Santa Rosa mayor admits that diversity appointments fall short

  • 6/9/2011: A1:
    PC: City of Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares

Mayor Ernesto Olivares agreed Tuesday that the Santa Rosa City Council failed to create a Charter Review Committee that reflects the diversity of the community, and said he would set up a committee to explore the issue.

"I think we can acknowledge this has been a pretty big wake up call for us," Olivares said. "We thought we had systems in place to make this work for us, but it's not working for us."

Olivares noted that despite an existing diversity committee and annual report about diversity in city boards and commissions, it was "evident" from the make-up of the 21-member Charter Review Committee that the process was flawed.

"I do not believe we've done a good enough job in making the appointments that we need to to reflect the community that we serve," Olivares said.

The city's Charter Review Committee meets once every 10 years in a six-month process exploring ideas for improving the way the city operates. It recommends city by-law changes to the council, which then decides whether to put them before voters.

The diversity of the committee has been a hot-button issue in the past, and this year was no exception.

Ninety 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.

After the final appointments were made in mid-September, Olivares initially defended the make-up of the panel.

"Personally, I haven't seen it as an issue," Olivares said at the time. "I'm seeing diversity in our charter review appointments."

The council later decided, on an split vote, not increase the size of the committee to increase its diversity.

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