OPEN LETTER TO THE CITY MANAGER, OSHKOSH COMMON COUNCIL AND MAYOR STEVE CUMMINGS:
Dear City Manager, Mayor and City Council Members:
I am writing to urge you to do whatever is necessary to move forward with the development of a Diversity Coordinator in the city of Oshkosh. I don't know if this position would be solely funded by the city, or be a shared position between the city, county and school district. Depending on the vision of what the person in this person would be charged with doing, it might even be funded partially by GO-EDC or some other local economic development organization that would benefit by its existence. My concern with getting too many organizations in the mix, however, is there could then too many "chiefs" to answer to, unless the various entities would have one body to who the person would report to. The various organizations could form a board or coalition to oversee the position, and the diversity coordinator could report to that board. Or something of that nature.
The City of Appleton has a diversity coordinator and while I don't know exactly how this position is funded or how it is overseen, I believe we could learn much from how they've approached this issue and the position they've created. I further believe this position is one that is overdue in Oshkosh, as we are quickly becoming a diversified community and need to make everyone feel welcome and that they fit, etc. I know that the position of diversity coordinator covers much more than that, but in a nutshell it is about attracting people to this community, being inclusive and making newcomers here feel welcome and that they belong, as opposed to their being given the impression they are somehow second-class citizens or outsiders in our community, simply because they are not from here.
When I hear comments like those made by Mayor Steve Cummings at a School Board/Council meeting last week - (http://www.oshkoshcommunitymedia.org/board_of_education_stream.htm) (the conversation starts at about the :45:15 mark, but Mr. Cummings specific comments start at approximately the :48:40 mark), that people need to first understand our history and our community - I am not only disheartened and disappointed, but sickened. Yes, knowing about someone and where they're coming from is important, but it is also a long process - one that in many cases is always evolving. But we certainly do not need to understand someone's history in order to make our community inclusive, welcoming and accepting of those who are of a different race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, etc., do we? I think not. I also do not understand how, in a conversation about diversity and being inclusive, Mr. Cummings feels that using language that seems to separate "them" from "us" or "our," does anything at all toward furthering an inclusiveness within our community. Quite frankly, I find that attitude, especially in 2016, shameful.
So I would applaud those council members who voted to make the issue of a diversity coordinator a priority for the city manager in 2016 and I would implore you all as a collective voting body to continue forging ahead in this regard, just as I would encourage everyone in our community or elsewhere to follow the Golden Rule, and treat others - no matter who they are - as they would like to be treated.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
- Cheryl Hentz