Opinion - Elk Grove's Commitment to Workforce Diversity Must Start at the Top

May 10, 2017 |

“A commitment to diversity and equity starts at the top – reflected in the faces of leadership, in the allocation of resources, and in positions and roles designated to further diversity as well as equity.”

-Author unknown
Special to Elk Grove News from South County African American Coalition | 

Agenda Item 10.1 scheduled for the May 10th Elk Grove City Council meeting gets a big F.  It does not pass.  It is a failed document and commitment to the most diverse city in America. Agenda Item 10.1 is the City of Elk Grove’s Gender and Ethnic Diversity Report. This report was the result of many citizens and citizens of color demanding a Diversity Audit. What we got was a regurgitation of census information and a report that would not past the muster of a freshman college course.  

To begin this report was not even what it was intended to be. A report and audit are just not the same thing. What this document isn’t and does not do is tell the Elk Grove citizens the true state of the union of diversity and equity in the City of Elk Grove. And with such issues of diversity that stand out in this report, how gets to audit themselves?
Elk Grove city manager Laura Gill presides over the city workforce in a community
that is nationally recognized one of being one of the most diverse, yet that diversity
is not reflected in the police department nor city staffing.  
Diversity, in the context of equity, acknowledges that power differences exist between people based on factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, etc. Diversity also acknowledges that, within any given group, there are significant differences between individuals themselves. Accounting for difference is an important task of organizations that embrace an ethic of equity. Doing this in ways that acknowledges differences between and within groups is an important consideration.
The City of Elk Grove leadership, especially the City Manager, is masterful when they are running scared is to throw out something just to shut the noise down. In this case, they provided the citizens of Elk Grove with a rushed job to appease the “noise” and to ensure there is no harm to the very delicate sensibilities of the Elk Grove city leadership staff and City Council members. This report is insulting to all those who seek equity in justice everywhere especially in the public sector. The exception is of course are those on the city council and city staff who feel like there are no issues and that there is enough diversity on the council, in the community, etc.
Reasons why this “Report” is not worth the paper it is written on:
  • There was no attempt to reach out and include ANY of the ethnic groups that made public statements and were groups in the report.
  • Laura Gill was respectfully asked to consider hiring an outside independent auditor that had experience with a Diversity Report, training, etc. and a person of color to manage the audit.   She did neither.  Clearly her ability to take advice and consider persons of color for high level position are an issue.  It’s even more evident in her hiring practices for City of Elk Grove management positions of $50,000 and above.
  • There was no reason to not include part-time employees, so on its face this “report” is incomplete.
  • An authentic Diversity Audit would have included a detailed employee survey/audit, it did not.
  • It does not include complaints of discrimination, issues of harassment, how they are settled or not.
  • This report includes no bio information on anyone involved in its preparation. So, we do not know that the person(s) handling the report has the qualifications to do so.
  • There was no in-depth or breath research or clear knowledge of the types of diversity training that the City currently utilizes, have been using or are planning to use in both the city employees and sworn employees.
  • There is NOTHING on LGBTQ members in this report!!!  Not even a mention.  Do they get a separate one?  Doesn’t diversity mean all?
  • There was no mention of persons with disabilities.
Laura Gill and the Elk Grove City Council should have used this opportunity to spend good quality time on a true Diversity Audit to speak to some of the critical issues that create a system and environment of inequity, non-inclusion and perpetual racism, sexism, etc. That just did not happen.  And is the track record of Gill.
This “report” was a cheap, easy rush job.  It was so rushed that clearly no one thought in the editing process to even check the double numbers at the bottom of each page.  We deserve better than this.  Elk Grove is truly better than this.  
The citizens have no idea of what is really going on the inside and may not get an opportunity to get it because this is the status quo for how the City of Elk Grove handles issues of diversity.  The selection of the new Elk Grove Police Chief Bryan Noblett is a perfect example.  A dismissive attitude that does not include a diversity of voices, especially voices of color with the exception of a few hand-picked tokens that are used to go before the council and out in the community to be the voice of “diversity.”
If the City Manager, the Mayor and City Council members have an ounce of decency, they will scrap this “report” and begin anew. There are many of us in the community ready and willing to work together to help to the following: Assess how well individual departments or units are doing to promote diversity and equity, provide opportunity to reflect on areas in need of improvement and develop an action plan. We are ready when you are.

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Eye on Elk Grove said...

Let’s see how the Elk Grove City Council handles this adversity. They seem to more interested in photo ops than solving problems; evidenced by their lack of dialogue when something even quasi-controversial is before them. However, when a camera is within 10 feet, they jump at the chance to be front and center!

Leadership is easy when it is all photo ops and grandstanding. They get a “A” for that. An effective leader takes ownership of whatever problems are facing our city, no assigning of blame, no truckload of excuses.

Rising to a challenge is what makes democracy work. It’s what makes shaping our shared future possible.

Those are kind of leaders Elk Grove needs!

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