Building Diversity in Municipal Government

building diversity“If urban demographics were based solely on who is employed in government jobs, cities would be 83 percent white and 79 percent male.” That’s the opening of Next City’s article on efforts to increase diversity in municipal governments. Living Cities, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income people in urban areas, is working with city leaders to help them engage low-income and minority communities. Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht offered up Seattle as an example.

[Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels] did an audit, saying, “Let’s have every agency look at our practices to see if what we are doing is making things worse and not better. If so, let’s fix it.” They went through their agencies looking for things, and found some as simple as only producing notices in English. Or, they found out that when they did hold public hearings, they were only in places that were impossible to get to for communities that might have been living farther out than the town center. It just was a very common-sense approach in looking at the way they operated through this lens and they took care of a lot of really low-hanging fruit.

Another example Hecht cited was Minneapolis-St. Paul, where officials are recruiting and training people of color to serve on board and commissions—in hopes that such experiences will encourage them to pursue elected offices. The United States will soon be a majority-minority country. Engaging minority residents is an essential part of ensuring that all communities in a city thrive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *