Creswell council nixes equity resolution amid community pushback

Read the full story in Thursday’s edition.

CRESWELL — After aggressive pushback from the community, Creswell City Council tonight nixed its discussion on an equity and inclusion resolution and committee, in hopes that a future mayor and council may pick it back up.

With tensions already high from the coronavirus, the impacts of the wildfires, and onset of other polarizing topics, council agreed people are already too overwhelmed.

“I take to heart the fact that all of our last good nerves are being worked right now … my pitch is to drop it. Folks are not ready to have this discussion,” councilor Martha McReyncolds Jr. said. 

Councilor Alonza Costilla agreed. “Right now people have so much on their plates,” Costilla said. “I fear the timing and the way it is written, it’s gonna cause division in the community and that’s that last thing we want.” 

Council president Amy Knudsen said that in her four years on council, she has never seen such volume of community feedback on a resolution. 

“I was surprised, very surprised by the harsh reaction and the polarized views of our community,” Knudsen. “Our original intent is honorable … this (resolution) is a big statement that says we are here to listen to you, whoever you may be. And that pushes some buttons.”

Creswell mayor Richard Zettervall said he was surprised to see the uproar caused by the community.

“Never would I have dreamed that talking about equity could do that. It is really hard for me to understand,” Zettervall said. “I support resolution and the draft of the equity commission. The intention is to make a statement that we have to embrace equity not just on a personal level, but on an institutional level because we have to do everything with affirmative action plans and all of that involves equity, every single thing we do.”

Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch was at tonight’s meeting to observe council, and submitted a letter in support of the resolution. 

“We did an equity resolution on the county level a while ago. It is Important for the county to move forward on equity work. It is unanimous across our board. We have people with all different political ideas, ideas on what equity means to them, and we have all come together,” Buch said. “I know this is so very important for the nation and we know things start local.” 

Knudsen said that the issues of doing virtual meetings and not being able to have these discussions in person in city hall is a hindrance, and information is easily misconstrued online on public forums. 

“This is my lesson learned that a big ticket item like this needs a public participant process that is broader than it was in the past. This is too big,” said councilor Kevin Prociw. 

“There is a lot of good in this resolution, good intentions, however, some of the documents I don’t agree with,” councilor Alonzo Costilla said. “In speaking with people in town, clumping very good people and throwing them under the bus. I don’t think they deserve that. I am not downplaying bigotry in this community; I am all for equity and inclusion in the community but I believe we need to get it right … I want to see it tabled for however long it takes.”

McReynolds said that if Creswell does not get on board with equity, it will miss out on grants. “Some social service boards have been notified that until we can get more diversity on our boards, grant funding is not going to be as easy to get for Creswell. We aren’t going to get support from the outside world unless we acknowledge some of its metrics, which include a vocal stance on inclusion and making it a flat playing field for everybody.”

“The irony isn’t lost on me that in the middle of an equity discussion that we found ourselves so divisive,” councilor Kevin Prociw said. “I do feel that the hearts of the council were in the right place, the intent to do the right thing was here, that voting ‘no’ on resolution is not the end of the discussion.”

An emotional mayor Zettervall said he hopes the next reign of councilors and mayor will pick it up again in the future. 

“I hope this continues forward,” mayor Zettervall said. “I hope the future mayor and council will be able to move the dial and get this to work for our future.”

Read the full story and community responses in Thursday’s edition.



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