Diversity discussion brings out concerns, ideas
More than 50 community members and city leaders packed into the Rochester Public Library auditorium Wednesday evening to discuss the state of the city's various appointed boards and commissions — and what can be done to improve the diversity of each.
The event was co-hosted by the Med City Beat, RNeighbors and the library.
Council member Nick Campion kicked off the discussion with a brief presentation on the current demographic makeup of Rochester's boards, comparing data from a survey conducted by the Mayor's office in late 2015 against data from the 2010 census and Rochester Public Schools.
Council members Michael Wojcik and Mark Bilderback, and City Council president Randy Staver were also in attendance.
When the discussion was opened to the audience, attendees cited concerns with the current system, from a selection process that relies largely on the mayor and a "musical chairs" shuffling of the same individuals from board to board, to a lack of advertising about open positions and an inconsistent application process.
Many in the room, including Cindy Maves, had applied for a city board position before. Maves, who ran against Mayor Ardell Brede in 2014, was encouraged to apply for the transportation board by Brede after the election. According to Maves, city staff came back and said that she couldn't serve on the board because her job as a school bus driver posed a conflict of interest. "I hope we do get diverse boards," Maves said. "It's something I ran on."
Working in small groups, attendees also jotted down solutions to improve diversity of all types — age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. — on city boards and commissions. "What does difference look like, and how are we going to measure it?" questioned Rahul Kashyap, a diversity council board member.
Many in attendance, including Campion, expressed an interest in developing solutions, not just airing concerns. "The key is to take frustration and to turn it into positive action," Campion said.
Some of the solutions proposed at Wednesday's forum included:
- Increase community engagement to help with leadership development
- Diversify who chooses people for committees
- Have targets/goals for diversity so we know how we measure up and where we fall short
- Actively recruit to target demographics
- Provide training and mentoring to new board members
You can see more concerns/solutions brought up by the groups in the photos below. If there is anything you would like to add, we invite you to keep the conversation going on the Facebook event page.
(Cover: Claire Walling)