, please just stop commenting. Please go away and do some learning about the racist views you hold, and how you are maintaining systemic racism with your behavior. Before you threaten your neighbors with legal action, read your own comments and remind yourself how your own views put people of color in danger. You, dear Elena, are dangerous to people of color.


  3. Thanks Whitney and Vicki for speaking out against this hate. Your bravery and your words encourages me to ‘keep on keeping on.’
    Teresa – Your well-written article has sparked a fire with many in surrounding communities to step-up.


  4. I don’t know bout all that. I just landed in San Francisco. The first guy I saw at the terminal was a black man wearing a Raiders hat (so you know what side of the bridge he lives on in this separated society) and a #WalkAway T-Shirt. The woman sitting next to me on the way in was a white lady with a Black Lives Matter T-Shirt. I cant believe whats happening.


  5. Good Lord, what an abomination. Although, not a surprise. Let’s not kid ourselves here – things haven’t changed a whole lot from 40 years ago. Just turn on the TV, or peruse the comments at MyEdmondsNews.com or pay a visit to Harvey’s Tavern. We have a long ways to go my friends.


  6. Diversity also includes the addicts and homeless in the area as well. Calling someone a “bum” and other names are in line with the other derogatory names used against other races. These people are mothers,fathers,husbands,wives etc. I understand the concerns with the needles,garbage etc..but some deem themselves above them. I work in the public sector and am amazed at what I hear in line about the “bums” wanting money. The only difference between the two is a home and a paycheck or two.
    It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes from this.


    1. Nearly every homeless person I’ve ever talked to has long, usually racially-charged, history of trials and tribulations. Go to Pioneer Square and ask anyone whats wrong with the world and how they got there,.and you’ll likely hear a story that’s moderate to Elena’ s by comparison. Thank goodness homeless folks don’t comment in MEN, because we’re sorta classist. A homeless guy actually beat up an immigrant on 6th Ave and this town had a pretty muted reaction. Note it wasn’t one of the issues mention by the Diversity Committee. Maybe Elena needs help. I troll Nathaniel and feel pretty guilty about it after the fact. We take ourselves too seriously.


      1. I was told I got some details wrong. This was probably the most legitimate, arguably racially motivated, attack on someone in Edmonds in years, but it was almost completely ignored. A real African-American immigrant (from Somalia) had his eye socket busted on Independence Day of all days, but the attacker was homeless and not a white guy with a jay-oh-bee- and a mortgage so it didn’t get a hashtag.



  7. Whitney Shank, I consider your remark a veiled threat of physical harm. Duly noted! I will keep your name on file, and your email address can be obtained from the newspaper by my attorney.


  8. EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. You show a lack of grace by judging someone when you haven’t walked in their shoes. I am white and my first experience with prejudice was working in a department store in Houston Texas with a Hispanic woman. Years ago. So it exists BOTH ways. As long as the diversity committee also includes whites into this equation I’m ok with it. but some times it isn’t great to stir the pot. We are all Americans FIRST.


  9. Joy, I’ve been called the n-word a many times, so you’re right, discrimination can happen to anyone. A black guy I used to work with called me his n- sometimes and said, “look at the n- ….” when I did something dumb but, right here in Edmonds a white 20-something girl called me the n-word when I told her she was driving recklessly in a parking lot. She told me to shut up too. 🙁


  10. Thank you For this article. It is a fair assessment of the hundred volunteer hours and editing, plus the five recommendations the Diversity Commission subcommittee volunteers gave us in Edmonds. I hope The recommendations are implemented as a part of a process. The fifth recommendation will help us with a process. Thank you Whitney, Vickie and Donnie for writing letters here……much appreciated.


  11. One team, one fight. That was our battle cry in the military. Whether you were black, white, gay, thought differently politically – didn’t matter. Sure, we had our differences – we even had our tribes onboard ship – but when it mattered, we came together. WHY? Because we were focused together on mission at hand. Treat people like you want to be treated – problem solved.


    1. Only if you are safely on the inside. From the outside “inclusive” looks more like “exclusive” in its most negative sense.

      Would you care to explain? Broad assertions are not the same as cogent reasoning.


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