Frederick County Council Passes Equity And Inclusion Bill

It would set up an Equity and Inclusion Office, and Equity and Inclusion Commission.

Frederick, Md (KM) In a 5-to-2 vote, the Frederick County Council Tuesday night approved a bill to set up an Equity and Inclusion Office, and an Equity and Inclusion Commission.

The legislation was sponsored by Councilman Kai Hagen on behalf of the County Executive. “I’m excited to get this over the final hump as it were  because I think it’s an excellent step forward for the county,”  he said.

Councilman Phil Dacey, who  voted against it,   said he supports the goals of equity and inclusion, but it was not necessary to establish another county agency to achieve it. “I don’t think that this needs to be codified,:” he said. “I think this is something that there is broad discretion within the executive branch to able to accomplish this. And most frequently, this kind of thing is accomplished through the Office of Human Resources which we already have.”

The legislation would require the Office of Equity and Inclusion to develop and provide a framework for advancing racial, ethnic  and general inclusion in all levels of county government. It would also work to ensure that county employees are aware of Frederick County’s diversity, inclusion and equity goals.   County Employees would also have an opportunity to participate in a county wide culture that acknowledges, values and celebrates diversity , equity inclusion and belonging  within all levels of county government, according to a copy of the legislation..

Councilman Steve McKay noted the legislation is working to a more inclusive workforce which closely reflects the local population, and he had this concern. “We always have to remember we still must always pick the most qualified people in any given opportunity,  not the person that matches that outcome we’re trying to achieve,:” he said. “We can’t use discrimination to resolve these kinds of inequities.”

“It’s not just like an affirmative action program,” Councilman Hagen responded. “It’s a deeper dive to what we can do as a working culture and community to do better in these areas.”

There’s also another concern, according to Councilman Jerry Donald, when it comes to developing a workforce which closely reflects the local population. “I think part of the goal of this legislation–and I think it’s a laudable goal—is to look at not just our hiring practices, or who we  have in the county, but also the whys of why some groups don’t apply,” he said. “Are we accidentally, unintentionally putting up barriers that we didn’t realize.”

Council President MC Keegan-Ayer said these disparities and inequities do exist in Frederick County. “If anything the pandemic has shown to me the level of disparities within our communities for everything from opportunities afforded to the ability of our residents to access information, services,” she said.

Council Vice President Michael Blue and Councilman Dacey both voted against this legislation.

In other action, the Council approved the nine members appointed by the County Executive to serve on the Frederick County Immigrant Affairs Commission. The two representatives from the business community who are immigrants are Rosa Raez-Gracia and Seema Sharma.  From community based organizations serving immigrant populations are Bharat Deolekar and Maria-Teresa Shuck. Two representatives of faith-based organizations who are immigrants are Mizanur Rahman and Dr. Eliezer Valentin-Castannon. And one attorney with experience in immigration law is Abdoul Konare, Esquire.

The remaining appointments to the Commission will be voted on by the Council on Tuesday, November 2nd.

Also, the Council agreed to table until November 2nd a bill to prohibit non-electric vehicles from parking in public parking spaces reserved for electric vehicles, which usually have charging stations. Councilman Kai Hagen, whose sponsoring the bill, says the copies of the legislation  available to them public do not contain an amendment which addresses whether electric vehicles should be charging up while in specified parking spaces.

By Kevin McManus