Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force
The Manhattan City Commission debated Tuesday about whether to vote on establishing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force next week.
Mayor Usha Reddi, who first proposed the idea in August, says the idea is to bring together diversity experts from local organizations to make resources more available to underrepresented and marginalized communities.
“There are organizations already in some of these structures, such as the university, such as Fort Riley as well as USD 383, that we can kind of consolidate for our own city and make sure we are more welcoming and inclusive,” Reddi said.
While commissioners Linda Morse and Aaron Estabrook supported the proposal, not everyone was on board.
Mark Hatesohl, city commissioner, says the task force might look for problems in Manhattan that don’t exist, citing the allegedly light workloads of local organizations that have similar roles.
“I don’t think Manhattan has a systemic problem,” Hatesohl said. “But that’s the initial thing that comes to mind: if they don’t have anything to work on, maybe we don’t have any problems. That may not be the case, but that is one way to look at it.”
Wynn Butler, city commissioner, also expressed opposition, saying the task force would be redundant with a Human Rights and Services Board already in place and that it may not be productive due to its large size and list of objectives and functions.
“It’s an interesting mission statement,” Butler said. “It’s almost like a mission impossible. I wish them luck on that. I’m not sure it will accomplish much. I’m not sure it will do any harm either from that stand point.”
Estabrook spoke out against Butler’s resistance, saying the task force would serve in a way that he has argued for in the past.
“It seems to be a group of people who just want to try to give us better information without us hiring a consultant,” Estabrook said. “This is the no-nonsense way to do it that you complain about, commissioner Butler.”
The commission will look at voting on the task-force concept during a meeting on Dec. 15.
To see the task-force proposal used at Tuesday’s meeting, click here.
Joint Maintenance Facility
While Manhattan could have a new Joint Maintenance Facility within the next couple of years, it will likely be smaller than originally planned.
The facility, which could house Parks Maintenance, Utilities and Street Division staff and equipment, has seen its budget reduced from $25 million to about $17.6 million due to the pandemic.
Robert Ott, Public Works director, says they may be able to lower the budget even more, but not by much.
“I could maybe even get down to $16.5 million or $16.1 million, but getting three or four million out of this budget would be very difficult and most likely would be program cuts. Somebody is not going to move out there. We’re going to cut off something major.”
According to Ott, the current Street and Fleet Operations facilities are “insufficient and functionally obsolete.” Examples cited include not having enough computer stations, storage space or room for vehicle maintenance.”
Estabrook says moving forward with improvements needs to be a priority.
“It’s very hard to convince the community that that’s a priority, but it absolutely is and it’s the backbone, I think, of what the city does,” Estabrook said. “For the last 60 years, it seems to me, they’ve stretched a lot of things. You’ve been fiscally responsible. You’re not asking for extravagant things.”
JMF construction could start as soon as April 2021 and be finished by July 2022.
In the meantime, the city will likely move forward with the processes of annexing the project site and selling certain property currently being used by city departments.
For more details on the background of the JMF and future plans, click here.
In other Manhattan City Commission news:
- The commission discussed the creation of a committee made up of members of the public that will provide feedback on the city’s strategic plan as it progresses.