Letter to the editor: Applying an equity lens to public meetings

Editor:

It is rare for me to write a letter to the editor expressing my concerns about what a local government is doing. However, there are some recent examples of the City of Edmonds not practicing what they talk that are of such concern that I felt obligated to make this a statement rather than a simple comment to what has been in the news.

In January 2021, the City of Edmonds Diversity Commission published an Equity Toolkit that was based in part on a study and report published by the Commission. Results from this study and report were published by MyEdmondsNews. One of the major recommendations of this report was that everything the city should do is to view everything through what is referred to as an “equity lens.” The purpose of applying an equity lens is to be “deliberately inclusive as an organization makes decisions.” The City of Renton (a minority majority community) provides further details as to why using an equity lens is important.

“An equity lens is used to minimize unanticipated adverse consequences in a variety of contexts, including the analysis of proposed policies, institutional practices, programs, plans and budgetary decisions. The equity lens is a vital tool for preventing adverse and / or disparate outcomes and for identifying new options to remedy long-standing inequities.” (City of Renton)

I had commented earlier when I saw a scheduling conflict with the “public meet and greet” set for Aug. 4 to allow the citizens of Edmonds a limited (one day beginning at 5 p.m.) opportunity to hear from the final candidates, to mingle and chat with the candidates, and complete a brief online survey for individuals to provide their comments afterward that this event conflicts with a long-scheduled event by Edmonds in Bloom for their 25th Anniversary Party. I suggested that it was not inclusionary to potentially exclude a large group of Edmonds residents who have been very supportive of the city and the community through their time and efforts to make our downtown community truly unique and beautiful. By scheduling a conflicting event, the city is forcing people to make a choice between a long-scheduled event and something for which we received less than one week’s notice. While this may sound petty, people opting out of the Edmonds in Bloom event lose the opportunity to get a book signed by Ciscoe Morris, something that people may treasure for years to come.

Today I saw a reminder in My Edmonds News about another event also scheduled for Aug. 4 beginning at 6 p.m. inviting community members to assist in the visioning process for designing gateway signs at the northern and southern city limits on Highway 99. So now we are asking people to make yet another choice of when, where, and what to become involved in.

All of these things are important for so many different reasons. The police chief selection process is probably one of the most important decisions a community ever faces as it affects the future direction and public safety of the entire community. At the same time, for the community as a whole and specifically for the historically under-served Edmonds community along the Highway 99 corridor we are asking people to make the choice to focus on the police chief selection process or participate in an event to affects the very community in which they live.

So, I am asking the Mayor and the City Council of Edmonds to practice what you publish and to apply an equity lens when scheduling events to avoid these kinds of conflicts. In regard to the police chief selection process the limited amount of time (one day, one evening) provided for the public to meet, digest, evaluate, and provide feedback on the three excellent candidates is simply insufficient given the importance of the decision. While I fully understand the difficulties of scheduling meetings and the importance of people’s time, this simply comes off as simply providing lip service to a real and active community engagement process in such a critical decision.

Rebecca Elmore-Yalch
Edmonds

  1. I am adding a comment to my own letter. I have just found (after watching the last of last night’s Council Meeting / before the council and mayor comments) that there is also a Diversity Commission meeting scheduled for today at 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. This is there regularly scheduled meeting so whoever scheduled the meet and greet should have been well aware of this meeting. So now we have three major conflicts to an extremely important and limited opportunity to participate in and become informed about the police chief selection process. So who is actually available to be part of this process? Can this be considered inclusive and viewed through the equity lens?

  2. Yes, four public events scheduled for this evening, Aug. 4th, three of them under the aegis of Edmonds City Hall. I have keen interests in two of those events tonight and have to decide which one to ignore. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are already filled with meetings. The police chief candidates event and the Hwy99 event should’ve been scheduled for a Monday or Thursday, days with fewer conflicts.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. The City should maintain one master calendar of public events, focusing on City-sponsored events, and publish that calendar on the City’s website. Whenever someone in City Hall wants to schedule a public event, they should first look at the calendar, and then select a date that avoids or minimizes conflicts.

    This is just basic civics, demonstrating some respect for the citizenry that City Hall serves.

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