A lot of heat has been generated around the village board’s discussions on racial equity. Lost in the shuffle is the substance of the matter: what the village actually does that moves us forward on racial and economic equity.
The board’s unanimous approval of the revised Oak Park Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Statement is significant and welcome, but the lengthy and contentious process conveys unwelcome signals of ambivalence. Is Oak Park abandoning its historical role as a leader in diversity, inclusion, and equity?
Now the board must show its commitment to achieving its stated equity goals. It should implement the steps advocated by the Community Relations Commission and do so without delay.
Things are off to a troubling start. By a 4-3 vote, the board declined to join the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. In doing so, the board reneged on its earlier agreement to join GARE and rejected the unanimous, well-informed recommendation of the Community Relations Commission (CRC). The board now plans to have village staff redo all of the CRC’s research into equity training programs, ignoring the skills and experience of CRC’s volunteer citizen experts and deferring instead to the recommendations of non-expert paid staff or perhaps highly paid outside consultants.
Another troubling move is the board’s consideration of cutting its funding of the Oak Park Housing Center. The center may no longer be the most effective way to promote diversity and integration in Oak Park. But if not through the center, exactly how does the village plan to support that important mission?
The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion statement is finally on the books. That’s good, but a statement is only a starting-point. The village trustees hold ultimate responsibility for policy decisions. They were elected on the principles they presented to the voters, including equity. The board must now take concrete steps to realize the equity goals to which our village is committed. The trustees have expressed their love of equity: Now, let’s see how they will act on it.
Wendy Greenhouse, Gail Galivan,
Joshua Klayman, Paul Sakol
VOICE Oak Park