ORANGE — Members of Village Council plan to start a committee on diversity and inclusion. They are considering including residents on the committee, but the composition will ultimately be up to Council President Brandon Duber.

In July, council passed a resolution to denounce racism. Council members wanted to reinforce the village’s commitment to being a warm and welcoming community. Councilman Jud Kline said that he has been working with Mayor Kathy Mulcahy and Councilwoman Staci Vincent to plan a program “for the betterment of our community.” He asked Mr. Duber to start a committee.

“What I would like to share with you all is an article that we have written called the Orange Village Racial Justice and Social Equity forum or program [and] I would like [to create] a committee to move this agenda forward and to potentially have an event in March that would be a very basic program to help us better understand the issues of this very complex and challenging problem,” Mr. Kline said at the Feb. 10 council meeting.

Law Director Steve Byron said that Mr. Duber can organize the committee and assign duties as he sees fit. The meetings would have to comply with the Ohio Open Meetings Act and someone must keep minutes. Mr. Duber indicated that Mr. Kline could be the chairman, but Mr. Kline said that he would like to co-chair the committee with Mrs. Vincent. All council members should be involved in such an important issue, Mr. Duber said. Councilman Alan Charnas said that other residents should be included as well.

“Anything we do, we have to open it to the community,” Mr. Charnas said.

Mrs. Vincent said that a committee is the right way to go. She and Mr. Kline have looked into “opening the dialogue” and “furthering the discussion” since July. At the onset, she said that they were looking to set up a program, perhaps with other local municipalities with a similar interest. She said that Leon Andrews was willing to do a seminar with the village. Mr. Andrews is the director of the Race, Equity and Leadership program through the National League of Cities.

“I know his programs go a really long way in opening the dialogue to better understand racial equity issues before we discuss as a community how we want to lay this out and how we want to solve whatever problems there are or continue to communicate with each other just to establish a bottom line of what we need to be talking about,” Mrs. Vincent said.

“It’s an opportunity for people to listen in and learn about what implicit bias is and what racial equity issues are, more generic than we would necessarily need from an entire committee to come up with this,” she said.

Mr. Duber said that council has not been looped in on this discussion and has not seen the draft document that the mayor was working on with Mrs. Vincent and Mr. Kline. Councilwoman Lisa Perry said that there may be knowledgeable residents who are also willing to participate at no charge rather than hiring someone to host a webinar.

Mayor Mulcahy said that she started this initiative last summer following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When she “hit a brick wall,” she asked Mrs. Vincent and Mr. Kline to take over planning an event. Mrs. Vincent said that there is no finalized program yet and they welcome any input from council. They need a “framework” to figure out what their end goal would be, she said. Mr. Duber said that the best framework is to start a committee.

“This is an important issue and I think you have a lot of people on council who have had their own experiences that can help guide this and help frame this and make it even better,” he said.

Mr. Kline said that he will forward the draft document to Clerk of Council Anna Girardi for distribution to the council members.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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