Council receives recommendation to create a new Diversity Commission charter

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Screenshot (35)The Neighborhoods and Demographic Diversity Commission will likely be re-created with a new charter, after the move was recommended by an outside consultant during Monday’s City Council work session, though no decisions were voted on at that time.

John Okamoto of Okamoto Strategies was in attendance to present his report and recommendations regarding the Neighborhoods and Demographic Diversity Commission.

The commission has struggled with low membership and has had internal issues, ultimately leading to a self-voted meeting suspension in April 2016. City Council decided to hire an outside consultant to review the commission’s mission and provide recommendations for next steps and possible positive outcomes.

Okamoto reviewed commission documents and enabling legislation, commission bylaws and operating procedures, meeting agendas and minutes, and interviewed 20 associated individuals. This information was tabulated into a final report and presented to councilmembers during the work session. The presentation included ten recommendations addressing “best practices” and their implementation.

“The absence of these best practices leads to chaos,” Okamoto cautioned councilmembers during his presentation. “Without clarity there is mission creep, disorganized and confusing meetings,” which leads to “frustrations” and a “waste of public resources.”

Okamoto’s stated that his recommendation is “to create a new commission with an updated charter focused on social equity, access, connectedness and acceptance.”

The commission was recently confused by it’s dilemma between being “place versus issue based” and operating as a “mix of advisory and programming.”

By redoing the commission charter, Okamoto thinks that the city would benefit by a division of these focus points with energy being poured into “new emerging issues such as LGBTQ (individuals) and (overall) police-community relations.” In addition, training of commissioners and chairpersons could be consistent and refreshed processes and procedures of setting meeting agendas and basic Robert’s Rules could be implemented.

Councilmembers thanked Okamoto for his hard work investigating the sensitive topic and expressed some concerns about the commissions purpose and potential reorganization.

Councilmember George Hurst was worried about losing the “citizens-up” feel if staff members were allowed to help set commission agenda items. Boyer shared his interpretation that a commission’s “purpose was to get citizen input on items brought forward by staff.”

Other councilmembers weighed on the issue. Councilmember Goodwin reiterated that staff suggestions to agendas are merely proposals and not demanding or forcing commissions to remain only on those topics.

Councilmember Ross stated that “what’s lacking currently is the structure” and the commissions ability to function.

Councilmember Sessions liked the recommendations, especially because a healthy commission is able to communicate with city staff.

“We want their genuine authentic feedback,” Sessions said, and the recommendations for procedures “gives it some structure.”

Other recommendations for the diversity commission brought to council include annual training and procedure refreshers, term limits for commissioners and chairs, evaluations of mission and procedures, and “celebrate and thank the work of commissioners and staff.”

“You do have a great city,” Okamoto said as he exited the meeting table. “That’s one of the things I heard consistently through all interviews.”

Earlier in the meeting, councilmembers excited to announce the new Human Resources Director and Interim Police Chief.

Council President M. Christopher Boyer smiled though the motion to confirm Christine Scarlett as the Human Resources Director. She was unanimously confirmed to the position and her mother and aunt supported her with applause from the audience.

Scarlett brings 15 years of executive human resources experience and has recently worked with the City of Seattle and Snohomish County Health Department.

Council also approved Thomas (Tom) Davis as the Interim Chief of Police. The position became available following the current Interim Chief of Police Bryan Stanifer’s assumption of his former position as Deputy Chief of Police. Stanifer said the change was due to “personal and professional reasons.”

Davis attained a Master’s Degree with a 3.95 GPA in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School of Monterey, California, and has attended several programs from the FBI National Academy. He has 30 years’ experience in Washington law enforcement and has been married 29 years.

“He is highly qualified,” said Mayor Nicola Smith, and has “fabulous recommendations.”

Also at Monday’s work session:
– Presentation from Snohomish County Health District about per capita funding needs
– National Night Out councilmember coordination
– Executive session about Teamsters

–By Emily Scott

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