It would set up Equity & Inclusion Office, and a Commission.
Frederick, Md (KM) Legislation to establish a Frederick County Office of Equity and Inclusion has been presented by County Executive Jan Gardner. During her public information briefing on Thursday, Gardner said the idea came from an equity and inclusion leadership team established last year. “The Office of Equity and Inclusion will be responsible for developing and managing a strategic framework to ensure equitable opportunities with all levels of county government and for all county residents, again a big task,” she said.
The legislation will also establish a 13-member Equity and Inclusion Commission. “The Equity and Inclusion Commission will act as an advisory body to the County Executive, the County Council and to the office,” says Gardner. “It will help identify issues, concerns and needs of county residents to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and make recommendations as appropriate.”
Gardner says a lot of these ideas came about when she attended small group gatherings last year which were part of national discussions about race following the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. She said some of these conversations were uncomfortable, as people shared their thoughts, ideas, criticisms and suggestions for future action. “There were some recurring theme along with some totally unique ideas. But the bottom line was pretty simple: people must be treated fairly. They will not and should not accept being disadvantaged, overlooked or left behind. And again, they expect fairness and justice,” she said.
Michael Hughes, the County’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer says structures like the Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Commission will ensure these issue don’t fall by the wayside. “This fallen away could be the result a shift in priorities due to a crisis, like COVID, or a bright new shining object that now has everyone’s attention, or a different set of priorities for a new administration,” he says.
The bill to set up the Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Equity and Inclusion Commission will need to be introduced to the County Council, which will hold a hearing and take a vote. Councilman Kai Hagen has agreed to sponsor this legislation. “This is a very complex issue. It’s integrated into every part of our system, into our community, into our culture, and it isn’t going to be solved easily or all at once,” he said. “But this is a big, important, and I think, significant and substantive step forward,” he said.
No date was announced when the bill will be formally introduced to the County Council.
By Kevin McManus