To the editor:
After recently reading Veronica Coons’ opinion article, “A Reasonable Request,” I watched the recording of the Feb. 3rd City Council meeting. I was disappointed at how Angela Delgado Sycz’s concerns about the appointment process for empty council seats and diverse representation did not appear to be taken seriously by the council. One may wonder if this is a systemic issue.
While it is great we have a part-Hispanic mayor, that does not equate to representation, especially since, as Sycz pointed out, the mayor has no vote on the council except for in the case of a tie. In addition, it seems curious that some council members expressed a desire to have more diverse representation, yet their appointee for the fourth ward appears to be a white male. I find it hard to believe that there were no interested parties who identified as Hispanic. It is true, the application for the council member seat was open to anyone; however, if diverse representation was a true priority, I would have hoped council members would be encouraging individuals from unrepresented groups to apply. Write-in candidates like Angela Delgado Sycz might have been a good place to start.
The City Council meeting on Feb. 3rd ended with an update about the Economic Development Council. Sycz’s comments about representation made me curious about the representation on this new council. Upon doing a quick search of the board members and the new director, it appears that all members are white and likely live at least a middle-class lifestyle based on their occupations. Of course, one cannot determine ethnicity based off physical appearance; Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race.
I am a recent college graduate and have a degree in economics. I have taken the latest coursework in development and poverty. I truly look forward to an expanding community! While some may believe that economic development is basically about bringing in new companies, sustainable growth entails much more. Sustainable economic development looks at the whole community. It asks tough questions including how to mitigate, or even end, the complex cycle of poverty. It asks the question of how to build up a strong and productive workforce within the community alongside efforts to attract new members to its workforce. It asks the question of how to stimulate growth, and not just at upper socioeconomic levels. It asks questions about resources members of the community need to move into a new socioeconomic group. Development should also be about the community and its people, including, and perhaps even especially, people who are economically disadvantaged.
Therefore, I am concerned at the lack of diversity on not just the City Council, but also the Economic Development Council and other bodies. It is essential to have local business leaders involved in this council. However, I am convinced that it will diminish the long-term potential of Great Bend if there is little or no representation from the Hispanic community and from those across the socioeconomic spectrum. I am aware anyone could apply to sit on this council; perhaps no one from unrepresented groups applied. Regardless, if Great Bend truly wants to be successful, it is up to individuals with influence and power, for example, people who sit on the City Council and who serve on the Economic Development Council, to be very intentional about encouraging and including those who are unrepresented. Relying on the vision, perspective, and decisions of an overwhelming homogenous group of people is neither responsible nor consistent with sustainable economic development. Diversity improves the decision-making process and an inclusive community has far greater potential.