IC City Councilors approve creation of diversity committee

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | JUNE 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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City officials have decided it's time to address the issues of a community that continues to grows in diversity.

The Iowa City City Council decided Tuesday night to create a seven member ad hoc diversity committee to look into the needs of minority community members in Iowa City.

"The city has become increasingly diverse over the past ten years," City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said. "And there are certain tensions that are associated with the change in composition of the city's population that need to be addressed."

The city has seen an increase in the number of Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asians who now make up roughly 20 percent of the city's population as opposed to roughly 10 percent about a decade ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Throgmorton said the seven member committee will primarily comprise of minority community members and will concentrate on two specific issues — transit and law enforcement — during their tenure as members.

The council will be taking applications for membership just like they do for any other appointment in the City Council. The chair and vice chair would be appointed by the Council itself.

However, councilors also agreed to approach people they deem fit for the job and ask them to nominate themselves. The council emphasized the need to invite specific people as opposed to approaching organizations with nomination invites.

"I want to move away from organization and instead look at people individually and contact them for applying," City Councilor Rick Dobyns said.

Councilors also discussed the functionality of the committee, outlining briefly what the committee's responsibilities would entail.

"Our goal is to start them with two specific issues and then see how the issue of diversity applies to those two issues," Dobyns said.

Even though the committee will only be looking into two issues during their tenure, council members argue there is a huge scope of work in these two departments.

"It is still a very broad perspective," City Councilor Michelle Payne said. "Yes, police and transit will be two specific issues but actually they are really broad. What the committee does in these two departments, is very broad and we will have to explicitly define their work as the committee comes together."

Community members have mixed opinions about the diversity committee.

James Tippe, 48, has lived in Iowa City for six years and feels Iowa City is already very diversity friendly and that there are other issues that should be given greater prominence.

"In Iowa City, it goes without saying," Tippe said. "I come from Dubuque which has seen cross burnings and so forth. There were behaviors, beliefs and attitudes in my hometown that needed to be changed. That was a high need situation. I don't think Iowa City is a high need situation."

Another Iowa City resident – Jim Calloway, 44 – has a different opinion.

I think anything to help any minorities in this town will be helpful," Calloway said. "It will be very helpful to give them a voice." 

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