Santa Rosa won't expand charter committee diversity

The committee charged with recommending changes to how Santa Rosa's government functions will not be expanded to increase its diversity.

A majority of City Council members on Tuesday said they were comfortable with their appointments and didn't want to tinker with the make-up of the 21-member body just two days before its first meeting.

"I don't see any need for change," said Vice Mayor Jake Ours, noting that he selected people not for their diversity but for their credentials and knowledge of city government.

But other council members said they were disappointed that the Charter Review Committee, which meets every 10 years, didn't better reflect the demographics of the community, which is 40 percent minority.

"The council I think deserves some criticism for not being more inventive and reaching out for a more diverse committee to consider the charter," Councilwoman Susan Gorin said.

The council took up the issue after a Press Democrat story noted the 21-member committee — which will consider issues including how to make city government more diverse — wasn't terribly diverse itself.

Ninety 90 percent of the committee's members are white, 75 percent are from the city's northeast quadrant, the median age is 61, and most are City Hall insiders.

Gorin noted that the same issue came up a decade ago, and then the council reacted by adding seven additional members to expand the group's diversity.

But Mayor Ernesto Olivares, the city's first Latino mayor, said diversity is more than just who sits on a particular committee, and shouldn't be something the city agonizes over once every 10 years.

"That's not OK with me," Olivares said. "It's something we need to be concerned with every day."

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