METHUEN — The city is doubling down on its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion across municipal departments with a new ordinance promoting transparency in government.
At the request of City Councilor Eunice Zeigler and co-sponsor Joel Faretra, a new ordinance establishes inclusionary practices across the Mayor’s Office, Methuen Police, Fire, School departments and City Council, among others.
“(This ordinance is) a continuation of our efforts last year to have an open and honest conversation about where our community stands based on age, race, sex and sexual identity,” Zeigler told her colleagues during the last council meeting when the ordinance was unanimously passed.
According to Zeigler, conversations around diversity and inclusion last year were the first time some residents even participated in public meetings. Through the new measures, she hopes the community at large will become more invested in Methuen.
“This is a measure encouraging open dialogue — to make sure we’re being better legislators, hearing from all people and ensuring the policies that we’re putting forward are doing what they’re truly intended to do,” Zeigler said.
To encourage resident involvement, two community conferences will now take place themed around diversity during special City Council meetings. During the meetings, department heads and other key city stakeholders from Mayor Neil Perry’s office, the Police, Fire and School departments and the Disability Commission will offer progress reports about the state of the city. The conferences will be televised and live streamed and take place during the public school year.
Youth leaders, including representatives from the Methuen High School BIPOC Club, are also encouraged to attend and offer feedback.
At the conferences, Zeigler said, community members will be able to discuss “city progress or lack thereof” with department heads and elected leaders in order to make city services more equitable and accessible.
Among the topics departments will be asked to report on are the following: boards and commissions (Mayor’s Office); recruitment of women and persons of color and unconscious/implicit bias training (Methuen Police and Fire Departments); and initiatives to support inclusion through activities-based learning (School Department).
“There’s been progress made, but we need to make sure that progress doesn’t stop,” Faretra said. “Our population is continually changing and we need to make sure departments, our council and all of our boards represent our population.”
In June, Mayor Perry allocated money in the current budget to hire an Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and diversity coordinator, who would work along with the city’s Human Resources Department to ensure related policies are being followed and implemented.