AUGUSTA — A proposed city council goal to consider the impact of city planning and decision-making on women and minorities prompted other councilors on Thursday to ask, “What about men?”
A draft council goal proposed by Councilor Dale McCormick would direct councilors to “Consider the impact on women and minorities in the course of city information-gathering, planning and decision-making.”
That led some councilors to suggest the city should consider what impact the city’s actions and decisions have on everyone, not just those two types of residents.
“I’d suggest we add men to the list,” said Ward 4 Councilor Mark O’Brien.
To which McCormick responded “Sure, go ahead. I didn’t mean to leave you out.”
McCormick, elected in November, is the only woman on the council and the first to serve since 2009.
In response to objections from her fellow councilors, she said, “There are just things — and the impact on women and minorities is one, walkability is another, and you could name others — that we and our staff should keep in mind as we go about our daily jobs. That will make the city more vibrant. And more livable.
“Let’s take minorities, for example,” she said. “I think Augusta and many cities are realizing that being a welcoming place to immigrants and people of color enhances that city, makes it economically more viable, and are starting to think about that. Now I can’t sit here and name all the ways in which one could think about that. But I think information gathering, planning and decision making sort of encapsulates what I mean.”
At-large Councilor David Rollins said during his three terms on the council he’d never seen a council goal like the one proposed by McCormick, who was elected in November.
“Everything we do, we have to consider the impact on all people,” Rollins said. “And to specifically say we’re going to have an overlay for just children, or just old people… it just doesn’t make sense to me as a council goal. I’m certainly sensitive to the needs of women, the needs of minorities, and of others. So I’m not against the concept, I just don’t know how it fits into the council’s goal setting.”
O’Brien said nobody could be against the goal, but he was concerned it could imply the city has fallen short in considering the impact on women and minorities in past decisions, to which McCormick responded that it wasn’t meant to imply that and the city hadn’t fallen short.
Mayor William Stokes suggested McCormick work with City Manager William Bridgeo and consultant Frank O’Hara, who together, drafted the council goals after a day-long council retreat in January, “to see if there is a way to rephrase it in a way that satisfies Councilor O’Brien’s concerns, and Councilor Rollins’ concerns.”
McCormick — a former state treasurer, Democratic lawmaker and head of MaineHousing — said she will work on it.
Rollins and Ward 1 Councilor Michael Byron said nearly all the council’s other goals have measurable outcomes, and they didn’t see any such way to measure how the city would do meeting the women and minorities goal.
The goal is a subgoal of the overreaching proposed council goal to “Make neighborhoods attractive and welcoming.”
McCormick, asked by Stokes if her proposal had “an affirmative action component to it” said it did not.
Other draft council goals include: secure financing for Lithgow Library, grow business investment, build needed public infrastructure, communicate with partners and budget responsibly.
Keith Edwards – 621-5647 firstname.lastname@example.org