Council recommends 1st set of diversity changes

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — Round 2 of discussions on City of Lima board diversity kicked off Monday night during city council’s community and economic development committee meeting, and the first set of recommendations came down the line.

Committee councilors made two motions on the subject. The first would add two positions to each board or commission operating under the City of Lima, which would be open primarily for city residents. Under existing board rules, most board openings require members hold certain position, and the new openings would eliminate some stipulations to serve.

“Some of these committees are made up of the mayor, president, or superintendent. They leave no room for the average citizen to be a part of it,“ Councilor Carla Thompson said.

The second motion made by councilors recommends that each board or commission report their meeting minutes to City Council. Currently, only a handful of city boards follow the practice, and councilors said they lack transparency into what other boards do.

That doesn’t mean the committee’s recommendations are set in stone. A full meeting of council could change what’s finalized.

More extensive recommendations may also come down the line as councilors probe for more policy solutions. Councilor Peggy Ehora, for example, said she will be taking a look at what other cities of same size and demographic may do to encourage better board representation in order to inform future conversations.

But it wasn’t worries about the future that kept halting progress, it was concerns about past patterns. Council President John Nixon explained that the city has already had a hard time in the past recruiting people for boards and keeping them interested. If that pattern remains, expanding board membership or creating new boards requires that city officials find even more people to volunteer their time.

Some councilors disagreed with Nixon.

“I think there’s been a lack of participation, because we have not extended the olive branch to the community,” Councilor Jamie Dixon said.

Since taking up the issue of board diversity this past month, councilors have heard from multiple residents who have shown some interest. Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith has also reached out to some community groups, including the Lima African American Chamber of Commerce, about recommending people, and city officials have begun actively reaching out to people who have shown interest.

“The administration is not opposed to reaching out to those on that list,” Smith said. “If you have name and contact info, forward them to us and we will reach out.”

How many residents end up taking a position and actively serving, however, remains to be seen.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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