Dead on arrival 

Amid controversy, City Council torpedoes diversity board proposal

click to enlarge Councilman Darryl Glenn - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Councilman Darryl Glenn

Before Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilman Darryl Glenn predicted his efforts to create a board encouraging minority participation in the city's affairs would die.

Indeed, he was right.

Just two weeks after decisively voting for the idea, the council unanimously killed Glenn's proposal for a Strategic Plan and Cultural Diversity Advisory Board.

It was an abrupt end to a firestorm surrounding diversity in Colorado Springs. Upon hearing of the proposal, advocates for the gay community, women and the disabled expressed disappointment that their groups were left out while seats were reserved for business interests like the Housing and Building Association and the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.

Glenn said such organizations, which already dominate council meetings, could directly engage minority groups like the Black Leadership Forum on issues such as diversity in the fire and police departments.

But Glenn's proposal lacked key support from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Colorado Springs. Though Glenn reserved the chamber a seat, its members "respectfully" declined, noting that no one ever actually asked them if they wanted to be included.

A May 17 letter from the chamber's current president, Alicia Jones, and its president-elect, Ken Barela, added that the board appeared to lack a "truly diverse membership and a commitment from the Colorado Springs City Council that its recommendations will be taken seriously."

Citing this lack of support and the fact that a citizen-run cultural diversity forum already exists in the Springs the council backed Mayor Lionel Rivera in saying the idea needed to be better developed.

"There should have been more due diligence," Rivera said during Tuesday's council meeting.

Rivera encouraged the council to learn more about the citizen-run forum, the existence of which appeared to surprise some members. Councilman Jerry Heimlicher said the group could be a beacon for those concerned with diversity issues.

Days prior to the meeting, Glenn, the only black member of council, tried to address criticisms. He lobbied Rivera and the other seven councilors to consider a revised proposal opening the board to 13 residents with no specific affiliations. Glenn said Colorado Springs is so diverse that such a board would have naturally attracted a representative crowd.

"I sent a new proposal to my colleagues, but it got a cold reception," Glenn told the Independent prior to Tuesday's vote.

Asked why the council refused to embrace the idea, Glenn told the Independent, "We haven't progressed to the point where we're walking upright and we're able not to put people in particular boxes."

Ryan Acker, director of the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said the controversy surrounding Glenn's proposals proves the city needs a diversity board. He hopes the council will revive the issue soon, although Rivera provided no deadline for when it might be revisited.

"It would be extremely unfortunate if they just decide to toss it to the side," Acker said.


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