By Corinne Murdock |
Thursday night, Chandler City Council passed a proposal to spend up to over $56,000 for a “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Study” of the city’s community and its governance.
The proposal identified Cooperative Personnel Services, dba CPS HR Consulting (CPSHR), will conduct the study and offer their consulting services. The city’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) conducted a study last year following a survey from the city about their DEI initiatives. HRC will serve as a “steering committee” of sorts in CPSHR’s efforts, receiving progress reports and updates on the survey.
According to City Manager Josh Wright, the survey will have four phases. First, the creation of a DEI Aspirational Policy that will define the successful outcome of the study; the development of an external and internal communications strategy; definition of what the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion mean; interviews of council members.
The second phase will include an extensive DEI community engagement process. An online survey will be opened and promoted by the city, a community focus group will be formed, and a website will be launched to house all the documents associated with the study’s processes.
The third phase will look at the city’s employees. At this point, the city will have a “DEI Roadmap.”
Wright didn’t expand on what the fourth phase would include, but indicated it would focus on communication and transparency.
“In many ways this process can be thought of as a community dialogue about our shared values and vision for Chandler,” said Wright. “It is not simply a survey on a nondiscrimination policy or any one aspect of DEI, but rather a holistic look at how we build on our strengths as a city, improve in areas where we need to do better, and continue to create a community that is welcoming for all.”
Councilmember Matt Orlando expressed one of his main concerns with the study was that it wouldn’t produce “statistically valid” results. He asked how the HRC would play in the role of conducting the study.
“I don’t want to get this [topic to get] any more polarized,” stated Orlando.
Wright explained that they would create focus groups and further organize the study in the near future. He added that the HRC would serve a “critical role” in conducting the study.
Councilmember OD Harris asked why CPSHR was chosen to conduct the study.
“There is a strong feeling that there were groups that were left out of the discussion,” stated Harris. “Have we went back to talk to those groups? Have we had additional conversations [about] why we chose this particular company?”
Wright asserted that CPSHR was unbiased on the issue. He argued that they were the only consultant who provided all the services under one roof, and were able to do the study in “a timely fashion.” He said that anybody who believed the procurement process overlooked other companies should reach out.
It was revealed that the Request for Proposal (RFP) to conduct the study wasn’t opened up to the public, which several members of the community took issue with in public comment.
According to the mayor, over 600 comments were issued about the proposal. Mayor Kevin Hartke assured the community that he’d read them all.
Prior to the meeting, Harris had expressed high hopes for the proposal in a statement to AZ Free News.
“First and foremost I was elected to represent all city of Chandler residents. We are in the first step, in putting forth a scientific study on discrimination in Chandler. This is the first true study of its kind as we continue to evolve as a community of diverse people and backgrounds. I am very excited to have this conversation tonight. It’s my call to action in-regards to this critical conversation for all City of Chandler residents to share their experiences and life stories. This data will allow us to specifically identify any barriers, find appropriate solutions, and lastly come together for what is best for our community.”
Harris changed his tune once he learned during the meeting that the survey wasn’t open to a public RFP. He expressed his displeasure, attempting to offer an alternative motion to rescind a vote on the proposal and instead open up the survey to public bidders.
However, a majority of the council voted for the proposal, ending that possibility for Harris. Only Harris and Councilmember Christine Ellis voted against the proposal.
The study will be completed in the spring.
Watch discussion of the proposal at the council meeting here.