Arvada City Council moving forward with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce, consultant

City team to research similar initiatives implemented by nearby communities over the next month

Rylee Dunn
rdunn@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/22/22

The Arvada City Council held a study session on May 10 to discuss the next steps for the city’s hiring of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce and consultant and will be moving forward with a plan to have the taskforce assembled and the consultant hired within the next 6-8 weeks, according to Arvada Mayor Marc Williams.

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Arvada City Council moving forward with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce, consultant

City team to research similar initiatives implemented by nearby communities over the next month

Posted

The Arvada City Council held a study session on May 10 to discuss the next steps for the city’s hiring of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce and consultant and will be moving forward with a plan to have the taskforce assembled and the consultant hired within the next 6-8 weeks, according to Arvada Mayor Marc Williams.

The City of Arvada previously hired a DEI consultant; We The People, a “100% native woman owned and operated” consulting firm based in Oklahoma City. After a contentious meeting with City Council on Jan. 10, We The People’s contract was terminated the next day.

Representatives from We The People said that they were informed of their termination the morning after Jan. 10 meeting and added that they were disappointed that they would not get to continue working with the city.  

“It’s very unfortunate that there were 2-3 councilmembers that shut this down without having heard from the community or city leadership,” the representative told the Arvada Press in March. “We have been, and I have been in some very hostile environments… we’re most disappointed that we were not able to continue the work.”  

At the May 10 study session, City Manager Mark Deven outlined the next steps that the city will take to address its DEI concerns.

“The next steps will be that we will research similar communities that have gone forward with DEI work,” Deven said. “We will research their scope of work, what they carried out or what their process of carrying out was, we will research their methodology and bring that back to you for future discussion.”

Williams said that he expected the city team to move forward with a taskforce and consultant after discussing their research into other communities with council.

“Depending on what they come back with, I fully expect us to have a taskforce and a consultant,” Williams said. “I think the team is going to report back to us within a month and within 6-8 weeks — about two weeks to a month after the city team gets back, we plan to have the taskforce and consultant active.”

Councilmember Lisa Smith said she was glad the city was moving forward with DEI initiatives because she felt it was of increasing concern for citizens.

“We’re starting to see a growing desire for our local government to engage in social issues and It’s great to see our citizens engage and advocate for causes like DEI,” Smith said. “Even if we are challenged with balancing the need to address these issues with our limited funding and staff capacity, I’m eager to continue these strategic discussions with our council, city staff and community.”

Residents respond

 For many residents of Arvada, DEI work hits close to home. Kia Ruiz has lived in Arvada for 3 years and said she almost didn’t move to the city in part because of the KKK placard that used to be in Olde Town.

 Ruiz said she wants to see a consultant and taskforce that can take a look at how the city can work to be more inclusive for all of its residents.

“I hope to see somebody that could really help them analyze processes and structures with how they’re integrating all residents that they’re supposed to be serving,” Ruiz said.

She added that the city will get more diverse — a claim backed up by recent data from the state demographer’s office — but whether it will become more equitable remains to be seen.

“I think things will become more diverse. Whether they’re equitable, I’m not so sure. I see the city essentially classing itself out, so it won’t have services. We’re setting ourselves up here for not having a great quality of life because we don’t respect each other, and we don’t support each other,” Ruiz said.

Barbara Dray, an eight-year Arvada resident who is engaged in DEI work, said that some who come from places of privilege struggle to understand why DEI work is necessary because they don’t experience oppression and inequality firsthand.

“Those who struggle to understand DEI — do you truly understand what it’s like to be like somebody who’s been pushed to the margins? Have you experienced oppression and discrimination in yourself or witnessed it firsthand?” Dray said.

“And when you don’t have those experiences it is hard to understand, ‘What’s the problem?’ Because everything in your little bubble is A-OK. And because you’re the privileged class and the privileged race and the privileged ability, you basically walk around not seeing the inequity because it doesn’t affect you personally,” Dray continued.

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