Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson announced the members of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Committee at the City Council's July 27th meeting. Although he did not name them verbally, he did tell the Council the list was in their packets.
"On the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committee... you'll find a list in your packet of the folks that are on the committee," Nelson told the Council during the Mayor's Report. "So we're, we're gonna get right to work. We're trying to put together a Hispanic Festival on September 17th. So we're going to hit the ground running."
The one-page list in the packet did not include any specifics or goals for the committee; only the following names of the six committee members:
But before Nelson could continue with his report, Commissioner Diane Velazquez wanted to express her concern that the commissioners were not part of the process.
"I just mentioned this, back when you did mention it because I did go back and I did send an email to the City Administrator [to say] that we had no input on this," Velazquez said. "We had none. And when I saw the names today, I did ask for this list earlier in the month, because it would have provided an opportunity, at least for me... I'm speaking on my part, to have had some kind of input as to the selection."
She also recommended each commissioner be allowed to add an additional name to the committee.
"We should all, and I mean each of us up here on the dais, should have provided someone that we felt could have been a part of the committee," she said. "And although I respect every name that's [on the list] because I do know them, I just feel that we did not have any part in it. And again, speaking for me, I would like to have recommended someone and that among each of us, we could have submitted a name and have that considered."
"Is it possible to add to the committee?" Commissioner Alexander H. Smith asked.
"If that's what you all want," Nelson said.
"Each of us can add one person and make it a committee of 10," Smith said.
"I don't have a problem with that," Nelson said.
"I just feel that we should have been included from the very beginning," Velazquez said.
This was not the first time the idea of each commissioner nominating a candidate has come up. Back in May, Smith made the exact suggestion, while also requesting that Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity be formed.
"During the election cycle, diversity, inclusion, and equity were topics in each debate," he wrote in a statement to The Apopka Voice. "The makeup of our city is very diverse, and it became obvious during the discussions that it's a subject that needs attention. That's why I asked the mayor to appoint a Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Commission and allow each commissioner to appoint one person to the commission. Its role would be to establish communication, respect, goodwill, understanding, and equity inclusive of all citizens and businesses in Apopka. There are five "P's" I believe will address many of the issues that concern Apopka residents: People, Programs, Projects, Policies, and Partnerships. It's a tall order, but we can accomplish it."
At the July 6th City Council meeting, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson referenced the committee during the Mayor's report for the first time:
"An update on the City's diversity, equity and inclusion committee... we've got seven members now. We've got two more I'm trying to add... so we'll have a very, very well-rounded committee I think you'll be proud of. I'll bring that back hopefully next council meeting on how that goes as far as budgets and all that."
The Apopka Voice made three public records requests for the names of the committee members and the details of the committee on July 7th, 11th, and 15th, but did not receive a response until today's request.
At that May 4th meeting, Smith also requested a South Apopka Annexation Committee, and a housing state of emergency for Apopka. Neither of those requests has been referenced since his request, although Orange County did pass a rent stabilization ordinance.
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