Somerville deploys city councils and commissions diversification initiative
Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne recently launched an initiative to diversify city boards and commissions within the Somerville city government. To make them more inclusive, the City will reassess the selection and application process for positions on boards and commissions.
“If we are to live up to our values of fairness and inclusiveness, we must remove these barriers so that our boards and commissions are representative of the wonderful diversity of our community,” Ballantyne wrote in a statement announcing the diversification. councils and commissions. plan.
Meghann Ackerman, deputy director of communications for the town of Somerville, explained the phases and timeline of the initiative.
“There are three phases to this process: making the recruiting process more inclusive, reviewing the appointments process, and removing barriers that prevent people from serving,” Ackerman wrote in an email to The Daily. “The full plan should be rolled out over the next few months.”
Inclusiveness and community engagement are fundamental tenets of Ballantyne administration.
“Mayor Ballantyne is focused on inclusivity, equity and fostering an environment where there can be progress for all,” Ackerman wrote.
Ackerman explained the importance of ensuring that city councils and commissions are made more inclusive.
“Serving on boards and commissions is a way for residents to become civically involved and help shape policy, so it’s important that the makeup of our boards and commissions reflect the diversity of our community,” Ackerman wrote. .
The initiative is a response to significant barriers that currently exist for future members of city council.
“We already know of some barriers, including language, lack of childcare, and meeting schedules, that can make it difficult or impossible for some residents to join,” Ackerman wrote.
According to Ackerman, more diverse boards and commissions not only help better represent the community, but they also allow a more diverse set of voices to shape the policies adopted by Ballantyne’s office.
“More diverse membership on boards and commissions brings more diverse perspectives and experiences,” Ackerman wrote.
Ackerman added that city policies are improved when these types of initiatives are adopted.
“We get better results when more voices are involved. People have unique lived experiences that can help shape more inclusive and equitable policies,” Ackerman explained.
The work to ensure equity and inclusion in local government in Somerville will not stop there. As the program rolls out over the coming months, the mayor’s office will continue to gather feedback from residents to improve future equity and inclusion projects, according to Ackerman.
While this project specifically targets new members of government and barriers to entry, its effects will help address broader equity issues.
“Councils and commissions have sometimes served as gateways for residents to become involved in local government in other ways,” Ackerman noted.
Somerville Councilor Kristen Strezo attested that the work done on city councils and commissions is an essential part of Somerville’s government.
“As a person who has served [Somerville] for years as commissioner, including two terms as committee chair, I know of the dedication, care and many hours of work that so many commissioners have put forth,” Strezo wrote in an email to The Daily. . “I will always fight to ensure that our commissioners receive the support they need to serve Somerville and I applaud the mayor [Ballantyne’s] commitment to further support their work.
City Councils and Commissions work closely with Members of City Council to ensure the policy is enacted effectively and efficiently for the residents of Somerville.
These goals are reflected in Ballantyne’s 100 Day Program which, according to the Town of Somerville’s website, “is designed to tackle the most pressing issues facing Somerville, address community priorities, strengthen basic services that have an impact on the quality of daily life and establish the practice of applying an equity lens to all City actions.
Ballantyne plans to roll out other programs that also address issues of equity and justice in Somerville, including the Voices of Somerville 2022 survey, which will interview Somerville residents from all walks of life about COVID-19 and other issues. impacting the city.
The mayor will also work with the Department of Racial and Social Justice to “advance the city’s commitment to eliminating institutional and structural racism and its intersections with other forms of oppression,” according to the city’s website. of Somerville.