The Wauwatosa council has passed an equity and inclusion statement to guide the city. Here's what it says.

·5 min read
About 150 people attended a listening session during a special meeting of the Wauwatosa Common Council Tuesday, July 21, 2020, at Hart Park Stadium that addressed race, equity and police issues. The meeting came less than a week after the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission suspended the officer who has fatally shot three people in the last five years.
About 150 people attended a listening session during a special meeting of the Wauwatosa Common Council Tuesday, July 21, 2020, at Hart Park Stadium that addressed race, equity and police issues. The meeting came less than a week after the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission suspended the officer who has fatally shot three people in the last five years.

Wauwaotsa officials are continuing their quest to make the city a more equitable place to live and work in.

The latest move in that direction is the adoption of an equity and inclusion statement for the city, to "provide the public with clarity about the reasons why Wauwatosa values equity and inclusion," according to the statement.

The Common Council unanimously approved the statement, which was drafted by the city equity and inclusion committee, earlier this month.

Although the statement includes no specific action items, it calls on the council to consider the statement during its strategic planning process in 2022.

Margaret Arney
Margaret Arney

Margaret Arney, the vice chair of the equity and inclusion commission, helped draft the statement along with other commission members and city staff.

"It's important because it's a clear and concise statement of the work that we're doing," Arney said.

"It says the 'why' behind the equity and inclusion," she added.

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The statement generally focuses on embracing "guiding principles" such as respecting different viewpoints and backgrounds and considering equity and inclusion when making decisions.

Equity, inclusion and diversity have been hot topics in the city in recent years. Arney said the statement builds on the city's mission statement and the purpose of the equity and inclusion commission.

The statement can be a guide for how city staff and officials explain those goals to residents as well, Arney said.

"The City of Wauwatosa is committed to creating a positive environment of equity and inclusion for all of its employees, those who live or work in Wauwatosa and visitors to Wauwatosa," the statement says. "We believe that embracing the concept of equity and inclusion improves our community for everyone, and will assist us in ending disparities in quality of living that exist because of historic policies, practices, and systems in Wauwatosa."

It also helps describe five key initiatives the city is focusing on in the next five years.

Those initiatives came after a 2020 report said Wauwatosa lacks diversity and affordable housing.

Those five initiatives are:

  • Increase the amount of affordable housing.

  • Increase the number of minority-owned businesses.

  • Continue to evolve police services.

  • Address lack of accessible public space and housing for individuals with disabilities.

  • Use city communications to further develop transparency around equity initiatives.

"It becomes kind of a lens that we look at the work that we're doing," said Arney, who is running unopposed to be Wauwatosa's next District 2 alderperson this spring.

Members of the city's government affairs committee pushed for the statement to be included in the city's strategic planning process before it was sent to the Common Council.

"It struck me as a very simple, eloquent, clear path to guide, as much as you can guide, the thoughts and the actions of our employees and how we treat each other and how the staff treats a citizen and vice versa," said Ald. Kathleen Causier.

Goals for the city

In July 2020, the City of Wauwatosa signed the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's pledge to "make Milwaukee a region of choice."

As part of the pledge, the city is to increase diverse management by 25% and diverse employment by 15% by 2025.

In January 2021, 90% of the 465 city employees were white.

Beth Mbow, Wauwatosa's human resources director, didn't have updated diversity statistics for city staff when asked by a reporter Wednesday.

But Mbow did say the city is designing the job description for a human resources specialist who will be focused on "enhancing workplace culture, diversity and training for city staff," according to the city budget.

The demographics of Wauwatosa are also shifting, as the city has seen a 40% increase in the number of Black residents living in the city in the last 10 years — up to 2,911 people — according to the 2020 census. The Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations are also increasing.

What does the statement say?

Here's what the statement says:

"The City of Wauwatosa is committed to creating a positive environment of equity and inclusion for all of its employees, those who live or work in Wauwatosa and visitors to Wauwatosa. We believe that embracing the concept of equity and inclusion improves our community for everyone, and will assist us in ending disparities in quality of living that exist because of historic policies, practices, and systems in Wauwatosa.

"As a City, we strive to create an inclusive and equitable community by embracing the following guiding principles:

  • Develop inclusive structures and programs throughout the city to fulfill our responsibility to deliver service excellence to residents, as well as visitors and employees in our community.

  • Strive to be a vibrant and welcoming community of choice that values diversity, equity, and inclusion as a critical part of our service provision.

  • Demonstrate equity-sensitive leadership through our department directors and managers who will strive to ensure that equity and inclusion are considered throughout decision-making processes and also that employees are valued for their unique contributions.

  • Recognize that programs and services may have different impacts on different groups of people, and consider the impact of our work on different people, including historically marginalized groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.

  • Listen to different viewpoints as an important part of connecting with the community to foster opportunities for respectful dialogue between individuals with different opinions and lived experiences to assist us in forming ideas for policy outcomes that make Wauwatosa better for everyone.

  • Work to ensure transparency and access to information about the city government’s work, including clarity around how to be informed about topics under consideration and how to engage with the city on matters under consideration."

Evan Casey can be reached at 414-403-4391 or evan.casey@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecaseymedia.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wauwatosa Common Council passes equity and inclusion statement

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