Waverly Mayor Adam Hoffman is putting together a Human Equity and Diversity Task Force to shed light on “what has unfortunately fallen into the shadows by unintentional complacency or blatant ignorance.”
In a statement to the paper announcing his intent, which he read into the record during the July 6 council meeting, Hoffman said he had been prompted by a recent presentation of “Embrace,” the town’s inclusion group led by La Toshia Burrell and Jean Schenkewitz, to revisit the city’s five-year strategic plan in regards to diversity.
Hoffman said the plan, published in August of 2018, had not been acted upon, so six months into office, he is taking it upon himself to own the issue and remedy it.
At the June 22 meeting of the council, which, like all meetings since mid-March, the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, took place virtually, Burrell, who served as the guest council person for June, presented the group’s work.
Later she told Waverly Newspapers she is looking for financial support from the city that would enable the group to give diversity visibility. The group held one event in 2019, but its plans for the next one this summer were derailed by the coronavirus.
Hoffman said he wants to take a broader perspective on diversity with the creation of the task force.
He added the members would address biases that persist.
“I am concerned with resisting hatred and supporting all community members and visitors regardless of their race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, height, weight, physical or mental ability, veteran status, military obligations, socioeconomic status, food insecurity status, or marital status,” he said in the statement.
In the interview with the paper on the occasion of the announcement that he is pushing the idea to completion, Hoffman said that the creation of such a body is long overdue.
He added that according to the city’s strategic plan, which can be found on the city’s website, the establishment of a six-person task force by 2019 was one of the metrics for success in the area of diversity.
Other ideas mentioned in the plan, reviewed by Waverly Newspapers, include new faces in volunteer roles, the hiring of a bilingual person on city staff, an increase in block party permits and new store fronts with new, different businesses, among others.
“The only one we got accomplished is the annual celebration event,” Hoffman said.
Several demonstrations for racial justice on the lawn of the courthouse in June, and a silent prayer vigil at Kohlmann Park, led by Wartburg College Track and Field Coach Marcus Newsom have opened the conversation on race, as has the recent reported incident of racial slurs at the June 27 baseball game in Waverly directed at Charles City baseball player Jeremiah Chapman.
During council comments on July 6, Councilwoman Heather Beaufore was among the council members expressing concern over the racial slurs episode, which has been widely reported, including by national media. She said a task force on diversity was “needed now more than ever.”
“I have to admit I only had one eye open to the variety of human inequities there are in our community, however due to the recent events in our nation, state and in our own community, I now have both eyes wide open,” Beaufore said. “I know now there is a difference between equality and equity, I see now that our community is not perfect, nor will it ever be, but we can always seek to do better.”
Hoffman said the task force will tackle a broader set of issues. He added that depending on its mission and its outcomes, the temporary task force may transition into a permanent city commission.
“If we don’t do anything, the next thing that would happen, you are going to have Black Lives Matter in the park and right next to them we are going to have Obese Lives Matter, Hispanic Lives Matter, all of these groups would want to share their oppression through the biases people have,” he said. “Our ignorance towards obesity, food insecurity, socio-economic challenges, all those things, all of those biases are unacceptable.”